Football and the Office: What A Team!

Recently we wrote about What Wastes More Employee Time: Fantasy Football or Microsoft Upgrades? Before we went any further down this path, we wanted to give you some more background in the sport.

An estimated 30 million Americans play the cybersport. From politicians like President Obama, who famously played with sportswriter Rick Reilly in 2008, to celebrities like Elizabeth Banks, Jason Bateman, and Paul Rudd, to professional football players themselves, it seems almost everyone has a team.

So what exactly is it? It’s a game in which football fans take the term “armchair quarterback” to a whole new level. About a dozen people get together to form a league. There are various styles of play, and the leagues can have different rules. But, in general, each member becomes an owner and drafts real NFL players for his or her virtual team. The owners pick their starting lineup each week to match up against one another throughout the season. Points are earned based on action from the professional games, such as yards gained, touchdowns and field goals.

Early versions of the hobby started in the ’50s, but fantasy sports — especially fantasy football — became popular in the ’80s and ’90s. The Internet created the optimal platform for the game, and now there are dozens of websites that host leagues for free (not to mention the hundreds boasting of draft strategies, player statistics and game pointers).

Read more about Fantasy Football.


Now the question comes up: Should Fantasy Football Be Illegal? As the world of fantasy sports changes, the line between legal and illegal becomes increasingly blurry.


Some of the newest incarnations of fantasy football look a lot more like gambling than intricate, outsmart-your-opponent strategy games.

Since 2011, the billion-dollar fantasy market has been infused with dozens of daily and weekly games. Those games allow players to win huge prizes quickly, sometimes in one week, sometimes in just one night. With players betting thousands or even tens of thousands a night, legal experts believe it’s time to review the section of the 2006 federal law that was written specifically to protect fantasy sports from being banned the way online poker was.

“There’s importance in clarifying the law,” says Marc Edelman, a professor at Fordham Law School who studies the law as it applies to fantasy sports. “As long as there’s uncertainty about the legality of these games, some potential businesses that might enter the marketplace stay out.”

Seasonal leagues are largely the domain of billion-dollar companies such as CBS and ESPN, with close ties to the NFL. For now, they have remained on the sidelines of the short-term business, leaving it largely in the hands of companies such as FanDuel, which is expecting to triple its base to 500,000 fans this season.

Traditional leagues at ESPN and elsewhere received their legal clearance from the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was designed mainly to stop Internet poker. It included an important “carve out” for fantasy football. Meanwhile, most state laws define fantasy football as skill-based propositions, which keeps them legal.

Peter Schoenke, chairman of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, says daily and weekly games that adhere to the group’s rules also are protected by the 2006 law, and that the NFL and Major League Baseball “have fully embraced fantasy sports in all forms, both free and pay.”

“If a game operator doesn’t follow the UIEGA, the FSTA doesn’t consider the contest to be a true ‘fantasy sports’ contest,” Schoenke said.

Now to round out this discussion, let’s look at: Like football, running an Information Technology organization is a team sport. Every member of each respective group—not just the quarterback or the CIO—has an important role to play. Lots of similarities.




Rail News Roundup

Being the “New Kid on the Block” (I mean on the “BLOG”) , now have the honor to prepare a healthy portion of railroad news. Enjoy!

Caltrain to purchase surplus rail cars, solicit public input on future electric trains

Caltrain will purchase 16 surplus Metrolink rail cars to extend trainsets and provide more capacity for peak-hour trains. The Bombardier bi-level Generation 2 cars will be purchased from the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, which operates Metrolink. The cars have been phased out of Metrolink’s system, but are similar to the Bombardier vehicles that Caltrain uses, Caltrain officials said in a press release.

The total cost of purchasing and renovating the equipment is $15 million. The majority of funding will be covered by a farebox revenue bond, while Caltrain will cover the remaining funds by reinvesting surplus firebox revenue into the rail-car purchase. Nearly four straight years of record-setting ridership growth also has resulted in record-setting farebox returns, allowing the agency to set some of that funding aside to help address the capacity issues.

East Japan Railway eyes bid on California high-speed rail project

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) plans to participate in the bidding process to supply rail cars for California’s high-speed rail line, according to a Sept. 6 report in The Japan Times.

Citing JR East sources, the news site stated the company intends to market its Shinkansen technology and participate in the rail-car bid with six other Japanese companies, including Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Hitachi Ltd. and Sumitomo Corp. 

The companies hope to obtain a contract that would include rail cars and track signals, according to the report.

Because California is often hit by earthquakes, JR East will promote its track record on disaster recovery and the speed at which it restored rail service after an offshore earthquake hit Tohoku in 2011, JR East sources told The Times.

NARP resolution supports proposed Dallas-to-Houston high-speed rail line

The National Association of Railroad Passengers’ (NARP) board has endorsed the Texas Central Railway’s (TCR) proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.

The association supports the development of the 200 mph-plus high-speed rail system as a national objective and board members believe the Texas Central Railway — which is working with Central Japan Railway on the project — is poised to deliver the service, NARP officials said in a press release.

NARP officials plan to encourage congressional leaders — who are preparing to draft the next passenger-rail reauthorization legislation — to ensure that Texas Central Railway will have the “regulatory flexibility” that it needs to begin constructing the line, they said.

“It’s clear that Washington is struggling to address our nation’s infrastructure challenges. While Congress must get its act together, this political gridlock means it is all the more important for private companies and states to take the lead and show innovation in improving their transportation systems,” said NARP Chairman Bob Stewart.

To learn more about the Texas project, read KC Jones article Texas Central Railway’s plan to build a Dallas-to-Houston bullet train is gaining speed or read this article published in Progressive Railroading’s June issue.

MTA repairs Sandy-damaged subway tubes; NJ Transit fixes damaged Montclair-Boonton track

MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) yesterday resumed regular weekday service on the G Line between Long Island City and the Greenpoint Tubes after completing resiliency repairs to the tubes that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy nearly two years ago.

The tubes had been closed since July 25 so that crews could repair the structures, which were flooded with salt water to a height of 15 feet during the October 2012 storm.

MTA Department of Subways crews installed communication lines, installed new track and third rail, repositioned signals, rebuilt tunnel infrastructure and rehabilitated stations.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Transit restored regular rail service yesterday on the Montclair-Boonton Line following an Aug. 19 disruption caused by a slow-speed derailment.

The derailment occurred between Bay Street and the Walnut Street stations in Montclair, N.J. Since then, emergency track repairs were completed between the Bay Street and Montclair State University stations, NJ Transit officials said in a press release.

To accommodate the repairs, all Montclair-Boonton Line trains operated on a single track on a portion of the line.


Gov. Dayton calls on STB to take more measures to address grain-car backlog in Minnesota

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton last week sent a letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) urging the agency to use its authority to gain more clarity about what BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific are doing to eliminate the backlog of grain-car shipments.

Dayton called on the STB to bring all parties together to find “an urgently-needed resolution” because the severe backlog is impacting Minnesota farmers, he said in a press release. 

A study released in July by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture found that farmers in the state lost an estimated $109 million due to rail shipping delays and higher transportation costs, said Dayton. The governor asked the STB to include the study in the agenda for a National Grain Car Council meeting to be held Sept. 11 in Minnesota.

Farmers continue to store more corn and other ag products in the Midwest due to low grain prices, problems with rail-car availability and trucking bottlenecks occurring at elevators.

HSR: Illinois to invest $102 million in upgrades to Chicago-St. Louis line

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced late last week a $102 million investment from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program to improve system performance and reliability on a key segment of the Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail line.

The funds will allow the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Union Pacific Railroad to move forward with construction of a new bridge over the Kankakee River near Wilmington, as well as complete other safety and capacity enhancements along the busy corridor between Joliet and Dwight, Ill., Quinn and IDOT officials said in a press release.

The funding will pay for a second set of tracks to be built between Mazonia and Elwood, including the new bridge to accommodate the increased capacity. The work will be performed by the UP crews and managed by IDOT in 2016 and 2017. 

Once completed, the improvements will immediately trim about five minutes off the travel time between Joliet and Dwight in anticipation of the eventual double-tracking of the remainder of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, IDOT officials said. The double-track then will allow more daily roundtrips at increased 110-mph speeds.

Amazon and US Postal Service Try More Cool Deliveries Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service, already partners in Sunday deliveries, have launched a [two-month] trial to shuttle insulated containers of meat, dairy, produce and other groceries to San Francisco customers’ doorsteps.


The Postal Service said it is testing AmazonFresh deliveries “to determine if delivering groceries to residential and business addresses would be feasible from an operations standpoint and could be financially beneficial for the organization.”


A spokeswoman said the USPS is making the drop-offs between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.; few of its trucks are in use at those hours. Because Amazon uses insulated tote bags for perishable groceries, the agency can make deliveries without the benefit of refrigerated trucks.

Electrolux Buys GE Appliances

 The Swedish firm Electrolux is buying General Electric’s household appliances unit for 3.3 billion dollars. It’s the firm’s biggest ever deal and will give it a major presence in the US where it will be better placed to take on rival Whirlpool. Electrolux is the world’s second largest home appliance maker and sells brands including Zanussi and AEG. Its current market is predominantly in Europe while Whirlpool has cornered the North American market.