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The Pigskin Diaries Vol. 2: All Aboard for Fantasy Football

The Pigskin Diaries Vol. 2: All Aboard for Fantasy Football 0001

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good Yanks/Sox Sunday afternoon slugfest as much as the next guy. But 2,430 games are just a little too many to hold my attention over the course of a regular season. And for me, midseason baseball wears out its welcome in the same way the sun does by the end of the sweltering Southern summer.

Just as it starts to feel like perfect football throwin' weather outside, fall sports finally begin to creep into the daily rundown on SportsCenter and the pigskin starts to work its way into our collective consciousness once again. With a full week of preseason football under our belts, we're starting to hear terms like “depth chart” and “two-a-days” thrown around in casual conversation. Suddenly, the water cooler talk has turned from Cardinals and Blue Jays to Jaguars and Panthers. And a whole lot about some other cat named Favre. It's football season, and, just as importantly, it's fantasy football season.

As we mentioned in Volume 1, somewhere around 30 million Americans played fantasy sports last year. In the same way that poker demands a level of statistical aptitude and analytical thinking, fantasy football attracts numbers-oriented people with a competitive spirit and a little bit of gamble in their bones. The average fantasy football participant spent about $110 in league pools in 2009, and, if I know anything about you, I know that playing a game for money is right up your alley. With a little bit of game-planning and a smidge of run-good, your foray into fantasy football could end up padding your pockets nicely.

With less than a month to go before the NFL's opening night on September 9, it's about time to start seeking out a place to play. If you've got a group of buddies at work or at the poker tables, take a head count to see who's interested. Chances are good someone you ask is already part of league that has an open slot with your name on it. Either way, fantasy football and the trash talking that it naturally evokes makes a great addition to your weekly home game.

Nowadays, almost all of the major sports media websites host fantasy football leagues. Choosing one over another is pretty much a matter of personal preference, as most of them offer comparable features and options. While you can find a free game anywhere, some sites offer a paid sweepstakes league with some handsome prizes up for grabs.

So, let's talk about how to get started with a fantasy football team if you've never done it before. The first thing you're going to need to do is get yourself set up with a league. You can either create a league of your own or join one of the thousands of public, user-created leagues on the site you're playing on. Creating a custom league will allow you to be your league's manager or commissioner and have the power to set the scoring rules and handle the rest of the administrative tasks. Joining a public user-created league is a good way to bypass these responsibilities altogether and leave the managing up to someone else.

Leagues come with two main varieties of scoring: head-to-head and cumulative points. In a “points” league, the eventual champion is determined solely by who accumulates the most total points over the course of the season. In the more common “matchup” league, your team is pitted against a different owner's team every week in a rotating schedule. If your team scores more points than your opponent's does on a given week, you earn a win in the schedule and a boost in the standings. After 13 or 14 weeks, the league's leaders face off in a multiweek, single-elimination playoff to determine the league champion during the final week of the NFL's regular season.

Got it? Choose a name for your league and proceed through the steps to set up the various options available for your customization. You'll be able to choose a type and date for your league's draft, the number of teams and divisions in your league, roster sizes and positional breakdowns, and scoring settings, among other things. You probably won't want to fiddle with too many of these until you get one season under your belt to figure out what you do and don't like about the default system. The last step is to create your own team and confirm the creation of your league.

That's it, you're done! Are you excited yet? Welcome to a season of pain and torment, or, if you're lucky, gloating and glory. In the next installment of the Pigskin Diaries, we'll have a full position-by-position draft guide to help you build your team for fantasy football supremacy right from Week 1.

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