December 17th, 2010

Final Weeks Bring Super Bowl Closer to Military Players

Friday, December 17th, 2010

One could excuse JT Freels for thinking ahead to the end of football season right now. After all, for this Navy intelligence specialist, the end could mean a trip to the Super Bowl in Dallas.

“It’s hard not to think about going to the Super Bowl — every man’s dream,” Freels told this week. “I’ve been to two World Series and Game 7 of last year’s NBA Championship but have not been to a Super Bowl yet. I’d love to be able to take my 14-year-old son. ”

Freels’ thoughts aren’t at all unrealistic, because he heads into the second-to-last week of play for most fantasy football leagues with three of the top five teams in the national competition at

The contest there — supported by and sponsored by Coors Light — is open to all active or retired military personnel from any branch and their immediate families. It will send one winner and guest to the Super Bowl in February, and entrants are also eligible for the $100,000 grand prize in the overall RapidDraft contest.

John Prue, installation program director for MWR, says that there is no shortage of enthusiasm for fantasy among the military. He adds that even though prizes are great for attracting the attention of the thousands of soldiers who play, fantasy sports carry benefits even for those who don’t win.

“Really its Morale: the ability to have bragging rights with your fellow sailors/soldiers or bragging rights to the next command or buddies that are now located at another duty station — sometimes half way around the world,” Prue said. “Fantasy football is a slice of Americana. Being able to play it in place like Afghanistan or on a ship in the Persian Gulf just makes ‘home’ a little closer to reality.”

Of course, even though fantasy football can serve that purpose, it still centers on a competition, one that can draw new players as well as fantasy veterans. Matt Keifling is an active member of the Navy deployed on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and greets Week 15 with the second-place team. He has been playing fantasy football since about 1994 but says he was drawn into national competition for the first time by this free MWR offering.

Keifling says that playing while on deployment has brought challenges, from difficulties setting his weekly lineup to sheer Web-surfing limitations keeping him from tracking player news as closely as he might at home. Nevertheless, he takes a Michael Vick-led team into the final two weeks with his eyes on the big prize — whether he’d be able to attend or not.

“I am on deployment, so even if I were to win the trip to the super bowl, I am not sure I would be able to attend,” Keifling said. “I do have to admit that winning the trip to the Super Bowl would be pretty great, even if just for bragging rights.”

In addition to Vick, Keifling credits Arian Foster as a key ingredient to his success so far. Middle-of-the-draft pickup Darren McFadden has no doubt helped, too, along with waiver-wire wonder Steve Johnson of the Bills.

Freels also owns Foster and Vick and has been among those riding the surprise Peyton Hillis train all year. Of course, he points out that the presence of more obvious fantasy factors Andre Johnson and Greg Jennings in his receiver corps haven’t hurt things. Although Foster and Hillis figure to rank among the top Week 15 scorers at their position, the fact that they appear on many an upper-level roster in this contest means that the title could come down to more peripheral players such as Giants tight end Kevin Boss or … (at least for this week) … Adrian Peterson. (That’s fantasy for ya.)

Despite not drawing any points from the Thursday night blowout by his beloved Chargers, Freels — who is currently stationed in Hawaii — certainly feels good about his position. His MWR-leading squad ranks fifth in the overall competition, while Keifling’s top entry ranks 17th.

“I’m not counting on anything until the final game seconds tick off,” Freels said about his title hopes. “Lot’s of football left, but I like my chances.”