Travis Benjamin

Down 25 points early to the Tennessee Titans, the Browns looked like they were headed to another blowout loss. A porous defense had conceded three touchdown passes before halftime.

Quickly, though, things turned around, largely due to playmakers who poured in some big yards and crucial touchdowns. With his team trailing 28-3, quarterback Brian Hoyer led a quick drive downfield and threw a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the first half, cutting the deficit to 18.

After halftime, Cleveland picked up right where it left off. A field goal was the only scoring action in the third quarter, but the Browns stymied the Titans and left the door open for a comeback.

A safety early in the fourth quarter cut the lead to 13. Then Hoyer and receiver Travis Benjamin went to work.

Two touchdowns by the duo lifted the Browns to a one-point lead with just 1:15 left in the game, and a second-half shutout of Tennessee's offense earned Cleveland a 29-28 win -- the third-largest comeback in regular season history.

Cleveland's offense did turn it on late, but all big comebacks require some help from the other team. Tennessee opened the door when starter Jake Locker went down with an injury.

Late in the game, a decision to go for it on fourth-down -- and effectively end the game -- failed for the Titans, giving the Browns the ball and great field position.

Hoyer and Benjamin's fantasy owners, meanwhile, had to be thrilled at the big comeback, which saw those players pile on big points late in the game. The need to rally late created plenty of opportunities for the pair to hook up, and Tennessee was unable to stop them.

Although the Browns ultimately let Hoyer sign with the Texans in the offseason, the quarterback proved his mettle as an NFL starter.

Doug Martin

As Tampa Bay's first-round pick in 2012, Doug Martin wasn't exactly an unheralded NFL rookie. Still, no one expected him to make such a resounding impact, and so early.

In early November of his first NFL season, Martin transformed into a virtual star overnight. He carved up the Oakland Raiders for 251 yards and four touchdowns, including touchdown runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards.

Martin's fantasy value, meanwhile, skyrocketed. He went from fantasy waiver-fodder to one of the league's most reliable sources of points. In his impressive rookie year, he piled up 1,454 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

But since then, Martin's production has disappointed. Ankle, shoulder and knee injuries have slowed him down. The Bucs have changed head coaches, and the presence of Mike James and Bobby Rainey in the backfield have trimmed Martin's carries to some degree.

That's left many observers unsure of what to expect from Doug Martin. In 2015, will he be the bruising running back feared around the league, or will injuries and a crowded backfield limit his production?

The early signs in 2015 suggest that, barring injury, Martin will have a season reflecting the potential he displayed in 2012. While the Bucs offensive line is in need of repair, the offensive unit as a whole is built around Martin.

He functions as the lead back of a unit that will lean on the run while rookie quarterback Jameis Winston acclimates to the NFL, and Martin also serves as a passing target out of the backfield. Rainey and James will be used to spell Martin more than replace him, and even though the offensive line is below league average, Martin will get plenty of carries and touches.

That doesn't mean Martin will be an efficient player -- his yards-per-carry could suffer, and the offense may stagnate as a result. But in terms of volume, Martin will carry a heavy load. That's great news for fantasy players in need of points, but it might not translate to droves of success for Tampa Bay.

Nevertheless, the past two injury-plagued seasons shouldn't dictate what Martin does in 2015. It's been almost three years, but everyone remembers what he's capable of doing when healthy.

At the same time, his past injury troubles are a red flag for prospective buyers: If you bet on Doug Martin and lose, you were warned.

Andrew Luck is a fantasy football gem. Entering his fourth year at the Colts starting quarterback, he's never missed a game. His career average of 21 fantasy points per game was blown away last year by his 27.5 average, leading all NFL quarterbacks by at least two full points.

Andrew Luck

Often, those points can come in droves -- and it did just that in the 2013 playoffs, when Luck led the Colts to the second-largest comeback in NFL playoff history. Down 28 points in the second half, Luck was unstoppable as he passed, ran and dove for touchdowns in a 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

That result seemed improbably early in the third quarter, when the Chiefs scored a touchdown to push the lead to 38-10. Luck and his teammates had struggled to get anything going, while the defense has imploded against an explosive Chiefs offense.

But even as the Chiefs built their lead, glimmers of hope began to shine for the Colts. Kansas City lost star running back Jamaal Charles to a concussion on the opening possession, and in the second half it lost receiver Donnie Avery and cornerback Brandon Flowers for the same reason.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs offense started to stall -- and Luck greased the wheels for the Indianapolis offense. Needing to throw to get back in the game, the Colts dropped back Luck and let him go wild. He led an 80-yard drive in under two minutes that cut the lead to 21.

On the next drive, Luck hit Donald Brown with a three-yard pass, cutting the lead to 38-24 while still in the third quarter. After a Kansas City field goal, he hit a 12-yard pass to trim the lead to 10

Perhaps poetically, Luck scored a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter off of a Brown fumble at the five-yard line. His fourth and final touchdown pass gave the Colts a 45-44 lead, one they would protect for the win.

Luck still ended the game with three interceptions, and his first half was one of his worst stretches as an NFL quarterback. But with 443 yards, four passing touchdowns and a rushing TD to boot -- all of them leading to a historic win -- no one's complaining that he got off to a slow start.

Perhaps Colts coach Chuck Pagano summed up the game best: "One for the ages."

Fantasy Football has become a fixture of American sports culture. Now, you can go to school for it.

Actor J.B. Smoove and NFL players Odell Beckham Jr., Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Pierre Garçon, Eddie Lacy, DeMarco Murray, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are all employees of "Fantasy Online College."

The video, "Recruitment," depicts Smoove as chancellor of the university. Among other positions, Beckham, Jr. is Senior Professor, Aeronautic Miracles and Charles is Chief Lecturer.

Fantasy Online College will be featured in a series of Lenovo videos throughout the NFL season, which is sure to include more depictions of NFL stars in preppy clothing.

A New Yorker artist, the editors of Esquire and Time, a novelist and playwright, and the founding editor of ESPN the Magazine walk into a bar -- no, make that a French restaurant. It starts out as the setup for a joke, but the reality was deadly serious, at least to the men coming together. Long before these men reached such heights in their careers, they were united in their love for baseball.

And, in 1980, they were a part of the first fantasy baseball league.

Today, fantasy sports is undergoing yet another evolution: The rise of daily fantasy games has compressed the life cycle of an entire fantasy season into a single day. Sites like DraftKings and FanDuel let fans start with a fresh slate every day, picking brand-new players and pitting their fantasy lineups against friends, even strangers -- often with money on the line.

In the early 1980s, though, no one referred to this game as "fantasy." To Glen Waggoner, "it was real life." The game was called Rotisserie baseball, named after the French restaurant in New York City where the game got its start. It used a scoring method devised by Daniel Okrent, who invented the system on a flight down from New England to Texas.

The game was simple and ingenious: Participating players would draft their own teams, acting as general managers. Scoring would be done by using the statistics provided in newspaper box scores.

Today, of course, this game is familiar to more than 10 million people around the world who participate in online fantasy baseball leagues. Even more play fantasy basketball and football, the latter of which has become the most popular of all fantasy sports. The rules of today's fantasy baseball are strikingly similar to how it was conducted in the early 1980s, when this group of friends in New York City developed a passion for the game.

And yet, despite the similarities of today's game, it remains strikingly different.

"I would spend three to five hours a day working on it, trying to work out trades and everything," says Waggoner, who at the time was a mid-level administrator at Columbia University. He split the $250 entry fee to co-manage a team with the writer Peter Gethers (left, in photo above with Okrent).

"Peter and I had done a ton of work ranking every player in the National League by position," Waggoner says. "We wanted to be in a good position to get good guys.

"I was trying to put up a brave front, but I was kind of lost."

Waggoner ended up winning that inaugural season, and the game's participants kept at it. The game's popularity slowly started to spread beyond that initial group of people. In 1982, Waggoner taught the game to some undergraduates at Columbia who had heard about the game and were interested in playing themselves. Those undergraduates founded the Roach Motel League, named after a less-than-attractive campus dormitory. Today, it stands at the oldest continuous fantasy sports league in the world.

What made Rotisserie baseball so popular was its grounding solidly in the present -- and, through that, the wrinkle of team owners operating as general managers. Before the 1980s, there were precursors to fantasy sports that used statistics from past seasons to allow for the simulation of games. Rotisserie baseball was totally different in this one regard: It functioned with a similar format but used real-time scoring to decide who won.

Team owners, then, had to make decisions with the future in mind, based on the information at hand -- no different from how baseball executives and managers made their own roster and lineup decisions. It required a more in-depth knowledge of the game, offered unreliable results, and created a new way for baseball fans to find meaning and rooting interest in almost any Major League Baseball game.

"The idea of owning a New York Met here, an Atlanta Brave there, a Pittsburgh Pirate -- it was terrific," Waggoner says. Thirty-five years later, he still remembers the critical choices that lifted his team to victory, but not before other decisions jeopardized success.

"We paid a ton of money for Dave Kingman, who was a washout," Waggoner says. "The key to our success was [New York Mets pitcher] Neil Allen."


Original members of the Rotisserie League don't see much in common between their original league and fantasy sports of today. Waggoner understands that his league spawned a virtual sport now played by tens of millions of people, but to him, the online version of the game -- which he doesn't fully understand, out of indifference -- lacks many of the romantic qualities that made Rotisserie League baseball so great.

For one, Waggoner is appalled by the lukewarm approach many participants take toward managing their teams. For him, the fun was always the strategy, the crazed time investment into the game. When told that some people passively participate by taking a few minutes every week to set their lineups, he scoffs. "I was spending three to five hours a day working on trades. If it's three to five minutes, yes indeed, that's a different experience."

Waggoner sees the game's online iteration as a more distant approach to playing -- participants don't have to engage as deeply with box scores, and the game results are not as intimately known.

If nothing else, the extreme nature of the Rotisserie League is rarely matched by contemporary leagues: Waggoner recalls how his secretary at Columbia would draw the game results from the box scores in the newspaper. When Okrent published the instructional book, "Rotisserie League Baseball," in 1984, the book was dedicated to Waggoner's secretary, Sandy.

Upon its publication, Okrent's book served as the Bible for fantasy baseball -- although no one was calling it by that generic term at the time. In fact, the term "fantasy" came about simply as an alternative to "Rotisserie" -- a way for firms monetizing this new form of gaming to cut out Okrent, Waggoner and the rest of the group.

Waggoner says that while the group tried to maintain ownership of the game and cash in on its fast-rising success, the term "fantasy" was used to evade questions of ownership. While devoted fans of the baseball game did -- and still do -- recognize Rotisserie League Baseball as the genesis of today's fantasy game, the group didn't profit nearly as much as one might expect.

In a feature earlier this month from The New Yorker, Okrent estimates that none of the participants ever earned more than $10,000 to $15,000 from their association with the game. For a time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Okrent, Waggoner and others would earn money from appearances at conventions dedicated to the game. But those opportunities quickly dissipated, and Okrent wasn't too enamored with them, anyway.

As the group turned into a cult figure in the history of fantasy sports, the men seemed to withdraw from the spotlight. Both Okrent and Waggoner were among the first people ever elected into the Fantasy Sports Hall of Fame in Orlando, Florida, and neither of them attended the induction ceremony.

Okrent tells The New Yorker: "You couldn't have paid me to go."

Waggoner says that the way fantasy sports took off without the Rotisserie group doesn't make him bitter. "We went into [Rotisserie baseball] for fun, not money, and we succeeded," he says. "We didn’t have any real idea of how to capture that flag and get in on the front end of that money slide.

"I blame Dan Okrent for that," he jokes. "It was his idea in the first place. We would have all been rich if he’d been able to figure it out."

At the same time, fantasy sports is a distant part of Waggoner's past. He hasn't played in a league in about 20 years as other conflicts and opportunities came up. One impressive feat of the Rotisserie League baseball is that it brought many accomplished young professionals together -- and, in several cases, helped them collaborate and further one another's careers.

Thanks to his involvement, and meeting Rotisserie member and then-Esquire editor Lee Eisenberg, Waggoner got out of academia and began writing. What followed was a long career as a journalist, capstoned by his run as the founding editor of ESPN the Magazine. Okrent served as an editor for a number of magazines, wrote a handful of books, and later served as the public editor for The New York Times.

Okrent more recently collaborated on a theater production with Gethers, the novelists who was Waggoner's co-owner. Bruce McCall, an artist often featured on covers of The New Yorker, played one season -- although, Waggoner teases, he wasn't very good at it.

So no, Waggoner doesn't have a bad view of his history with fantasy baseball. The game remains a fun chapter in his life -- but one that, for him, had to be left behind.

"I had other things going on, I was involved in writing and had less free time, and you kind of get [the enjoyment of the game], but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to do that same thing the rest of your life," Waggoner says. "But I had a great run, a great run. It transformed my life."

Fantasy Sports Network is the first TV channel dedicated exclusively to the coverage of fantasy sports. Launched in the spring, the channel has limited distribution in the United States and Canada. But it took a big step toward expanding its profile this week by bringing aboard Basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving.

Through his company, Dr. J. Enterprises, Erving will serve as strategic adviser.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer put it, Erving's mission to help Fantasy Sports Network "gain coverage with video giants like Comcast, DirectTV and AT&T, and marketing partnerships with pro leagues and advertisers."

Fantasy Sports Network does not offer fantasy games. Rather, its mission is to serve the growing industry of fantasy sports by providing content and analysis.

The company's decision to add Erving speaks to the growth potential of basketball within fantasy sports. Baseball established roots early from the days when this sort of activity was known as rotisserie leagues. Football has since become the behemoth.

But particularly with more companies offering shorter-term options instead of having to play for an entire season, basketball become attractive becomes it has an inventory action. Each NFL team plays just 16 games while it's 82 for NBA clubs.

In fantasy football, winning sometimes means losing. There's nothing worse than having players pulled -- or worse, having your quarterback hand off the ball as his team runs out the clock -- when your fantasy team is in desperate need of points.

But how about losing on a victory formation kneel-down? Such a nightmare is reality for one unfortunate fan. TYT Sports tells the story.

Related Story: 'I Made $300K Playing Fantasy Baseball!'

An estimated 20 percent of participants in fantasy football are women, and that figure is likely to grow in the coming years. Football in general has been building a stronger female fan base the past decade, and fantasy in particular is often a chance for women to add another shared experience their significant other. Here's a closer look:

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw played a year of high school football while growing up in Texas, but decided after his freshman season to focus on baseball. Despite his strong arm, Kershaw was the center rather than quarterback, which wasn't a bungled coaching move since the team had Matthew Stafford taking the snaps.

Stafford, the No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL draft, threw 41 touchdown passes for the Lions in 2011. But Kershaw said he wasn't going to burn an early-round draft pick in his fantasy football draft just to grab his old buddy from Highland Park High School in Dallas. Where would he take him? Check out his analysis:

Penalty calls have skyrocketed during the preseason, and one of the NFL's marquee players thinks the league has ulterior motives for the increase in flags.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who has never been afraid to voice his opinion, says the NFL has fantasy football players in mind with new rules designed to reduce illegal contact by pass defenders and defensive holding in the secondary. Through two weeks of the preseason penalties were up 44 percent from last year.

In an interview with NBC’s Josh Elliott that aired on Sunday Night Football, Sherman ties the increase in penalties with the NFL's drive for money.

"When the fantasy football numbers need to be what they need to be, the league needs to do what it needs to do to get it done," Sherman says. "This is a money-driven league. Whatever sells the tickets is gonna sell the tickets.”

While the idea that the NFL would implement a set of rules to enhance fantasy football seems questionable, Sherman may be on to something here. The new regulations are expected to significantly benefit offenses, which will lead to higher scoring games and more interesting fantasy football matchups. So while the crackdown may not be specifically tied to fantasy football, the game and its players will surely be affected.

Sherman and the Seahawks' defensive backfield is coming off of one of the most dominating Super Bowl performances in history. The group, which calls itself the "Legion of Boom," shut down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' high powered offense in a 43-8 blowout.

Despite the belief that the new rules, which may make pass interference calls more common, are targeting defensive backs, Sherman says the level of penalties will return to normal by the time the season starts. With Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning on the docket for the Seahawks in the first three weeks of the season, Seahawks fans better hope their star cornerback is correct in his assumption.

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