Fantasy celebrity games have a league of their own

Megan Kadrmas

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Now this obsession can be turned into a competitive game. Tabloid Fantasy League, a new Web site that is based on fantasy sports leagues, replaces athletes with celebrities and sporting event statistics with magazine cover appearances.

Two University alumni helped create this online game. Firooz Basri attended the ‘U’ for both his undergraduate program and law school. While in law school, Basri met Amanda Dalsing. The two became friends and are now business partners, along with Dalsing’s sister Amy Reif and her neighbor, Breht Burri.

Dalsing, Reif and Basri began playing the game on paper after reading about it in a blog. They held a draft in which each celebrity could only be chosen for one team, and kept points based on who made the cover of Us Weekly.

Reif told Burri, a Web page designer, about the game at a neighborhood gathering. He thought the game would translate well to a Web site and the group began brainstorming in May.

Although work started on the site in May, the public launch was not until Aug. 16. There was a lot of data entry work for the group to complete. They got back issues of People, Us Weekly, In Touch and Star. The group then spent hours poring over the covers of the magazines to record which celebrities had the main cover photo, along with those found in smaller photos on the cover.

This data helped form the coolest feature on the page for those who are playing the game, Dalsing said. The celebrity box score section uses this data to make a complete list ranking the more than 500 celebrities in the game.

Each player has his or her own special preferences, including the creators. Basri looks for celebrity “it” couples like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes or Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

“Angelina and Brad and Jennifer (Aniston) are the entertainment magazine’s grand slam,” Basri said.

Dalsing favors the party girls, keeping Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan on her “red carpet,” the playing field on which active celebrities compete.

Basri agrees about Hilton: “I like Hilton, as a celebrity player. I have no judgement on her, good or bad, but she’s going to be in (themagazines) every day, messing with people.

She’s good at what she does, which is creating press and getting her name out there.”

With membership growing each day – Dalsing currently estimates the site has about 500 members – the group is excited to see its success.

It is clear that the site is still in the evolution stage, with a basic white background and blocks of text. But the game is straightforward and easy to play.

The page and concept have also drawn criticism. One of Basri’s friends asked him what he was creating in terms of value to society. Basri explains, however, that the site tries to remain classy and is working on a way to give back to the community.

“There’s a fine line between classy and trashy in this business. For instance, celebrities’ children have no place in the media and no place on our page,” Basri said. “Entertainment news isn’t going to solve any problems, but celebs do support real causes. This is why we are trying to start a charitable league where we match each member’s donation.”

While the charitable league is still in the concept phase, there are three games on the Web site, along with other features.

FaceFecta and TabFecta are two games open to the public, both of which the group created. In FaceFecta, players choose who will make the cover of each of the four magazines for the coming week. No one has matched all four yet. TabFecta is a fantasy football style game that is open to the public, so everyone plays against each other and celebrities can be drafted onto more than one player’s team.

Current prizes for winning the games include iPod Nanos and Coach purses. These prizes may change as the group creates new partnerships.

The third game, TabFantic, most closely resembles fantasy football leagues. Players form leagues with their friends, have drafts and the Web site keeps score for them.

Other parts of the page include the Wabby awards and Nossip. The Wabbys are fictitious and amusing awards given to celebrities each week based on the big stories in entertainment media.

“The most fun part to do is the Nossip page, news and gossip. My sister and I, and sometimes Firooz, write it. We try to have it every couple of days to get people coming back,” Dalsing said.

This Web site is perfect for people who love celebrities like others love sports, according to member Sara Dean. Dean, who lives in Los Angeles, is surrounded by celebrity gossip. She works at a television station and listens to celebrity news during her hour-long commute each morning and evening.

“Some people don’t follow sports very closely or have their favorite athletes. This is their game, a game for people who have a favorite celebrity like others have a favorite athlete,” Dean said.

Basri said following celebrities is a recreation and that these recreations are a luxury of living in the United States.

“It’s no different than people following their favorite athlete,” she said. “It is very acceptable for someone to sit down and watch a football game for three hours on Sunday. Some people are more interested in celebrities and musicians than athletes and that’s OK.”