Homeless Fan Beats Out 3M to Win ESPN Contest

Used borrowed computers to keep his fantasy football team rolling

By Greg Wilson
|  Friday, Jan 21, 2011  |  Updated 7:45 AM CDT
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Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow throws against the Houston Texans during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010, in Denver. The Broncos beat the Texans 24-23. (AP Photo/ Jack Dempsey )

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A homeless Massachusetts man who used borrowed computers bested more than three million fantasy football players to win ESPN's fantasy football sweepstakes.

Nathan Harrington, 33, a married father of a three-year-old who lost his job and then his home after a 2009 car accident, won a $3,500 Best Buy gift card for his efforts, but even better, may be on the brink of moving into a permanet home. He said he hopes his victory may have reversed a devastating run of bad fortune.

"It was a ton of bad luck and good luck all rolled into one," Harrington told the Salem News.

The car accident left Harrington with nerve damage and unable to work. Then, in October, Harrington, his fiancee and his 3-year-old son were forced to move out of their apartment because it was infested with rats. When they landed in a motel, Harrington's computer went into a storage locker.

But the one thing that was working out for him was his fantasy team, where competitors assemble rosters of real NFL players and score points based on the statistics the pros accrue. A few weeks into the season, his team, the Boston Beatdown, was ranked in the top 50, a good enough showing to keep him obsessed.

"My fantasy football was the one thing that kind of seemed to be going right at the time," Harrington said. "There was a lot to be upset about, but the one thing that was steady and heading in a positive direction was the fantasy football. So I thought I might as well stick with it and ride it out. Thank God I did."

Fantasy football requires frequent lineup changes and monitoring the waiver wire to find available players, big obstacles for a computer-less competitor. He borrowed the computers of strangers at the hotel, logged on from the nursing home where his father lives  mother's house. He called in lineup changes to friends.

In retrospect, Harrington drafted well, getting players like Texans' running back Arian Foster and Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe. Then he found good players that had gone overlooked, like Broncos' receiver Brandon Lloyd.


But Harrington's most fortuitous move was grabbing Denver rookie quarterback Tim Tebow at the end of the season, when the herladed, yet-maligned signal caller had a game for the ages.

"I was sitting at my mother's computer going nuts," he recalled. "I thought 'I'm going to live with this guy, or die with this guy.' I put him in, then took him out. I was thinking 'I can't put everything on Tebow.'"

Then, Harrington's 17-year-old son, Nathan Jr., jumped in.

"Just go with Tebow," he told his dad.

Tebow came through with a 27-point performance in the last week against San Diego, putting Harrington in first place by a mere 0.8 points. Harrington plans to sell his gift certificate to his mother for $2,500, which he said he will use to help his family move into a new apartment.

"My fiancee says she's never going to say a word about fantasy football when I'm on the computer again," Harrington said.

Selected Reading: Salem News, Yahoo Sports, Boston SB Nation.

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