Fantasy football pioneer Paul Charchian has dealt with plenty of pressure in his professional life. As a side job, he started a magazine to fill a hole in a growing industry. Three decades later, he has to figure out how to stand out in that same industry, now saturated with competitors.
Growing up in Eden Prairie, pressure involved scrounging up 25 cents.
“I would walk up to Eden Prairie Center,” said Charchian, who now lives in Plymouth. “If I could find a quarter, I would walk up to Aladdin’s Castle [an arcade]. If I could just get one quarter together it would be worth the mile walk, the mile and a half walk — each way — so I could get in one game of Joust. And man, the pressure’s really on ya. When you walk a mile each way to get one game, it better be good.”
Charchian’s family moved to Eden Prairie in 1977, and he began attending Forest Hills Elementary School. Growing up, he found value in the bonding opportunity football provided.
“What drew me to football originally was time with my dad,” Charchian said. “My dad was a big Vikings fan, and I could spend every Sunday with my dad.”
Charchian graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 1985, part of the first class to go all the way through the school. At EPHS, he was on the cross country team and ran track; the cross country team made the state meet every year Charchian was in high school. Charchian still runs today, and gives credit for that to Larry Anderson, his EPHS cross country coach.
“He would tell all the kids at the time — ‘we’re setting up a lifetime of athletics,’” Charchian said.
After high school Charchian attended St. Olaf College, before ultimately landing at the University of Minnesota.
His love of football stayed with him, and he joined a fantasy football league. Fantasy football, where participants draft teams of National Football League players and score points based on the players’ performance, was a fledgling enterprise. He kept playing, though.
Charchian worked as a network administrator for a large accounting company after graduating with a journalism degree,
“I figured that was going to be my career, in IT,” he said. “That’s where the money was.”
That was not to be, however.
With a handful of other fantasy football enthusiasts, Charchian started the magazine Fantasy Football Weekly in 1993, working on it at night. At the time, there was no other published, in-season material for fantasy football.
The magazine grew in popularity, and Charchian’s fantasy football acumen soon landed him on KFAN, the Twin Cities sports-talk radio station.
He started as a guest, talking fantasy football and answering questions, and by 1995 he had his own show, also called “Fantasy Football Weekly.”
“The problem they were having at the station was everybody was just calling in and asking fantasy questions,” Charchian said.
“Fantasy Football Weekly” still airs on KFAN, making it the longest-running fantasy sports program ever. Since 2019, the show has been a nationally promoted podcast by iHeartRadio, which owns KFAN.
When asked what he likes about radio, Charchian said, “the challenge of being entertaining for three hours, providing information for three hours. And boy, it’ll keep ya mentally sharp.”
Along the way, Charchian started other fantasy sports ventures, including Fanball.com in 1993 and Leaguesafe.com in 2008. Although both sites still operate, he is no longer involved with either.
His current venture is called guillotineleagues.com.
One of Charchian’s Twitter followers, Jeff Wood, first told him about the format. A “guillotine league” is a fantasy football format where the team with the lowest point total each week is eliminated or “chopped.” All of that team’s players become available for the other teams still in the competition to try and acquire through free agency. The team still standing at the end of the season is the winner.
“The hardest part of the entrepreneurial space in fantasy sports is that — just trying to get everything spun up and do something different that isn’t already in the marketplace is really hard,” Charchian said. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve become really, really delighted with guillotine leagues. It’s a totally new way to play.”
While fantasy sports is Charchian’s main professional interest, he also remains passionate about video games, just as he was as a child.
For 15 years, he hosted “Video Games Weekly” on KFAN. He recently decided to end the show to have more free time with his family. The last show aired on July 19.
But that doesn’t mean he will stop playing video games. His favorite game right now is “Jupiter Hell,” which he plays on his current favorite gaming system, the Steam Deck, a handheld PC system.
To further indulge his love of video games, he could also go to Playland Arcade at Eden Prairie Center. Now, though, he wouldn’t have to walk.
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