December, 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.”


FSTA Hires a Lobbyist

Friday, December 10th, 2010

When Travis McCoy presented at the FSTA summer conference last June, he focused primarily on the nine states dragging their feet on allowing fantasy sports payouts. Now he’ll try to effect change on that front and look out while also looking out for fantasy’s interests on the federal level.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association announced this week that it has hired McCoy — who runs Washington, D.C., lobbying firm McCoy Lobbying — as its chief lobbyist and political consultant.

“Despite widespread fantasy sports play throughout America, the pastime remains misunderstood, and often incorrectly categorized as gambling,” FSTA president Paul Charchian said in the media release. “McCoy Lobbying works with federal and state legislators to ensure that fantasy play remains protected and legal to as many Americans as possible. He brings great value to fantasy companies and the 27 million Americans that participate.”

McCoy, whom the FSTA hired a few months ago, will work with federal and state legislators to try to further fantasy sports interests at both levels.

“He will work alongside legislators to create laws that will foster growth in the fantasy sports industry and will pay particular attention to the gaming laws that affect fantasy businesses,” the FSTA release stated.

McCoy previously worked for Rep. John Boehner for two years when Boehner was the House minority leader and also spent two years under Sen. Fred Thompson. McCoy also worked as a deputy finance director for a senate campaign in Louisiana, the state that most visibly dealt with the issue of legalizing fantasy payouts back in the spring.

The move comes at a particularly interesting time, as senate majority leader Harry Reid is said to be pushing a bill that will alter the laws governing online poker. One would not expect the pursuit to legalize poker to affect the already-legal status of fantasy games, but it can’t hurt to have someone representing our interests on a potentially changing landscape. will check in with McCoy and the FSTA leadership for any further details on plans for new lobbying position.


No More Playing in Sandbox

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

After 15 years of operating fantasy games, has announced via a letter on its site (and e-mailed to users) that this season will be its last.

“The fantasy sports industry has changed significantly in the past few years and as’s popularity declined, it became increasingly more difficult for us to offer you the kind of fantasy sports experience you deserve,” the letter states. “This is a decision that we did not make lightly, and we know that many of you will be disappointed. We’re disappointed too.”

Sandbox says it will allow all current seasons in football, college football, golf and NASCAR to complete and that it will officially close on January 7. The site is “recommending” that users move their leagues to

“They have been in the industry for over a decade and know how fantasy is done,” the letter says, regarding CBS. “To help with this transition, we are working with to determine the best options for you to migrate your leagues over to their games.”

(This is a somewhat interesting partnership, considering that Sandbox has operated for the past few years under the ownership of NBC Sports, coming as part of the All Star Sports deal that also included opened with free games back in the mid-’90s — and was actually the first place this writer ever played — before switching to pay in the early 2000s. According to, unique-visitor totals have hovered mostly near 20,000 a month in this final year.


FSB Daily 12/6: Workplace, Drogba, RotoHog, Fanball

Monday, December 6th, 2010

A roundup of items recently posted on the FSB News page.

- The most recent surveys have reportedly said that even though workers are checking in on their fantasy teams on the job, human resources departments don’t see any negative impact on productivity. The article also says that about one-fifth of employers block fantasy sites, while another one-fifth ask employees to limit time spent on fantasy.

- Is Didier Drogba the U.K.’s version of Maurice Jones-Drew, speaking directly to fans about his impact on fantasy “football”? (And what is his real name when you unscramble the letters?)

- An item we saw a while back but failed to pass along: RotoHog has split its operation to shift the B2B portion of its business under the new heading of Fastpoint Games.

- We’ve had a few inquiries recently and see a few rumors on the Web about Fanball “shuttering” it’s blog network, so we checked around. The network is still active, as one can see by visiting the Fanball homepage or member outlets such as was told that the remaining blogs primarily belong to people who have other roles with Fanball, while deals with individual outlets were separately settled. We were unable to get official word on the subject from Fanball.

- Papa John’s announced last week the five finalists in its promotion selecting the top fantasy football league in the country. The winner will be decided by some combination of public voting via Facebook and a panel led by Chargers tight end Antonio Gates and Matthew Berry. (As far as we’re concerned, the honor shouldn’t go to anyone other than the Kings X leagues created by Andy Mousalimas — a story that has been delayed around here by the hustle of football season but that will still be told in further detail.)

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