The Eastern Nightstorm League originated from the passion of the commissioner, Alan Hight, deciding to incorporate the fun system of Nintendo Tecmo Bowl with the worldwide trend of fantasy football. He adapted the rulebook from a league at a summer job in a Dick's Sporting goods chain and made it his own vision of what a competitive league should be.
The inaugural draft took place at the Frankfort, NY home of Fred Hight on Saturday, September 5th, 1998. Alan, as host, decided this was the best location as it was the central point for many of the participating owners in the Mohawk Valley.
The Fornino's Jets were a team funded by a wealthy neighbor, John Fornino, that Alan's father, Fred Hight, managed because John didn't understand fantasy football (but still wanted to be involved.) The franchise began the inaugural season by posting a score of 168 that stood as the highest game ever produced for one whole decade! Oddly enough, the roster was stocked with more than half of John's favorite players from the N.Y. Jets and was setting the tone for the entire league as "the team to beat."
In stark contrast, his own Fred-led Country Beavers were suffering weekly losses and were hardly competitive. They remained dead-last in their division all but one week of their existence.
Meanwhile, in the Twilight Division, Joe Mancuso (named Jo-T.B. for his love of off-track betting) and Tom LaPorte (named Slicks for his fondness of 50's greasers) did close battle for the rights of leadership. Tom was powered by Terrell Davis, the best running back in the draft while Joe relied on Jamal Anderson (arguably # 2.) The Slicks held the # 1 Power Rank for twelve consecutive weeks and put a stamp on his domination in the league. Out of the dozen rookie managers, however, Joe showed the most poise on the waiver wire due to timely player production.
The Frankfort Flash blasted things off right by selecting Brett Favre with the league's first # 1 overall pick. At the draft, Anthony Kipper was thrilled because most other owners had to study and analyze their selections, whereas Brett was a bonafide star. Anthony also helped himself by hitting the free agent pool almost every week.
An anecdote provided by Fred was that one Sunday he had asked Anthony to go golfing but Anthony didn't want to because "Tony Gonzalez's game was next." My father thought it was odd that Anthony would sacrifice his afternoon to watch a single tight-end play for his fantasy team.
In the end, though, Anthony's team was a flash in the pan with the league's third worst point production.
The Nightshade was a team born on Alan's love for magic and spooky Halloween fun. The team aimed at starting the franchise off right by enticing the likes of Kordell Stewart (# 2 rated QB) and rookie Ryan Leaf (pre-notorious NFL disaster.) This pick was the first recognized fantasy bust that spun the team into poisonous mediocrity, never landing them in first place until the final week of the season.
The X-Men was a team drawn-up by David Lovic, Alan's brother in-law, who fancied himself a creative and comic enthusiast. He saw opportunity in the QB position, but switched tactics by selecting Barry Sanders as his workhorse back to get his franchise running. Throughout the season, Steve Young carried his team over the glaring holes at Tightend, Placekicker, and Team Offense. It was obvious, also, that this manager had trouble identifying free agent talent because nothing was done to shore up his roster weaknesses.
The Lycanthropes were a team formed by George LaPorte (Alan's cousin and Tom's twin brother.) This moniker was spawned from Geo's love of Dungeons & Dragons favorite archetype of monster. They remained competitive throughout the year until they choked away their playoff chances with three straight losses to end the schedule.
Fred Hight had three other co-workers who accepted positions in the league, and they were the Rogues (led by Tim Seymour), Marlboro Men (Marty Metzger), and Thunder (Jim Sylvester). Tim was also a D&D enthusiast and wanted to try his sleight-of-hand upon the money bag of our league. He showed effort with WRs in spite of his meager RB corp.
Jim was a plain quitter. When the going got tough by mid-season, he abandoned his team and was never heard from again. To this day, he holds two of the worst games ever played in our league (# 4 & # 10 All-time.)
Marty had a passing interest in fantasy football only so much as it didn't interfere with his personal life. He was operational manager for only a month before he vanished from the league entirely.
Another in-law of the Hight's, Bill Morris, joined the fray, and he went by the name Doomsday. Adorned with Syracuse-orange colors and his love of the Buffalo Bills, he was just as introspective as his Mohawk Valley counterpart, Anthony, with free agent dealings. Bill got off to a hot 4-1 start, but he did not show the knack for managing the game as autumn neared its close.
Heading into the final week of the season, Jo-T.B. overtook the Slicks for the Division Title. His opening day roster sported only three original players, showing that his juggling act with personnel was top-notch. The playoffs between these two powerhouses came down to a second tiebreaker to decide the FantasyBowl participant! This was the only time in league history where any head-to-head contest produced this close a result.
Fornino's Jets also gunned their turbo boosters, winning the last five weeks of their schedule for their own division title. John/Fred was pitted against Nightshade who entered the playoffs via the 4th Tiebreaker--Most Points. These two teams delivered the best postseason performances but, one again, father out dueled son for the rights of the FantasyBowl seat.
In the much-anticipated FantasyBowl, many fans were shocked to see the Slicks hit rock-bottom. Tom scored the fewest points from his team all year and this remains the worst output in FantasyBowl history. Fornino Jets won the first FantasyBowl title along with multiple accolades: Rookie Of The Year, Comeback Owner Of The Year (2nd half output vs first half), and Manager Of The Year.
Going forward into 1999, Fred had a decision to make as a manager in our league (running two teams would no longer be recognized). He decided to disband his own Country Beavers in favor of the Fornino's Jets because he knew John did not have anybody to take over as fantasy manager that could successfully defend his championship title.
A few owners called into question the mandatory Thursday submittal rule for starting players that league policy required. After debate on both sides, 67% of the owners voted to further cement the rule.