Raiders Vault: The Inception of Fantasy Football

We continue our “Raiders Vault” segment here at the Raider Ramble, this time focusing on a little known story. Fantasy Football is one of America’s most popular activities, but did you know the Silver and Black had a hand in its inception?

Through different platforms such as Draft Kings and Fan Duel, Fantasy Football has become as anticipated as the actual NFL season. Also, it’s become incredibly popular due to its gambling aspect. Regardless of how you feel about the weekly tournament, the Raiders deserve some credit for bringing this joy to fans and gamblers everywhere.

Related: A Look Back At The Trade That Never Was

Ron Kantowski of the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently shed light on Fantasy Football’s birth.

“It was called the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League — GOPPPL for short. It was the first fantasy football league. Founded in 1962 (and still exists today) during a dreary road trip to New York by Raiders front office staff, personnel and beat writers.”

That was quite a mouthful…

That was quite a mouthful, thankfully that abbreviation gave it a catchy sound. The founding group was made up of Raiders legend Ron Wolf, Raiders public relations Bill Tunnell, Bill Winkenbach (a Raider’s part-owner), and Raiders ticket manager George Glace. There were also writers from the Bay Area who formed part of the fantasy league: Scotty Stirling, Bob Valli, and George Ross, all from the Oakland Tribune.

The Format

The format on how teams are picked similar to modern times. “Each owner picked 20 players: Four halfbacks and receivers and two quarterbacks, fullbacks, kickers, kick returners, defensive backs/linebackers and defensive linemen.” Another aspect of Fantasy Football was they early on established how a running backs’ value was calculated. And this was born out of an early controversy involving Raiders running back Pete Banaszak.

“A major controversy in the league developed when Banaszak, famous for scoring short-yardage touchdowns, became more valuable than the Packers’ All-Pro John Brockington. The rules were changed to make 1,000-yard rushers worth more than guys who scored TDs on one-yard plunges.”

It’s funny how times have changed with regards to Fantasy Football as Kantowski pointed out. “The object of the GOPPPL was not so much to win, but not to lose. Winkenbach carved a football with a dunce cap on a lathe in his basement. The owner who finished last had to display the trophy in a prominent place or risk a fine.” To think that a game that now generates millions of dollars each football season was started to prove who had more football IQ and was more about pride than anything, oh, and to pass time considering how long road trips were back in football’s early days.

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*Top Photo: Mike Roemer/Associated Press

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