Although Cliburn has been the commissioner since the 2006 season, it was actually DominationStation manager Zachary Jessen that founded the league in Iraq. His outpost was so remote that he didn't have access to reliable internet, so Cliburn took over as Commish.
OIL manager Zachary Jessen purchased a throwback helmet harkening back to the first iteration of his franchise, DominationStation (before we realized his logo was plagiarized). Meanwhile, Arrogant Americans manager ordered a helmet commemorating his 2012 championship. Both helmets have arrived and look fantastic. As always, HelmetNation, LLC. produced the unique memorabilia. No OIL funds were expended for these items.
Compiled and edited by Justin C. Cliburn
This is the first installment in our ongoing oral history project. You can read later chapters here.
To understand the OklahomIraqis League ("the OIL"), one must know who its members are and what brought them together. The league began at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq in 2006. It was resurrected in 2007 and kept alive each successive season. It's the way they keep in touch and share news with the men they served with in Iraq. Sometimes it's the only way because, although the men of the OIL are incredible friends, they may have never known each other without the Army National Guard. They came from different backgrounds and followed different career paths, but they served together as soldiers. Their bond would never be what it is without the experiences they shared one year in Iraq.
Their story is important, even if only to them, because when historians chronicle the Iraq War, they will focus on the usual fare: the battles; the successes and the failures; the bombings and the civil war . . . and the presidents and generals who managed them.
But it will be up to the everyday Joes, the boots on the ground, to tell their stories . . . because no one else will. Who were these men? Why did they join the military? What did they do over there? How are they now? And what has kept them close since they first went to war together? These questions may be important only to those who already know the answers, but they need to be shared just the same.
What follows is an oral history of the OIL, as told by the men who lived it, beginning with the combat mission that inspired it. It is by no means an exhaustive history of that combat mission in 2005-2006; such a history would fill a book of its own. But it is a decent overview of the year that preceded the formation of the OIL: where they were; what they'd experienced; how they felt. 152 Oklahoma soldiers served on that mission, but just a fraction of them are represented here. Each soldier below speaks for himself as an individual. Collectively, their memories form a history best expressed through the oral tradition of storytelling through conversation.
Soldiers are traditionally a guarded bunch, reluctant to show emotion or share their feelings, so the following is a rare look into the collective memory of one group of soldiers in Iraq almost a decade ago.
DominationStation owner Zachary Jessen unveiled a new logo today after discovering his previous logo had been copied from a minor league hockey franchise in Cincinnati. The new logo was designed by Andrew Krause Design.
Just weeks after unveiling a new logo, Morgan's 2007 champion Whackers unveiled a new uniform set today, as did Jessen's DominationStation and Pyle's 2006 champion (and 2008 runner-up*) Lucky Enuf. Full-size images are available on each team's manager page.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The OIL's Arrogant Americans released RB Ray Rice today after gossip site TMZ released footage of the player punching his then-fiancée in a casino hotel elevator. Rice was suspended in February for two games for the altercation, and Arrogant Americans manager Justin C. Cliburn took a chance by drafting Rice in the sixth round of the 2014 OIL draft.
"At the time of the draft, all I knew was Rice was missing two games," Cliburn said. "At a sixth-round price tag, our organization felt he was worth the risk. Today, it blew up in our faces. We regret the pick."
But before cutting Rice, Cliburn attempted to trade the embattled RB to OIL manager Mike Schmidt. The Arrogant Americans and Schmidt's Dead Again franchise agreed to trade Rice and Roy Helu for Bishop Sankey and Kenny Stills.
"I saw the video of Rice punching his fiancée," Cliburn said. "And I knew two things: 1. Rice would be suspended for longer than his original two-game sentence; and 2. I no longer wanted him on my roster."
But shortly after the trade sending Rice to Dead Again, the NFL's Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the Super Bowl-winning RB indefinitely. League reaction to the trade, coupled with the indefinite suspension, was swift and fierce.
DominationStation manager Zachary Jessen said, if the trade was not vetoed, the league's recent move to third-party trade review would have been a mistake. Fourth Down Syndrome manager Justin Finch was even more outspoken:
"Typical [C]lyburn [sic] bullshit. I've come to expect some trade-raping on a weekly basis [from him]. I don't know why anyone ever thinks they are getting a good deal from him," Finch said. "[Yo]u should be ashamed," he added.
Cliburn was undeterred by the criticism. "As soon as we realized Rice would be cut, we contacted Schmidt and let him know we'd be ensuring the league commissioners vetoed the trade," Cliburn said. "I would lose all credibility in the OIL if I went through with this trade."
The Arrogant Americans and Dead Again trade was vetoed by the league office at 2:34 p.m. CST. It is unclear if another NFL or OIL team will take a chance on Rice at some point in the 2014 season, but Rice would have to apply for reinstatement to the NFL in order to play again in the NFL or the OIL. In Rice's place, the Americans will start the recently-acquired Zac Stacy at RB2. Andrew Hawkins will assume the W/R flex position as the Americans move to a five-WR offense.
For Jessen's DominationStation, we told the designer at Fiverr to take the idea and run with it . . . he did. Playing on the train theme, the jersey and pants have railroad track spanning from the top to bottom with the train logo on the helmet. Jessen is a San Francisco 49ers fan, and the uniform is worn by Patrick Willis.
It is hard to believe that we just finished the eighth season of OklahomIraqis football, but it's true. 2013 was a big year for the OIL in both positive and negative ways. Here is a sampling of the 2013 OIL year in review:
In 2013, we updated our web site, road-tripped to an NFL game together, crowned a new champion, helped a league member regroup after losing his house to a tornado, gave up the DBFA trophy earned in 2012, had children, moved out-of-state, toured Lambeau Field, got a new license plate, established our 2014 draft order, saw one of our own get promoted to First Sergeant, and lost two friends and brothers-in-arms: Brandon Landrum and Joseph Killman.
Congratulations to Aaron Cobb, whose "Dogs of War" won their first OIL championship. The Harrington Trophy now resides in Fort Smith with Cobb, who was in Baghdad with the original OIL members in 2006 and joined the league in 2007. He defeated Cliburn, who tried and failed to be the first back-to-back champion in the OIL.
Unfortunately, Cobb could not win the World War, so the OIL lost the DBFA's Trophy of Versailles. But the team Cobb had in week 17 wasn't the same one that dominated much of the season, though. By that time, Cobb was without Arian Foster, Wes Welker, Jermichael Finley, and Steve Smith. Still, he is happy just winning the OIL.
Co-commissioner Adam Duffy claimed the number one seed but fell flat in the semifinals. And then Justin Finch beat him in the third-place game. Tough break.
In May, two-time OIL champion Jack Bruesch lost his house in the Moore tornado that gained worldwide attention. Fortunately, he and his family were uninjured. OIL members and more came together to help in any way we could. He now lives in Norman and is grateful that his family is okay.
On a lighter note, it is a good thing that Cliburn won the OIL and DBFA trophies back from Bruesch in 2012. Otherwise, those trophies would have been lost in the tornado rubble.
The OIL site sold "Oklahoma Original" hats for tornado relief after the storms and raised money for the American Red Cross. The hats were modeled after the original Oklahoma state flag. Some hats are still available for purchase.
In November, Yancy Baldwin, Justin Finch, Aaron Cobb, and Justin Cliburn went to the Cowboys-Vikings game together. It was the second straight year for an NFL trip among the guys, and they had a great time. Even sitting in the "nosebleed" section, the experience was fantastic. There really are no bad seats at "JerryWorld."
Start thinking now about which game we should attend for our next NFL excursion. The Cowboys play the usual NFC East opponents at home next season, plus Arizona, San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis, and New Orleans. Perhaps in future seasons we can expand our footprint and go to a different stadium, but Dallas is closest to most of the league.
And the OIL family grew when 28.5% of the league had a baby in the last 53 weeks. Three league members' new babies were born in 2013 and one member had a son born just before 2013 began. Colt James Baldwin was born on Dec. 22, 2012. While his birth did not technically happen in 2013, it did occur between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Colt just turned one and lives in Stratford with Yancy and his family.
Jessen's daughter (left) was born in Duncan and has been sporting her favorite outfit since day one: her DominationStation onesie (it's unclear if Mrs. Jessen shares the love for fantasy football-themed infant clothing). Cali's quickly becoming Jessen's biggest fan.
The other new additions to the OIL family were born far away from Oklahoma [insert your own opinion as to whether that is a good thing or a bad thing here].
2013 was the first season Duffy spent in his new home. After living in Lawton-Fort Sill for 20+ years, Duff moved to his family's hometown in Wisconsin. The Commish and Mrs. Commish visited the Duffies' new home in July.
The Commish, Duffy, and Duffy's father and brothers toured Lambeau Field and watched the Packers practice. It was the first time the Commish went to an NFL training camp. It also marked the first time that he had to wear a hoodie in July. Not cool, Wisconsin.
On a more somber note, 2013 was also the year that we buried friends and brothers-in-arms. 1LT Brandon Landrum died in May from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Members of the OIL knew him as SPC Landrum.
He was a medic and spent 2008 in Iraq with the 158. He went to the same high school and college as the commissioner and was active duty when he died. He trained with co-commissioner Adam Duffy at a "war fighter" exercise. He made us laugh at Camp Gruber. He'll be missed.
Joseph Killman died in December. He was in the 158 with all of us. He was in Jack Bruesch's and Cliburn's squad during the tour that gave birth to the OIL. He was funny, tough, and reliable. His death reminded us all how much we care about and miss each other.
Even in death, Killman brought us together. At least 50 members of the 158, both past and present, attended his funeral. It was great seeing everyone that day, but the circumstances were awful. We shared stories about him and laughed and smiled. LT (now CPT) Ponder created a Facebook group for guys on that 1-158 SECFOR mission. Hopefully, we keep that group going and see each other again without someone dying.
It's a shame we don't see each other more often. This league is how most of us keep in touch with each other. I hope that going forward we can organize more NFL game trips together and get more managers at our draft parties. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to stay in touch. Let's do that.
Just before the new year, OklahomIraqi Jack Bruesch was promoted to First Sergeant. He was Cliburn's squad leader in Iraq in 2006.
Congratulations to the two-time OIL champion, good guy, and great NCO. We're proud of him.
In the last year, we also added names to our membership's waiting list. Adam Schuster remains at the top of that list. If someone should leave the league, he is next in line for OIL membership. He was in Iraq with the 158 during the 2006 season, and he spent 2008 in Iraq with the 158 as well.
Next in line is Stephen Brosh, who was Cliburn's roommate in Baghdad and who was also in Bruesch's squad that year. Nick Reed has thrown his hat in the ring as well. He was also on the 2006 mission with the original 10. They are all deserving candidates, but they'll have to wait their turn. As of right now, they're "on deck."
After eight seasons, our league settings are pretty well-settled. But there is always room for improvement. Beginning in 2014, the OIL will re-seed its playoff teams after the first round. Our league has always said that we reward success. In that vein, the number one seed should play the lowest-seeded team in the semifinals no matter what. The number one seed in our league receives a first-round bye and now will also be guaranteed a matchup with the lowest-seeded team in the semifinals, giving that team the easiest road to the championship.
Our league is special. I know that every fantasy football player thinks his or her league is the best, but ours really is different. You know why.
Our league was born in Baghdad. It represents more than fake football. All 14 members of our league were in the Army. All but one served in the 1st Bn. 158 FA. Twelve of us were in Iraq together in 2006.
The two that were not on that mission with us have been valuable members of the OIL. Few realize that Trovillo was responsible for creating the first OIL web site via the Weebly platform. That platform is still in use and has evolved to the site you see today. He was instrumental behind the scenes turning the OIL into a true community, and he has a great team name and logo too. Rogers is always involved, has one of the best team names and logos in the league, and maintains a fierce rivalry with Jessen. We have a website, a Twitter (@okiraqi), a Facebook group, a traveling trophy, a rivalry week, a league store, and a bond bigger than football.
I enjoy serving as your commissioner, and I look forward to 2014. Happy new year, guys. Hopefully this year won't be nearly as eventful.
Cobb's Dogs of War have disappointed thus far this season, but week six proved to be just the medicine the Dogs needed to get back on track. The Dogs of War blew out DominationStation by a final tally of 162.05 - 76.7. After hearing of his dominating performance, Cobb has this to say, "Seriously? I just realized I forgot to update my lineup. Hell yeah! I've been drunk since last weekend." Although the win was a big one, Cobb still finds himself in 12th place. It will take several more weeks of 160+ points to dig himself out of that hole.
Jessen was on the wrong end of this week's biggest blowout, losing handily after posting a meager 76.7 points. With his starting QB on a bye, his replacement was injured in the first quarter of MNF, giving Jessen an amazing 3.45 points. Two more starters posted goose eggs for the 'Station. The loss drops Jessen into 8th place, but he is still very much alive in the playoff hunt.
Jessen's DominationStation put it all together this weekend and posted 196.3 points, the most in the league. He did so behind a solid effort from his QB and amazing performances from his TE and DEF. Congratulations, Jessen on such a fine effort.
. . . and here lies Schmidt. After starting the season 3-0, his DeadAgain squad came back to Earth in a big way, posting a mere 88.85 points. When 15.4 points is the best anyone on your team could muster, it doesn't bode well for the final outcome.