Even long-suffering fantasy gaming widows have a site of their own: Women Against Fantasy Sports, created as “an outlet for people to ridicule, mourn and lament the loss of their partners who spend an inordinate amount of time online consuming player data, drafting and managing their teams, scouring stats, scores, and injury reports and trash-talking with friends and players in their leagues,” according to its website. The WAFS site also offers apparel—its bestselling item is women’s underwear emblazoned with the slogan, “Closed for the Fantasy Season.”
How Fantasy Became a Reality
The roots of fantasy gaming go back decades. Here are the noteworthy moments:
1. A new book, Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats, details a 1940s fantasy baseball league invented by novelist Jack Kerouac, author of the beatnik bible On the Road and obsessive fan.
2. Most historians cite 1960 as the big bang of fantasy gaming. That year, Harvard University sociologist William Gamson introduced the National Baseball Seminar, competing against colleagues to assemble a roster that would earn the most points according to big-league players’ final seasonal statistics in batting average, RBIs, ERAs and wins.
3. Gamson continued the National Baseball Seminar during his subsequent tenure at the University of Michigan, where his league included American Studies professor Bob Sklar. Sklar passed the game along to student Daniel Okrent, later an editor for The New York Times and Esquire.
4. Okrent invented Rotisserie League Baseball in late 1979, borrowing the name from La Rotisserie Francaise, the Manhattan restaurant where he and friends regularly met to play. Okrent’s breakthrough was the introduction of an annual preseason draft.
5. During the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, baseball beat writers wrote stories about the growing Rotisserie craze. The founders of the original Rotisserie league published their first guidebook in 1984, and the principles of fantasy gaming quickly spread to other sports—most notably football.
6. By 1990, as many as 500,000 people reportedly were playing in some kind of fantasy league. Okrent and Glen Waggoner, editor of the Rotisserie League Baseball book series, were inducted into FSTA’s Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
—By Jason Ankeny
Ankeny is a Chicago-based freelance writer and media critic.
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