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401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Delta boasts long-running fantasy football league

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Photo by Pat Sunderland It's draft night at the Ripp house, where Michael Ripp keeps track of player selections in the "Delta Ducks" league. Player positions are readily identified by the color of each player's adhesive label.

On Wednesday, the day before the first NFL football game of the season, owners gathered with their cheat sheets, analyzing player statistics, team rankings, rookie potential and position strength.

It's fantasy football season, with Michael Ripp leading the charge for the 30th straight year.

The popularity of fantasy football is at an all-time high, and now every major sports media outlet hosts fantasy football websites.

But that was before Ripp caught the bug.

"When Mike and Vicki Ripp first moved to Delta, there was no fantasy football on the internet ... there wasn't even the internet, period," said Dave Huerkamp, one of the original 10 "owners."

"Mike had to write his own computer software to punch in the statistics. Every Monday he would sit down with the newspaper and manually enter every statistic for every player for every team ... quarterback passing yards, rushing yards, receptions ... every single week to crush the report of how each person's team did. It was really unique in this day and age of computerization."

Huerkamp believes the Delta fantasy football league is probably one of the oldest continuous fantasy football leagues in Colorado.

The name of Ripp's league is the "Delta Ducks." He says he used to spend at least four hours a week manually inputting data. The owners had to phone in their lineup every week so that information could be entered, as well. Now it's all done online, but the Delta league has never lost a feeling of camaraderie. On draft night, the owners gather at the Ripps', grab a beer and settle in to select their players. First up is Todd Laws; his team, Buffalo Soldiers, placed second to last in the previous season. The guy who had the dubious honor of first selection didn't return for the 2017-18 season. "He was so humiliated he dropped out," the owners said jokingly.

Laws, purported to be the #1 Green Bay Packers fan in Delta, picked the Packers' longtime quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Subsequent drafts moved along quickly, with the owners calling out their selections as Ripp posted them to a CBS Fantasy Football grid, part of a package available through the network.

Every owner has his own philosophy. Some want the assurance of a strong, productive running back; others pick the best available player for any position. Then there are the "homers" who stick with one team, like the Denver Broncos. Chris Waggoner, last year's winner, has an affinity for the San Francisco 49'ers because he went to high school in the Bay area. He also likes the Arizona Cardinals, especially running back David Johnson, who he says won the league for him last year. Going into the last regular game of the season, Waggoner was down 50 points but Arizona trounced the Rams 44-6 with a commanding performance by Johnson.

Although he would have liked Johnson on his team again this year, he was quickly snatched up by another owner. "I came in with a shopping list but it's not working out," Waggoner said.

Even though the owners put a lot of time into preseason analysis, winning the fantasy football league is simply a matter of luck, Waggoner said.

Although they can check team standings online, the owners still stay in touch, making trades to replace injured players, fill a gap in their defense or simply gloat over an exceptional weekend of play. At the end of the season, there's a modest payoff for winners and losers. Typically, the winner hosts a Super Bowl party at his house. For real.

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