Fantasy Football’s trip through the decades

Where and when did it all begin?

In the fall of 1962 a man named Bill Winkenbach created bylaws for a league which would be called GOPPPL. The first known fantasy football league. GOPPPL stands for Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League.

But was this the first fantasy sport ever created?

The answer – no. In the fall of 1962 Bill was a limited partner of a professional football team which would in the near future to become the Oakland Raiders. In his desire to promote the team he decided to create a fantasy league to help.

Bill had already created fantasy golf and fantasy baseball in the late 1950s. So, in the fall of 1962, he and a couple other guys took those bylaws and defined the first fantasy football league while they were on a trip to New York playing the two N.Y. teams.

So fantasy sports actually was created in the late 1950s. The original baseball league was called the Superior Tile Summer Invitational Homerun Tournament – STSIHRT. STSIHRT’s first year was either 1959 or 1960.

And so fantasy sports and fantasy football began its slow trek into the 21st century. The first GOPPP L draft was in August 1963 in the basement of Bill Winkenbach’s house in Oakland California. The first player taken? George Blanda of the Oakland Raiders.

In the fall of 1981 I was introduced to fantasy football on the first week of the NFL season by my future business partner Bill Robertson. He showed me a one-page piece of paper with player names on them and gave me a two-minute dissertation on fantasy football. WOW, I couldn’t believe it.

Within two weeks I started my own the watermelon pro football league WPFL which is in its 35th season now.

In the late 1980s I kept wondering why there is not better magazines that give you the fantasy perspective. So in 1990 I foolishly decided to create my own fantasy football magazine – Fantasy Football Pro Forecast, now in its 26th year.

We now have four fantasy football magazines that are annuals that go out in July and September of each year and the website which we started back in 1996.

I also created the very first fantasy football high-stakes contest called the world championship of fantasy football. We eventually sold it in 2007 and I’m now a member of the fantasy football world championship.

I have seen a lot happened since 1981. Including watching the NFL go from hating fantasy football, literally, to loving it and now being a big part of their package. For years people said fantasy football with a fad – soon to die, fade away, because it wasn’t real football. They said it is important that people are loyal to a NFL teams, not a group of players. It would cause people to not enjoy the NFL as much. Boy were they wrong.

It was quite the opposite. People can still be very loyal to their favorite NFL team or teams and play fantasy football at the same time. In actuality playing fantasy football makes people bigger fans of the NFL and grows the number of people who watch the NFL and the NFL has figured this out.

In the 1990s the NFL is worried that fantasy football could be confused with gambling. They told their players not to talk about it. Fast forward to 2015 and now we have carve-out language in the US Congress that specifically defines the proper way to play fantasy football and fantasy sports, making sure it is far from gambling.

Now over 50 million people play fantasy football and fantasy sports worldwide. So if you haven’t started playing yet, let’s get going!

By Emil Kadlec