COMMUNITY JOURNALISM: Local fantasy league celebrating 35th season

March 31, 2014 | 11:42 pm

Editor’s note: Tom Vander Vaart of Cedar Rapids is a senior account manager for Tallgrass Business Resources and a fantasy football owner for 19 years.

By Tom Vander Vaart, community contributor

Fantasy football unofficially is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and has become a phenomenon in our society.

It is estimated to be an $800 million industry with dedicated websites, magazines, segments on national sports programs and now even a sitcom cashing in. The national origins can be traced to 1962 and a gentleman named Bill Winkenbach, who was associated with the Oakland Raiders and wanted a way for local sports experts to have closer coverage of their team.

On a more local level, I am part of a group of gentleman celebrating their 35th year of playing fantasy football. Just to put a little perspective, guys in this league remember drafting Dan Fouts.

The patriarch of the league is Jay Gunn, a Mount Vernon resident and retired Cedar Rapids music teacher.

“We just got together and decided to devise a way to have our own football teams,” Gunn said.

Rules were simple and keeping score meant buying The Gazette and going through the box scores one by one. Everything was done by hand for many years.

We get together usually on Labor Day weekend — and will meet again Monday — grill burgers and brats and draft our teams. As we declare our picks we walk up and hand write the picks on the board. Paul Tuerler has volunteered to be our commissioner the last few years and he will enter the teams online that night.

The league has adopted many of the standard rules, but still operates a little differently than the norm. We don’t allow trades. If you draft someone the only way someone else can have him is if you drop him.

I was invited to join the league by Kaj Jensen when I moved to town in 1992 and have had a blast since. We get together every Monday night to watch the game, play cards, talk trash and complain about dropped touchdown passes and sub par performances by NFL superstars.

There are 12 guys in the league, half from Mount Vernon and half from Cedar Rapids, so there is a little rivalry there, too.

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