The Real Boys of Fall

The Real Boys of Fall

The Real Boys of Fall: Lantana’s Fantasy Football League

by Steve Gamel

When Chris Byrne created a fantasy football league in Lantana aptly called, The League, he was more than willing to take the reins as the league’s commissioner. After all, Byrne knows his stuff. He’s been a fantasy football junkie – sorry, fantasy football professional – for more than 20 years. And as technology improved and made managing multiple leagues easier, Byrne did what any self-respecting football connoisseur would do, he evolved.

Byrne is good, y’all, and with football season in full swing, he’ll remind you every chance he gets. “If you like watching football, you’ll love fantasy football. If you are competitive by nature, you’ll enjoy finding ways not to get made fun of [by your buddies] on Sundays,” Byrne laughed. “It’s fun, but if you finish last in this league, it could turn into a year-long reminder.”

Lantana Living has featured Chris and his cooky band of football brethren several times over the last three or four years for two reasons: 1. The stories that come out of this group are hilarious, and 2. They are an accurate representation of the growing popularity of fantasy sports.

Fantasy football is a fast-growing interactive online competition where users act as general managers for virtual fantasy teams comprised of real NFL players. Players can be drafted, traded, added, or dropped from a roster weekly, and how your players perform on Sundays directly impacts your team’s point totals. The industry itself – yes, it’s an industry – is estimated to be worth more than $7 billion a year in the U.S. and Canada. There are roughly 59 million players according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. To put those numbers in perspective, there were roughly 12 million active players a decade ago.

There are millions of players who are in it mostly for friendly competition, where only a little bit of money is on the line – such as The League. Then there are those who make playing fantasy sports a full-time job thanks to sites like Yahoo Sports, ESPN, DraftKings, and FanDuel. “I have a buddy who won $5,000 off a two dollar entry fee,” Byrne said. For most, Fantasy Football is a big money machine. But for the guys at The League, making a little money on the side is only part of the fun. And they do it all with a smile on their face.

When Lantana Living caught up with members of The League in 2014, it was an absolute blast exposing the good, bad, and downright childish antics from this lovable band of middle-aged wannabe NFL general managers. As you can imagine, not much has changed. The League is in its seventh full season and continues to thrive because everyone lives in Lantana. It is very easy to do the annual draft in person each year at Lantana Golf Club, and there is never an issue working with each other’s schedules. In fact, one member once rescheduled a job interview to not miss draft day.

That was the big reason behind starting The League, Byrne said. It was to add that extra bit of competition back into their lives with a group of guys who were all local and could interact anytime they want. All that’s left is managing your team and leaving ample time to trash talk your opponents.

Like The Crapster award, a homemade version of the much nicer first-place award. It was named, The Sucko Award in years past. It doesn’t stop there. One member of The League finished first a few years ago but barely got credit because others in the group, including Byrne, insisted his success was because he had Peyton Manning as his quarterback. There is a trophy for finishing first, and you get business cards printed with your team name on them. But every decision you make throughout the season – positive or negative – is heavily scrutinized.

“We would scold our own kids if they did even half the stuff we do in this league. All the childish humor comes out big time when you put ten guys in a room together,” Byrne laughed. “It’s a bunch of grown men behaving like kids.” Sure, there is a very detailed science behind the madness – and there can be a lot of money on the line. But this group doesn’t intend to get too big for its own good.  The League is all about friendly competition – and avoiding coming in dead last.

“My wife has told me I’m absolutely miserable to be around if I go a week and lose in both of my neighborhood leagues,” Byrne said. “She hates being around me. But it’s just like football. Starting 0-2 is no reason to panic, and being 2-0 is no reason to celebrate a season.”



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