LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Iraq — Life doesn’t stop just because you are in a war zone.

Mortgages must be paid. Children still grow, have birthdays and skin their knees. And, of course, a fellow can’t neglect his fantasy football team.

Nearly 30 million Americans play fantasy football, according to surveys, and more than a few of them are in Iraq, battling insurgents while trying to decide whether to start David Givens or Isaac Bruce at wide receiver this week.

“It’s one of the major things that I do because it’s one of the best ways I can think of to kill a lot of time over here,” said Sgt. Pete Robinson, 22, of the 29th Signal Battalion out of Fort Lewis, Wash., now at LSA Anaconda. “And it does kill a lot of time.”

For the uninitiated, an explanation may be in order. Fantasy footballers draft players from the NFL and use the players’ real statistics to compete in head-to-head competition with other fantasy footballers. If Priest Holmes rushes for three touchdowns, for example, the fantasy football player who “owns” him is a happy guy.

The game has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, thanks to the Internet, and while many Internet leagues require a payment for the service, there are several free games online.

Spc. Mark Hull, 25, of the 961st Quartermaster Company at LSA Anaconda is in two leagues — one with family members back in Texas and one with strangers through the Yahoo! Web site. He’s been playing in fantasy leagues for about six years.

He spent Sunday evening at the recreation tent on base watching games and following his players, especially Peyton Manning, one of the most prolific fantasy league scorers in the NFL.

“He’s pretty much keeping my team afloat,” said Hull.

The league he plays with his family, he said, is particularly important. On Sunday, he was going head to head against his father.

“It’s more of a connection,” he said. “It’s more than just letters and phone calls.”

The key to the sport is Internet access so team owners can make lineup changes when an NFL player gets injured, is not playing well or is not playing because his team has a bye for the week.

That’s a bit easier at a base such as Anaconda than at smaller, more remote places. Spc. Ronald Helmick, 23, is with the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Reconnaissance Team at FOB Brassfield Mora, where Internet access is hard to come by.

He’s in a fantasy league with people from across the military, but he accepts the fact that he can’t manage his team like he should. Internet access is infrequent and too valuable to spend on trivia.

“You’re too busy writing your family and stuff to worry about a football league,” he said.

Nonetheless, he was watching the NFL on Sunday at LSA Anaconda while waiting for a ride back to his unit. He kept watch, he said, for highlights that might include a member of his fantasy team.

“When they show highlights of your guy doing good, you get happy,” he said.

Spc. Brooks Taylor, 23, broadcast chief with the 28th Public Affairs Detachment out of Fort Lewis, Wash., at LSA Anaconda, also is in a free Yahoo! league. He said sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

“There definitely has been two weeks that I know of I wasn’t able to change players,” he said. “I’ve been gone or too busy to check it.”

Despite that, he said, the league does provide a diversion from the daily routine of work and mortar attacks, Taylor said.

Plus, he said, it keeps him in touch with the NFL, something hard to track when the early games start at 9 p.m.

Robinson is in two leagues. One is a public league through Yahoo! and the other is with comrades in the 1st Infantry Division.

And he doesn’t stop there. In Iraq since January, he was the winner of his fantasy baseball league last summer and he has just started competing in a fantasy league based on NBA statistics and players.

“The seasons overlap so all year long, I’ve got something,” he said.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now