It’s Fantasy Football time in Tennessee

By Steve Williams

Tennessee’s lackluster 20-13 overtime win over Appalachian State in the season opener reminded me of a victory my fantasy football team once had.

On the way to the CORK Bowl championship in 2008, my Knoxville Storm drizzled past the fantasykillers 38.61 points to 22.33 points in a regular season game.

Our league used a standard scoring system then and still does, with a touchdown counting six points, so this was a very ugly, low-scoring contest. In fact, scoring less than 40 points usually gets you beat.

But like UT head coach Butch Jones after the Appy State game, I didn’t apologize for the victory. I put it in the win column and moved on to the next week.

Speaking of fantasy sports, I was one of those pioneer players back in the mid to late 1980s as some of us in the old Knoxville Journal sports department played fantasy baseball. We had to take turns keeping score, getting our results out of the box scores each day.

We were among the 500,000 people USA TODAY estimated were playing fantasy baseball in 1988. I also remember Fantasy Sports magazine making its debut in 1989.

With the rise of the Internet and personal computers in the mid-1990s, fantasy sports grew and grew. It’s become a multi-billion dollar business.

This time last year, roughly a quarter of the U.S. population was expected to play fantasy football, including about one out of every five women.

New technology allowed for all those statistics to be easily kept.

ESPN, Yahoo! Sports and CBS Sports began offering free league sites and keeping score for us.

I joined my brother John’s fantasy football league in 2005. It was named the CORK League because we had league “owners” from Clinton, Oak Ridge and Knoxville.

I went into the league’s archives the other day and discovered I lost my first eight games in a row that season. How did I forget that?

My first-ever win was 64-45 over the goonsquad. I finished with a three-game win streak for a 4-9 record, but still ended up in last place in the eight-team league. I enjoyed the competition anyway.

The CORK League has since grown to 12 teams and we meet each year for a live draft. Five charter members are still in the league – the Knoxville Storm, Scoop & Score, Sleepy’s Legends, THE HITMEN and VooDoo.

That following spring I joined my late, dear friend Mike Waters’ TaintBragginIfUCanBackItUp fantasy baseball league. While many fantasy owners come up with funny or unusual names for their teams, I continued what I started in football and selected a classic-type name – the Knoxville Fire.

(By the way, I also named a fictitious manager for my baseball team – Redd Hott, while Stormy Weathers serves that role for my Knoxville Storm football team. If there’s any smack talk or message board chat, you’ll find Redd and Stormy signing off on it.)

I still have the original team colors I selected – Silver and Black with a lightning bolt on the Knoxville Storm helmet, while the Knoxville Fire dons the red and white cap. My football slogan hasn’t changed either – There’s a Storm brewin’.

While our football league is head-to-head play, we use a rotisserie scoring system in baseball and draft on line. I finished in sixth place in the 12-team league that summer of 2006. At the time of this writing, my Knoxville Fire is in fifth place, with Phil’s Whiz Kids leading the pack.

Fantasy baseball is more of a marathon. You set your lineup daily. The fantasy football season goes by quicker with a game each week as you try to capture the regular season title and qualify for the post-season playoffs.

While a lot of folks play in multiple leagues during a fantasy sports season, I’ve always enjoyed putting all my attention and effort into one team. To me, it just makes it more realistic that way.

I draft my team. I look for good pick-ups on the waiver wire when needed. I set my lineup and I let them play.

I’m also fortunate to be in fantasy leagues that have knowledgeable and competitive owners.

If you love major league baseball and the NFL, I would recommend trying fantasy sports if you’ve never played. For me it’s a hobby I enjoy

And remember, never apologize for a win of any kind, because there are going to be days when your team plays great and loses by one. Just like in real sports.

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