Where it all began: The pioneers of fantasy football - FOX 13 News

Where it all began: The pioneers of fantasy football

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LAKELAND (FOX 13) -

It's one of the most popular hobbies in the country and its popularity is growing. More than 30 million people play fantasy football every year.

You may be surprised to hear one of the oldest leagues was started right here in the Bay area.  A couple of guys in Lakeland started the league more than 30 years ago. The idea came from a column in a Sports Illustrated Magazine.

It talked about a fantasy league among co-workers.

Eddie Winoker and Wayne Wesley remember the date well: August 1979.  It was their first fantasy football draft. 

"We are in our 34th year, and we believe we are one of the oldest that exists," said Wesley.

Rosters and newsletters sit in an old box. Some of it is decades old.

Through the years, the rules and players have changed. But the league name has always stayed the same: The GNFL, or The Gnational Football League.

Wesley came up with the name and the league.   He recruited nine people to join, including Winoker.

Each team has a quarterback, kicker, two running backs, two wide receivers and a tight end.  The league was founded before the Internet, so lineups were written on two postcards. 

"Each week you send a postcard to the commissioner and your opponent.  It would be the same lineup," said Winoker and Wesley.  "You would send the same lineup to the commissioner and the opponent so they would know the score."

At the end of the week, Wesley added up the score for each player. It was like a part-time job, 20 hours a week.  

"Every Tuesday morning, I would get the newspaper, sit on a park bench with a portable typewriter and tally up the score," he said.

Click on the video to see more on how the league was constructed.

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