Mike Regula, 25, has faced season after season of defeat. He opened one 0-10. Another fell flat after week 11.
But through the pain, he’s still trying.
“I’m trying to think of what did my team in,” he said, laughing. “I was even the league commissioner one year, and I thought I drafted well.”
Though Regula is still searching for that elusive first championship, his club, Philanthropic Fantasy Sports, has contributed hundreds of dollars to winning causes, such as the Penn State Student Red Cross Club, Doctors without Borders and several Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon organizations.
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The most recent winner of the club’s fantasy football league chose Axis, a special-interest Thon group that raises money for the largest student-run philanthropy effort in the world.
Regula, a Penn State graduate student in chemical engineering, founded PFS in October 2015, wanting to turn his passion into a vehicle that could help others.
“I noticed I was spending a lot of my time on fantasy sports, so I thought let’s put that energy to good use,” he said. “I think with fantasy sports there are lot issues with gambling and daily fantasy sports, and we didn’t really want to deal with that as an organization and deal with the stigma of gambling and fantasy sports. We wanted to change that.”
Players donate $10 to join a league. The money is then donated to an organization of the winner’s choice.
“Hopefully if I win, or I mean, when I win, I can choose somewhere I’m really passionate about,” said Staton Harris, a club member.
Harris, a North Carolina native, said he plans on donating to the Kramden Institute, a nonprofit he has volunteered with in Durham that refurbishes computers for underprivileged students. Even to a fault, the Penn State junior remains loyal to his home state: In the club’s most recent league, Harris drafted Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the first round. Newton, for his part, failed to repeat his MVP performance and Super Bowl-run from 2015 — to the chagrin of Harris’ fantasy team.
That first club title remains tantalizingly just out-of-reach. But that’s part of the fun, the members say.
“It gives you a reason to watch the games,” James Keay, 19, said. “You follow players or teams you might not have before.”
The end result, meanwhile, is a positive one — even if, like Keay, you chose Adrian Peterson in the first round. (Peterson, the star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, suffered a right knee injury early on that ended his season.)
For Regula, the club’s president, the group is a fun yet competitive outlet to be a sports fan, but one where the spoils include more than bragging rights.
Because while his draft picks may not always pan out, he said, in donating to charitable causes, it’s hard to choose wrong.
“It’s a bit embarrassing that I haven’t won yet,” he said. “But to take away the gambling aspect of fantasy sports and put it back into something that’s fun and gives back — I think there are other ways to win.”