By Michael Andrzejewski
What if you could build a football league that merged fantasy with reality?
We’re not talking about putting Game of Thrones on the 50 yard line (although that would be pretty cool,) but instead making a league that combined the engagement and control of video games and Fantasy sports with the real-world passion of traditional football?
What if you could get gamers thinking about the real merits of an Run-Pass Option on third and short and, at the same time, persuade wannabe offensive coordinators to geek out about a sports-centric tokenized ecosystem on a blockchain?
Patrick Dees, Co-Founder and Chief Gaming Officer for the Fan Controlled Football League, is on a mission to do just that.
The narrative that has brought Dees this far if a fast-moving yarn with enough twists to make for a great gaming backstory. The wiry 6’4” redhead hails from Tucson, Arizona, where even as a youth he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Channeling some of the OG’s of the side hustle, the Kirby Vacuum peddlers, Patrick sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door while also attending Sabino High School in Tuscon. Nothing says “multi-class character” quite like out-earning people twice your age while also navigating Algebra I.
Unplugging from the upright vac gig, Patrick soon found himself drawn to the explosive growth of the mobile phone business. Wireless would prove to be squarely in his wheelhouse as he grew from owning a single cell phone shop to controlling twenty retail outlets. He made the jump from Tuscon to Phoenix and founded Talk About Wireless, which grew to nearly 50 brick-and-mortar locations and became the nation’s largest Alltel Wireless dealer. All in all, not bad for a guy who had just turned 25.
Having earned a mini-sabbatical and trying to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up, the Arizona native decided that his new orbit should take him to stars – namely, the stars of Hollywood. Patrick moved to LA planning to take a year for introspection, but the entrepreneurial fire didn’t allow him to slow down for very long. While learning his way around LA, he put his John Hancock on forty-two Sprint stores in just under two months.
It was at that point that serendipity brought a powerful Player 2 onto Patrick’s screen who would change the game for good. Patrick met the one and only Sohrob Farudi, CEO of and co-founder of the FCFL. Together they spearheaded the manic growth of what Patrick calls the “Kelly Blue Book of cell phones,” dubbing the venture FlipSwap They developed an algorithm that’s still widely used today to determine the value of used mobile devices. Becoming not only business partners but fast friends, Sohrob and Patrick grew the business for a few years, expanded internationally, and were eventually acquired by an outside firm.
Even in the FlipSwap days, the Kings of the cell phone trade in world, dreamed about owning a professional football team. Since neither of them is much for talk without action, it wasn’t long until a whirlwind of activity saw them become part owners of the Arena Football League’s Las Vegas Outlaws. After a year cutting their teeth in indoor football, they decided it was time to trade up and bring life a vision that they both shared – the idea of putting fans in control of professional sports.
Patrick’s enthusiasm for fan-controlled sports was born out of his lifelong love of gaming. While he’s more likely to spend time playing The Last of Us or Witcher 3 than Madden, Patrick shares every gamer’s love of controlling the action on screen and believes that games these days are telling better stories than most Hollywood movies. Patrick and Sohrob sought to bring the notion of fan control to life, and in 2015 they plugged in two more controllers by joining forces with FANchise co-founders Grant Cohen and Ray Austin.
With the full squad online, Patrick and the rest of the FANchise founders created the world’s first fan-controlled professional sports team – the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles. The Screaming Eagles enjoyed an awesome debut season in the Indoor Football League as fans from over one hundred countries called the plays and guided the team’s third-ranked offense, proving that fans could call plays head-to-head against professional coaches. The FANchise team also took control of an existing IFL franchise, the Colorado Crush, with Patrick serving as co-owner alongside NFL linebacking legend Al Wilson.
But the FANtastic Four weren’t about to stop with a couple of franchises. Determined to launch the world’s first fan controlled professional sports league, they conceived the Fan Controlled Football League and knighted Patrick as the league’s Chief Gaming Officer. In his role, he’ll use insights from the gaming world to craft a unique user experience that delivers cool, non-stop fun for fans as they take control of their favorite FCFL team.
When asked how he’ll measure the success of the FCFL, Patrick said, “Success is changing sports as we know it. It’s bringing a whole new level of interactivity to the fans. It means creating an entire ecosystem of fan controlled sports.”
Always comfortable with a mic in hand, Patrick co-hosts the popular gaming podcast Pixel by Pixel.
He was also a fixture on Screaming Eagles broadcasts, co-hosting a pre- and post-game show from LA’s cutting-edge AfterBuzz Studios.
Patrick is a natural-born narrator and storyteller, and how he and his co-founders are betting that a fan-run football league just might be able to tell a better story than the NFL.
We wouldn’t bet against him.