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Fantasy Freaks: Local buddies discuss fantasy football on the air

Josh Pikkaraine (left) and Jon Dingwall shared a laugh on the set of their show Fantasy Freaks after filming the latest episode on Tuesday morning in Brandon. In between them is the Big Buck Award that they award to the league's top point scorer every week. (Eric Morken, Echo Press)

Jon Dingwall and Josh Pikkaraine are like a lot of NFL fans who play fantasy football, meaning those who don't play fantasy football probably think they are crazy.

Both Dingwall and Pikkaraine admit they are addicted to the multi-million dollar industry. They both spend hours each day searching the Internet for the latest player information, checking teams' schedules and examining the waiver wire.

"I probably spend at least an hour a day looking at that kind of stuff," Pikkaraine said. "It's after work, and then I have the Yahoo Fantasy app on my phone, so I look at that. I listen to ESPN Radio 660 AM every day. Then it's SportsCenter on TV when I get home. It's crazy."

But it's not unlike a lot of the others who play fantasy sports, which is a crowd that the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates at around 35 million adults in the United States. The biggest difference is that Pikkaraine and Dingwall have a platform to share their opinions on the latest fantasy information.

Gardonville and Selective TV customers can find the local duo in the 6 p.m. TV slot every night of the week in a show they call Fantasy Freaks. Dingwall, 30, and Pikkaraine, 33, have worked as install and repair technicians at Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association in Brandon for more than five years.

Their fantasy football playing days date back a lot longer than that. Both remember having to go to the newspapers instead of the Internet to find players' stats from the previous week's games. That's why they were more than willing to fill a half-hour block when the idea for a show was kicked around.

"It's something fun to do," Dingwall said. "We kind of goof around and our fan base isn't real huge into fantasy football, I would imagine, but it's fun. If they would take our advice, they would probably win."

Neither Dingwall nor Pikkaraine takes himself too seriously on the air. They know their audience, a likely older generation, probably isn't searching the waiver wire for hours on end. They both laugh at the fact that they haven't received one bit of fan mail since they started pushing their e-mail address this season.

Now in their third season with the show, the duo does try to give their audience some worthwhile fantasy advice mixed with a little humor. They start the show by running down the week's NFL scores and breaking down notable performances. They also offer their opinions on the Vikings game from that weekend.

Next it's on to the "duds" and "studs" of the week before handing out the Big Buck Award to the week's top performer. Finally, they rehash the players they would start and sit based on who's playing well, injuries and what kind of match-ups the players are going up against that week.

"I like it because they're very off the cuff," Gardonville graphic designer/content and marketing assistant Toni Edwards said. "We just sit down, and I press record and they just talk the whole time. There's no saying, 'Let's do this part over because it wasn't polished enough.' I'm not a huge football fan, but I have actually learned a lot about it."

Almost all of their dialogue is unscripted. Their research is done through the hours they put in on perfecting their teams, research they would do even if they didn't have the show to prepare for.

It is homework that they say pays off once the first game of the week kicks off on Thursday night. Both are in two leagues and currently tied with each other at 8-1 in one of those. The key, they say, is pretty simple: Pay attention.

"We have some guys in our league who will miss a player on a bye or not look forward two weeks and see who they're playing," Dingwall said. "You got to always look a couple weeks ahead. That and work some trades."

Even Dingwall doesn't always follow his own advice. He needed a defense heading into week nine and was dead set on picking up San Diego's in a match-up against a 1-7 Kansas City team.

That game kicked off the week last Thursday night. Dingwall delayed picking them up that morning before he completely forgot all together. When he turned on the game, the Chargers' Demorrio Williams was returning an interception 59 yards for a touchdown.

Misery ensued as Dingwall watched San Diego's defense pile up the points in a 31-13 win over the Chiefs. Is it crazy that any game with the word "fantasy" in the title can cause so much heartache? I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder.

"She thinks I'm nuts," Dingwall said of his wife. "[The Chargers] scored 45 defensive points in our league, and it just killed me. I was having an anxiety attack, and my wife looked at me like I was absolutely insane. That's how crazy I get about it. It's terrible."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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