Fantasy league geeks, look out: There's a new virtual sport on the horizon, and it has nothing to do with dudes in uniforms chucking a ball around a field or court.
It's called Fantasy Iditarod, and so far it's quietly making a viral splash.
"This is a new way for people to follow the Iditarod," said Danny Seavey, son of Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey and brother of last year's winner Dallas Seavey.
Danny Seavey, who last raced the Iditarod in 2006, is the mastermind behind Fantasy Iditarod. He got 469 people or teams of people to sign up for the free competition that pits dog teams against other dog teams while they travel north along the Iditarod Trail. Part of the fun seems to be in naming the teams, which include TeacherNotOnTheTrail, the Mushketeers and BakedAlaska.
The rules go like this: Each contestant is given $27,000 play money to sponsor seven mushers, who are worth a specific amount of money based on prior performances. Mushers earn points for a variety of scenarios, like being the first team to arrive at checkpoint, recording the fastest run times, winning special awards, and overall finish.
Seavey hasn't announced specifics prizes, but he said he has sponsors to award winners with signed Iditarod memorabilia.
Raised in a longtime mushing family, the Seavey boys have always wanted to boost the popularity of sled dog racing and make it easier for fans follow. Unless you're a die-hard mushing fan, Danny said, it's difficult to keep track of who is really winning a dog sled race. He believes Fantasy Iditarod can keep fans engaged.
"My brothers and I have wanted to do this ever since we were little," he said. "It's nice that it has finally come together this year."
The game is based on a complicated point system, but thankfully players don't have to do the math. Seavey takes care of all the calculations at home. He said it helps him pass the time while he tracks his dad and brother on the trail.
Right now he's running the game on Google Drive, but Seavey's dream is to some day have a Fantasy Iditarod website where players have a log in and password. And he'd like to expand it to include the Yukon Quest and perhaps other races, even Fur Rondy.
Fantasy Iditarod is different from your average office pool. Rather than choosing mushers before the start, players were able to postpone their picks until the first musher reached Rohn.
Seavey said Martin Buser's blazing across the Alaska Range really put a damper on that idea.
Some former Iditarod mushers are playing, Seavey said. But don't expect mushers who are actually racing to play, especially four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, who said he's never played fantasy sports.
"I've never been a fan of it, don't partake it in and probably won't do anything with the Iditarod fantasy whatever-it-is," Mackey said. "I've got the real reality race in front of me. But it's great, I suppose, for people who want to be involved."