Papa John’s names fantasy football league finalists

As fantasy football teams across the country load up for a playoff push, owners in five elite leagues will square off to determine which league reigns supreme. Papa John's, the Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL, has announced the selection of five finalists for its "Fantasy to Reality" contest, a competition to find the fantasy football league that's better than the rest, with the winner claiming ultimate bragging rights and a trip to the 2011 NFL Draft in New York City.

Consumers can review the finalists and cast their votes now through Dec. 12 at Papa John's Facebook page. America's vote will be included in selection of the winner, who also will be judged by an expert panel led by six-time All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates and ESPN Senior Fantasy Analyst Matthew Berry. The winner will be announced the week of Dec. 13.

"In fantasy football, just like in the National Football League, you have to bring your 'A' game every season, every week, every game," Gates said. "These five finalists have done just that, competing and managing their leagues to perfection and providing the ultimate fantasy experience – from draft day blowouts, entertaining smack talk, strategic roster moves and great competition."

The five finalists are:

  1. Excessive Celebration – Brent Johnson leads this 12-team, Atlanta-based league with an iron fist, even drafting up a Constitution with league rules and bylaws. The league holds votes to approve incoming owners and awards virtual trophies each week for some added motivation.                                                                                          
  2. The Dude Abides – This long-standing league, spearheaded by Hunt Meacham of Charlotte, N.C., consists of best friends dating back to elementary school, all coming back every year for a shot at the title.
  3. Southern Illinois Fantasy Football – Not content with standard 10- or 12-team leagues, this league consists of 32 teams split into four divisions. League Commissioner Donald Basta from Carterville, Ill., and his managers are so dedicated to their league, they hold an annual owners meeting each April to discuss all potential rule changes to improve the experience.         
  4. The Coaches Poll – Peter LaBauve from Columbus, Ohio, takes his league so seriously that he created a website featuring updates, manger profiles, photos and The Coaches Poll record books. The dedication is all worth it for a chance to win the 3-foot-tall Trueman Trophy.
  5. The AFFL – Each year, 12 team owners battle it out for the coveted AFFL Championship Ring, which bears the league’s creed: “Survival of the Luckiest.” League Commissioner Raffi Lalazarian of Los Angeles manages the league’s website, which features customized team pages, weekly articles and podcast interviews with team owners.

"Between the hundreds of leagues I've played in over the past 25 years, as well as the millions of leagues I have seen in my 10 years writing for ESPN.com, I definitely know firsthand the creativity, hard work, friendship and banter it takes to make a league great," said Berry, a charter member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. "I'm looking forward to helping choose the league that's better than the rest and stealing some of their ideas for leagues of my own."

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