New site breaks the fantasy football mold


A lot has changed about computers and fantasy football in the last decade. Computers are now faster than Usain Bolt, newspapers are quickly fading (yet here I am writing for a newspaper) and fantasy football is played almost exclusively online.

While technology and fantasy football have come a long way since Michael Vick was first getting headlines (for his football play), the way information is presented to fantasy football players has largely remained stagnant. Websites such as ESPN.com, cbssportsline.com, Yahoo! Sports and nfl.com, have largely offered the same information every year, and that information is solely statistical.

Five guys from Chicago are trying to change that. They’ve all been playing fantasy football since before many USC students were born. And on Aug. 1, those five friends, all in their mid-30s and best friends since elementary school, launched Pyromaniac.com.

“I’ve been playing fantasy football since 1988, and every year would go by and I wouldn’t see a change in fantasy football websites. They are literally the same as they were 10 years ago,” said co-founder Derek Noonan.

Noonan, 36, has been building websites ever since the ancient browser Mosaic came out in 1993. He’s built websites for Harley Davidson and Coca Cola, but now he owns his own web-developing company, and he makes Pyromaniac.com different from any other web site by incorporating his lightweight programming and new technologies.

But the technology is only the beginning when separating Pryomaniac.com from other mainstream web sites such as Yahoo.com

“The main thing that separates Pyro from all the other sites is that it’s fun,” Noonan said. “We are trying to bring fun and an entertainment value into it with our characters, energy and the wit in our editorial.”

The editorial content is what fantasy football players are looking for, and Pyromaniac.com does a great job providing in-depth analysis alongside entertaining snippets. Every top-150 fantasy football player has a profile, which contains much more than simple statistics and a brief analysis. If you want to know Kyle Orton’s touchdown to interception ratio in the first half versus the second half of the season, you will find that. If you want to know how DeAngelo Williams has fared in the last three years during weeks 14-16, the fantasy football playoff weeks, you can find that.

But, if you also want to know why Terrell Owens is represented by a piece of excrement or what Braylon Edwards, Mugatu and male modeling all have to do with fantasy football, the Pyromaniac.com writers will be more than happy to tell you.

“Our honest but somewhat brutal approach to these players is one thing that separates us,” Tenny Stegman, another co-founder, said. “We are trying to liven it up with the Daily Pill, our blogs and player profiles.”

If you’re concerned with whether or not these guys are properly equipped to give fantasy football advice to people, throw that idea away. Jeremy Alpert, 36, another founder of the website, has worked with STATS Inc. since 1998, and the information available at his fingertips is endless.

“Stats have become second nature for me,” Alpert said. “I know how to put numbers together.”

There’s also the Rain Man. Anyone familiar with the movie starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman knows there’s no need for explanation here.

“Having the Rain Man, our stat guy who has the ability to look at a player and just rip off stats on him, definitely helps us in our content,” Stegman said.

But while the founders had an exponential amount of content and statistics available to them, one thing that wasn’t readily available, especially in today’s economy, was money. They are starting a small business, and people are still trying to figure out how to make a significant living off the internet. Creating a website today isn’t as expensive as it once was, but adding all the amenities that make it flow smoothly and giving it that sleek look costs tens of thousands of dollars.

Pyromaniac.com has a few investors, including Alpert, who are mainly close friends of the founders. The founders quickly surpassed their budget, and Alpert admitted he borrowed money from his mom, but he also contributed a significant portion on his own, which was something he was more than willing to risk.

“In today’s economy, when you see a $4-billion industry that doesn’t take a hit, then you see it’s something that you can probably make you some money,” Alpert said. “Seeing what the guys at Pyro are doing and how cookie-cutter all the fantasy websites are out there, you can’t help but see that this is going to work.”

As of now, it is working. Noonan said most of the money Pyromaniac.com is making now is mainly off ads and draft kits they are selling. But Noonan has a friend who works at Facebook who advised him that once he gets more than 100,000 daily page views, he can make about $2 per view.

That time is still about five years down the road, and hopefully five years from now, Pyromaniac.com will still be around. Where else would I go to read about Cedric Benson’s BUI and find out that he had 500 more rushing yards in the second half of the season last year versus the first half?

As of now, nowhere.

“Spittin’ Sports” runs Fridays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Kenny at klegan23@gmail.com.