League of his own

Steve Gardner

PHOTO BY vic cantu

With the NFL football season well underway, approximately 20 million fans nationwide add to the excitement of watching each week’s games by becoming imaginary coaches of fantasy teams. It turns out that Chico has one of the top fantasy football players in the country. He is Steve Gardner, 45, and last year he became one of only five people that year to be inducted into the Yahoo Toyota Legends of Fantasy Football Hall of Fame. Gardner, a single father who lives with his 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, is an applications worker for a local tech company. He was chosen for the hall of fame based on his winning record, extensive experience and popularity. During his self-nominating campaign he even got Justin Bieber to retweet his bid. Read more about him and see his hall of fame “virtual bust” at www.ToyotaHallOfFame.com/hall-of-famers.

What’s the object of fantasy football?

To score the most points. You’re in a league with 10 to 20 other players and we draft the best players we can. We get points for their accomplishments, like passes completed or yards gained, not just touchdowns. You can join more than one league, and this year I’m in nine.

You must have a great record.

In my 30 years of playing, I’ve won 94 overall trophies for first, second or third place, and 35 championships.

How did you get to be so good?

The key to victory is to persist in doing the things you know. I’ve watched more football and baseball than anyone who ever lived! I started playing fantasy football at 13 and learned the numbers and stats by hand. I also know from history which teams will have good players at certain positions. I try to pick the biggest threats against my team so I won’t face them. Plus, in the late 1980s as a student working for the New Orleans Saints, their quarterback Bobby Hebert showed me how to know what’s going on in the NFL by reading the transactions in the sports section.

Did you win anything for getting into the hall of fame?

I got a mustard-colored sports jacket with the Toyota Hall of Fame patch on it. It’s designed to look like the NFL Hall of Fame jacket. They also made a professional-looking “cyber bust” of me posted on their website. Plus my computer mouse is now displayed for the next three years under glass with a plaque dedicated to me at the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

How did you get Justin Bieber to retweet your hall of fame bid?

Last year I tweeted Bieber out of the blue asking him to retweet my bid. Somehow he actually did and sent me an email confirmation. Afterward several well-known entertainment sites mentioned it.

Do you play for money?

Not really. A couple of my leagues have small entry fees, but generally I don’t want the stress of high betting in my life. The love of money is the root of all evil. I’m very competitive and I don’t like to lose, so I agonize over playing and feel sad if I pick a bad player, even when there’s no money on the line.