Usually, he’s an eighth-grade history teacher. Maybe you know him as the college counselor. But armed with a pile of spreadsheets, a computer and 18 years of experience, he’s transformed. Chris Kuipers is the manager of his own pro football team.
So how has Kuipers kept his double-life secret for all this time?
It’s simple: fantasy football.
Kuipers, a fantasy veteran and a Minnesota Vikings fan since childhood, has been playing fantasy with the same friends since high school.
“(In the league), pride means more than anything, and it’s very competitive,” he said.
Kuipers who considers himself a “really good” player, said he approaches the game analytically. Not only does he look online at game and player statistics, but Kuipers also pays for an online fantasy football strategy subscription.
“I can’t tell you what it’s called because I don’t want my competitors to get it!” he said.
When it comes to the draft, Kuipers focuses on “positional scarcity.”
Essentially, for certain positions like quarterback, there are a lot of good players that are available, he said.
But for positions like running back, there are fewer players that will end up doing well.
Thus it makes sense to pick positions with fewer good players first, and then move on to positions with more volume, such as quarterbacks.
Kuipers manages and applies his strategy to all three of the leagues he’s in, including the SCDS faculty league, which began last year.
“It was just water cooler talk, and a couple of us that are into football decided to start it,” athletic director Matt Vargo (number one in the league at press time) said.
Last year, the league was comprised of 10 faculty members from volleyball coach Jason Kreps to Michael Cvetich, technology support specialist.
This year, the league is up to 12 players, having added Tucker Foehl, assistant head for strategic programs, and Glenn Mangold, math and physics teacher.
In the faculty league, Kreps finds that luck plays a large role.
“I’m a competitive person, but it really comes down to luck,” he said.
Brooke Wells, head of high school, a second-year fantasy player in the faculty league, agrees.
“At least for me, it seems like (winning) is only luck,” Wells said.
“I bench one guy, and he does really well one week. I put him in the next, and he does really poorly.”
But Mangold doesn’t rely on luck. He has the fourth best record in the league, beating fantasy veterans like Kuipers.
“(For the draft) we joked that he was at home running algorithms on his computer,” Kuipers said.
Mangold says that he’s been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan since childhood, and while he doesn’t have a TV, he subscribes to an online streaming service to catch every Steelers game.
But on top of just knowing how the game is played, Mangold’s strategy is simple—like Kuipers, he reads online expert football columns and uses their advice.
Another unlikely front runner is Hannah Frank, head of accounts payable and purchasing, a second-year player who finished 11th last year, but now has the second best record in the league.
Frank says she’s been a New York Giants’ fan since she was a teenager.
“I grew up in a household of 49ers fans, and I chose the Giants to be different,” she said.
Apart from winning, many fantasy players find that the game helps them stay in touch with old friends.
“(In my high-school league,) it kind of forces me to send a note to my friends,” said Kuipers, who continues to stay in touch with his early fantasy friends from 18 years ago.
Kreps, who began playing fantasy nearly a decade ago with college friends, also finds the social aspect to be one of the more enjoyable parts of the game.
In fact, Kreps says he just reconnected with an old friend from high school because of the league.
Also, fantasy football allows Kreps to have something in common with other co-workers, he says.
“It’s cool that we have people like Jay (Holman) from maintenance and Hannah (Frank) from the office all playing in the same league,” he said.
Also, Kreps plays fantasy because it allows him to get more involved with the game.
Since he has a lot of different players on different teams, he has a reason to watch more real games, he said.
This was Mangold’s biggest reason for joining the fantasy league.
“(Before fantasy), I knew all the rules and all about the Steelers, but I didn’t know players on other teams,” he said.
In fact, Mangold made sure he didn’t draft Steelers players, so that he could learn about as many other teams as possible.
But the faculty aren’t the only ones playing fantasy.
Sophomore Adam Dean said that he plays for the trash talk—a large part of fantasy.
“Players in our league will say stuff like, ‘Might have to change your name to Dunkin’ ‘cause you have so many donuts (player that don’t yield points),” he said.
However, Wells says that in the faculty league, there isn’t much trash talk.
“We don’t have a lot of teasers in the league,” Wells said.
“I can’t imagine Mr. Mangold saying something like that.”
But no trash talk doesn’t mean the faculty aren’t competitive, Kuipers said.
“I’m going to beat Vargo, and you can quote me on that,” he said.
Previously published in the print edition on Nov. 25, 2014.