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To the victor go the spoils

By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network.com) - Two people won the record-setting Mega Millions jackpot yesterday.

As you may have expected, I wasn't one of them. Hence why I'm at work instead of the Cayman Islands (I was very much looking forward to never scraping ice off my car again. Thanks, Philly weather).

But I digress. Turns out, I don't even need the lottery this week. That's because it's championship week.

Ca-ching.

It's the season of giving but for a lot of us, it's also the season of winning. It's not enough to quit your job, but winning a 12-team, $50-a-person fantasy league can still get you a cool $600.

That's more than enough for the new flat screen you've been eying at Best Buy ... I mean all the Christmas presents you were planning to get for your family/significant other (Nice save, Pantuosco).

Some leagues offer even bigger payouts. I know people that have forked over $500 just to enter a league. That could sweeten the pot a little bit.

But then again, the championship isn't the only place where people can make money. One of the leagues I'm playing in this year offers a weekly prize given out to the team that scores the most points.

It's nice because the teams that didn't make the finals still have something to play for, even if it's only twenty bucks. And if we're talking stocking stuffers, $20 is certainly enough for the new Iron Man DVD (not sure about Blu-ray).

Think about it. Three high scores in one season will get you the new Call of Duty game on Play Station 4. Kids love that stuff (okay, adults too).

And if your team is really good, five weekly prizes will get you a Nick Foles jersey, always a great gift for the Eagles fan in your family. Or if you're looking to get a laugh, buy a Tony Romo jersey and watch him choke this week against Washington.

I know, that was mean.

There are more prizes you can win. Some leagues have trophies. Others have t- shirts.

Who knows, maybe your league prize is two tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII. Hopefully it comes with hand warmers. East Rutherford isn't exactly tropical this time of year.

And you can always split the winnings too. One of my friends from college played in a league that didn't even have a championship week. He and one of his buddies agreed to be co-champs, splitting the money 50/50. It's not what I would have done but hey, it got him paid.

I've been known to make a few side bets to make things more interesting. One week when I was playing my buddy Trey, we threw in an extra $20 to see which quarterback would score the most points. Andy Dalton made me a rich man that Sunday.

We don't talk about it much but fantasy can really be quite lucrative. Think about all the time and money we spend on it. The magazine subscriptions, the podcasts, the TV shows ... it's a billion dollar industry.

But there's another side of it too. Steve, who sits in the cubicle next to me (you probably know him from our Player of the Week and Two-Minute Warning segments), plays for charity. Adam Wainwright, starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, created Waino's World, a $2,500 fantasy league with the winnings going to Operation Food Search and Water Missions International.

So when Jamaal Charles caught four touchdowns last week, he wasn't just doing it for you. He was doing it for a good cause.

Mostly though, isn't fantasy about friendship? I went to college four hours away in Syracuse and now my job at TSN has taken me even further away from my hometown of New Hartford, Connecticut. But fantasy has kept me in the loop, giving me a chance to reconnect with people I haven't seen much since the days of ping pong in the senior lounge and playing floor hockey in the school gymnasium.

For the record, I was much better at floor hockey.

Today on Mike and Mike in the Morning, I heard the two Mikes go back and forth about their favorite Christmas movies. Die Hard and Home Alone were mentioned and so was one of my favorites, It's A Wonderful Life.

What makes It's A Wonderful Life so great is probably everything. But what stands out to me is the note Clarence the guardian angel wrote to George Bailey at the end of the movie: "Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends."

Sure we rag on each other (I may never live down my decision to play the Eagles' defense last week) but friendship, for better or worse, is the prevailing theme of fantasy football.

So, whatever happens in Week 16, I'm okay with it. Though a few bucks would be nice.

12/18 14:37:25 ET


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