ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 9, 2007) - Spc. Anthony Owens mastered the art of playing fantasy football to win a high-definition television in the U.S. Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation's 2006 Fantasy Football promotion.

From naming his team after one of his favorite coaches, to naming his prize after one of his most productive players, Owens, of Fort Irwin, Calif., epitomized the spirit of fantasy football.

Owens not only won the Army competition hosted on 12 installations, he claimed a second wide-screen, plasma television by capturing the national open competition waged on MJM Sports' Fantasy Sports Machines.

Fantasy football is an off-field game generated by the on-field statistics of National Football League players and teams. The same type of competition exists for the granddaddy of fantasy sports leagues, Major League Baseball, as well as the NBA, NHL, NASCAR, and the PGA Tour, to name a few of the most popular.

The Internet allows fantasy leagues to include competitors from around the globe. Army MWR joined the fray by installing arcade-style fantasy sports machines inside clubs, bowling alleys and theme restaurants on installations around the world.

"I've been playing fantasy sports for a long time, but I've never played in a league this cool," said Owens, who named his team Dazenman (pronounced Da-Zen-Man) after Phil Jackson, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jackson, known as "The Zen Master" for citing Robert Pirsig's book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" as one of his major guiding forces, was pleased and amused to learn of Owens' success.

"Obviously this guy has some thoughtful approach to life: sitting there watching things happen, and he's waiting for intuition to help him out," Jackson said.

Owens' intuition earned him a 40-inch, flat-screen television with a 5.1 dream sound system (retail value: $2,500) for winning the Army MWR "You Pick" league, which revolved around competitors individually selecting a roster of players in each of the 17 weeks in the NFL's regular season.

Contractor Josie Jaramillo, also of Fort Irwin, won the same prize for finishing first in the Army MWR "Quick Pick" league, in which the Fantasy Sports Machine randomly generated lineups each week.

Owens and Jaramillo both played at Primo's Outer Limits on Fort Irwin.

Under the name of TeamCowboys4life, Jaramillo tallied 1,143 points to edge runner-up Mark Moll, whose Madmax580k entry accumulated 1,123 points. Moll played at the Impact Zone on Fort Sill, Okla.

Owens had 2,328 points to defeat runner-up Oscar Miller's Redskinfan entry (2,236 points) in the "You Pick" league, followed by third-place Team Anacondas, owned by Sgt. 1st Class Colin McKiel of Fort Dix, N.J.

In 2005, the first year of the Army MWR contest, McKiel, who since moved to California, won the "You Pick" division.

Miller wasn't upset to come in second and just miss winning the television. He'll watch the games on a wide-screen soon enough because Miller, coincidentally, is engaged to Jaramillo.

Owens attributed his victory to sticking with the time-tested theory that running backs are the most valuable players in fantasy football and by carefully exploiting the game rules. Like many 2006 fantasy football winners, he rode San Diego Chargers running back and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player LaDainian Tomlinson to victory.

"I read the rules and studied how you get the most points, and it was through the running backs," Owens said. "I concentrated on the match-ups each week. I made a mistake the first time L.T. scored four touchdowns. I didn't have him that week. But from like Week 6 on, I didn't even guess, it was L.T., L.T., L.T. - all the way to the championship."

Owens also benefited from a couple of big performances by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and by rotating quarterbacks Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles, Carson Palmer of the Bengals and Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

"As guys would get hot, I would go with them," Owens said.

Entering the final week of the season, Owens was clinging to a 20-point lead when he started New York Giants tailback Tiki Barber, who had announced he would retire at season's end, against the Washington Redskins. Barber rushed for a single-game career-high 234 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-28 victory that sealed a playoff berth for New York and a fantasy football crown for Owens, who named his prize after the Giants' all-time leading rusher.

"I thought Tiki might have a big game going out, and he won me the TV, so Tiki Barber is my hero," Owens said. "I'm going to call my TV Tiki Barber. It's my Tiki TV. All my boys talk about it when they come over. I tell them: 'Yeah, go ahead and turn Tiki on.' When they come into my house, they have to acknowledge Tiki. It's a beautiful TV, the best I've ever had."

Owens also has a 42-inch plasma on the way for winning the national title. He says he may have to sell one of the units.

"I have a 3-year-old (Leonardo) and a 5-year-old (Antonio) and they're going to take a fork or a knife to one of them," Owens said. "I couldn't handle that; I'd cry. They've already done it to one of my TVs - my little one took a fork to my 19-inch flat screen so I'm scared to have two in the house. I can't protect them both.

"But this is every guy's dream. My buddies have been telling me: 'Man, you have your own sports bar, baby.' Then I start daydreaming for a minute and my wife slaps me upside the head and says: 'Nah, you don't need two big screens.' So, yeah, I might have to sell one."

Owens, 32, a native of Edmond, Okla., said he began playing Army MWR fantasy sports games last summer and got hooked when he won a Harley-Davidson shirt for playing Fantasy NASCAR.

"And I don't even watch NASCAR, that's what's funny," said Owens, who also won local prizes by playing fantasy college football and basketball. "I was just playing to play it. I read the rules and I adjust to them. I just read and react, that's all it is."

Owens, who recently re-enlisted as a laboratory medical specialist, salutes Army MWR for giving him this recreational opportunity.

"I was surprised that you can actually win by playing a free game, usually there's a catch," Owens said. "I still didn't believe it until a TV showed up at my door the other day. My wife had to write an apology on her family blog for all those years she gave me [a hard time] for watching football. "

Barber is preparing for his final Pro Bowl appearance Feb. 11 before launching a sports broadcasting career. Rest assured that Owens will continue watching Barber on his big-screen Tiki, in high-def, no less, thanks to Army MWR.

"It's a neat thing that they're doing because you don't have to spend money to play," Owens said. "It's something that everybody can participate in."

(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.)

Page last updated Fri February 9th, 2007 at 11:36