A different brand of fantasy

Friday, June 29, 2012

Football season may seem far off, but fantasy football drafts are already in full swing. In fantasy football circles, players will debate about using a first-round draft pick on a running back or quarterback; a Ray Rice or an Aaron Rodgers. In new fantasy leagues that several websites have started, however, it's all about choosing an "It Girl" or a "Heartthrob"; a Kristen Stewart or a Channing Tatum.

There's no calculating yardage or touchdowns, no worries about what locker room "Pac Man" Jones is torpedoing. But if Jones stars in a reality series that turned suddenly into a ratings bonanza, celebrityfantasydraft.com players would notice. The site is part of a budding trend, that takes the fantasy sports format and gives entertainment followers a competitive outlet of their own.

These leagues are growing fast. The celebrity fantasy game movement started a few years ago, when Bill Simmons, the popular ESPN columnist (aka the Sports Guy), wrote a story about his wife's attempt to start a league. Since then, the idea has spread. Us Magazine, which hosts its own celebrity fantasy games, has estimated that more than a million people across the country play in the mostly free leagues.

Another site, Fafarazzi.com (a mashup of fantasy and paparazzi) launched in 2006. Six years later, it has a few hundred thousand registered users. Fafarazzi runs fantasy games that track reality-TV shows like "Project Runway" and "Dancing With the Stars," as well as straight celebrity leagues, where users draft a team and earn points whenever their players are mentioned in a long list of celebrity blogs and magazines.

An average celeb league setup has 12 teams playing head-to-head each week for about 10 weeks. Points are calculated for various celeb events, like photos that run in the gossip magazines or going to rehab.

In most leagues, five male and five female celebs make up each team, and the owners hold a draft to pick them. In other words, you can make Kim Kardashian work for you.

We're always being bombarded with celebrity images. We're told whose body is hot, whose lips are ideal, who wears the best. Now, you can put that info to good (and fun) use. And next time someone you know starts bragging about a top-tier fantasy football player, you can counter with "I have Lindsay Lohan in my league."

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