Since I took my first, tentative steps towards the internet in 1997 by connecting via a BBS and looking up wrestling results (this very page. I'm still confused over the logic of the Dusty Rhodes turn 11.5 years later) there are very few websites that I can claim have had any influence on my life. YouTube, Wikipedia, the aforementioned DDT Digest, redhotplumpers.com, AFL Tables. That's about it really - everything else is just background noise and doe-eyed, scantily clad Bulgarian immigrants.
However I'd like to pay tribute to the latest member of the TSP Hall of Fame. But, first a little background.
Fantasy Football is nothing new. I remember owning a book in the early 90's explaining how you could set up a league with family and friends. Not surprisingly my year 6 classmates weren't as keen to pore over the stats as I was and the book ended up being thrown out somewhere. In fact before the internet came along footy tipping reigned as king and fantasy games were strictly for Americans or the English. In fact even when the internet came along nobody gave a rats for a few years, but somewhere three or four years ago Supercoach and Dream Team appeared on the Herald Sun and AFL websites respectively. I was roped in and at first paid scant regard to the way it worked - teams would be unchanged for weeks on end and I think Jared Rivers was my captain at one point when he was out for six weeks. Why would you have Rivers as captain anyway? Who knows.
Then along came Fan Footy and suddenly I was hooked. Being the sort of insular fan who couldn't care less about any player who didn't play for Melbourne I was suddenly introduced a whole world of random players that I'd never heard of. Who the buggery is Craig Bird? Who knows, but he's been in my team for two years now. The genius to the whole thing is the icons that go next to players with information about their performance - be it good, bad or otherwise. Suddenly the clunky AFL.com.au Game Tracker isn't the best place to follow a game. In this era when a player can have 30 touches and still not be anywhere near the best players in a match, it's Fan Footy that gives you the information you need to know to follow a game even if you haven't got it on the radio or tv.
Consider the following;
From this alone I can tell that the top 6 are all "hot", Jack Grimes is on Brad Johnson, Cheney is rising in value, Bartram is tagging, Miller is playing badly and Warnock has a specific defensive job. Hover over any of the logos for specific stats. What else do you need to know? Sure, you need to totally reject the idea of having a life to get into this stuff but once you do it's addictive. Looking for the scores on your mobile in the middle of a tedious date? Staight to FF.
The guiltiest pleasure of the whole thing is the tombstone logo. () Sure, it means that somebody's copped a long term injury but it's like an event to see it. Prismall, Hille, most of the Melbourne side at one time or another. You know that when that logo comes up you won't be seeing somebody for a long time. When Russell Robertson blew his achilles to shreds last year and I saw that on the screen in a dingy Singapore internet cafe I let out a plaintive wail. It's one thing when the radio says somebody's done their knee, but it's not true until m0nty confirms it.
The genius of the tombstone is that in my circle of acquaintances it has passed into common usage. Somebody's broken their leg falling out of a tree, "it's a tombstone for...", somebody's fallen off the back of the train, "tombstone in Connex Supercoach". Somebody's died? "Tombstones all around". In fact I would like to think that if I snuffed it tomorrow that my death notice would look like this;
The other notable feature of the site is the running commentary alongside the stats, most of which is seemingly written by 13-year-olds or complete lunatics. The vast majority of it consists of people posting as if they're actually talking directly to the player, though it's hard to work out whether Justin Sherman would actually know what "BoMbErZ-93" meant if he rolled up to him in the street and yelled "WTF SHERMAN u absolute MANCHILD". Apparently it's a compliment. Every game can also be relied on to have some muppet post that they made the lowest scorer on the ground their captain that week (double points) as if nobody has ever thought of that gag before. Then there's outright abuse. This afternoon "footy_wiz" was moved to say "firrito u flowering [fuck is replaced with flower, hillarity ensues - 1.0] spud, the 2 first gamers did better than you". No consideration of the fact that Firrito is richer, more famous and more chance of getting laid than anyone who has ever logged onto that website myself included.
Of course this year has seen the final ascent of fantasy football to the tip of everyone's tongue. Suddenly the real footy dissectors are coming in of a Monday morning and talking points instead of tips. The old style footy tipping, where you'd study the form for ten years and still get beaten by the work experience kid who guesses his tips, has been dethroned. It's a good thing, even if it has been taken a bit far with Dream Team updates on the big screen at the MCG and during radio calls. Even if it has created the phenomenon of idiots in the crowd going bananas over their own team copping a goal just because it's come from one of their players.
It'll play itself out over the next couple of years and everyone will get sick of it again but it's a wild ride while it lasts - and as far as I'm concerned Fan Footy is the best thing about it. In fact, as they might say , ,
(P.S - If I win my work comp this year I'm going to run into the office, throw Gatorade over myself in celebration and dedicate the victory to m0nty)
(P.P.S - If you made it this far you might be as sick as me. Normal people tuned out in the second paragraph)