Move Over, Monday ... Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking Is a Lot More Fun

Can you predict which Hollywood mom-to-be will hawk her baby pictures to the highest bidder?

Would you wager on which two celebrity wives would become BFFs next?

What about taking a stab at guessing the next "it" couple to be caught smooching by the paparazzi?

Fortune-telling has always been a risky business, but doing it in Hollywood -- a land that often seems populated by a different race of people living solely by the maxims of "in," "out," "hot" or "rehab" -- might strike some as a fool's errand.

For the women and men who play Tabloid Fantasy League, though, predicting who's making enough headlines in Hollywood to land them on the pages of the nation's largest tabloids has become a competitive sport.

It has long been the domain of sports fans to memorize box scores and batting averages, and to spend gorgeous Sunday afternoons glued to a TV and Monday mornings around the water cooler dissecting the athletes, games and statistics -- just to turn that knowledge into friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) competition through fantasy sports leagues.

Pop culture enthusiasts now have the same opportunity. Rather than Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning, players in the Tabloid Fantasy League ( create teams out of Hollywood headliners like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, making a competitive game out of the soapy foibles that grace the tabloid covers.

Celeb Knowledge Makes for Big Winners

Marie, 28, writes her own entertainment blog and spends every day trolling through gossip Web sites, checking TMZ, watching E!, Access Hollywood and ET, and reading Us Weekly and People religiously.

"Tori Spelling is broke, and she's definitely going to be selling those baby pictures," she said, adding that Spelling was on her list of stars who'd be in the tabloids this month.

"Victoria Beckham, she wants to make a splash in Hollywood, and she goes to all the fashion shows and is signing up with NBC to do a reality show. And she's become Katie Holmes' best friend. We're going to be seeing her picture everywhere," she said.

"Why do I know all this? Why do I care enough to figure out who's going to be in Star? I don't know," Marie said. "Why do Larry King and Nancy Grace talk about it every night?"

Now she hopes that knowledge will make her a fantasy winner. And why not? Football fans have been doing it for years.

There's a New Game in Tinseltown

The tabloid fantasy game mimics fantasy sports leagues. There is a forum for an online community of users to form a league of teams with rosters made up of celebrity "players." Team owners, like Marie, follow along as their teams win points based on their "performance."

But there is a major difference. While sports players are known to spout cliches about how "magazine covers don't win games," the exact opposite is true in TABFL.

The rules of the game are simple. Every month, individuals sign up for a "league" and draft a roster of 12 players -- usually an eclectic mix of actors, actresses, singers, supermodels and "wild cards." Drafting is based on an educated guess on who might capture the public's attention over a period of four weeks, similar to the way a fantasy football player would build a team with the best running backs, wide receivers and defensive linemen.

Teams then field eight players onto the "red carpet" every week, based on who has garnered enough publicity and made enough headlines to land on the covers of four tabloid magazines -- Us Weekly, People, In Touch and Star.

The game awards points in descending order based on how many times the pictures of roster members appear on the tab covers and insets, or whose face just pops up -- grouped among the numerous headlines of too thin, too fat, best dressed, best boyfriend and, of course, who's pregnant.

Game day is Wednesday, when the tabloid magazines hit the stands and the online gamers can measure whether their chosen celebrities had enough scandals (and more rarely, plaudits) to land on the pages of the top tabloids.

It's Like Fantasy Football … Sorta

"When fantasy sports leagues came around, it finally gave sports enthusiasts something to do with their knowledge. They could show off what they knew in a way that allowed them to best their peers," said Bob Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University.

"I can't believe it took someone so long to create this," he said.

Online celebrity gaming sites are nothing new. Take the numerous spinoffs on Celebrity Death Watch for example, in which morbid fans can bet on when their celebrities will bite the dust.

But what distinguishes TABFL from games like death watch is its attempt to mimic the rules and regulations and statistics that are the hallmarks of competitive sports.

"We're parodying what you see in fantasy sports," said Brent Burri, the co-founder of tabloid fantasy league. "Sports is about data and statistics, and there are none on celebrities. So we decided to launch a companion site called Celebrity Box Scores so you can read up about how many times Jessica Simpson has been on the cover of Star versus Us Weekly."

Users can go to either site to find a ranking of the Top 1,000 celebrities -- people who have had their picture appear in one of the four tabloids that follows.

"The Top 100 doesn't change that much," Burri said, "but then you have someone like Mel Gibson go and get a DUI. He jumps from 838 on the list into the Top 10. You don't see those kinds of upsets in your average NFL game."

Many TABFL's players see no difference between following celebrities and following March Madness.

"My husband spends hours on his fantasy sports leagues," said Alyson, a 29-year-old from Murfreesboro, Tenn., who competes in a league with 26 other players. "There's no difference in me playing this than what he does."

Jennie, a 26-year-old writer who works for a progressive women's rights organization, said she and her friends were "fiercely competitive" when it came to knowing celebrity trivia.

"Some men and some women are obsessed with sports, and I don't think being obsessed about celebrity stats is different than the stats of teams," she said. "It's not any more trivial than knowing what so-and-so's batting average is."

Sports Are Never This Much Fun

But there is a difference between rabid sports fans who revere their favorite teams and how one makes sport out of celebrities.

While athletes are known to spout cliches about how "headlines don't win games," the exact opposite is true for tabloid fantasy players. The game is all about following the wacky behavior that makes tabloid covers again and again.

"Your average player is logging onto TMZ and Perez Hilton several times a day, watching E! and Access Hollywood and ET, and then going out and buying the tabloids," according to Burri.

But celebrity fans are not logging onto these sites to monitor the hard data of athletic performance, instead they are focused on the subjective commentary of what their favorite celebrities are up to.

"The difference between something like fantasy sports and a celebrity fantasy league is the idea of winners and losers," Thompson said.

"These are two very different cultural universes. The way we follow celebrities is far more voyeuristic. You're not watching these people to see who wins and loses. You're essentially watching a soap opera, and it's one that everyone's playing and being played everywhere. You can't get away from it."

And the worse the behavior, the better the odds for big points. Where a star player's steroids suspension and rehab stint could wreck your fantasy football team, a Britney-style meltdown in front of the tabloid cameras is winning week in the tabloid fantasy land.

Obsession: Does It Need an Explanation?

Many of the young women ABC News spoke to admitted that most of the fun in watching celebrities was about seeing the escapades that stripped away the airbrushed perfection Hollywood stars tried to convey.

"It's enjoyable to see them going through this. They seem less perfect, and it knocks them off their pedestal," Megan, a 26-year-old equity researcher, said of her interest. "It lets you feel superior."

"I actually feel bad about it by the end of the day, and I can't believe that I know so much about these people's lives," said Lauren, another 20-something woman who checks out four different entertainment sites when she logs on to her computer every morning.

But Lauren also points out that discussing celebrities gives her common ground to bond with her co-workers, something sports enthusiasts have always taken advantage of.

"It's helped me become closer to the people I work with and [it] bridges generational gaps," she said.

Though she hadn't heard about the fantasy league, she said it was "for sure" something her office would play.

According to Marie, the art of following, watching and predicting is far more about frivolous escape than voyeurism.

"It's a break from the laundry and the cooking and the day-to-day. It's easy to know about. And you can watch their lives and laugh, and as long as it's done in fun, who cares?" she said.

"Playing a fantasy game embraces all of this. It gives us a stake in our own voyeurism," Thompson said of why we would continue to watch and play.

"P.T. Barnum made millions off of his freak show," he said. "It's human nature to be interested. Does this reflect the noble part of the human spirit? Not, but it's fun."

And who wouldn't want the chance to indulge in frivolity without comprising moral values? After all, it's in the name of fun.