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My family moved to Cincinnati from the west coast in 1985. We had only been in the San Francisco Bay area for a little over a year and a half, and that was still close enough to the 1981 Super Bowl loss to the 49ers to sway our alliances. My dad having grown up in Indiana, was a Bears fan, and from what I remember, his dad was a Packers fan, but my dad took to the Bengals quite well. His company had season tickets, and by the time I was an appropriate age to go to a game (I was 10 in 1992) The Bengals had fallen into an abysmal state.

The 1989 Bengals Super Bowl was a wonderful first memory for me… and no, it had nothing to do with football, as I don’t believe I watched a second of the game as a 7 year old. We had gone to one of my parents friend’s house, and they had a Nintendo Entertainment System, and it was the first time I had ever seen Super Mario Brothers. I played that little plumber till his overalls fell off. I was hooked. By Easter 4 months later I was the proud owner one myself after I swindled my sister out of her birthday money (I repented later… much later.)

Anyway, back t the season tickets… My dad’s company would give them away to sweeten a business deal, but by ’92, you were essentially insulting your business partners to hand them a wad of Bengals tickets. Being the hero that my dad is, and not wanting anything to ever go to waste, he would frequently put in requests for the tickets and take me to a game.

I remember seeing some pretty great games, my favorite though was a game against the Steelers. The Steelers would regularly sweep us without a problem, but one this fateful day, we were playing them pretty tough. It was getting late in the 4th quarter and we found ourselves down by 5. The offense had us just outside of the red zone and the down marker had a big 4 on it. The coach was wondering what to do. The gamble would be to go for the long TD and see if we could get the win, but winning wasn’t really the Bengals style, so Doug Pelfrey came out onto the field to kick the field goal. Nailed it! Unfortunately, that still put us down by 2 with under a minute left. As a young fan, not really sure of how football worked outside of touchdowns and field goals, I was pretty sure that the time game was over.

The kickoff team lined up, looking a bit heavy to one side, and that is when I witnessed my first onside kick! Pelfrey hit the ball just right and put it into the pocket where the Bengals could get it in good field position. The clock was winding down, not just about under 10 seconds. The Bengals were able to scramble there and get one play off across the 40 yard line of the opponent’s end of the field. Doug ran back onto the field for the 3rd time in the last 30 seconds and got the snap off just in time to kick what had to be a 50+ yard field goal to win the game on a buzzer beater to send the arch-rival Steelers back up the river with a big upset.

Those were the types of small things that would make a season, even if it was the only home win of the season, to be there made it feel like you had just won the Super Bowl. That is what it was like to grow up a Bengals fan.

It was 2001. Senior year of high school. A couple of my friends from the football team and I were putting together the mother of all March Madness pools. We sold 200 brackets at $5, and for a high school kid, having $1,000 cash stuffed into an envelop in your locker is pretty exciting until you realize the police department is bringing in the drug dogs that month to sniff around… Dodged that bullet…

Mike McQuery was about as far from an athlete as they came in my high school, but the guys knew his sports, and in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, that was a rare find. Stat heads hadn’t taken over sports yet, there was no public knowledge of money ball, and the word fantasy was used only in the context of cheerleaders.

Mike won our bracket hands down, basically uncontested, and it left a sour taste in a few of the jocks’ mouths. How did this guy know more about sports than we did? His answer, fantasy sports…

Mike was trying to explain fantasy sports to a group of us and to be honest, at that time it sounded like the dumbest thing i had ever heard of. This was coming from a guy (me) who had spent portions of his childhood playing Dungeons and Dragons, Final Fantasy, and collected all 151 Pokemon…. It was a collision of worlds… Dorks and Sports mixed like oil and water.

Now to be fair, in 2001, technology hadn’t embraced fantasy sports yet. Heck, Aim was all the rage, Napster was all i used my computer for, and cell phones were only good for playing Snake on, rarely was a text ever sent.* (editor’s note: this article is being typed out on a cellphone, we’ve come a long way in 13 years)

This breed of fantasy sports involved a 3 ring binder, a USA Today subscription and more #2 than an SAT prep class.

Fast forward 3 years.

It’s 2004, i’m now a junior in college, a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and finding myself a bit detached from sports now that I wasn’t competing myself. One of my brothers. Reintroduced me to the idea of playing fantasy sports, but by now, it was as easy as signing into Yahoo, plus, free chicken wings at a draft party sealed the deal.

That year i played in my first fantasy football league and also my first baseball league. I found that it was pretty fun and helped me to really get to know more players than just the ones that played for my teams. I got to know the guys i played with and it made watching the games on tv more exciting. Pretty good deal i thought.

No harm done right… That’s how all addictions start…

I had every intention of playing in the same leagues the next year, and did, but as i met new people, and shared my interest in fantasy sports, i began to get invited to other leagues. At first my heart revolted to the idea of turning my back on my leagues to join another one, that would be like fantasy adultery…

My heart was torn, old friends or new friends? What to do?

Well, i did what anyone would do, i played in both leagues… And the next year i was in 3, and finally it was 4… By the time ESPN got on board, i was in over my head. At one point i found myself owning so many different players in so many leagues that every play on an NFL sunday both helped me and screwed me. I needed help.

Luckily, moving away and having kids, took time away from fantasy sports. Overtime, leagues closed and college friends moved on and joined leagues with new friends, and eventually, i was back down to just 2 or 3 leagues.

This year, i finally made my exit from both Fantasy baseball and am playing in my last NBA league. Just one NFL league with local friends that is highly competitive.

Some of my favorite memories was my 2005 all Bengals team that won my first championship, my all Asian fantasy baseball team, and my dominating fantasy Nascar league win.

In all, this blog was started to fill the void that i had been pumping with fantasy sports for so long. Fantasy baseball is just so much work, and ain’t nobody got time for that!

Fantasy or not, being a fan takes some ingenuity and a willing ness to do your research. I’m excited for this year, not having to worry about losing a fantasy league because jay bruce bombed a homerun against me. It will be a return to purity, and a year of great memories, not fantasies!

Rounding third and heading for home, this one belongs to the fans!