A dangerously addictive past time is sweeping the nation. Started in a hotel room in New York in 1962, it is rapidly spreading, and now has taken over the staff of WGHS.
“It’s a virus; it’s a disease,” biology teacher Chris Allen said.
“I’m an addict,” counselor Ken Winningham added.
What is this craze, which touches adolescents and adults alike?
The answer is the game of fantasy football.
Fantasy football is an online game in which contestants in a league create statistic-based teams of professional football players and have their teams compete with each other.
The game came to the WGHS staff in 2004, when math teacher Eric Dunn introduced it to several teaching friends, having previously experimented with it with some of his old college buddies. The “Original Six” league members were Dunn, principal Jon Clark, English teacher Steve Leftridge, math teacher Jason Grote, social studies teacher Terry Verstraete, and Winningham.
The league has since expanded and currently also includes trainer/teacher Sean Wright, along with three rookies: Spanish teacher Patrick Bommarito, math teacher Justin Mathes, and psychology teacher Jon Petter.
“I definitely have no idea what I’m doing,” Petter said, despite having started his debut season with a 6-1 record. “I really expect to lose every week the rest of the year.”
Petter’s lack of confidence was perhaps ignited in Week Three, when he took his first career loss in jaw-dropping fashion. Dunn, who along with founding the prestigious league has proven to be its resident fantasy fanatic, put up an all-time single-week points record with 189, beating Petter by 103.
“I definitely sort of said, ‘Welcome new guy, how does this taste?’” Dunn said about the Week Three blowout. “I just annihilated him in a historic beatdown.”
Dunn’s team so far this season is 5-2, and his recent success is not coincidental; he leads the league historically with three championships, the latest of which came last year.
“[Dunn] does like 10 mock drafts, then plugs them into an algorithm to make sure it’s doing what he wants it to,” Wright said. “He’s the waiver wire king. He’s dominating this year.”
Winningham said of Dunn’s success, “He must not be teaching; he must be researching all day long.”
Latin teacher and retired league star Jeff Smith had a different opinion of Dunn.
“He is a lying, cheating, bald fool,” Smith said. “He convinces weaker souls like Chris Allen to do his bidding.”
Allen, who had a one-year residency in the league, reached the championship, where he was defeated by none other than Dunn.
“Allen’s bald too! Coincidence? I think not!” Smith noted. “Bald guys stick together!”
While no other contenders in the league shared Smith’s theory, several did note it’s unwise to trade with the commissioner. “Trading with Dunn is like trading with the devil,” Wright said.
Verstraete said quite simply, “Yeah, do not trade with Dunn.”
While Verstraete has avoided such trades with Dunn, teachers say he has struggled to avoid failure in every other aspect of the game. Of the Original Six, he is the only competitor who has never won the league championship.
“He’s really bad,” Wright said. “I don’t think he’ll ever win. I feel bad for him.”
Verstraete agreed with Wright, “I’m like the Cubs of fantasy football. A lot of misery, punctuated by a couple moments of glory, followed by a lot of misery.”
Verstraete is struggling this year as well, with a 2-5 record. “He is a laughingstock,” Winningham said. After Verstraete defeated him for his first win in Week Three, Winningham stated, “He beat me this week; I am disgraced.”
“I don’t really think it’s polite to talk about Mr. Verstraete’s quite obvious cognitive disabilities,” Leftridge said. However, he went on to say, “In fantasy football, he has the unique ability to place his entire head in his rectum.”
Verstraete, upon hearing about Leftridge’s comments, sadly responded, “I just wished him a happy birthday last week…” He didn’t feel that he had the leverage to return the trash talk though. “If you’re the lovable loser, you don’t really have the grounds to smack talk.”
Verstraete is not the only target of Leftridge, an avid trash talker. “He’s one of the greatest smack talkers of all time,” Dunn said.
However, record seems to impact the level and frequency of his banter. After Leftridge started 4-0 last year, he went on to finish in eighth place in the league.
“Leftridge started off hot, then we didn’t hear from him for the
rest of the year,” Wright said about Leftridge’s smack talk in 2014.
Leftridge was not pleased by Wright’s comments. “You know those smelling salts that they put under people’s’ noses when they have concussions?” he said. “Sean Wright eats those.”
Teams’ records often reflect the amount of bad-mouthing done by their general managers.
Rookie Justin Mathes, off to a slow start in last place, didn’t have much to say.
“I choose to devote my energy to pigskin pick ‘em,” said Mathes on his struggles. “The first week I did [trash-talk], but afterward I had to subdue it based on my record.”
Mathes added, “The first week I had to lose for general job security purposes; I was playing Dr. Clark.”
Dr. Clark has won the league title twice (both times over Verstraete in the finals), second to only Dunn.
Mathes isn’t the only one who seems to avoid confrontation with Clark either. Opponents find that Principal Clark adds an unintentional intimidation factor that phases even such brash opponents as Leftridge.
Leftridge remarked Dr. Clark is the player against whom he would least like to play. “I don’t like to trash talk with Jon Clark, because he has the ability to fire me.”
After a Week Five victory against Dr. Clark, Winningham said, “I didn’t just beat him. It was a pounding, I was actually a little afraid. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to go to work on Monday.’”
Even the rookie Bommarito, a self-proclaimed mild-mannered player who likes to avoid the league conflict, was worried he angered Clark in the draft by stealing the quarterback of Clark’s beloved Miami Dolphins. “I was concerned for my job when I took (Ryan) Tannehill one pick over (Clark),” Bommarito said.
“Everyone says Dunn gives me help because I’m his boss,” Clark said, “but I’ve received no help from Dunn this year.”
Teachers found that despite the often intensely competitive nature of the league, it all in all is an enjoyable experience.
“Sometimes you get so wrapped up in your department, it’s good to get outside that sometimes,” said Bommarito. “We all hung out for the draft. You get to make friends you might not have otherwise.”