Last week marked the eight-year anniversary of when I quit — cold turkey — my fantasy football leagues.
I realized I’d hit rock bottom on Sept. 23, 2013, when I found myself, well past midnight, sitting on our couch, watching the end of a meaningless Monday Night Football blowout.
I was a grown man screaming at New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees to throw the ball to his tight end, Jimmy Graham.
The ordeal had started in 2000, when I was asked to join a fantasy football league run by co-workers.
I had always mocked my fantasy football-playing friends.
But I was new to town. I didn’t know anybody. So I agreed.
And, while it wasn’t exactly like I was some naive teen runaway stepping out of a bus station and accepting a ride from a middle-aged man driving a 1980 Camaro, it felt that way. At first.
When I got home, I was afraid to tell my wife what had happened.
Few things are more annoying than listening to adults spend Monday mornings talking about “their teams.”
“Did you see how my Dalvin Cook ran through Arizona’s defense? I knew their linebackers couldn’t contain him.”
Fantasy football works like this: A group of people draft teams of NFL players. After every game, they tally scores — one point for every 10 yards rushing, six points for a touchdown, five points for a field goal of 50 yards or more, etc.
Internet sites update the scoring regularly, yet hard-core players, watching the games with their phones, aggressively click their refresh buttons to update the scores more quickly.
Inside on an entire fall Sunday! Clicking your refresh button!
But that first year, after a solid draft and savvy trades, Lange’s Lions won the Rochester Fantasy League and the glory and cash that came with it.
That summer, I purchased my first fantasy football magazine. By midway through year two, I was emailing home (with subject headings such as “fantasy notes”) info to myself — injury updates and cornerback matchups for my receivers.
Late one Sunday night, as we sat on the couch watching football, my wife turned to me and throatily whispered, “Oooooh. I’m Sebastian Janikowski, and I just kicked a really, really long field goal!”
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked.
“I saw your fantasy email,” Lindy whispered. “And my field goal kick is goooood! It’s soooo gooooood!”
She may mock me, but then there’s this.
We’ve been part of an NFL football pick-’em pool for 25 years. Lindy, it turns out, is a football-picking savant, despite the fact that many of her picks are based on which NFL city she’d rather live in.
Then there was the night in December 1998. Lindy was tied for the lead going into the Monday night game and needed a Miami Dolphins victory to win the pool.
In a subplot, Lindy was pregnant with our first child.
We arrived at the hospital two hours before kickoff. Lindy’s normal mild-manneredness intersected with her inability to tolerate pain at 7:40 p.m., when she yelled the following to the nurse: “I don’t care if you have to stick the needle in my eyeball, I want that epidural NOW!”
They finally administered the epidural, reversing Lindy’s mood. We watched Monday night football while we waited.
After a nip-and-tuck first quarter, the nurse said we (Lindy specifically) could start pushing at any time. Lindy jokingly suggested we wait until halftime. We did. The doctor watched the end of the half with us, then kicked off the birthing procedure.
We didn’t miss a down.
Our beautiful daughter, Hadley Jean, was born at 10:21 p.m., mid-third quarter.
Hadley was healthy, Lindy was fine, and Miami beat Denver 31-21 to give Lindy the football pool win. We cried tears of joy.
It was the happiest day of our lives.