Editor’s Note: DLF is extraordinarily proud to bring you this unique story today. We hope you enjoy it and look at fantasy football a little differently after reading it. In fact, we believe it may be a call to action to promote more equality and take a step forward in the game we love. We fully support the community doing just that.
In recent years, fantasy football has morphed into a living, breathing diorama placed comfortably on a coffee table in the family room of mainstream America. Everyone is acquainted with fantasy football in one way or another. Most people have either tried it or know somebody who has played it. A good many folks are passionately obsessed with it. The online hobby in today’s market is especially enticing and doesn’t discriminate; you’re welcome regardless of gender and/or experience as long as you have the cash and the internet access. There are daily leagues, seasonal leagues, two quarterback leagues, redraft leagues and dynasty leagues all backed by some of the biggest powerhouse corporations in the sports industry. Come one, come all to the greatest statistical show on earth. A show, not coincidentally, tied directly to the most entertaining hired gladiators on the planet – the players of the National Football League.
As common place and accepted as fantasy football has become in our society, there was a time – say 15 years ago – when the landscape of fantasy football was much different. If today’s industry mirrors a modern day Las Vegas, then a decade and a half ago, it resembled a back room on the strip in Atlantic City, filled with cigar smoke, con artists and other potentially shady characters. Don’t get me wrong, even in the infancy of this industry there were some very solid players fortified with moral fiber and strong integrity. The overall atmosphere, however, in the early days of the fledgling fantasy football community was very different from today’s climate. I’ll also add this isn’t some second or third hand recollection. I was obviously much younger back then, yet I vividly remember some of the earliest sites and the tones and attitudes that went rather unchecked on most message boards.
Twelve years ago, not everyone with a passion for fantasy football could venture out onto the World Wide Web to test their NFL acumen in a welcoming environment. More specifically, female football fans in search of stat geek nirvana often found an uninviting, close minded community resembling an old boy’s club serving up unlimited shots of testosterone instead of cigars and whiskey. Sexism seemed prevalent on almost every message board. Many threads started off discussing football related topics but often devolved into arguments with male combatants heaving derogatory slurs at one another – each sexist slur charged with the single minded task of stripping away one’s masculinity. Young men, chest thumping over sports knowledge and any type of individual skill, often have a way of blinding common sense and rendering good judgement mute.
[inlinead]The few women who actually ventured into open discussions on these early message boards were often met with a particular reaction….a reaction that always seemed to manifest itself in two stages. The first part was an acknowledgement. Not an acknowledgement that a potential knowledgeable visitor had dropped by the site, but rather a confirmation that a female had stumbled into their lair, an affirmation saturated with an immediate lack of respect or acceptance. The second reaction which transpired was usually instigated by a small percentage of the message board rabble, but it still happened like clockwork all the same. Inevitably someone would post the, “hey pull up a chair, tell us what you’re wearing and we’ll let you join our reindeer games” comment or, “you can hang out with us if you post a few pictures.” Crude behavior for sure, but true all the same. As long as the sexism was right out there in the open and as long as the inappropriate comments appeared with regularity every time a woman visited a thread, then, somehow, in some strange ethical way, it was acceptable.
It was this very type of toxic atmosphere that looked a diehard Bears fan named Carla square in the eyes over a decade ago, somehow staring her down while simultaneously sizing her up and challenging her very moxie. With a love for statistical nuances, Carla had set out to immerse herself in what seemed like the most wonderful of hobbies. Unfortunately, the closed door reality she discovered was certainly not the football paradise she had envisioned.
As disheartened as she was by the lack of respect afforded her and the rest of her fantasy football sisters, Carla knew she could outplay most of the trash talking men, or at the very least, hold her own. She simply needed to gain a seat at the table. The key, unfortunately, would require somehow attaining that chair as a perceived equal and not as a woman. What happened next was a move born out of desperation and desire. Carla decided to “catfish” the fantasy football community – not to gain an unfair advantage like others have done in the past, but instead to gain that proverbial seat at the table, to secure a level playing field and to erase any preconceived limitations. Carla created the online name “CoinFlip” because it wasn’t truly gender specific yet most folks would likely assume that nickname belonged to a man. She then set out on her journey by knocking on the door of more than one online fantasy football community, letting assumptions fall where they may.
It wasn’t long before “CoinFlip” became an established, recognizable name throughout the online community. Whether it was through message board discussions or league winning percentages, “CoinFlip” had staked a claim as one of the community’s more knowledgeable, savvy players. Even though there wasn’t an official hierarchy to most of those online sites, “CoinFlip” was rapidly ascending through the unofficial ranks, taking on various leadership positions be it a forum moderator or league commissioner. In fact, to this day I’ve yet to meet a better league commissioner…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Bottom line, “CoinFlip” was a name associated with integrity, level headedness, keen insight, fairness and compassion. On the occasions when she was pushed for her real name, Carla simply used her husband’s name Rich and any curiosity ended then and there.
“CoinFlip” and I became good friends…well, as good as friends can really be in an online setting with no real interaction. I was in at least 20 leagues with Flip as the commissioner and we often touched base via chat or emails. About five years ago we started an exclusive fantasy football message board together, an invitation only hangout for some of the best FF players we knew, both men and women. To this point, I had no idea the “CoinFlip” I was dealing with was actually Carla and not Rich.
The story unravels.
There were only two folks in Carla’s timeline who knew the truth about “CoinFlip.” It was one of these two fantasy football confidants from her past who recently shared the truth at a FF draft party. Carla doesn’t believe the secret was revealed out of spite or malice, nor was it an act of bitterness or animosity. In fact, the confidant who divulged the information contacted Carla to apologize for betraying a friendship, for telling a story that wasn’t his to tell and finally to warn her the cat, or in this case the catfish, was out of the bag. Carla’s secret was in the wind and her angst was building with each passing second. She knew she needed to reach out to a select few and she needed to do it immediately.
I woke one Saturday morning to find an email waiting in my inbox, pseudo-camouflaged among a handful of other fantasy football related updates. The contents of that email were shocking and as Carla explained the truth of the matter, it felt like a close friend had died while I was cooking breakfast. The email started, “I wanted to share something with you I probably should have shared long ago” and went on to be as sincere and painfully awkward as anything I have personally read in my lifetime. The Rich I knew over the past 12 years never really existed….or maybe he did, but just as Carla. My head was spinning.
No one likes getting duped. No one enjoys being lied to. The fact it took someone sharing Carla’s secret to get her to divulge the truth to me was tough to digest. If I take the time to walk in her shoes, however, I see the reasons, the risks and the difficulties associated with sharing the truth at any point in our relationship even as I strike each letter on my keyboard while writing this article.
Now that the dust has settled, the same things keep reverberating in my head. A false identity was created without any malicious intent, an illusion crafted not for a chance at cheating the game itself, but rather to create an opportunity just to be included in the contest. A person’s love for the game seemingly blocked at every turn because sexism played a major role in determining who played and who didn’t.
And yes, I realize we’re talking about fantasy football, but this story speaks to an even larger audience and, more importantly, sexism in our society. So often we’re quick to critique by gender or appearance and lose sight of a person’s real value. I’m not going to judge Carla for creating the “CoinFlip” persona, but moving forward I will judge myself, making sure my actions or comments don’t give rise to inadequate feelings in someone because of race or gender.
The point in sharing this story is to emphasize just how far we’ve come in this industry and as a fantasy football community. Today, the landscape of fantasy football is filled with talented female writers and personalities. Liz Loza, Allie Fontana and Renee Miller are just a few who continue to impress at every turn. What was once a boy’s club with myopic vision and little tolerance has become an eclectic smorgasbord of gender, ethnicity and varying levels of experience. We need to continue on this path, collectively perpetuating an atmosphere of acceptance. Regression cannot be an option.
Over the past few weeks, Carla has shared her story with some of her closest league mates. The responses from those she’s talked with have been overwhelmingly supportive and understanding. Deep down, Carla has no doubt if given the chance to do things all over again in today’s fantasy football environment, she would be herself unequivocally. For what it’s worth, I wholeheartedly believe her. Now that the secret is out, she’ll have her chance.
Heading into the 2015 football season “CoinFlip” is still playing in and commissioning the same number of redraft and dynasty leagues as in the past. The difference this year is that “Rich” is no longer a necessary disguise for the best commissioner I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing fantasy football with. “CoinFlip” may have started out over a decade ago as a desperate response to an intolerant and hostile environment, but the legacy built by Carla over the past 12 years resonates loud and clear.
As far as I’m concerned, she will always be “CoinFlip” and she will always be my friend.
Editor’s Note #2: Now that the story of “CoinFlip” has been revealed, we again hope you use it as a call to action. In fact, we’ve been looking for a long time to add a female writer to the group at DLF and are accepting any and all applications!
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Extremely well written piece that both tackles a difficult and sensitive topic for FF Enthusiasts, while providing a platform for Coinflip (Carla) to tell her story.
I have been in touch with both Leo and Carla (only revealed to me at the same time as Leo) for years on both a personal and FF level.
I have already expressed my support to Carla personally and am happy to have a platform like DFL to express that support to a larger audience.
Carla has been an outstanding commissioner, owner and league mate for years. I will continue to own teams in here leagues and count on the highest level of integrity that she has always provided.
Thank you both Leo and Carla for sharing this story with us all and indeed I hope this is used to broaden the minds of all us FF Enthusiasts.
Leo thanks for posting this article. As you know, I know Carla pretty well and am in many leagues with her. I just found out about it this morning when I read your article and reached out to Coinflip. I am in a lot of leagues and you will find no better Commissioner nor a nicer person than Coinflip. I have the highest respect for her.
We do need to have this conversation within our little world of fantasy football about how comfortable women are in it. I think it is a big problem. But I don’t want to discuss that here it is not the time or place for it.
I just want to show as much support as possible for my friend Carla and encourage anyone who wants to get in a league that is serious and doesn’t fold after 3 years to look her up. You won’t regret. She’s at the top of my list of great Commissioners.
Thanks Leo for writing this article and thanks Carla for your bravery.
Both your friends,
Leo, Thank you for writing such an exceptional article. It is extremely well written and very thought provoking. It is a personal story and also explains the difficulties that women had in being accepted in the early days of Fantasy Football.
I am a relative newbie (coming into my 3rd season) , I was very fortunate to join a league run by CF and have become great online friends with her. Carla spent countless hours explaining the rationale and strategy behind each different league, trades , drafts etc and without her help I wouldnt be enjoying our wonderful hobby to the same extent. She never once belittled my lack of knowledge and her sole intention was for me to gain experience so that I could enjoy FF more.
i know how painful it was for Carla to finally admit to her close friends that she was actually Carla and not Rich . However what saddened me was that she thought people would ask her to leave leagues and stop commissioning.
I am certain that my fellow owners will embrace CF and concentrate on the difficult task of beating her in the leagues we are all in together.
As Leo and Jud have said Coin Flip is an exceptional Commissioner and owner and it is not only a pleasure but a privilege to be in her leagues.
Thank you again Leo your articles are always must reads.
Let me start off by complementing my food friend Lenny (Leo) , on an outstanding piece of writing. Touching, personal, informative and eye-opening. It didn’t open my eyes to the fact of who Flip was. I’ve known that Flip was actually Carla, for 10-11 years. I was not the one that revealed her secret. We met on an old archaic site that hosted leagues and a FF forum.Her local redraft league needed a member and I volunteered. A long-lasting friendship quickly developed. Through the years we’ve shared stories of FF wins, defeats, but also of family births, graduations, and yes deaths.She was one of the first I contacted last year when my mother passed unexpectedly.
It was eye-opening from the aspect of not actually, putting myself in her shoes. I understood the reason why she didn’t want the “old crowd” to know . Some there were old-school, a real “boys club” if you will. To me Flipper, as she is known to me will always be a true trusted friend who knows more about fantasy football than 95% of the world . Speaking of fantasy football, and commissioners, I’ll ramp the % up to 99.9. There are none better, period.
To Carla(Flipper) and Lenny(Leo), I am fortunate to call you friend
Leo, THAT is a damn fine article sir and only you (through your relationship as well as your talent) could have done this story justice. Thank you!!!
Carla is my friend. I knew Coinflip as “Rich” for the last 8-10 years and a few weeks back got the email explaining the truth and I too was blown away. I didn’t feel betrayed or any of that…but was just awestruck that this was real…what a story! Then I stopped and thought “Oh my, what horrific things have I said to or in the presence of this lady?” She considers me a friend (so it couldn’t have too bad, right?)
She has not only proven her knowledge and ability level in the FF world but she can run a league better and than just about anyone. If I were tasked with ranking every person I have met (virtually) since I started playing fantasy football, I cannot think of a single person that would rank higher than Coinflip when it comes to integrity, passion and commitment. She’s that damn good!
I am proud to say Carla is my friend. Much support and respect!
I am in several of Coinflip’s leagues, some going on 8 years now. I count myself lucky to be a member of them. They are some of the best run leagues around, and Coin is absolutely the fairest commissioner around. I will continue to be a member of as many leagues as I can that she runs.
BTW- I always thought it was odd that half my communications went to Rich’s wife. 😉
Wow! Great article, Lenny. I first came across Coin Flip on a message board some may remember, AntSports, where I had played my first online money league. There were many characters on the message board. Coin Flip stood out as a voice of reason and a kind person on a message board full of personalities – how could one message board hold both CD and Clinton Esquire! When Coin started recruiting for a dynasty league, I thought, sure, why not? Coin is a good dude. I joined Field of Play 2, drafting a 28-year old Tomlinson at 1.1 – clearly a dynasty rookie. Over the years, Coin has been the best commissioner a dynasty owner could have. Fair, on top of things, structured, competitive, and always providing a great league to play. Carla is a model commissioner, man or woman, and I’m happy to be in her leagues!
Great Article!! Thanks for the insight. I have been in the fantasy football community for twenty years now. In the beginning I would have to change my name to a males name just to be let into a league. Over time I slowly added some leagues with my real name. Those leagues seemed to not take me as seriously and even if they did the trade offers were horrendous. Even though some negative comments didn’t really bother me sometimes they got annoying. Today, I am about 50/50 on joining with my real name or not because now I look at it as I have the advantage 😉
Houdini, that is some piece of writing. What a great story. As I emailed Carla, you could have blown me over with a feather!
I also wrote: “If anything, I think I respect all that you do even more than before. Not because you’re a woman. But because you’ve run flawless leagues while constantly being careful not to slip with your true identity. I’ve always said that, no contest, your leagues were always my favorite. And it’s still true.”
I’ve got to find some more Coin Flip leagues to join.
Well written article Leo. I have played in league’s commissioned by Coinflip for years. They are among the best run leagues out there. The fact that she revealed she was female recently will not change anything for me. It was quite a surprise to find this out, but I am glad Carla did, and understand why. I hope this opens everyone’s eye’s and to treat all owners with respect. I can’t imagine what it must be like to log into leagues with an alias and act like I’m someone I’m not. I hope Carla can move forward just being herself and enjoy Fantasy Football like everyone else can. She has my full support!!
I have to say my head my not fit through the door when I get home. I will warn Rich.
I have met wonderful people in the past several years. I do want to say if I had to do it all over again the new group I have surrounded myself with would never make me feel like I couldnt be myself.
Thank you for your support I am overwhelmed by it. I truly am. I could never be as good a commish without the best owners in my leagues. You make my job so much easier and I am very fortunate.
Lenny I could never thank you enough. You complied my thoughts and feelings and added your own touch to a story I wasnt sure would ever be told. Thank you for walking down this road with me.
For the rest of you —-YOU ROCK! Now can we move on to some football news and values of players, I still have a couple rookie drafts left!
What an excellent article. I am glad I didn’t get into fantasy sports until about 7 years ago and my first leagues were with good friends and we have had a woman owner (and back to back champion) in that league since its inception.
As a first time commish, taking on a dynasty league, I never even blinked when one of the first people to show interest in joining was my best friends ex-wife. I know she loves the game. I know she has been an active owner in redraft format (my brother played in a yahoo league with her last two years).
Here’s to gender equality in at least one place a huge percentage of Americans love.(still talk shit to the ladies as competitors, they want to be treated equally. Just keep it classy and don’t discriminate for things we cant control.)
Though “semi-pro” at this point I’m relatively new to the fantasy community (Twitter era, not message board) and didn’t know about the somewhat sordid past. I have several female friends who are passionate about the fake football and thankfully, they have had a warmer welcome than Carla received years earlier. I think part of it is that in this community we are all less anonymous now, more personally connected, and we hold each other accountable for our behavior. Internet subcultures are warmer and healthier than they used to be and in society as a whole, sexism is shunned to a greater degree than it was even 10 or 15 years ago. I’ve met so many nice people through fantasy football, it’s ridiculous.
Thank you to Carla/CoinFlip for sharing her story, Leo for writing it so eloquently, and DLF for putting this in front of so many eyes.
I also play in many a league commissioned by Coinflip. I have also had many private conversations with her. While I think I thought in the very beginning I was talking to Rich, after that it was just talking shop with a fellow enthusiast. Coin I am glad for you that you don’t have to hide behind a persona anymore. The article was great. Carla is awesome most importantly as a person and 2nd as a commish/highly knowledgeable fantasy player.
Male or female, I’ve always had the same attitude when it came to fantasy sports or before that playing poker, money is green, and if you like the game, have a seat, and I will enjoy trying to take it from you.
I’m still more concerned that Coin is ND fan, that travesty should be looked into.
Enjoyed the article.
I bleed Irish colors. I have been told more than once today some friends never pictured me as a male or female but always thought I was a leprechaun.
I can live with that.
Great job on a well written article Leo! As many others stated I have known Coin Flip for the better part of the last decade. I too commish leagues and Coin Flip joined a league after seeing my post on the MFL message boards.
Since our first league together we have joined many of each others leagues and communicate often. Almost daily we send texts or emails discussing league ideas, trade offers etc…
I too was shocked to see an email explaining her secret. Although I was caught of guard I knew that nothing had changed in our friendship. It is so hard to imagine what it was like for Carla in her early days of FF.
Flip and I share a team in an IDP league and feel I have an awesome friend to learn with. So glad to hear all the positive support for such a great owner, commish and individual.
I also have been in Field of play 2 since it was started in 2007 and also played in redrafts and draftmasters that Coinflip has run for many years. Top notch commish, owner and my friend. when we gonna meet up at the bratstop??? lol. I must say you had me fooled. I had no clue but it doesnt matter. Coin is clearly well respected by all of us who know her and to have had a chance to compete with her and play in her leagues is a true privilage.
I met Coin Flip many many moons ago when she was a regular member of our website, maybe 2003ish if not before? Anyway she was a regular contributor and ran several of our leagues every year and was always a top notch commish.
I’m just sad she felt the need to ‘pretend’ to be a male in our circle. To be quite honest I never thought of her as male or female, she was just Coin Flip, shrug. A fantastic trustworthy commish who was very knowledgeable about football. I sorta wish she would have told us years ago so we could have saved her some mental anguish, we already had some prominent females on our boards back in our heyday. I feel like shit that Coin felt she would have been treated any differently if we knew she was a female. I’d like to think she wouldn’t have. Hell I didn’t even know she was pretending to be “Rich” haha. She will always be my bud Coin Flip 🙂
Good to see you again Coin, stop buy someday and say hi to your old friends.
I am definately going to meet you at the Brat Stop one of my passing through Wisc days Black Deuce.
Killer Toad so good to hear from you after all this time. Wish we still played in a league together. Thanks for reaching out.
Excellent article! Many familiar posters here and just another affirmation for Flip a great commish, player and forum moderator out there. Great to see how the FF climate has progressed and changed over the years!
On a day with tragic news, it’s great to read this piece and re-connect with the many former players I’ve played and continue to play this great game/hobby with in reading this article and the positive and welcoming feedback! RIP Salty