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Women share the fantasy on football draft day Cover Story: Local all-female group reflects trend of a new audience tracking the NFL in leagues of their own

For one fantasy football league, draft day means no calls, no texts and no boys allowed.

Lauren Krausner's introduction to fantasy football was marked with humble beginnings and a humiliating finish -- for everyone else involved. A clueless Krausner and her mother-in-law finished in second place.

One year later, Krausner initiated her reign as commissioner of an all-woman league. In 2000, she hosted the War of Roses' first draft with six teams at her home in Clarence. The ninth annual live draft on Sept. 2 included 12 women in their 20s and 30s.

"It occurred to me that women have this sort of problem if their husbands are into sports and they aren't," she said. "But when you get to know the players, and you feel like you can converse about it, it becomes fun to watch."

Fantasy football attracts an estimated 29.9 million players in the U.S. and Canada, according to Paul Charchian, president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Nearly 20 percent of all fantasy sports players are women, he said, and a majority compete on the virtual gridiron.

At Yahoo! Sports, women constituted 12 percent of 4 million fantasy football participants last year, said public relations manager Nicole Addison.

"It's still early, but we're trending up a little bit this year," Addison said. "It's definitely been growing."

Addison said that the number of all-woman leagues has increased steadily, as well as women participating in workplace leagues.

Lauren's husband, Chris, is only one of the millions for whom fantasy football constitutes a very real addiction. But when questions about his wife's day were responded to with praises for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston, he knew he had recruited another fantasy believer.

"She had found that by engaging with me in watching football, it was a way for us to spend time together," Chris said. "She was a part of my world."

Though Lauren ventured into his world, she also made it her own. She brought along girlfriends, draft day wine and home-cooked appetizers.

"The women are far more literate and refined," Chris said. "The men at our draft, we just have a lot of beer and fried foods."

In addition to dining differences, women's draft day talk occasionally digresses from backfields to backsides.

"We make jokes about how cute their butts look in uniforms," said Laura Voigt, Lauren's sister-in-law.

Voigt, a youth cheerleading coach, said she has always been a student of the game, but she also takes pride in her eye for talent.

"My team has always been 'The Hotties' or 'The Lookers,' " she said. "If he's got a bad mug, he doesn't cut it."

When Tiki Barber retired after the 2006 season, he finished as the New York Giants' all-time rushing and receptions leader. He also retired as Voigt's honorary fantasy team captain.

"Every year until he retired I picked Tiki first," she said. "I might give evil eyes to some of the girls during the draft. If I had the eighth pick, I made it known Tiki was mine."

Voigt's drafting strategy will not likely entice endorsement from fantasy football guru Matthew Berry. But its efficacy might speak for itself.

Voigt has made the playoffs eight out of nine years and played for the championship on three occasions -- without budging on her one exception to the rule.

"I'm anti-Tom Brady," Voigt, a Bills fan, said. "Even though he is very good looking, I won't draft him."

For Voigt, a knowledge of fantasy football opened doors to other opportunities. Four years ago, the then-25-year-old went to WGR Radio for an interview. She left with two segments under her belt and a job. Voigt said that her background in fantasy football immediately impressed her bosses.

"It's been a great conversation starter," she said. "It's a great talking piece with other football fans."

Any of the veterans on Krausner's league can name two, three players on each team's roster. A far difference, they said, from simply naming players on the Bills roster.

"Sure, an all-women fantasy football league has novelty appeal," Chris said. "But there's a bunch of them who are really good and know what they are doing. It's not just a novelty act. I'll come home and my wife will be watching Monday Night Football because she needs a Jacksonville receiver to pick up three points."

Lauren might not need much help preparing for draft day anymore, but that doesn't mean Chris doesn't try to lend a hand where he can.

"I will occasionally log in under her name," he said. "Just so I can put some proper trash talk up on their Web site."


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