Monday, May 21, 2012

The Best Day in a Fantasy League

I've written in this space before that it is a goal for me to be a published author. I've also written at length about my weird obsession with Fantasy Football. You recognize it as the period of time from September to January when you stop reading my blog because it's on one topic.

What happened Friday joined those two together in a spectacular, and terrifying, way.

First, the foundation.

My fantasy league is ridiculous. The ten of us, alumni fraternity brothers from college, take the game too seriously and let it dominate too much of our social lives. Which, is a paradox because our social lives are 93% fantasy football, 5% Facebook, and 2% watching Netflix in our rooms alone drinking warm Fresca.

The ten of us have dedicated League twitter handles so we can talk to each other during the day wihtout filling your feeds with completely irrelevant thoughts and pure nonsense, like an episode of Community.

It was this, combined with the mid-May football lull, that ended up sparking a Fantasy Insider account: @DucalSchefter, created in light of ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter- the first to report on all NFL news, rumors and controversy. And it was this silly creation that opened an unexpected door for our league, and turned a "silly creation" into "the single greatest thing to ever happen on Twitter ever since forever".

What happened was What HAD happened was, one of our guys tagged Matthew Berry in a tweet about the creation of @DucalSchefter, pointing to how ridiculously awesome our league was. Matthew Berry is's Senior Fantasy analyst/writer/podcast host and whatever else you'd call someone who gets to play Fantasy sports for a living. Demi-god comes to mind.

Matthew Berry happens to be in the process of writing a Fantasy Football book (due out Summer 2013) and wants input from fantasy players on creative, weird, and fun stories, traditions, etc to include.

Well, when @DucalJDean tagged Berry in a tweet I certainly didn't see it ending in him and I exchanging emails the rest of the night. He replied to Jimmy (JDean) saying the DucalSchefter idea was funny and to email him more info on it and our league.

As Senior Fantasy Blog Writer (an irrelevant, and made-up, title), I stepped in and gathered ideas from the rest of owners to compile together in a write up for Berry. This was 3:30pm Friday. I tweeted back to Berry saying I was league commissioner (another irrelevant title) and wrote a blog for the league and would send him a write-up that evening. We tweeted back and forth for a little. I gave him more information on the DucalSchefter account, and he gave our league the greatest gift ever:

"@DucalAJM That's really hilarious. Please send that exact descrip plus more about your lg. Twitter, whole thing. U guys r def in the book."

"Def in the book"!? DEF IN THE BOOK!?! We're going to be in a book?! For def?!

For the next half-hour I frantically scribbled notes in my Top-Flight wide rule spiral notebook as the league fed me ideas. I spent the next 50 minutes on the train trying to settle my excitement, change my pee stained underwear, and put coherent words onto paper.

When I got home (after calling ahead to have Michele set up the laptop for me to maximize writing time) I transposed scribbled pen into neat lines of computerized ink. Read it a dozen times, edited it ten more and finally sent it to the league for review.

After reading it a dozen more times, and editing it a few more with feedback from the league I finally had it: an email packed with too many exclamation marks, over-compensation, and a write-up about our fantasy league to send to Matthew Berry for his book.

From: Me
To: Berry
Thanks for reading about us! Here's the tweets, then the write up (I attached the write-up in Word if it's easier for you. A picture of a tweet mentioned in the write-up shows up there). 

Obviously let me know if you have questions or need/want anything else! Awesome to get a chance to work with you!"

You won't see the text I sent him. Hopefully that will be in a book in less than a year and you can all buy it and the League will autograph it for you ($5 per signature, $2.50 for mine).

I awaited reply. To say it was done anxiously would be an understatement. Obviously whenever you provide your text in the email and then also attach it in a Word Doc JUST IN CASE, it's safe to say emotions are running high.

Exactly 5 minutes later I got it:

From: Berry
To: Me
"Terrific.  Do you have a picture of the trophy?  Thinking of a separate chapter on trophies."

What I didn't tell you was that in the body of the text I refer to our trophy (the Ducal Crown) as "a Stanely Cup you can wear on your head". In reality, it is more of "a trophy you hold in your hands".

My heart stopped beating blood and starting pumping pure panic. We needed to make a new trophy and get pictures of it and send it to him in 5 minutes, or he'd know my exaggeration and black list me from the internet forever (I NEVER said I was behaving rationally).

I scoured the internet for photos of us with the trophy to combine it with photos of a Homecoming Crown one of the guys had won years ago in college. It would have to suffice. Until I found this picture:

trophy and crowns.jpg

Me crowning current champion Austin (complete with literal crown and a banner that says "Suck it #boy" in the background). It would have to suffice.

I tried to act cool sending our not-quite-as-described trophy picture to Berry 14 minutes later.

From: Me
To: Berry
"Yea no problem. Here's a pic of me crowning the new champ from our Winter Meeting.

And a few more for good measure."

3 minutes later-

From: Berry
To: Me
"Great.  By the way, I noticed @Ducalschefter only has 8 followers.  Ten of you in the league, right?  Interesting, no?"

WHY ARE YOU BUSTING MY BALLS TMR?! WHY!? At this point I'm horrified. I'm already in panic mode over the trophy picture issue, and now I get an email (which I can only assume) is him questioning the entire validity of the account and our league as a whole. I assume he thinks I'm one lonely guy with 10 twitter accounts who plays imaginary fantasy football by myself.

I type about 10 emails in reply, erasing each because they sound incriminating, back-peddling, or suspicious.

I settle on:

From: Me
To: Berry
"haha, it's an off season thing that's just started up recently (you can see first post May 13th). might have to fine the two guys for not following yet!"

Nervous laughter? Check. Unasked for justification to cover you back? Yup. Weak joke? Check. Unnecessary exclamation mark? You know it.

It was 8:01pm.

I left the house for dinner with friends. Two hours later Berry responded:

From: Berry
To: Me and the League
"Don't go twitter bombing him now guys, but I did pass along this email to Schefter.  He thought it was funny.  Thanks guys.  Matthew"

The real Schefter has now read our story and "thought it was funny". I assume that means he read it, and sharply blew air out of his nose while smirking and shrugging his shoulders. I'LL TAKE IT!

This, of course, did not lead to twitter bombing Schefter, it did however open the floodgates for the League to email bomb Berry. After one particularly wandering email that concluded with information about a newborn son and how, one day, he'll be in this league, we finally stopped replying to Matthew Berry. I'm fully expecting the restraining order in the mail.

The frantic pace of the day was incredible. Something I wrote might actually end up being published in a real book. Like, permanently. I can have it on my shelf. Forever. (Give me a break, for a writer being published the first time is a big deal, even if it's in someone else's book.)

So I took a moment that night, before I went to sleep, to pull up what I had written (and had been inspired and edited by my nine good friends) and gave it a re-read. The idea that this text might be permanently in a book crowded my brain and overwhelmed my thoughts. I sat with a goofy grin on my face and read.

And I could not be more serious when I say this: I hated every word I wrote.

Look for the book on-shelves in Summer 2013! (or don't)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An Unpopular Opinion

In a secular society it is inevitable for gay marriage to be legalized. Supporters will rally behind cries of 'Equal Right for All' and any argument of "traditional" or "religious" beliefs will be condemned as archaic, hateful, and discriminatory. I think it is absolutely inevitable. But maybe my faith is weak.

As a Christ follower, however, my beliefs do not (and should not) waiver. It would be unacceptable for you to expect them to. Should my religion, my guiding Holy text, be reduced to an emotional opinion that sways with the lightest breeze of peer pressure? Surely not.

Although, I must clarify some things. As a person who believes that homosexual relationships are equally sinful as any that engage in premarital sex, I also believe they are as sinful as people who lie, curse and have weak faith. I hate all groups equally. Which is to say I hate none of them at all, because I surely love myself.

The problem is, rebuke is often confused for hate. Rebuke is a sharp word for calling out wrong behavior, it does not imply hatred. Disappointment, perhaps, but not hate. We now have a culture that mistakes laws or commandments that rebuke an action or a people's behavior as "God loving gays less" (or not at all).

This is so categorically untrue it is literally making my head hurt. But I'll tell you why we've reached this point in our society.

When your moral stance is that every law and decision should serve the sole purpose of making each individual as happy as they can be, subscribing to their emotional whims, you're doing it wrong.

We've lost our worldview, sacrificing it for individualism.

I believe the Bible lays the foundation for the most successful society we can live in. Mainly because it was inspired by the very God who created humans and the ability to conceive society. Jesus never said, "I love you, therefore do whatever makes you happy even if it is sin in my eyes."

I believe the most egregious failures in our society do not stem from an institution failing us (and certainly not from gay people), but from a people who are broken and living in sin. When we procreate we become parents who fail our children. We can all agree we've seen children raised without accountability for their actions. Excuses are easily made for them and the responsibility of parenting is dodged, excused and passed on to someone else if possible.

Men fail women because they are afraid of responsibility and never learned the role of being a man in the first place. Women fail men appealing to their desires to receive vacant and fleeting attention that is a meager, and temporary, substitute for love.

Children are birthed who lack strong guidance and mature parents to teach them how to contribute to society and they are set loose on the world without any inclination of what responsibility means.

We fail each other.

We fail to learn what good parenting is, and we pass it on to our children. And now we have a society crying out to appease individuals, instead of desperately trying to figure out how to sustain this generation and set the next one up for success.

In life hard decisions must be made. Unpopular ones even. But when they align with the Holy Bible I will be unwavering in my commitment to it. To do anything else would sacrifice my entire relationship with Christ.

I am a Christ follower. I cannot call myself that and also say I support gay marriage. One of those two things would be a lie, or at the very least, compromised.

It does not mean I hate gay people. I believe marriage is a construct made for more than just happiness. It should, (although the aforementioned failures of accountability have led to easy divorces, the normality of premarital sex, and the availability of abortions which has bastardized the whole system), it should, however, be procreating whole families who teach children how to become functional and beneficial members of society. Who learn to help others, support the economy, earn a living and have a family for themselves. Marriage should pass on a moral code that makes this place one worth living in. I believe this is only done by a man and a woman, as designed by the God of the universe.

Just because it has failed many thus far does not mean I should sacrifice my belief, hope and determination to make it what it was meant to be. Should I give up because my faith is weak? Because I run the risk of being called bigoted?

Yet I see the legalization of gay marriage to be inevitable. We no longer live in a nation where the majority subscribe to a higher, godly calling. We live in a nation that subscribes to the individual and calls it justice for all. I simply cannot waiver on my belief because it is what you want to hear.

But, surely, disagreement and hate are separate things entirely.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cake - A Short Story

Muddled in an endless search up and down the aisles of the grocery store, my frustration was reaching critical levels. I resolved to break the most basic law of mankind.
“Excuse me, can you give me directions to your cake section?”
The apathetic high school student lazily mumbled back to me, “Far back…next to the deli.”
I began my journey down a well stocked aisle of cereal. Sixty brands of cereal for these fat American kids to cry over. My mood was worsening, saturated with growing anger, but I was determined to follow through with my plan. Sliding between a mother and son arguing over the nutritional value of Pop-Tarts, I pulled the collar of my jacket up around my neck in a subconscious effort to block out the world.
Family. Kids. Responsibility. It all left a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m a 20 year old college kid, as far as I’m concerned being caged in a monogamous relationship was akin to drowning. I had bigger plans for my life.
Cakes. Finally. Resisting the urge to grab the one on top and go, I sorted through them until I found one that matched the occasion. Nothing too fancy. Yellow frosting on a vanilla cake.  Old white guys like vanilla, right? You are what you eat, I laughed to myself.
I hurried up to the register to pay, thrusting the cake at the cashier with one hand and digging around in my back pocket with the other.
“$15.19 is your total.”
For cake?! I could eat for two days off of that!
I pulled out a wrinkled ten dollar bill, a few ones, and dug around in my front pocket for the change. College kids, we live off the coins we find.
After counting out the last four pennies, I grabbed my receipt and quickly headed for the door almost running into a middle aged woman in an obnoxious fur coat.
“Excuse you!” she exclaimed condescendingly, with a look that reeked of “I’m better than you-ness”. You’d think she’d never seen a black man in Philadelphia before.
Mostly unfazed, I gathered myself and jumped in my ’85 Honda Accord. My mom bought this piece of crap 9 years ago when it was brand new, and bequeathed it to me. I fired up the engine, thankful, at least, to have transportation.


A terrible easy listening version of a New Edition song played in the elevator as it ascended to the top floor.  I always felt out of place in this building. Something about the dark, polished wood and regal carpeting made me feel like an unwelcomed guest.  I swallowed that thought as the elevator chimed and the polished mirror doors slid open to reveal a familiar site.
“Hi Mrs. Betty,” I said to the older, round woman behind the secretary’s desk, “I brought something for Mr. Clifton.”
“That is exceedingly kind of you, Carl. I’ll make sure he gets it.”
“I was kind of hoping I could give it to him myself…to wish him a happy birthday?” I said in a inquisitive voice, for some reason. I was feeling out of place, despite having been here so many times before.
Mr. Clifton was the Dean of Students at Temple University. I had been working, for minimum wage mind you, in his office over the last few months doing administrative work. I hated coming to the Admin Building, but Mr. Clifton was one of the few older white men I respected on this campus. He’s always been generous to me, and even though I finished the envelope stuffing project he hired me on to do, he’s always found a reason to keep me around.
Last week he had me re-organize his filing cabinet in alphabet order. Two weeks prior I was putting it in reverse alphabet order. He’s a good man. One of the few.
“Well,” Mrs. Betty replied, “If you can wait a few minutes he should be getting off a conference call momentarily.”
I sat on the stuffed, red leather couches studded with brass buttons on the seams. I looked around at the paintings of the campus on the wall and a new feeling of out-of-placeness came over me. Stronger than before.
What am I doing here with a cake for this man? Mr. Clifton is too busy for me, and I doubt he cares if I brought him a cake for his birthday. He’s going to think I’m such a needy loser. I really am a momma’s boy; I latched on to the first strong male figure in my life and am acting like a child to get him to notice me.
The red leather couch was beginning to get unbearably uncomfortable. My collar felt tight and I kept fidgeting where I sat, rubbing my shaved head, re-tucking my shirt. I held the cake on my lap, and then set it on the table. Then put it back in my lap.
I was considering heading for the door and leaving the cake with Mrs. Betty, when she made my decision for me.
“Carl? You can go back into his office now.” She smiled at me. She was a kind lady, but in this moment I hated her timing.
I wiped my hands on my pants, picked up the cake (now back on the table) and walked into Mr. Clifton’s office. I didn’t know what to say at first. Happy birthday! Here’s a cake! Please be my father-figure!
This was not a well developed plan. I guess I hadn’t figured what I would actually do when I got here. Thankfully, Mr. Clifton broke the silence.
“Carl! What can I do for you?”
“I just came by to say Happy Birthday, sir. It’s been a real pleasure working with you and, um, here. I brought you something.” I sounded like such a foolish child. If my face could turn red, it would have.
                “My guy! Thank you so much! Put it here on my desk.” He responded seemingly genuine.
                We chatted briefly and I left. Relieved it went better than I expected. Of course it did. He’s generous, authentic, and actually cares for people.
                I turned down the collar on my jacket as I got in my car thinking maybe people weren’t as bad as I make them out to be. I just needed someone to shake me free from my solitary world of self-loathing. It was a good day. I had a real smile on my face and felt encouraged.
                I was thankful for Mr. Clifton, and his old, white butt.