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Craction: A fantasy-football tool for the rest of us?

Newly arrived online game allows football fans with a life to enjoy playing general manager with friends without poring over stat sheets. The creators call it the "next evolution" in fantasy sports.

The PR flacks for Craction, a new online football game, deserve a little credit for getting one point of their rollout publicity campaign correct: it's more or less impossible to have a fully functional life while aggressively competing in an online fantasy-football league.


Dedicated fantasy-football participants--the type of people who spend hours neglecting their jobs and families to pore over player stat sheets looking for the best punter--often sacrifice their maturity and dignity in an obsessive pursuit of a statistically perfect virtual NFL football team.

Craction looks to offer football competition without "all the fantasy-sports commitment." The game launched online this month, but Scott Schmidt developed it in 2000 when he was a business student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"I wanted to stay connected with my friends who were spread out at colleges across the country," Schmidt said during Craction's debut. "NFL football was something we could all relate to, but I knew I'd have trouble getting people to commit to fantasy football because it requires so much time. So I just invented a better game."

Craction is not fantasy football, but it still lets friends compete against one another by matching their gridiron know-how. It's more akin to Las Vegas betting, though we all know really betting on football games is terribly illegal in most places--and CNET never supports anything so naughty.

Still, there's no money involved in playing Craction, so onward. There are no drafts or weekly stats to follow on patchwork teams assembled from remnants of the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, or Cowboys.

The game challenges players to pick five teams each week to beat their Craction point lines (similar to Vegas betting lines). Players earn an online point for every real game point their teams score over the Craction spread. They lose an online notch for every point they lose to the line. Players' points are tallied up over the season, with winners picked at season's end.

It's free to play, unless you want to play Craction Pro for a chance to win prizes. The pro memberships runs $30 per season. Since no actual betting is under way, will feature leagues for NCAA sports, starting with the 2011-2012 football and basketball seasons. So, fans will be able to turn those equally wonderful sports into an excuse for petty competition between friends.