This is the fourth installment in our ongoing oral history project. You can view previous chapters here.
The fourth season of the OIL saw many changes and a lot of drama. Not just petty trade controversies, either: life and death drama. Remember, the 158 returned to Iraq in Fall 2008, and they were there risking their lives until August of 2009. That was the year many of us were reminded that our opponents each week were soldiers and friends first, rivals second. And that's where any discussion of that year has to begin.
As the 2008 season ended and 2009 began, the 158 was still in Iraq. Although Betchan, Bruesch, and Purdue were able to compete from Ramadi in 2008, the league was well-aware that their brothers-in-arms were in harm's way. Then, in May, the point really hit home when SECFOR member and future OIL manager Adam Schuster was shot by a sniper.
CLIBURN: What do y'all remember about that?
JESSEN: I was on base walking to the chow hall when Schuster's squad came flying in off mission. SPC Bentley came running over and told me Schuster had been shot. I ran into the TMC to see him, but somebody kicked me out of the room. Parra showed up shortly after and we both were trying to figure out his status was and what was going to happen. Then they took him to a chopper in a body bag which was pretty rough, because we didn’t know what was happening. All we knew was what they kept telling us that he was going to be okay. That was probably the worst day of my whole military career.
BALDWIN: I was on that mission, too. It was a horrible day. I was in First Platoon and Bravo Battery with Schuster on the SECFOR mission, and we'd been really close.
BRUESCH: I was on that mission. I was working in the QRF shack when the call came in that one of our soldiers had been hit. We were told to go to the gate they were coming in and escort them to the hospital. But it was all confusing because we didn't have radio contact with them and the leadership didn't want us waiting at the gate. They wanted us to meet the squad right as they showed up. Everything was happening so fast, and it felt like chaos.
NEELY: I was the rear detachment commander at the time. I remember some officer from joint force headquarters calling me to say we'd taken a casualty and I needed to check my SIPR email for the details. When I found out he was WIA and not KIA, my heart started to slow down. I couldn't believe one of the guys that had the most combat experience in the 158 had gotten hit. We walked around pretty numb after that, realizing that they couldn't GTFO of Iraq soon enough. It was a wake-up call.
CLIBURN: It was for all of us. I was at home in bed when I got a call from Daniel Smith. I'd just gotten off work at UPS and crawled back into bed with my girlfriend (now wife) when the phone rang. As he told me what'd happened, I remember sitting upright and getting such a queasy feeling in my gut as I imagined the play-by-play of it all in my head. I felt guilty I wasn't there. Then I felt guilty for feeling guilty . . . like I was somehow making it about me. It was just such a horrible phone call to receive.
DUFFY: I don't remember exactly how it all went down, because I wasn't on that mission. I only remember being on my front porch having a beer with Cliburn when he told me what happened. I remember trying to call Schuster's cell phone, so he must have been stateside at Walter Reed already. We were unable to get a hold of him, but we left a funny message hoping to make him laugh whenever he was able to check his voicemail. Of course, we didn't know how long that would take. Remember, we were drinking, and we were just grateful he was alive.
CLIBURN: I remember that. I was in shock, but it felt good to know he was at Walter Reed and, by all accounts, was going to live. Schuster was in my platoon in 2006, and we'd known each other for about six years at that point. I loved that guy. I'd been at the going away party for him, Jessen, and Parra and the last memory I had of him was trying to break up him and Parra wrestling in the hotel room after a long night of drinking (at 5' 5", I wasn't very good at breaking up a fight between two 6' 3" guys though).
DUFFY: It didn't truly hit me until days later that we almost lost a brother. That could have easily been me years before, and all the weight and burden of war was back on my shoulders again. Nobody stood up and said it officially, but when Shuster was shot, everyone immediately got closer. The league served a higher calling at that point.
CLIBURN: It did. For me anyway. And it became even more important when I left the Guard.
JESSEN: My wife's brother died right after Schuster was hit, so I came home for seven days to attend the funeral. When you go home on emergency leave, you fly commercial. On my way back to Iraq, I landed in Washington, D.C. and remembered Walter Reed was there. So, after a few minutes there, I decided that flight could wait until tomorrow. I called a taxi and headed to see my brother-in-arms.
CLIBURN: Man, I never knew that. I think I would have done the same thing. Maybe not on the first deployment, but definitely on the second.
JESSEN: Yeah. So, I got there and gave him a hug. Then we killed a half gallon of Jack Daniels just as the sun came up. Schuster then went on Yahoo! Messenger and sent Parra a message to call him NOW; it was an emergency. When he called, we were both on the line and he got pissed because he had to get dressed and walk to the call center. We went out and saw some sights around DC. I remember sitting in an ESPN bar talking about Iraq and the bartender overheard us. He gave me free beer but for some reason Schuster had to pay for his.
CLIBURN: Man, it had to have been really, really hard to get back on that plane after spending a day with Schuster and knowing your wife was mourning her brother. But at least you got to see he was going to be okay.
JESSEN: Yeah. It was a tough time, but it's never easy going back over there . . . no matter what the circumstances are. You know that.
CLIBURN: I do. Fortunately for me, I only ever had to go back once though.
Learning from our mistakes
CLIBURN: Just weeks into the 2008 season, I'd realized we should be using fractional scoring, but it was too late to change.
CLIBURN: And I hated that the 2008 season ended in a tie. And I hated that the champion was decided by a formula I had no control over. So, heading into 2009, I changed our scoring settings to allow fractional scoring. Were ties still possible? Of course, but they were much less likely under the new scoring system.
DUFFY: That turned out to be the correct call. From 2006 to 2008, we had three ties. But, from 2009 to 2014, we've had zero.
PYLE: Of course, I loved the switch, but it wasn't just because of the 2008 OIL Bowl. It just makes sense to make every yard count.
BRUESCH: I didn't really see a problem with the 2008 scoring settings. I liked it just fine.
CLIBURN: Wait, you don't like fractional scoring? Or do you just like the scoring system that got you the championship?
BRUESCH: Hey, it worked out for me! But, seriously, I do like fractional scoring better. It's much more likely to give you one true champion.
After 2008, original OIL member Purdue didn't respond to repeated invitations to rejoin the league in 2009.
CLIBURN: I don't know why he didn't rejoin the league, and he never elaborated. I haven't had contact with him since before the 2009 season. But I wasn't going to chase after him forever, so the OIL cut its losses and moved on. We had other managers who wanted to be in the league.
PYLE: I don't know either. He was my driver the last half of the 2006 SECFOR mission, so we were pretty close. Either he got tired of me talking trash in the league or, more likely, he just didn't really care for fantasy football after his son was born.
CLIBURN: Yeah. You can't hold that against him. If he wanted to move on, we'd find guys who wanted to be a part of the OIL.
Don't Call it a Comeback
Cliburn's longtime friend Josh Hastings finished in last place in 2007, so he sat out the 2008 season. But, as Cliburn readied for the 2009 season, Hastings let him know he was ready for a comeback.
HASTINGS: When 2009 came around I made sure to ask Justin for another invite.
CLIBURN: I had no problem welcoming him back. He was my longtime friend, and he seemed serious this time.
HASTINGS: This time I was ready. Armed with the right knowledge, I felt comfortable re-joining the league. That knowledge? A basic and simple, yet important, piece of advice: know your league's scoring settings.
DUFFY: That really can't be stressed enough. I know so many guys who base their fantasy decisions on rankings that don't reflect their own league's scoring settings. Find a site that will rank guys using custom settings and you've won half the battle.
CLIBURN: So true. It gives you a little leg-up on the competition, especially at the draft.
Finalizing the Managers
Betchan wasn't invited back due to lack of participation. Original OIL member Jessen re-joined the league, as did Josh Hastings, who brought his brother-in-law (2007 manager McLaughlin) with him. Finally, fellow 158 soldier Mike Rogers joined the league, bringing the league to 14 teams.
CLIBURN: Betchan was (and is) a good guy. I like him, but he didn't participate much in 2008 (even by deployment standards). I don't think he was too upset he wasn't invited back the following season. I met Rogers in 2008 while we were both part of the rear detachment. I talked about the OIL at drill every month and he was always interested. So I invited him once 2009 came along.
ROGERS: We'd talked about it at drill a lot, and it seemed like a really fun league. So I was glad Cliburn sent me an invite. I was a little concerned because he said everyone in the league was on the 2006 SECFOR mission, but he said it'd be okay.
CLIBURN: As far as I was concerned, what mattered is that we were all military. Being in the 158 and being on that SECFOR mission obviously made the bond stronger, but having a common identity like soldier (Hastings was an Air Force veteran) was enough for membership at that point. That, and actually managing your roster. Of course, Jessen checked off all those boxes.
JESSEN: I don't remember the conversation that got me back in the OIL, but I'm glad it happened. It was only right for me to return to the league since I'm one of its founding fathers.
CLIBURN: That's true. Remember, you were originally going to be the commissioner during the first season. But you couldn't do it because of the unreliable internet at Camp Echo. I think the whole damn league was your idea originally.
JESSEN: I forgot about that, but you did a great job taking over for me. I just wish I remembered more about why I didn't play in 2007 and 2008 before returning in 2009.
CLIBURN: I don't remember why you didn't come back before 2009, but I remember trying to convince you to come back before the 2009 season. I'm sure it happened at drill. I vaguely remember asking if you were interested in coming back. And I think you really wanted an opportunity to beat Rogers. Once you knew he was in, you were definitely all about a return.
CLIBURN: Although I'd learned from my mistakes regarding scoring settings, I made more mistakes in 2009. They began with moving to a 14-week schedule and week 17 OIL Bowl, but we'll discuss that later. The major mistake from a week-to-week standpoint was awarding a point for every 10 return yards for individuals and team defense and special teams.
PYLE: Why did you do that?
CLIBURN: The league was 14 teams, with three WRs and two flex spots. It made for a really bare-bones waiver wire. So, I added return yardage points to help offset that.
PYLE: But why do it for D/ST?
CLIBURN: The thinking was that good defenses force punts. Good special teams units get more return yards. Therefore, a good D/ST unit should get the extra reward of points for every 10 return yards. But it was poorly-conceived. In the scoring settings, there was only one option for return yards. We couldn't differentiate between punt return yards and kick return yards.
DUFFY: I remember that. That's why the Cleveland Browns defense was the number one fantasy D/ST that season.
CLIBURN: Exactly. Because A) the Browns defense got scored on a lot; so B) they received a lot of kickoffs; and C) Josh Cribbs was really good at returning kicks. That's how the worst defense in the NFL became the best defense in the OIL. Looking back at the emails from that year, it looks like Pyle knew what was going to happen:
CLIBURN: After that season, we removed return yardage from D/STs and changed the award for individuals from one point every 10 return yards to one point every 20 return yards.
DUFFY: Wasn't that the year we started using PPR too?
CLIBURN: It was. That further boosted Josh Cribbs's value.
PYLE: Artificially inflated Cribbs's value is more like it.
CLIBURN: True. But, again, I wanted to soften the effect of having 14 teams competing for so few players.
CLIBURN: 2009 was the first step towards the live drafts we strive to have every year now. I had Josh Hastings and Duffy at my house, and we all drafted together on my wi-fi.
DUFFY: Those early drafts are kind of funny now. Three guys drafting together was the biggest "draft party" we'd had at that point.
MCLAUGHLIN: I remember the day of the draft I was really sick, so a lot of my team was autodrafted. I really wasn't happy with how it turned out, and I was looking to upgrade right away.
CLIBURN: I sensed that. That's how I spend the post-draft days: scouring other rosters for potential trade partners. But I knew one opponent would not be willing to trade so quickly. Josh Hastings and I had prepared for the draft that summer together. I knew that, whoever he picked, he had a reason for it, and he wasn't going to be so willing to part with them.
HASTINGS: You're right. When I returned to the league, I had a plan to draft the most consistent players. I'd supplement them with a few waiver wire additions and bank on my drafted players hitting their stride late (just in time for the playoffs).
CLIBURN: I remember discussing your plan. I was more into drafting sure things early and lottery tickets the rest of the way. Coming off the 2008 season, I was determined to make it past the semifinals.
HASTINGS: I was on edge heading into the draft, too. I had about as much confidence as I could muster with the 2007 last-place finish still haunting me.
CLIBURN: In what became an almost-yearly tradition, Adrian Peterson was the first pick in the draft, this time by Pyle.
PYLE: He was the first pick in drafts all across the country, but he's always held higher value for us because he was a Sooner.
CLIBURN: Yeah. Sooners and Dallas Cowboys always seem to be over-drafted. I'm kind of surprised no Cowboys went in the first round. Perhaps the biggest jump from one year to the next happened with Aaron Rodgers. He was drafted in the 12th round in 2008 and led SoonerJack to a championship. One year later, he was Duffy's first-round pick.
DUFFY: He was the OIL Bowl-winning QB from the year before, and he was a Packer. I'm a lifelong Packers fan, and the Hangovers' uniforms are modeled on the Pack's. I had to have him. Of course, now I generally wait to draft a QB, but Rodgers was too enticing at 1.13.
CLIBURN: Like I said, after the heartbreak of 2008, I was determined to get the Arrogant Americans to the promised land. I spent more time that preseason researching and mock drafting than I ever had before, and the league noticed.
CLIBURN: As much as y'all criticize my level of preparation, Hastings actually branched out into creating projections and rankings of his own. I wasn't that bad. I just did a lot of mock drafts and kept a running list of ADPs.
FINCH: What the hell is ADP?
TROVILLO: It's Average Draft Position. You get a good feel for it as you do more and more mock drafts.
PYLE: I wish I had the time to prepare as much as Cliburn, but some of us have real jobs.
Like most seasons in the modern OIL, 2009 began with a blockbuster trade that sparked each franchise for the rest of the season. More trades would follow, and, the men communicated more and more through the league message board, 2009 was shaping up to be the best year yet.
The Stock Exchange
By the OIL's fourth season, trade relations were pretty good. No one was deployed either, so trade requests didn't go unreturned for weeks. Like always in those early years, it was Duffy and Cliburn who got the ball rolling.
CLIBURN: Within the first couple weeks of the season, I'd made a few trades, overhauling my team. First, I traded for Brandon Jacobs. Then I traded Ted Ginn (who was valuable due to his return yardage) to Josh Hastings's brother-in-law (McLaughlin) for Jay Cutler. Cutler had done me well the previous season, so I was happy with that decision. Then McLaughlin and I pulled the trigger on an even larger trade:
MCLAUGHLIN: Like I said, my team needed some real help. Cliburn made a trade offer that I felt I needed to pull the trigger on if I planned on being able to compete that season. That's how that trade happened. There really wasn't much back-and-forth.
HASTINGS: I remember not being a fan of that trade at all, and I still don't like it.
CLIBURN: In hindsight, it doesn't look good. If I remember correctly, though, MJD was an upgrade over Jamaal Charles (who was still playing second fiddle to Larry Johnson at that point) and Brandon Jacobs and the others weren't even starting on my team.
DUFFY: You're right that it doesn't look good. It didn't then either, but I see why you did it.
PYLE: I was just upset someone answered your trade proposal. No one ever answers mine.
Upgrading the League
For newcomers to fantasy football, it may be hard to believe there was a time when scores were not tallied in real time. But that was the case until at least 2010. Before that, commissioners had to pay extra for the privilege. 2009 was the first season the OIL did that, and it laid the groundwork for future expenditures to make the league experience better.
CLIBURN: I can't help but read "out-fucking-standing" in Duffy's voice.
DUFFY: That probably says more about me than it does you.
PYLE: Haha. I was just showing my gratitude. Most guys don't remember what it was like to have to keep track of your scores manually until they became official on Tuesday morning.
LEAL: All that matters about week one is I put the beat down on my old Baghdad roommate, Morgan.
MORGAN: Too bad you couldn't do that in the 2007 OIL Bowl. Otherwise, you'd have a trophy.
CLIBURN: Well, I put a pretty big beat down on Finch, too.
FINCH: I called it before the season even started. Your team was just too stacked.
CLIBURN: Meanwhile, Trovillo's Dirty Hippies pulled out a one-point victory against McLaughlin's Wolverines.
TROVILLO: I don't remember McLaughlin very well, but I remember being incredibly relieved when I pulled that one out.
BRUESCH: In week one, I dropped 192 points on the AMMODOGS and thought here we go! I thought I was starting a dynasty. But then I dropped my next two and then went into panic mode.
PYLE: I thought McLaughlin should be enraged by losing by one point in week one, and then I lost by one tenth of a point in week two.
CLIBURN: That was brutal. And it always seems like you're the one that happens to.
DUFFY: I have to be honest: I probably didn't understand the significance at the time. I do remember Pyle was already famous for his message board rants, and it was comical at the time. But I was always happy to get a win any way I could since they were so rare for me back then.
CLIBURN: I started out the season like gangbusters, going 3-0 with at least 168 points each week. Meanwhile, 2006 champion and 2008 co-champion Pyle went 0-2 before winning his first game in week three.
PYLE: You know I was angry going into week three. Maybe my guys picked up on that. After the frustration of 2008, I hated going 0-2.
The better the league became, the more intense the competition became. And, with fiercer competition came shorter tempers. Almost immediately, tempers flared as frustration and miscommunication set in.
CLIBURN: I was at school when I got a call from Pyle asking what was wrong with Josh. I didn't know what he was talking about; I hadn't looked at the league message board that morning.
PYLE: I was talking about losing to Duffy by .1.
CLIBURN: Man, losing by .1 would upset anybody.
HASTINGS: I remember that. That's what I get for reading fantasy football rants at 6:29 a.m. I completely misunderstood it, but it made for good league drama for a few hours.
CLIBURN: The entire miscommunication was a fiasco that hung over the league for a few days. I acted as mediator by calling and texting each manager to smooth things over. Once everyone knew what Pyle was talking about, it made sense. I mean, we like to joke about Pyle over-exaggerating his bad luck, but he does seem to have a point. Really, just look at this and tell me you wouldn't flip out too:
DUFFY: Like I said, I don't think I realized the significance of that victory at the time. But now I'd be livid if I were in Pyle's shoes.
PYLE: I was livid. I lost by one yard.
Cliburn and his Arrogant Americans were flying high after starting the season 3-0, but they faced a slew of tough opponents in weeks 4-6 that would rattle the 'Mericans' confidence.
CLIBURN: 2009 was the year Jessen returned to the league, and he definitely put me on notice that he'd be a thorn in my side for years to come. He was two tenths of a point away from dropping a 200-bomb on me in our first contest in four years.
JESSEN: I really don't remember this matchup, but it's right there in black and white. Anytime I can beat you or Duffy, it is very satisfying: you because you always do so well; and Duffy because . . . who the hell wants to lose to Duffy?
TROVILLO: Man, I loved beating Cliburn.
CLIBURN: You always love beating me.
TROVILLO: True. But that's because you were the only guy in the league I really knew personally. You got me into fantasy football and the league, so it was nice to beat you at your game, so to speak.
CLIBURN: So Pyle loses by .1 in week two and then scores 216.90 points in week six and loses? Sounds about right.
PYLE: That's why, about midseason every year, I change my team name to Not Lucky Enuf.
CLIBURN: And you almost tripled Morgan's score that week, as his Whackers only managed 82.25 points.
MORGAN: 2009 wasn't my best year.
PYLE: Or mine. The first half of the season was proof. From losing by one yard to scoring 216 points and losing to getting stuck in the tough division the very first season we used them.
Dividing the League
The 2009 season was the first with 14 teams, and it was divided into two divisions, which created scheduling difficulties that Cliburn couldn't resolve. Part of the problem was some teams played each other four times and evaded other teams entirely. That's what Schmidt was referring to when he posted this message in late October:
CLIBURN: It was a valid point. Besides, Bruesch was the defending champion. No one wants to play the defending champ four times.
BRUESCH: In hindsight, 2009 wasn't a bad year to play me four times. That wasn't SoonerJack's year.
PYLE: Wasn't that the year we started having divisions? Those were stupid.
CLIBURN: Yeah. They weren't popular. We abandoned them a couple years later because it screwed up the playoff picture and created the uneven schedule Schmidt posted about. But some guys just hated the competitive balance of the divisions.
PYLE: I was just mad because it looked like one more chip stacked against me.
CLIBURN: I know how it felt, but you know there was nothing hinky going on there.
PYLE: You know I just love to get you riled up.
DUFFY: Besides, who could have predicted which teams would be good and bad anyway?
BRUESCH: I remember seeing y'alls chatter back and forth about the divisions. I thought it was weird, too, but I was pretty busy at the time. I didn't have time to think about it or let my feelings known.
CLIBURN: Long before the playoffs began, I committed a cardinal sin of commishing a league: I changed the playoff format mid-season.
Expanding the Playoff Field
DUFFY: I was all for this because I felt maybe I could still make the playoffs if I went on a run late.
PYLE: With the way my season had gone, I knew this was my only chance for the playoffs too.
HASTINGS: I don't generally like letting over half the league get into the playoffs, but I accepted it and hoped I had a strong run at the end.
JESSEN: It didn't bother me too much. It maybe would have if you'd narrowed the playoff field though.
LEAL: I didn't like it. 2009 was my year. I was gunning for a first-round bye when that change was made. With eight teams in the playoffs, no one would receive a bye.
Weeks 7 and 8
DUFFY: In week seven, I beat Cliburn in what might have signaled the beginning of our rivalry. By this time the following season, we lived to get those bragging rights.
CLIBURN: We worked together at UPS still at this point, although not in as close proximity as we would later.
Weeks 9 and 10
CLIBURN: My real rival at this point was Josh Hastings. So I loved beating him by 30 in week nine.
HASTINGS: I sure didn't like losing to Justin, but I turned around and beat Duffy. That felt good. We'd met through Justin and become good friends by this time.
CLIBURN: And it was a high-scoring game: 180.80-169.55. Your first matchup in 2007 was 30-6 or something like that.
HASTINGS: Yeah. I think both of us were still learning in 2007. But by this time we both cared, and it felt good to win that one.
PYLE: I beat Duffy the week before. Everyone loves beating Duffy.
DUFFY: And I hate losing. Losing was like having an incurable disease I just couldn't shake. I don't remember individual games back that far, but I remember losing a lot . . . and I hate losing.
Weeks 11 and 12
CLIBURN: I got my revenge against Trovillo in week 12, routing the Dirty Hippies 146.15-80.65.
TROVILLO: This was the third year of our rivalry and you were still the only guy I truly knew personally, so I hated getting whooped like that.
CLIBURN: And Pyle got revenge on Hastings. After their message board fight in week two, they must have circled that one on their calendar. Pyle won by about four points in a high-scoring affair.
PYLE: I don't remember being overly excited about that victory. Josh and I had buried the hatchet a long time before that, and I was just happy I'd pulled out a victory.
Missing in Action
CLIBURN: Explain yourself, Morgan.
MORGAN: I don't have to explain myself. I was in nursing school and didn't pay much attention in 2009.
CLIBURN: Fair enough. I guess real life does get in the way sometimes.
Fair Play and Substantial Justice
CLIBURN: Due to Finch's 2006 and 2008 shenanigans, I preemptively reminded the league of their responsibilities regarding fair play.
PYLE: I was glad you did that. I hate when guys started mass-dropping players.
FINCH: You know I just did that to piss you off, right?
CLIBURN: Yes. We know. Still, I wanted to make it clear why I'd locked the teams.
Weeks 13 and 14
CLIBURN: I lost to Pyle in week 13, who ended up winning four straight to close out the regular season. But I took it out on Duffy the next week. Pyle is always a challenge, but Duffy and I were more and more becoming rivals. Remember, we worked at UPS together, so I loved having bragging rights at work.
DUFFY: I can remember being happy when I lost a close one, because beatdowns like Cliburn gave me in week 14 were all too regular. I was less like an NFL rookie, and more like a top baseball prospect: all the potential in the world, but not given a chance to perform at the top level until years after I was selected. The reasons are much more obvious now than they were back then.
HASTINGS: My record would look a lot better if not for that .3 loss to Jessen in week 13.
JESSEN: And mine would have looked a lot worse had it gone the other way. Those close games always seem like they come down to Monday Night Football, too.
Eight teams made the playoffs. They were:
LEAL: I was confident going into the playoffs. I'd made the playoffs for the third-straight season and earned the number-one seed for the second time. The memories of 2007 and 2008 were behind me, but I knew I had my work cut out for me. Unlike in 2007, the first two seeds did not get a first round bye. So, if I was going to get to the semifinals, I'd have to earn it.
CLIBURN: And you were going against a team that was hot late in Hastings's ThroatPunchers. He was a dangerous #8 seed.
LEAL: He was, and I didn't underestimate his team.
LEAL: If Cliburn hadn't changed the playoff format, I'd have had a first-round bye. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
HASTINGS: If he hadn't changed the format, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to beat the #1 seed either. On principle, I didn't support the decision, but I was glad I made the playoffs because my team was peaking at the right time.
CLIBURN: And Schmidt had the pleasure of knocking Pyle out of the playoffs. At that point, Schmidt and Pyle were the league's biggest rivals. But Pyle took it like a man . . . and by "take it like a man" I mean he harassed Schmidt when he lost the following week to Hastings.
PYLE: That was just such a fitting way to end the season: being knocked out of the playoffs by my main rival.
SCHMIDT: That's pretty much the only reason I stay in the league: to beat Gomer.
JESSEN: I don't think I really tried too hard on this season. I had no clue who McLaughlin was, so I wasn't that upset when I lost. Like I said, I didn't exactly give it my all my first season back. But, after 2009, I got more and more into it and really started having fun with it.
MCLAUGHLIN: I was in shock when I won by that margin. The trade I'd made with Cliburn really carried my team through the playoffs. Jamaal Charles, Brandon Jacobs, and Josh Cribbs in particular.
CLIBURN: In the first round, I knocked out Trovillo's Dirty Hippies. By this time, we'd had a pretty good rivalry developing.
TROVILLO: Definitely. We still do. I wished you the best going forward, but I hated losing to you.
MCLAUGHLIN: This is when my Cinderella season came to an end. Like I said though, I wasn't too angry. I did a lot better than I thought I would and I've become a hardcore fantasy player since then.
CLIBURN: Yeah. It seemed right that I knocked you out, since my players you got in that trade had carried your team that far. It was only fitting that your player (MJD) knocked you out. That meant I was going to play the winner of Hastings and Schmidt in the OIL Bowl.
HASTINGS: My team truly was peaking at the right time. I may have been the eight seed, but I'm pretty sure I was the favorite going into that matchup.
SCHMIDT: That was the closest I'd gotten to the OIL Bowl, so that loss stung. But at least I'd knocked Pyle out of the playoffs.
CLIBURN: That set up the OIL Bowl with my Arrogant Americans going up against my best friend's ThroatPunchers. I couldn't believe it, and I couldn't wait to earn bragging rights.
HASTINGS: I'd barely made the playoffs with a record of 7-7, but my preseason and draft strategy paid off in the end. I breezed through the first two rounds as expected. I made the championship, facing Justin's Arrogant Americans, who not only beat me every time we faced each other but had glided through the season virtually unscathed.
CLIBURN: I really thought I was assured victory. Hastings was 7-7 and had finished last in his only prior season. And I'd beaten him in the regular season by 30 points.
HASTINGS: Which made me want to beat you even more.
CLIBURN: Like I said, at the time, there was no one else I wanted to knock out of the championship hunt than Josh. We went to junior high and high school together. We played football against each other in grades 4-6 and with each other for six years after that. But, still, I didn't take him seriously. That 7-7 record and 30-point regular season victory lulled me to sleep.
HASTINGS: I could have easily been satisfied with just being in the OIL Bowl. After all, I'd gone from last place to top two. That was successful in its own right. But no. I wanted to put an exclamation point on my return by beating the commissioner in the championship game.
CLIBURN: I'd gotten here with Cutler at QB but he was pretty shaky in week 16. Meanwhile, Vince Young was blowing up. So I decided not to "dance with the girl that brung ya." I benched Cutler for Vince Young just before the games started.
HASTINGS: That was a bold move, and no one knew how it would turn out. So, the stage was set for an epic watch party.
DUFFY: And don't forget you had Arian Foster on the bench, too.
CLIBURN: I did. Unlike Cutler though, I never even considered starting Foster. That cost me.
HASTINGS: We decided to get together and watch that week's worth of football at Justin's. The day was filled with beer, food, and trash-talk.
DUFFY: The only thing that could have made that day better was if I was in the championship game myself. Everything was set up perfectly. Like they said, we had beer, food, trash-talk and a fantasy football championship on the line. And these guys had years of history together. It was great, but it was clear pretty early that Cliburn was going down.
CLIBURN: I started creating logos for all the teams using PhotoShop and my poor imagination. I had a second job as Copy Editor for The Collegian newspaper, so I had plenty of time in between classes sitting in front of a computer. When I had questions about PhotoShop, I just asked fellow Collegian editor Jim Horinek. He designed the OIL logo.
DUFFY: He was really proud of that logo, and he should have been.
CLIBURN: I didn't know what to do with DominationStation. I ended up taking the old English 'D' used by the Detroit Tigers and adding Jessen's team name. Again, these were all pretty bad, and I freely admit that.
JESSEN: I liked the first old English logo. It was simple and looked good to me.
CLIBURN: I remember Hastings telling me it was just a matter of time before the Tigers copyright lawyers came after me, but that never happened.
CLIBURN: But I was actually pretty proud of the SoonerJack logo, apart from the obvious copyright issues using the OU logo presented.
BRUESCH: I liked that logo quite a bit. I was disappointed when we had to change it.
CLIBURN: Yeah, me too. I remember buying you a SoonerJack mug to celebrate your 2008 championship. Do you still have that?
COBB: I liked the idea behind the logo, if nothing else. Cerberus really fit what I was going for the name Dogs of War.
CLIBURN: I had no idea what to do. I'm glad my co-worker suggested it. There's surprisingly very little Cerberus clip art though.
COBB: I didn't mind. No one at that point knew we'd eventually put these things on mugs and t-shirts. For where the league was, these were pretty awesome to have.
CLIBURN: Schmidt, you didn't like your first logo, did you? It's okay. You can tell me.
SCHMIDT: I actually did like the tombstone logo, even if it didn't look like a professionally-made logo. I was (and am) a funeral director, so it fit.
CLIBURN: I remember going with a pimped-out old school hearse at first, but you shot that one down.
SCHMIDT: Yeah, I wanted something more simple. My current logo is perfect. It gives off the funeral director vibe and the shield plays up my Germanic roots.
All Decade Team
Ask The Arbitrator
Buffalo Wild Wings
Games Of The Week