Fourteen years have passed since we first sat at Snow Hall and learned that the 1st Battalion of the 158th Field Artillery regiment was being called up for service in Iraq. A lot has changed during that time, so let's take some time to catch up, this time with Norman Nobodies manager Matthew Leal.
Are you still in the 158? If, not when did you get out?
LEAL: I'm not in the military anymore. I got out right after we got home.
What did you do post-deployment?
LEAL: I went back to work, first selling cars and then moving on to office jobs. I've worked for Love's Travel Stops in their corporate headquarters for almost four years now.
Where are your from and how did you make it into the 158?
LEAL: I'm originally from Addington, Oklahoma, although I went to high school in Comanche, like Reed, Peacock and Morgan. I got into the 158 with the help of recruiter Keith Wheeler like so many of us.
Where do you live now?
LEAL: Norman, Oklahoma.
What are your hobbies outside of FF?
LEAL: I like to go camping and to OU football games. I am an avid knife and gun collector, and I'm a family man with a wife and two children.
What is your fantasy background?
LEAL: Long in the tooth, at this point. I started playing before the OIL began in 2006.
How long have you played FF?
LEAL: It's hard to remember exactly when I started, but it's probably about 15 years now.
How many different leagues?
LEAL: It varies, but I average about two a year.
How many championships have you won?
LEAL: Zero. Thanks for the reminder.
How many have you finished second in?
LEAL: I finished second in the OIL in 2007, and that's as close as I've gotten.
What is your general strategy in FF?
LEAL: Not sure I really have one every year. I tried the mock draft thing and failed, so I guess I just wing it and go for what sounds best at the time.
How much preparation do you do before each season?
LEAL: See answer above.
Do you find you draft better at the cabin with the guys or at home online?
LEAL: I think I draft better at the cabin.
Will you be at the draft cabin next year?
LEAL: Yes, for sure.
What is the best move you've made in FF?
LEAL: There’s been so many I can’t think of just one. [Editor's Note: It appears Leal's best move was to draft Tom Brady in the sixth round in 2015. Brady finished second among QBs while leading the Nobodies to a 10-3 record.]
What is your favorite FF memory?
LEAL: Too many to narrow it down to one, but I'd say the best part about the OIL is seeing the guys every year. It was great when it was a few hours a year, but a few days at the cabin blows that out of the water.
What is the pinnacle of your FF career?
LEAL: That hasn’t come yet, but it will.
Norman Not City Councilmen manager Matthew Leal is the only OILer to lose to his archrival in the championship game. In 2007, he faced his Baghdad roommate Lyndal Morgan in the OIL Bowl, losing to the Whackers. He hasn't made the OIL Bowl since then, although he came close in 2015. That season, he was the favorite heading into the playoffs, riding an angry Tom Brady to the semifinals and a number-one seed. But a Theo Riddick fumble was the difference between a shot at history and another disappointing finish.
Fun fact: Leal named his daughter after the Commish; now that's loyalty! The rest of you ungrateful bastards could learn a thing or two about respect from Leal.
2007 champion Lyndal Morgan received a custom mini-helmet to commemorate his 2007 OIL Bowl championship. His Whackers beat his arch-rival (Leal's Norman Nobodies) to conclude the second season of the OIL.
The 2014 champion Dirty Hippies helmet is still a work-in-progress because it is more complicated. We're starting with the 2014 champion and then going back to the beginning of the OIL to work our way back to 2013.
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.
Matthew Leal and Lyndal Morgan have been in the OIL since its beginning in Iraq in 2006. They were roommates that year and have been rivals ever since. This week, each manager released a new logo for his team:
Each design is now part of the league store, where managers can purchase team-branded mugs, shirts, hoodies, blankets, and more. Morgan's logo will grace the championship jersey he'll receive for winning the 2007 OIL Bowl.