Learn About the Past of FSTA and Fantasy Sports
At a Fantasy Insights Convention in 1998, a meeting was organized to discuss legislative issues and other industry topics. Representatives from CDM, Fantasy Insights, EA Sports, The Sporting News, and USFANS created an official organization to help promote fantasy sports. The new Fantasy Sports Trade Association held its first official conference in 1999, and has been serving the industry for 20 years.
As fantasy sports grew from groups of friends using newspaper statistics and primitive computers to annual drafts that became a central event in the lives of fantasy players, a number of entrepreneurs saw the potential to provide services to this expanding audience. The number of sports with fantasy games also expanded, creating a year-round need for services and content. By the mid-1990’s, Fantasy Insights and Fantasy Football Weekly were hosting meetings and conventions in Nevada, Minnesota and Florida. With the rapid growth of fantasy leagues, and the companies that serviced those leagues, issues also arose. When legislation was proposed in 1997 that would treat fantasy sports as gambling, CDM Fantasy Sports invited other industry leaders such as Sportsline, Prime Sports Interactive, Sports Buff Fantasy Sports, and The Sporting News to St. Louis to discuss how to respond to this threat. That group communicated during the next year and tracked the legislation.
The concept of picking players and running a contest based on their year-to-date stats has been around since shortly after World War II. Wilfred Winkenbach devised fantasy golf in the latter part of the 1950s, in which each player selected a team of professional golfers and the person with the lowest combined total of strokes at the end of the tournament would win.
In 1960, Harvard University sociologist William Gamson started the “Baseball Seminar” where colleagues would form rosters that earned points on the players’ final standings in batting average, RBI, ERA and wins. The landmark development in fantasy sports came with the development of Rotisserie League Baseball in 1980. Magazine writer/editor Daniel Okrent is credited with inventing it, the name coming from the New York City restaurant La Rotisserie Francaise where he and some friends used to meet and play.
The game’s innovation was that “owners” in a Rotisserie league would draft teams from the list of active Major League Baseball players and would follow their statistics during the ongoing season to compile their scores. In other words, rather than using statistics for seasons whose outcomes were already known, the owners would have to make similar predictions about players’ playing time, health, and expected performance that real baseball managers must make. In the few years after Okrent helped popularize fantasy baseball, a host of experts and businesses emerged to service the growing hobby.