With the NFL preseason football already winding down, the regular season can’t be far behind — usually kicking off the weekend after Labor Day.
That is about the same time my thoughts turn to the fantasy football draft. Which this year will raise questions like when will Andrew Luck’s calf or ankle or whatever allow him to start (or not start) the regular season.
This year will be the first time since I started competing in fantasy leagues — somewhere in the late 1980s, believe it or not — that I won’t be competing with my good friend, Jim Neises, better known as “Da Commish.”
Jim passed away recently and was a great friend, He tag teamed with Brazil resident Jeannie Stinson-McLean to introduce me to my future wife, Linda, and we have been married now over 20 years. Jim was my best man and Jeannie was Linda’s maid-of-honor at our wedding.
Our introduction to fantasy leagues was in baseball while Jim and I were both employed at Hamilton Center. I hope the statute of limitations have expired for us operating those leagues during work hours.
Back then, it was not particularly computerized as it is now. Six of us employees, including Jim, drafted our teams in person before autodrafts were even invented.
One particular draft, I recall fondly, found all six of us sitting at the south end of Meadows Center in Terre Haute, on a Saturday morning.
This was a rotiserrie baseball league, before head-to-head competition became popular.
In our rotisserie fantasy league format, teams were ranked from first to last in 10 categories (as I recall). Points are awarded according to the order of each statisical ranking — 6 for best, 5 for second and so on. Points were totaled to determine an overall league ranking.
Our source for data was the USA Today, which published comprehensive MLB stats every Wednesday (as I recall). I entered our league data into a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet.
I ran the leagues early on, while Jim recruited players and kept the interest going with his lively banter and witty, some might describe it as colorful, sense of humor.
By the late 1990s or early 2000s (as I recall), Jim took over the league, naming it “OLD SCHOOL SANDLOT BALL.” Football soon followed with “Knuckle Heads of Da Nort,” then hockey with “Hockey in my Pants.” Jim always used Yahoo — we’d been doing so since 2003 — which I still prefer over all others. It was a year-round pleasant diversion from everyday life.
Jim was always creative to a fault in his “Da Commish” roles, adapting the standard rules to adding two to three times as many categories, making rosters huge. His leagues consisted of a few of our original members, before adding many of his friends and acquaintances from his hometown of Chicago. The comments section were always “colorful” prose at its best, at times a forum to settle disputes, but mostly to talk trash. Jim’s team names changed, week-to-week many times, and many of those were too colorful or too politically incorrect to repeat in this forum.
Early on, if there was ever a dispute or an explanation of his many convoluted statistical categories, Jim laid down the law with his always biting humor. From then on, he dubbed himself “Da Commish.” Even our wives had teams in some of the leagues, Jim’s wife Cindy (team name: betsyangel) and my wife Linda (team name: Linder’s All-Stars). Her nickname was even created by Jim, short for “Aunty Linder.”
I rejoined a Major League Baseball public rotisserie league on Yahoo this year — my first time since our original leagues — to remember Jim due to his failing health.
The league is OK, but it is boringly named “Yahoo Public 137941.” Using autodraft, my team was not good out of the gate, then I made numerous roster changes. In this 12-team league, I had my team as high as sixth, then the bottom fell out, dropping to 11th place — no danger of falling to 12th at least. Slowly, I have the team up to ninth as of this week, but it is a precarious ninth. My team is aptly named “w8 til next yr denny.”
I know none of the teams’ managers, having been assigned randomly to this league. I’m languishing 43 points out of first-place, ahead of only “Moose’s Team,” “HS Village Idiots” and “DIAMOND DAWGS.”
At the top now, “The Corner’s Team,” is five points ahead of “Battle of Whits.” Early leader “Hot Garbage” has fallen off the pace by 12.5 points, but at least they are ahead of the “Chicago Cubs” — Jim’s favorite team.
This league has been an OK experience, but it has been different this year without Jim.
I expect Jim is probably running a fantasy league in Heaven now, liking to think he is already rubbing elbows with former Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray.