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Site's Stat Tracker makes fantasy life much easier

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

I caved.

Like a healthy portion of the million-plus people using Yahoo.com's fantasy football products, I gave in last weekend and spent $8 for the site's premium Stat Tracker product, which allows fans to get live scoring on their fantasy team throughout the season.

For the previous two weeks, I had tallied my score the pre-Internet way, scribbling down lineups on an index card and poring over game summaries to add the score. Yahoo teased its customers with a free preview of the Stat Tracker during the opening weekend, and in a moment of fantasy-veteran weakness, buoyed by a 3-0 start, I succumbed to the convenience.

"We've been very happy with the segment of the market that's converting to the premium offerings," said Brian Grey, director of Yahoo Sports. He said its overall fantasy user base has increased by 40 percent from last year.

Yahoo is slowly turning the public on to the idea of paying for fantasy sports, offering free leagues and $25 per team premium products. The free folks can opt in for products such as the Stat Tracker, as well as insider who-to-start weekly forecasts and newsletters.

"Next season, when we start up for 2003, a lot of those who bought one or two a la carte products will just buy the full premium product," Grey said. "There's a fantasy-user life cycle we're trying to figure out."

Grey touts the immediacy of the live product. Two weekends ago, he watched Packers kicker Ryan Longwell hit a field goal on TV, then saw the three points added to his team seconds later. Others aren't quite as vigilant with the scoreboard watching but are enjoying keeping up with their team's scoring when they want to.

"I usually check up on it between the early game and the 4 o'clock game, then after that game," said Tampa's Gary Gilsdorf, who also bought the Stat Tracker. "A true fantasy geek would check more than every few hours, but it does give you a good indication of how you're doing each week."

An informal check of co-workers in my league shows I am the only one who has opted for the upgraded scoreboard. I'm paying for the right to find out sooner how a nonexistent team is doing against someone else's nonexistent team. Whether that's good news or not remains to be seen.

READY TO RUMBLE: More fun pregame bravado from Buccaneers.com, where this week's movie shows Warren Sapp spitting out black feathers after asking "Why did the Falcon cross the road? . . . Because Sapp was coming!"

Bucs fans are showing respect for Atlanta's Michael Vick, though. A poll on the site asks which of 10 young quarterbacks will be the best in five years, and Vick drew 48 percent of the votes, double the showing for Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb. Vick also has Atlantafalcons.com teeming with confidence: A poll on the site asks how many points he can lead the Falcons to against Tampa Bay, and 89 percent of 7,000-plus voters said 21 or more.

TID-BYTES: MLB.com has a fantasy game called "Beat the Streak," inviting fans to pick one player each day and see how long a hitting streak he can patch together. The real record is 17 postseason games, held by Yankee greats Hank Bauer and Derek Jeter. MLB.com will give the fan with the longest streak two tickets to next year's World Series. . . . NASCAR.com and Bobby Labonte raised nearly $50,000 last week for the Todd M. Beamer Foundation, a charity named for the man who is now famous for his phrase "Let's Roll" during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Diecast replicas of a red-white-and-blue "Let's Roll" tribute car driven by Labonte are sold out at joegibbsracing.com.

-- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail Greg Auman at auman@sptimes.com.

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