June 28th, 2009

A Wink To Fantasy Football’s Influence

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

In presenting its list Sunday of the 10 most influential figures in sports over the past 50 years, the St. Petersburg Times acknowledged the sweeping popularity of fantasy football.

The group includes, of course, the likes of Marvin Miller for getting free agency going in Major League Baseball, Pete Rozelle for helping to launch the NFL to its current prominence and ESPN founder Steve Bornstein for obvious reasons.

If you scroll down the list a bit, though, you’ll find a name that might only be familiar to fantasy historians and serious Raider fans. Bill “Wink” Winkenbach sits right between Title IX creator Patsy Mink and IMG founder Mark McCormack. Here’s what the Times had to say about Winkenbach:

There’s a good chance that no one out there knows who Winkenbach is, but many of you know his work so well that you imitate it. Winkenbach was part-owner of the Oakland Raiders, and in a Manhattan hotel room in 1962, he created a concept, with several friends, for a game that used the actual statistics of real football games. They called it the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of these leagues across the country involving millions of dollars. Each league has its own name, but we all call it by one name: fantasy football.

It’s unlikely that anyone reading this site would argue Winkenbach’s influence.