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Retiring from fantasy football after 19 years isn’t easy, but I will do so as a Steeler

It’s been a tolerable 19 years in fantasy football, but I’ve decided to finally retire from the sport.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers

I was at the bar the other night relaxing after a long run when the subject of fantasy football came up.

I immediately got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Call it the Sunday scaries or whatever, but just the thought of having to go back in the lab late this summer and do the necessary research in order to be ready for the multiple fantasy leagues I would be invited to put me into an instant state of depression.

I was filled with anxiety and stress. I began to dread the online fantasy drafts and maybe even a trip to Applebee’s for a live one.

Something hit me as I walked home from the bar, however: I do not have to play fantasy football this year if I don’t want to. I don’t have to pay the price. I don’t have to know the players. I’ve put in my time. After all, it has been 19 years. I was a free agent last year, anyway. I turned down offers to join leagues because, as I told my friends, I was just so gosh darn busy.

But truth be told, my heart just wasn't in it. I had lost my passion for fantasy football long before—years before, I’d say.

I stayed with it for a number of years, but I always seemed to enjoy watching the NFL more during the rare seasons when I would skip fantasy football for one reason or another.

Oh, I enjoyed the heck out of it over the first few seasons, but I was also quite frustrated, especially during my first season—2003—when I drafted Adam Vinatieri in the fourth round.

Needless to say, my rookie season in fantasy football was a forgettable one. Just how forgettable? I lost a game in which Peyton Manning, my quarterback, threw six touchdown passes against the New Orleans Saints.

Anyway, it is with much relief—and just a hint of regret—that I am announcing my retirement from fantasy football after 19 seasons.

I’d like to say the memories were great, but I honestly can’t think of all that many. Although, as bad as I was during my rookie season—my record was 3 and something—I did sweep the eventual league champions. I also defeated my brother in the semifinals of the consolation round (I had such a bad team that he considered it to be a bye going in).

It actually took me four seasons to finally make the real playoffs, which also resulted in a first-round victory over my brother (2-0 against him all-time in postseason play). Unfortunately, my brother won the league title twice in like four seasons. And when he wasn’t winning it, my brother-in-law’s brother won it twice.

Not a lot of fun around the dinner table during the holidays for yours truly, that’s for sure.

As I’ve already alluded to, I never truly wanted to pay the price from a “constantly being on my computer/smartphone while at work” standpoint during my fantasy football career. Truth be told, I was limited by the kinds of jobs I had throughout my years in the sport, jobs that either denied me access to a computer or an optimal wifi connection. Oh, who am I kidding? I could have found a way to scour the waiver wire if I really wanted to. I just didn’t want it. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t have the desire. I was a 9 to 5 fantasy football coach. I didn’t study the players. I didn’t learn the backups of the starters, and I had no urge to research the backups of the backups.

I did manage to win a title one time. It actually happened late in my fantasy football career—2018, to be exact. I was co-owner of a team with my uncle. My biggest contribution to that title came during the draft—that’s right, it was one of those Applebee’s drafts—when I said, “They were saying on the radio that this new quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, might have a breakout year.” Other than that, I was just along for the ride (kind of like Daniel Sepulveda during the Super Bowl XLIII season).

While I will miss some things about my fantasy football days, I will not miss most of the things.

I won’t miss the 11th-hour player scratches after CBSSports/ESPN/Yahoo spends the entire week telling me that (insert player here) is expected to start or at least make an appearance in the upcoming game.

I will not miss those Tourettes-like outbursts while in the middle of a conversation about ceiling tiles because the person I am talking to happens to look down at their smartphone and discovers that Frank Gore was taken out at the goal line.

I will not miss being a fantasy football commissioner and spending the entire season begging people to pay me their league fee. “Aww, man, I can’t believe you’re keeping the money,” said my brother back in 2008 after he won the runner-up prize. That just so happened to be the same season in which he failed to pay the league fee. Yep, he lacks in both self-awareness and shame.

I will not miss donating a portion of my salary to the fantasy gods every season but one.

I will not miss this phrase: “I just couldn’t start him against the Pittsburgh Steelers.” It makes no differ....forget it.

I will not miss being slapped by Tommy Pham.

As the title suggests, I would like to sign a one-day contract and retire from fantasy football as a Pittsburgh Steeler. That’s why I’m sitting here today as “The Bubby Bristers,” the name of my first fantasy football team. If I manage to make it into the Fantasy Football Hall of Shame one day, I’d like Edmund Nelson to present me. Why? Because “The Edmund Nelsons” was the name of my second fantasy football team. Yes, sir, I sure was creative back then.

Finally, it has been a fun—or tolerable, at times—ride over the past 19 years, but it’s time to pursue other passions, such as writing about football.

I also look forward to spending time in my living room this fall and not worrying about who’s doing what other than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I realize some people will try to coax me out of retirement, even though, unlike Bill Cowher, I suck at evaluating talent.

But my mind is made up.

Keep reaching for the stars and stop sending me invites to your fantasy leagues.