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Southwest Orange Friday, Sep. 7, 2018 1 year ago

Fantasy football league builds community in Horizon West

SIDELINE SCENE: A handful of residents of the Overlook at Hamlin are members of a community-based fantasy football league that originated shortly after the development was constructed in 2014.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

Eddie Gray, Kory Kozak, Peter Amato and Peter Staples all play in more than one fantasy football league — but there is only one league where they can talk trash while walking down the driveway to take out the trash.

Steven Ryzewski | SIDELINE SCENE

The residents of the Overlook at Hamlin are members of a community-based fantasy football league that originated shortly after the first homes in the development were constructed in 2014.

As residents began to move in throughout 2014 and into 2015, there were events put on by the community, but some of the guys in the neighborhood were hoping for more.

“Here’s the problem — the women are good at coming up with all kinds of events (to socialize),” Gray, the league’s current commissioner, said. “The men: It’s harder for us to get together and actually want to do something. So when we suggested fantasy football, it seemed natural.”

The league’s first season was in 2015, and it had eight members in one division. In 2016, there were 10 teams, and last fall there were 12 teams, both in one division and with all the players based in the Overlook at Hamlin development.

This fall, though, it was opened up to other Horizon West residents via a Facebook post in the “Horizon West Happenings” Facebook group, and there are now 20 players in two divisions. Eight of those 20 players reside outside of the Overlook.

As the fourth season of the league kickoffs off Sept. 6 with the beginning of the NFL season, it continues to serve its original purpose — helping neighbors connect.

“That’s why I did it — I love football, and I love sports, and I figured it was a great way for me to meet neighbors,” Amato said. 

The men are working to have more get-togethers on Sundays and also are planning one big Saturday outing.

“We’re trying to get together more,”Kozak said. “Get together, hang out and have a couple beers while watching football.”

The Horizon West-based league utilizes a “Superflex” format — where the flex player can be a quarterback, giving teams the option of starting two quarterbacks — and is based on 

Each player has his own approach to the draft, honed over years of trial and error.

“I’m a Jets fan — so I try not to pick any Jets players,” Staples said with a laugh, adding that he also had to get over a previous rule of not selecting Tom Brady. “Otherwise, I use facts and figures and try to take a flyer at the end on some of the young guys.”

Each player can recall “sleeper” players, or players who dramatically outperformed where they were drafted — whether it was Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt for Gray or New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara for Amato.

Gray and Kozak met in the championship in 2017, with Gray taking the prize. A lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, Kozak said he was content with the consolation prize of his beloved Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

The league envisions growing to as many as 48 teams in the future and increasing the prize pool and playoff brackets. 

None of the men knew the others before the league, and all are appreciative of the social aspect it has provided. Collectively, they have learned they have some cool neighbors — whether it is Amato, a songwriter who works on the popular show “The Voice,” or Kozak, a producer for Golf Channel. Other league members include an executive for Darden Restaurants and a police officer.

“We’ve got a really good mix of guys,” Gray said.

Of course, good mix or not, pleasantries will go out the window when the season kicks off.

“We can draft together, hang together — we can talk smack together,” Amato said.

Steven Ryzewski was the Senior Sports Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and Southwest Orange Observer....

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