My love and passion for fantasy sports comes directly from my father. He started doing fantasy football back in 1979, well before fantasy sports became a mainstream form of entertainment and participation. My father still kicks himself today for not patenting or copywriting any of the methods, ideas and concepts he had several decades ago. But there was no way to know, back then, how popular, prominent and profitable fantasy sports would become.
One of the main reasons for fantasy sports' rise to prominence and prosperity was the introduction of the Internet. With online access to vast amounts of information, fantasy sports participants can find out anything they want to know within a matter of seconds. Additionally, dozens of websites that host fantasy sports leagues provide statistical services where they automatically get feeds from the sports leagues with the stats from the games, insert them into databases, and generate points for teams based on each league's pre-set point value criteria. There is no need for anyone to calculate scores by hand or research game stats independently. We all take this for granted now.
So how did it work before the Internet came along? Quite simply, a fantasy league commissioner would have to research game stats from a newspaper boxscore and then transpose them onto a scoring sheet based on that league's point value system. I myself did this back in middle school and high school before the Internet provided such services. My father did this back in the 1980's as well.
The old school issue I am referencing today is from 1986 on a touchdown scored by Kevin Mack, former running back on the Cleveland Browns. My father's fantasy football league, called the Old Bridge International Football League ("OBIFL"), had a point scoring system where a 1-5 yard rushing touchdown was worth 5 points, and a 6-20 yard rushing touchdown was worth 10 points. Back in the 1980's, before DirecTV, the NFL Network, and satellites, it was commonplace to only watch local teams on TV. So no one in the OBIFL was able to watch the Cleveland Browns' game unless they played the Jets or Giants. According to the highlights of the Cleveland game, it was reported that Kevin Mack scored a 6-yard rushing touchdown. However, in the NY Times the next day, the boxscore revealed that Mack's touchdown was only from 5 yards. The discrepancy meant the difference in the result of the fantasy game that week. Without having the benefit of the Internet yet, the league member who owned Kevin Mack, along with my father, called the Cleveland Browns' team media contacts to research the issue further. It was revealed that the team calculated the touchdown as from 5 yards, just as the newspaper reported.
This just goes to show that these types of fantasy sports issues have existed for decades. The only difference is the technology and resources we have today to reconcile such issues. The need for dispute resolution, interpretation of league rules and precedent, and minor technicalities that make all the difference in a fantasy game were just as prevalent decades ago as they are today.