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A League Of Our Own

A Girl's Guide To Starting Fantasy Football

To say that I'm a fan of NFL football is a ridiculous understatement. I'm borderline obsessed. When my team (that would be the Indianapolis Colts, who are hosting this year's Super Bowl) loses I sink into depression and when they win a Bowl ring, I feel like I've won one, too. I watch games all day every Sunday (in a Peyton Manning jersey) and yet somehow I've never once participated in a fantasy football league.

This is the season all of that changes. And let me tell you, fantasy is not just for super fans or boys. More and more women are playing and forming their own "no men allowed" leagues, even ones who used to think of football games as white noise in the background of their Sunday afternoons. It's actually a great way to stay connected with your girlfriends — even those far away — and the man in your life, too. Hey, and you just might find out that football can be fun. Here are some pointers to help you get started.

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Gather the girls. Figure out a group of competitive (in a healthy way) friends, think 8-12, that would be into it and able to stay fairly committed throughout the entire season (September through December). It's less fun if people start dropping out. And it's really only as big of a time commitment as you want it to be. Once you draft your players (we'll get to that in a minute), you have to pick your lineup each week. All other research and studying up on players and stats will just depend on how obsessive and competitive you become! A group of girls I know did it last season and, even with some having newborns, they all participated through the season.

Hold a draft. Now, before you freak out and think this is some massively complicated situation, it's really not. All of the drafting and scoring is done via a computer and you don't all need to be in one place — though you can make a party out of it. This year the group I mentioned earlier is flying to Palm Springs for a girls' weekend/fantasy draft. But in actuality, you just need to sign up on a website fantasy program like this one on FOXSports.com on MSN. (They've even got a mock draft program so you can practice if you want to.) The draft is where each person selects the players she wants to have on her team. You rotate picks until your team is filled. Some sites even have an auto-draft that selects the players for you if this feels too complicated for your league. Your players will come from all different NFL teams and no athlete can be on more than one of your league's teams. (Note to my friends: Back away from Peyton. He's all mine.) During the season you will have to select which ones you're going to play in the game that week. Your starters will score points based on how the real individual does in his game that week. Points are based on things like the number of passes they catch, yards they gain via receptions or rushes (that's when you run with the ball), and points scored.

Do some research. Again, this is all up to you. But it's nice to be a little educated when choosing your lineup each week. There are countless magazines and websites devoted to fantasy and, of course, football in general so they're easy to find. For example, my beloved Colts' QB, Peyton Manning, is coming off of neck surgery. You may want to know that in picking your teams. Or you can always wing it and go with silly rationale like numbers you like and who's cuter. Sometimes that works just as well!

No boys allowed. The girls I talked to made a pact to keep their husbands/boyfriends/dads/brothers out of their decision-making processes. It makes for a more even playing ground.

Don't fear the trade. During the course of the season, players get injured and you'll need to pick up a new one as a replacement. Sometimes there will be players who are free agents, meaning they're not attached to a team and up for grabs. And other times, you'll need to try to bargain with others in your league to make a trade. Think of all the fun, creative ways you can use to get what you want from your pals. All trades have to be approved by your league's commissioner, who should be the most fair-minded person in your group.

Talk smack. One of the things my friends enjoyed most about their draft is the playful backtalk and banter amongst the group during the season. They talked more frequently and emails and IMs flew back and forth across the country.

Embrace Sundays. Where you once used to dread Sundays filled with football, you'll now want to tune in to numerous games to see how your guys are doing out on the gridiron. If you're not already a fan, I daresay you'll be one by mid-season. And you'll likely find some common ground with your man, too. Make a fun day of it and enjoy the time you're spending together doing something you're both into.

So get out there and show the boys we can play, too. Good luck and here's hoping you and I both make the playoffs.

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A League Of Our Own
A Girl's Guide To Starting Fantasy Football
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