A Fantasy League Of Their Own: Girls playing FF

Hi. My name is Stephanie Taylor, and I'm a fantasy football addict.

I grew up in Akron, Ohio, where women watch football and talk about football, play football and no one thinks twice about it. It wasn't until the late '90s when I found out what fantasy football was and I couldn't believe what I was missing out on. Not only did I always love talking about the NFL and predicting the success of different teams and players, but I also happen to be obsessed with stats. However, now that I had found this great game, no one would allow me to play in their leagues. I just don't think any one of them wanted to be that guy who asked to have a girl, a fantasy virgin, in their league. Maybe they didn't think I could handle it. Or maybe they were just afraid of being beaten by a girl.

So I took matters into my own hands. I had never actually played fantasy football before when I started my league. All I knew is that I wanted to play. I didn't even know that running backs got a point for every 10 yards. I put days of research into setting up the league, but I didn't mind -- I was working as a first-year associate at one of the most intense law firms in the country, so every minute I spent on fantasy football was a breath of fresh air. So, in 2002, after years of being kept out of my male friends' leagues, I finally had a league of my own: "A Girl's Fantasy." It had 10 owners. All women. And all soon-to-be fantasy geeks.

The first person I invited to join the league was my sister Christina. Like me, she loves watching football, but we're very different when it comes to playing sports. She's always been a great athlete and her bump-and-run defense was very effective against the neighborhood boys when we were little. I also immediately thought to ask Sharon. We're both equally unathletic, but spent a few years together at Notre Dame tailgating and discussing football. OK, so technically most of the conversation revolved around the guys playing football, but we still managed to discuss the game. Other than Sharon and Sarah, who is my best friend from high school, the rest of us are lawyers. I wanted the league to be serious and intense, and for everyone to really know sports, so I recruited my friends from Duke Law.

The one drawback of the legal background, coupled with the fact that we're all female, is that we naturally don't trust each other, and therefore this league rarely has trades. I think we've had two in five years. You think lawyers bargain hard in the courtroom? Try getting someone in this league to part with a No. 2 wide receiver or a starting tight end.

When the league first started, we didn't use waivers, mostly because I didn't even know what they were or how they worked. For the first year, free agents would become available at some point on Tuesday morning between the hours of 2 a.m. and 9 a.m. We never knew what time they would show up on our league management service, so when we really needed to add players, we would set our alarm clocks for various times throughout the night and wake up to check our computers.

During that first year, the week my tight end had a bye, I had set my alarm to wake me up every hour, on the hour, starting at 3 a.m., and at 6 a.m., the players weren't yet available. It turns out my sister had also set her alarm, but on the half-hour. So when I woke up at 7 a.m., I was in shock to see that Christina had picked up Billy Miller -- my Billy Miller -- at 6:30. What really bothered me about that was that she didn't even need a tight end. She was just taking him so I couldn't have him!

The next year we became slightly more civilized. Free agents would become available exactly at 9 a.m. So we would all sit at our computers at 9 a.m. and race to see whose Internet connection was the fastest. Kate had some high-end gym she went to that had a ridiculously fast Internet, so she always won the free-agent race. Thanks to Kate, the next year, we adopted the waivers system.

We actually follow most of the basic rules now, but we do have a few nontraditional twists. The first is that we use individual defensive players. I just don't think defense gets the attention it deserves and to group all 11 of them into a single position seems ridiculous to me. Second, the random order we draw at the beginning of the year isn't our draft order, but the order in which we choose our draft order. That way if you happen to get the fifth pick but would rather have No. 10 to avoid the middle and what you deem to be a weak crop of second-tier running backs, you have that option. Third, it's a PPR league, so there's half a point given per receptions.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our constitution includes a set of moral rules. We figure, if you're going to be invested in this league and in your players, you might as well be all-in, so the moral rules ensure proper conduct from all owners, and from their players. At first, it was my job, as commish, to enforce these rules, but I eventually named Malia our moral enforcer because she was always on top of it and making sure owners were appropriately penalized. What do you expect from a league full of lawyers?

The moral rules

  1. If you start a player who has a bye that week, you incur a $15 fine.

  2. If your roster is illegal, you will incur a $15 fine for each illegal position.

  3. If you start a player who was known to be out for the week as of Thursday at 5 p.m., then you will be fined $5.

  4. If anyone on your roster is arrested for domestic violence, there will be a $10 fine.

  5. If anyone on your roster is arrested for anything else, including murder, there will be a $5 penalty.

  6. The "William Green Rule": If anyone on your roster is found using recreational drugs -- nothing hard-core -- you receive $1. (This is a political statement that I'm not going to get into.)

  7. The "Shawne Merriman Rule": If a player on your roster is suspended for using steroids or other performance-enhancing substances, and it is the player's first offense for such use, the player's team will be fined $1 for each week of the player's suspension. If it is not the player's first offense, the player's team will be fined based on the number of previous offenses the player has committed. For example, if it is the player's second offense, the team will be fined $2 for each week of the player's suspension. If it is the player's third offense, the fine will be $3 for each suspension week, and so on.

  8. The "Michael Vick" rule: No cruelty to animals. An offense of this nature requires community service to be based on the individual circumstances of each situation.

The Vick rule is new, of course, in response to what took place in the offseason. We didn't get to punish any owners for his actions, but we're ready, should it happen again. Precedence has been set.

This is not, as Matthew Berry is so fond of saying on his podcast, a "girl's league." This is a league of women. The members of the league have gone through hospitalizations, hurricanes, honeymoons, power outages and even motherhood, all while still maintaining their fantasy teams, picking up free agents, rejecting trade offers, pouring over stats, etc. We give the same effort to setting our lineups as we do to shopping.

If not more.