Friday, August 25, 2017

The Commish! A Fantasy Football Story

Like any football Sunday, millions of football experts are adjusting their lineups to catch a glimpse of pseudo GM prowess and glory. Our league had, what we felt as, one of the best and dedicated Commissioners, Doug Gardner, in the greater fantasy football community. We chose the +ESPN Fantasy Football league and we started the inaugural season in 2009. Our first draft included around 6 participants. Participants instead of players would be the better descriptor in this instance. Our league got as big as 11 or 12 and contained friends from the midwest, northwest, and the southeast.
Most Underrated Cable Show

In our first season I claimed the championship and we wanted to name the trophy so we started to debate. I felt, like the NFL's Lombardi Trophy, it should be named after me. However, if you remember the events of 2009, the gentlemen (Used loosely.) decided on "The Bulletproof Tiger". We all wish the heralded and lauded golfer the best and hope he makes a comeback.
The Bulletproof Tiger

The commish's story, for me, dates back to the early part of the millennium. The commish went by many names. In our league he went by a few choice names that would make most people blush. I called him Dougie Fresh. I lived in the Carolinas and he lived in Michigan. For my 10th high school reunion, I came home and stayed with my brother and his wife in Grand Rapids, MI. I met Dougie for the first time. He provided my brother with needed friendship and upon being introduced to him I gave him a big hug because he was a good person to my brother and I will never forget; nor, be able to repay that reward. Upon my nephew's birth, Dougie served as a pseudo uncle and caregiver to my only nephew. That will never be forgotten.

Dougie Fresh was a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs. Being a Cleveland Indian's fan, seeing the Cubs win was a little hard but more bittersweet. However, as I mentioned, Dougie was a huge Chicago sports team follower and diehard Cubbies fan. I grew up 2 hours away from Chicago and listened to Harry Caray on most days on WGN. I have to admit I was emotional seeing the Cub faithful in Wrigley staying after the game and singing in unison. I'm sure Dougie Fresh, like me, got a little misty. 

In the Friendly Confines
Chicago serves as a very special place for me and my wife. She is a southerner through and through and me as a yankee (midwesterner) served as a northern guide through the beautiful city that is Chicago. She ordered a tea with a side of grits one morning and was brought ice tea without sugar and a look of bewilderment as to the order of grits. (It's not unsweetened tea, Lee. It's iced tea. You don't take the sugar out, you add it after it is brewed.)  

Regardless of that incident, the proud southerner fell in love with the city. After deep dish pizza at Gino's East, a taste of the Chicago Dog, a ferry ride from Shed's Aquarium and up the Chicago River and more sites, how could she not fall in love with the city. I didn't mention that the Michigan Avenue shoppes and eateries may have been a factor. 
Announcer Harry Caray Immortalized 

As a child, I felt that the friendly confines of Wrigley field was on my bucket list. She accompanied me to my first game at Wrigley even though I lived within driving distance growing up. We had seats got close to Ferris Bueller seats. I took a photo down the tragic area down the left field foul territory. (Can we welcome this guy back yet?) 

As a further bonus, we went back for the cross town showdown vs. the White Sox 2 years later. It was free t-shirt day honoring our boys in blue, the police officers. It was the first day Aroldis Chapman in relief took the mound on the day he was traded from the Yankees. The crowd stood as he was ready to pitch to the first batter. He hurled over 100mph, struck out the first two, and the last Sox hitter was able to close his eyes and touch the ball on a slow grounder to first to end the game. It was a day a pitcher hit a home run, there was a 2-run shot, and a Grand Slam. I made my stepson a Chicago Dog. However, the important aspect of the visit was my stepson, my wife, and I being able to see the Cubs the year they won the world series 108 years after the last. I thought of Dougie Fresh that day.
Crowd standing in the Background as Aroldis hurls.

Our fantasy football league provided a way to talk and chat every weekend for 17 weeks of the year. We video chatted, live chatted on ESPN's platform and got together a few times. This season, I took the trophy for a second time, and Dougie shipped the "Bulletproof Tiger" to my house from Michigan to the Carolinas. It was the last correspondence I would have with Doug.

Recently Dougie, our beloved commish, had a cyst discovered in his back. He went into surgery. Unfortunately, he lapsed into a coma. He was unable to come out of it and we lost our commish, our leader, and our friend. Unaware, my brother texted me one morning, and whatever I was doing immediately ceased; and, mine, as well the rest of our crew's heart sank into the lowest part of our being. It was a soul sucking, punch in the gut that losing Adrian Peterson in mid season can never eclipse.

I know; as friends, we all loved Doug, and we all have thought about the fact that we could have done more for him or gave him sounder advice about his health and wellbeing. It will help me remember to give to people and be relentless in the belief of what is good and helpful to our friends and others because you never know what a person is feeling. Or more importantly, if you will see them again.

Does it give me solace that he got to see the Cubs win one before he went. Not really, what would give me solace is having our Commish back. I'm sure the trophy will be renamed in his honor and the debate about continuing ended in the unanimous decision to continue in his honor. I recognize the fact that the loss of a friend trumps the importance of a Fantasy Football league. There is no comparison. However, I feel it will always help us remember the guy who only had a little in material possessions, but still gave relentlessly in spirit and love. 

RIP Peace Dougie
G.C.O.A.T. You get first pick every year.