tampabay.com

Area broadcaster enjoys his fantasy

By SHARON GINN
Published September 15, 2006


Tampa's Rob Stone recently landed what could only be called the fantasy job for the die-hard fantasy football player: hosting ESPN2's new The Fantasy Show, the only national program offering weekly advice on which players to start, which to sit and which to dump.

Unfortunately for him, that also means Stone, a fantasy league player since 1991, never will be able to live down whatever dumb moves he makes for his own team.

"There's a lot of pressure on me this year," he said, joking.

But that's about the only downside to the new gig for Stone, a former Ch. 44 sports personality who has been a freelancer for ESPN for nine years. A former soccer player at Colgate, Stone has evolved into a bit of a soccer specialist for ESPN, which naturally means much of his time at the network has been spent flying under the radar.

Until now.

"It's a high-profile project," Stone, 37, said. "It's one that (ESPN powers that be) are investing a lot of time, money and resources into. They see fantasy football and fantasy sports in general as the next big thing. Let's just say bosses I've never dealt with in my life now know what I'm doing and what shirt I'm wearing."

Stone said at first he was reluctant to take the job, considering it falls during his busiest time of the year and he and wife Lynn Carson (a reporter at Ch. 8) have a baby at home. He already spent 46 days in Germany during the summer working his third World Cup for ESPN, doing play by play and sideline reporting.

On Saturdays, Stone works as a sideline reporter for Big Ten football games then gets on a plane to call a Major League Soccer game on Sunday. The Fantasy Show adds plenty to his workload, but he said he is "thrilled" to be part of the project.

The show, which premiered Aug. 31 with a preseason draft special, is all about gathering as much obscure information as possible to help fantasy players structure their lineups for the week.

It tapes at ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., on Thursday afternoons, airs Thursday nights at 6:30 and is meant to be a "cheat sheet," Stone said, with about 45 minutes of information packed into a 30-minute show.

Stone is the host, overseeing injury reports by Will Carroll, inside NFL news tidbits by ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski and rants by fantasy sports guru Matt Berry.

Everyone involved is a passionate fantasy player, most of them playing in multiple leagues. The goal is to eschew the obvious in favor of thoughtful analysis.

"Our show is telling you, the fantasy player, what you need to know to win this week," Stone said. "My 11-month-old could tell you to start LaDainian Tomlinson. We're trying to tell you guys that are No. 2, No. 3 on the depth chart that are going to get you points."

Or, occasionally, stars who won't.

"We told you Cadillac (Williams) was going to have a bad Week 1," Stone said. "And he did."