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John Clifton: Sports Enthusiast

I’ve been playing fantasy sports my whole life. I just didn’t know what to call what I did back then. I bet I’m not the only one. The idea that adults can pretend to be pro sports GMs might seem bizarre at first, because (like me) it takes us all back to our childhoods. What makes fantasy sports different than make-believe is there are rules, established scoring systems, and most certainly winners and losers.

And these days, there’s big money on the line.

I’m John Clifton, a freelance writer and a 21-year veteran of fantasy football. Over the years, I’ve played in as many as 5 leagues at a time, while dabbling in fantasy baseball and fantasy NASCAR.

John Clifton near Boston

John Clifton on vacation at Lexington (or maybe Concord).

Growing up, I had my own version of fantasy sports. When I was 5, my family moved from a nice suburban neighborhood to the country. I had a sister who was 5 years older and a brother who was 4 years older. Otherwise, I was on my own. By that time, I loved sports and was generally obsessed about them.

I learned to love sports from my grandmother. We watched anything and everything sports-related: Dallas Cowboys, MLB Game of the Week, pro bowling, golf, boxing, Borg vs McEnroe, the Wide World of Sports–you name it. Every time I think of sports fandom, I think of my Mamma sitting in her chair, listening to Texas Rangers broadcasts on the transistor radio.

Make-Believe Baseball Games

In the summer, I would go outside and pitch the baseball against an apparatus known as a pitchback, which you would find in a Sears catalog. The device would toss the ball back to you, if you hit it in the right spot. It has a baseball plate-sized target on it, which was the center of the pitchback.

I would sit there, hour after hour, throwing the ball against this device. I had a good imagination, so I would pitch overhand, sidearmed, three-quarters style, submarine pitch, even left-handed…always pretending to be a different pitcher. In Little League, I pitched and played shortstop, so that developed a wild style for me. I could make throws from any angle, and was a bit acrobatic in my approach. I could even throw and bat left-handed, though I was a bit wilder do it that way. Of course, my mechanics were terrible, but I compensated in tremendous muscle-motor-memory from so many angles. Not knowing I pitched for hours on-end by myself, people thought I was a natural.

Fantasyland Football

Football was the same way. It was harder to play by yourself, so I would mostly pretend to be a running back, diving over things. When I reached the backyard football field (part of the local cemetery), I was the crazy kid who would throw his body around recklessly. I was also the rugged kid no one could tackle–or wanted to tackle. I liked baseball, but I loved football. Though I was too much of a late bloomer to make much of an account of myself in organized football, it was always my favorite sport to play or watch.

Pretend Basketball

With basketball, I shot baskets while I thought about things, so I would sit up past midnight shooting baskets outside. When I got tired of thinking, I’d play games in my own mind, with two different sides and everything. I was a strange kid. I never played organized basketball, but my house was where all the kids would gather for games of 21. That was some serious caveman basketball, but we had a blast.

When I was in high school and a few years out, I was a baseball referee. I was the occasional ringer in softball tournaments in my hometown until the age of 30. Then life got busy and I stopped playing organized sports altogether. All that was left was fantasy sports.

Local Fantasy Football League

By the early to mid 1990s, I had started playing fantasy football. I dived into it. I joined a local league in which my friends had locked down all the star quarterbacks. Because the QBs scored the most, these dunces thought passers were king in fantasy drafts. They devised a keeper rule in which they got to keep their star QBs, leaving all the newcomers to fend for themselves.

The first year, I was terrible. I happened to notice one team had finished 3rd overall, despite not starting a lineup the whole time. I tried to figure out what made their team so special, and then I realized it was because of the running backs. They had good runners, so they canceled out all the bad decisions. This was before too many fantasy football magazines existed, so I came up with a strategy without reading all the FF strategy guides.

That year, the league elders all wasted their 1st round picks on quarterbacks. One team owner drafted Emmitt Smith, coming off his 25 TD season. Another went nuts and drafted Ty Detmer. I had the 12th pick in the league and I drafted Barry Sanders and Terrell Davis, back-to-back. That blew the mind of the other league contenders, because (of course) I needed to draft a QB to keep up with them. (These guys were knuckleheads, I remind you.) That was the year Barry Sanders collected 2,000 yards and Terrell Davis led the Broncos to the Superbowl, so I won that league going away. The next draft, everyone was drafting runners.

A Legacy of Fantasy Supremacy

Over the years, I’ve won many fantasy football championship and many division titles. I like to think I’ve mastered the game of fantasy football. I wrote fantasy football website called Football Babble. The original owner eventually sold the site to someone, who sold it to someone else. They placed huge ads at the top of the pages all over that site, which really drives me crazy. I actually tried to buy it once, but couldn’t track down the latest owner. Such a shame.

With that in mind, I decided to create my own brand new fantasy football website. It’s going to take a while to build a site as comprehensive as Football Babble, but I intend on doing it. I posted 300 pages in a little over 4 months on that site. I have forever to build this one.

Daily Fantasy Sports

The main reason I wanted to write a new site is to cover daily fantasy sports. Though I’ve played fantasy sports for over two decades, I’m fairly new to the daily and weekly fantasy sports scene. I played at a site call “Fantasy Sports Live” back in 2009, when I was writing reviews of the site for a webmaster. I mainly played in fantasy baseball and preseason NFL football contests, so you can tell what time of the year that was. I got pretty good at the fantasy baseball, but that was with a smattering of other players. FanDuel and DraftKings are a totally different matter. I want to conquer those.

As I play and (hopefully) win, I want to develop my own theories about winning at daily fantasy football and its NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA counterparts. When I do, I intend on writing all kinds of strategy tips and game advice. That’s still in the future, especially since I waited until midway through the NFL season to start playing. For now, I’ll give readers my game logs and betting experiences–and hopefully I won’t lose too much cash along the way.

Wish me luck.
John Clifton

Shane Rivers, Social Media Director at SportsClash

Shane Rivers at a Party.

Shane Rivers at our friend Joe’s holiday celebration.

Since October 2015, Shane Rivers has been the social media director at SportsClash. You might have noticed we’ve added pages at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Pinterest. Those pages were designed and executed by Mr. Rivers. As this site continues to grow, we expect to have a growing presence on the Internet beyond this website. Shane Rivers will be a huge part of that growth.

Shane and I were co-workers at Small World Marketing for the better part of 10 years. That meant we wrote for sites like Ask Deb and Australian Gambling News and so many gaming websites it’s hard to keep count. If it had the word “Hero” or “365” in its title, we probably wrote on the site. He and I wrote Football Babble together, which was an awesome site, though it’s now relegated to that class of website which has pop-ups and advertisements everywhere.

We’ve been both co-owners and competitors in fantasy football for over two decades. He shares the same interest in NFL fantasy football that I do, and he’s a much bigger aficionado of UFC and other MMA fighting than I am.

Also, I have very little patience for or understanding of how Facebook and Twitter works. I understand it’s important, though. Shane, on the other hand, is an old hand at building a presence on social media platforms, going back to his days of building a huge readership at Only Good Movies. I asked him to help SportsClash with that aspect of our business and he was kind enough to accept.

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