Sunday, February 15, 2009

**This was the sign-off I wrote for my fantasy football league.
Undertaker’s Football League
Office of the Commissioner

Digger Bowl VI: The Road to Staubach

Searching for Reality in the Midst of Fantasy

It was a cold evening in 1990. The sun had long set and disappeared amongst the mountains and desert sands of El Paso, Texas. The strong wind kept reminding all of us Mother Nature was still in charge. And, though there were hints of perspiration under our armor, soon enough we felt what the people in the stands felt for 3 hours – cold desperation and defeat.
We gathered ‘round coach and took a knee. It was a tight, red-clad cluster on that pristine green turf at the Sun Bowl, home of the UTEP Miners. He took a minute to look around, almost as if to make sure he could see into each one of our eyes. Perhaps, he did. Some were audibly sobbing. Some had looks of defeat. Some had already moved on, grateful for the opportunity. History had been made this night, in spite of the loss to Coronado High School. It was the first trip to the playoffs in the school’s history. A pattern had begun and coach said, “You seniors…most of you will never put on a football helmet again…”

I stopped paying attention after those words. They hit me harder than the brisk wind. They hurt more than any contact I absorbed that night. And, almost 19 years later, I can still remember the scent in the air…the look on coach’s face…the feeling on that long ride back to Socorro High School. Indeed, I would never wear a football helmet again.

On that occasion, and up to that point, I felt the end of my football career was something I might not overcome. For years, in fact, I had dreams of coming back to a game and being asked by my coach to “come back in one more time”. Silly to think, and embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. It took years to release the feeling of belonging that comes with participating in team sports, especially Texas high school football.
Some did go on to continue their participation by becoming football coaches. And, perhaps that was the best therapy. But, for the great majority of us, who completely separated ourselves from the game, finding a way to get over it, yea overcome it, was not easy.
Enter fantasy football.

Men who were longing for sports participation with a reach farther than watching a game on TV had a venue by which to vent frustration. The Internet was the perfect way to accomplish this en masse. We, the UFL, took this phenomenon a step further, though more simplistic. We don’t pick players. We pick games.
Through 7,000 picks we crown a champion and organize a championship party worthy of a news spot ( Though the spot is only a few seconds short, it is the best example of the vision, the feeling we try to give our league and those who attend the celebration. Without worries of gifts, special outfits, and/or pomp and circumstance, we gather those of our closest relationship on one big day in this country.
This is a trying time for our country. In the midst of our football season, a historic election took place, giving hope and/or defeat to a very divided consensus of registered voters. The season marked the beginning of a devastating economy, which continues to weaken day by day, like a disease ravaging an organism. Denny’s gave food away yesterday. Middle-income families resort to food pantries to make-up essentials they can’t afford. Better than a thousand people lined up in Miami for a shot at getting one of 35 jobs offered by the city. Staples of the American economy: GM, Lehman Brothers, and many, many more are soon to or have dissolved.
The spirit of Digger Bowl and what we have intended for it to mean in our lives gave a bit of relief to such angst. Scheduled for February 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, Los Tequileros hosted Digger Bowl VI marvelously, a UFL team composed of Jose, Tina and Monica Najera, and Jorge and Minnie Najera and their children. Los Tequileros printed sweaters with team logos, which were and awesome sight. We crowned a champion – Six Belows, owned by Mark Dean of Grand Prairie. We enjoyed good food and drink. We decorated and erected a place of gathering which dad likes to call, Tequilero Stadium. For a few hours we forgot that the world is in turmoil, though it was evident in many of the faces that we stare at a very rough road.
Season VI welcomed new members, too. Ken Bedell formed Team Blaize; Matthew Cannon and Cynthia Soto formed RTGM; Jesus Hernandez Jr. and Monica Najera formed Los Hernz (Los Hernz showed UFL pride by custom printing shirts and caps to promote their team); Linda Alvarado was The Untouchables; and Kike Rodriguez brought The Legenderies. Though a couple ended Season VI early, all form part of a league of veterans and are welcomed in the future.
Rounders, a team owned by Mike Hromek of Arlington, won the first ever Azteca Bowl, a trophy sponsored by theUFL Mexico, namely Carlos Flores and Juan Zuñiga, who own Las Liebres and Indios de Juarez, respectively.
Steve McCully and his Cannolis won College Bowl V, his third championship trophy in our league’s history. He came close to Digger Bowl VI, as he was head-to-head with Six Belows in the conference title game, but redemption, yea revenge came sweet for Six Belows, who lost Digger Bowl II to the Cannolis by one tiebraker point. And, it was Big Blow, owned by Jeff Messer of Florida who lost this Digger Bowl by two tiebreaker points.
Football season is back on cruise control. For now, other sports begin to blossom. UFL challenges and updates will come to an Inbox near you.
The genius in fantasy sports is the ability to live vicariously in your sport of choice as an adult. Many people have told me their greatest and happiest moments as a human being was during childhood. A big reason was the ability to play and/or pretend. To live in a fantasy world. Though I never wore a football helmet, again, I have many, many reasons to feel happy and fulfilled in my life now. And, when that need for football intake spikes up in me, I can inject this project, this league and quench it beyond any satisfaction I expected.
I hope it does that for you in any way, however great or miniscule. The UFL affects people very differently, and many have really taken it to it and what it brings every season. I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud to have a tradition of gathering together once a year and celebrating this occasion.
It also reminds us of the incredible opportunity we have as Americans. That we have opportunities – still – to enjoy many things, as members of UFL Mexico have really taken a toll with all that is evil and criminal. Drug lords have simply taken over. It’s undeniably horrific and devastating.
Cheers to you, all the members of the UFL. I wishing the best for the coming months, I do want to offer an apology for all the technical problems we endured with e-mail, etc. One day, we’ll have a smooth operation for our 7,000 picks.
I bid you adieu, for now. Remember to keep getting up. The promise of better things always lies in your ability and motivation to find it, however dark and difficult it appears to be.


Anonymous said...

Inspiring words as always, Commish. I am honored to be a part of it. Some day, I hope to bring a trophy to NJ, and enter the Hall. Viva El UFL!


Frogs said...

Well said as always Commish. Congrats on your championship Digger Dean's 6Belows. Jeff Messer and the Big Blow, your time will come. You are too good to not win a McCully.