I think most of us playing fantasy football had many of the same reasons for starting. We loved football or sports in general and were a bit of a stats junkie. Fantasy football seemed like a logical choice to use our “great knowledge” for bragging rights and maybe a little cash. When I started people looked at you like you had two heads. Now you may be considered obsessive and a little odd but the game itself has expanded to the point where at least most people have heard of what we do, if not, why.
Why we started is far less important than why we continue to play. With the changes in how leagues are now run we rarely even meet in person. We know each other through cyberspace. What’s so special about that? I’ll tell you what I believe. I have friends that I met more than ten years ago through a forum much like DFW, three of those friends are now at DFW. I still have not met any of them in person but we have a mutual bond which is our love for fantasy football. Since those first few years it has evolved into much more than that. Now I celebrate with every birth, child’s milestone, new job and I worry when severe storms hit their part of the country, a child suffers an injury, or a job is lost. Friends are friends no matter what started the friendship.
Some friendships are a little more than others. They can send ripples throughout your life. Read on if you want to share in one of mine.
Those of us who started in the mid 90s can hardly be called pioneers seems fantasy football started in 1962. We were still before the computer era and that’s when fantasy football really caught fire. We were in leagues with co-workers, friends, and relatives. That’s how I got my first team, my nephew’s brother-in-law ran a league and I got in via nepotism. I talked about that league all year long to some of the sports junkies at work. One guy, Phil, was especially interested. Although he never asked me to try to get him in I knew how much he wanted to try my new little hobby. After the league’s year was done I asked him if he thought we could get enough people together to start our own league. The beginning of my career as a Commish was about to start.
Phil was a sports junkie. He loved it all, college or pro it didn’t matter to him. I had hired Phil to work for me and I got to know a lot about him as the years went on. He was ex-Navy but was in a car accident that ended that commitment. Although not real serious he did have some brain damage, people he went to school with told me that he had changed. Some changes were better but some prevented him from getting ahead in life. I soon found out he was also diabetic. Sometimes he would go into a low at work and scare the hell out of all of us. Now don’t feel sorry for Phil he enjoyed his life. Part of the reason I started the new league in ’96 was for Phil.
The first few drafts were held in my living room. Phil had to get a ride from another league member, he couldn’t drive. He was always ready although in small roster 8-12 team league he always drafted too many rookies to compete most years. That was his penalty for loving college football as he did, he didn’t see that most guys don’t get that shot in year one. He eventually had his year though and won a title.
After that first year I always made sure Phil was prepared for the draft and I don’t mean helping him with his board. I made sure he brought something to snack on and a couple of OJs. I had more in the fridge just in case. You see in the middle of that first draft Phil started to go into a low, blood sugar, and didn’t draft well the last couple of rounds. I wasn’t used to the signs yet and didn’t see what was happening to him. He was a great owner even if he didn’t always have great teams. He was everything a Commish could ask for.
Phil even spent his breaks at work looking through the sports section of whatever paper he could find or buy. He was always looking for a guy, the guy, to get him to the next level. From preseason to the NFL Super Bowl about all we talked about was football. You’ve all known someone like him. The guy who knew almost every key player, all the up and comers but that rarely translated that into a championship. Sometimes I think it was because the guy knew too much and he thought he saw potential when it wasn’t there or maybe he just bought the hype. When Phil finally won that one title he loved every second of it. He had fun and that’s what really mattered to him.
Eventually I had to transfer due to family health. I only saw Phil on draft day after that. Draft day was even better after I moved because it was not only the biggest fantasy football day but I got to see all my friends again. After the 9th year of our league I got an email from one of my league members, Phil had passed away in his sleep.
That league made it one more year. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I started the league with Phil in mind and now it just wasn’t the same. That last year I had made a trophy from a Nerf football and a wood base. It was absolutely awful and Phil would have loved it but he would have been embarrassed by the fact that I named it after him.
So I raise my glass of OJ and toast Phil and those like him. They were the owners who got the rest of us to the heyday of fantasy football. Without their passion fantasy football may not be what it is today.
Hail! Hail! The Keepers of the Flame.