This is the sixth installment in our ongoing oral history project. You can read previous chapters here.
Heading into the 2011 season, the NFL lockout cast a pall over the OIL. No one knew if the labor dispute would be resolved in time for fantasy football leagues to salvage the season. But this was the OIL; it had faced worse.
Newly-added Yancy Baldwin (who was on the 2006 SECFOR mission and 2008 Ramadi mission) was in Iraq again, so the lockout was the least of our concerns. We'd all been there,some of us more than once. And we'd all known Schuster before he spent months in Walter Reed. That always kept things in perspective.
Everyone hoped for the best and made plans for the season. Fortunately, the lockout was resolved, and year six of the OIL went off without a hitch.
CLIBURN: Duffy upped the rivalry ante in April by publicly calling me out.
DUFFY: And I was committed. I let Cliburn know I wasn't going to let him relax one bit. The Hangovers hated the Arrogant Americans. That extended to our respective Facebook pages.
CLIBURN: Then, shortly after Duffy's taunting, I made our rivalry official. While I was at it, I recognized all the rivalries that had developed over the years. From that point on, week 13 would be Rivalry Week.
CLIBURN: In June, I announced Rivalry Week. There wasn't much fanfare, but it was the right decision. It's grown into a great OIL tradition.
DUFFY: It has. Then that August, I helped Cliburn move to Norman. Since he was the 2010 champion, that included helping him find a place for his championship jersey and the Harrington Trophy. I can admit that I was jealous.
CLIBURN: I'd left Lawton and UPS to take a chance and go to law school. But I didn't use that an excuse:
DUFFY: That was also the summer the OIL said goodbye to a champion emeritus and hello to a familiar face: Yancy Baldwin.
CLIBURN: Remember, Josh Hastings resigned from the OIL in the summer of 2011 to commish the MGL. In the newly-minted DBFA, each manager could only be a part of one league. After Josh announced his resignation, the OIL added SECFOR member Yancy Baldwin.
BALDWIN: I was glad to be in the league. I had a blast playing in the MGL the year before, and I knew all the guys in the OIL from the SECFOR mission. So it was a perfect fit.
CLIBURN: Baldwin went with the team name Reapers. His look had a real Raiders feel to it, and I loved it.
DUFFY: It was better than his MGL name: The Reaper's Dagger.
BALDWIN: Well, I didn't know exactly what the reaper's weapon was called, and I didn't know it'd end up being so public.
CLIBURN: To be fair, I had to look up what it's called myself. Going by the Reapers was better either way though.
The 2011 draft was held at Buffalo Wild Wings in Lawton for the second consecutive season. But not everyone could get there. Baldwin was in Iraq for the third time, and he was sure to give an unnecessary apology for missing the draft. That was the kind of dedication we knew he'd bring to the OIL.
CLIBURN: Because I'd moved to Norman, I knew I was going to have to make a drive to be at the draft. But then my wife's grandmother passed away, and her funeral was the day of the draft. So, we went to her grandmother's funeral in Fort Cobb and then high-tailed it to Lawton for the draft. We arrived just in time, and I got to draft my own team.
CLIBURN: The photos were taken by my wife's best friend: Leslie. She'd met Duffy through Deanne and me and they hit it off. They started dating and she became the official photographer of the OIL.
DUFFY: Man, am I glad that worked out. Justin's wife wasn't so sure about us in the beginning.
CLIBURN: Well, it was more complicated than that. I remember Deanne telling me she'd never forgive me if you broke Leslie's heart because then we couldn't all hang out at the same time.
DUFFY: Well, so far, so good. It was awesome having an actual professional photographer at our draft.
CLIBURN: I was so sure Megatron would be gone by the time I picked at 14 that I didn't even put him in my queue. I quickly drafted DMC and Matt Forte . . . and then cringed when I saw Duffy take Calvin Freaking Johnson two picks later. I couldn't believe I'd left him on the board.
DUFFY: I had him in my queue the whole time. I think I held my breath as Justin made his pick and didn't exhale until I knew for certain I'd snagged Megatron.
CLIBURN: Since we were a PPR league, I just assumed he'd be gone by the time I picked. So I never even put him in my queue. Damnit.
CLIBURN: I couldn't believe Cobb chose Peyton Manning in the third round that year. He was coming off neck surgery and wouldn't start the season.
COBB: I took a chance. No one knew for sure when he'd return, and I was hoping he'd be trade bait.
CLIBURN: The "trade bait" strategy never seems to work though. Every potential trade partner knows you have to get rid of that guy because you can't start two QBs. It lessens the value you can get in return.
DUFFY: And QB is devalued in a PPR league anyway. I think the only one who wasn't shocked by that move was Cobb himself.
COBB: It made sense at the time. Sure, Peyton was missing the first few weeks, but then he'd be back and somebody would need a QB. Given my options, it didn't seem too bad.
CLIBURN: Well, instead of drafting Rodgers in the first and then Peyton in the third, you could have done what Bruesch did and draft Brees in the third.
COBB: Well, hindsight is 20/20, but it made sense at the time. Plus, you know how easy it is to get caught up in the excitement of draft day.
CLIBURN: It is, and that draft was especially exciting. It's always great having guys there doing it live. Unfortunately, Pyle couldn't be there that year. He was a staple of the OIL since the first season, so he and his trash talk were missed.
The 2011 season was the first to include Rivalry Week at the end of the regular season, so longtime rivals wouldn't face each other until they'd assembled the team they wanted. Every week until that point was building towards Rivalry Week first and the playoffs second.
CLIBURN: I was excited to play Pyle in week one, but I'd have preferred to play him later in the season (since both of us are constantly churning our rosters over the first half of the season).
PYLE: I wasn't as happy to face Brick in week one. I'd rather play him late in the season. The reason is I know he's going to have a good draft every year. His in-season management can be 50/50, so I'd rather take my chances late than right after the draft.
CLIBURN: In week one, Joe Flacco scored 38.4 points against the Steelers and I knew I had made the right decision trusting him to breakout as my QB1.
CLIBURN: And, once again, Bruesch's number one pick tore his ACL early in the season. This time it was Jamaal Charles, who was kind enough to wait until week two to break Bruesch's heart.
BRUESCH: All I could think was "not again!"
CLIBURN: I couldn't believe this had happened to Bruesch twice in three years. What are the odds?
TROVILLO: I felt pretty bad for him, too. But he was my opponent that week, so I couldn't be too upset. I needed a win. Of course, in hindsight, I didn't need Charles to go down to win that one because I won by 42 points. But I didn't know that at the time, so I took my win and moved on.
Admitting Your Mistakes
CLIBURN: It was actually the third round, but the point was made.
COBB: I'm man enough to admit my mistakes, but I wasn't going to let it ruin my season.
MORGAN: I ran into a buzzsaw in week three, losing to Jessen 210.80 to 151.55.
JESSEN: I was killing guys that season. I think this was the best team in my OIL career.
CLIBURN: It was great. I remember telling Pyle and Bruesch we couldn't let you win the league.
JESSEN: Why not me?
CLIBURN: Because you'd never shut up about it. You're more quiet now, but in the beginning you were pretty good at rubbing wins in guys' faces. I wasn't ready for a Jessen championship.
PYLE: I remember telling Brick I didn't think you were that bad, for whatever that's worth.
Going into weeks four and five, Yahoo!'s declaration of Jessen having the best draft seemed to be spot-on. Then he blew out his next two opponents, too.
CLIBURN: I got trounced in week four by Cobb, which would seem to become a theme. I think 2011 was the start of our rivalry.
CLIBURN: By week seven, I'd given up on Flacco. His 38-point week one game was just a tease. So I reached out to an old friend and rival: Duffy.
DUFFY: Matthew Stafford was my number one QB, just as he was in 2010. But my backup was Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he was the number-eight fantasy QB at that point in the season. This was when he was in Buffalo and Stevie Johnson was having a 1,000-yard season.
CLIBURN: So I traded my WR4 (Jabar Gaffney) for Fitzpatrick straight-up.
DUFFY: Gaffney wasn't a big name, but 2011 was his career year. He finished the season with 68 catches for 947 yards and five touchdowns. The trade made sense for both of us.
JESSEN: My team was tough. I knew I would be in good shape as long as I didn't have any injuries.
CLIBURN: In week four, Cobb's Dogs of War took me behind the woodshed. Aaron Rodgers threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns that week.
COBB: I loved beating you like that. You had a pretty good score yourself, but it just wasn't enough.
CLIBURN: It wasn't. I hate scoring 174 points and losing. That just doesn't happen. Meanwhile, my rival Duffy scored 134 points and actually won by 13 points.
DUFFY: Hey, a win's a win. I've had enough bad luck to where I won't apologize for facing a weak opponent.
CLIBURN: I was just frustrated because it seemed like I scored the second- or third-most points each week but always faced the highest-scoring team. I started understanding how Pyle feels most years.
JESSEN: That week six matchup with Bruesch was pretty epic. I scored the second-most points in the league that week but lost by less than two points. That was brutal.
BRUESCH: It was a hell of a game between two of the top teams. I forget exactly what put me over the top, but it was a fun weekend of fantasy football.
CLIBURN: After week seven, Henderson's DARC NARCS were sitting at 1-6, and it seemed like they were on track to finish in last place.
HENDERSON: I was so frustrated. I'd always won the police department leagues, and I won the league Hillier and Reed ran in Iraq in 2006. So 1-6 was maddening, but I didn't give up. I've got too much pride for that.
Weeks 8 and 9
At the halfway point of the season, DominationStation was sitting pretty at 6-1, with their lone loss coming against 2008 champion SoonerJack. The OIL was starting expect Jessen to keep on rolling and a spot in the OIL Bowl seemed inevitable.
CLIBURN: Jessen started out 8-1, and I wondered if he would threaten my all-time record of 14-1.
JESSEN: With that start, I was pretty certain I was going to win out. My RBs and WRs were carrying my team and I thought they'd eventually carry me to a championship.
BRUESCH: All I remember about that year's matchup with Cliburn was him texting me every time Laurent Robinson caught a pass.
CLIBURN: I just remember texting Bruesch "Laurent Robinson? Really?!" while he was blowing up for SoonerJack, furthering my disappointing season.
BRUESCH: I had a good draft, but picking up Robinson as a free agent may have been my best move of the season.
CLIBURN: There's always one, and he was probably it in 2011.
HENDERSON: I knew the playoffs were a long shot, but I kept on trying and won my next two after that 1-6 start.
At 8-1, all eyes were still on DominationStation as the home stretch began. But his QB struggles caught up to him, and he went into Rivalry Week on a three-game losing streak.
CLIBURN: When I lost in week 11, I knew my playoff chances were pretty much doomed. I was 4-6 going into that game with a chance of finishing 7-6 and winning the playoff tiebreaker of most overall points. But Baldwin beat me in a low-scoring affair and ensured the Arrogant Americans' first losing season.
JESSEN: I forgot one of my three losses to end the season was by a tenth of a point.
CLIBURN: Yeah. I forgot too. That's one yard.
CLIBURN: I remember writing this. I hated having a losing record, and I wanted to reassure myself that I hadn't lost my touch. Everyone has bad luck sometimes. 2011 was my time.
Week 13: Rivalry Week
The first Rivalry Week didn't disappoint. Leal got revenge on Morgan for the 2007 OIL Bowl. Baldwin claimed bragging rights over Finch in his first season in the league. Duffy trounced the Arrogant Americans held it over Cliburn's head until the next season. Schmidt's Dead Again beat Lucky Enuf in the latest chapter of their rivalry. And newly-formed rivals NARCS and Hippies had a game decided by just over one point.
DUFFY: I loved beating the 'Mericans to close the regular season. It's always good to beat your rival, but I was also gunning for a first-round bye. That didn't happen, but I still had bragging rights over Cliburn.
CLIBURN: Plus, I was pissed that our week seven trade totally screwed me. I gave up a WR having a career year for the number-eight fantasy QB. Then, as soon as I got him, Fitzpatrick went to shit and had an 8:8 TD:INT ratio the rest of the fantasy season.
JESSEN: I liked getting off my losing streak to beat Rogers in the very first Rivalry Week, but I had my sights set on the playoffs.
PYLE: This was just a final kick in the pants in a terrible season.
SCHMIDT: I didn't have the best season, but at least I beat Gomer.
LEAL: I liked Rivalry Week because it gave me something to look forward to even though I wasn't going to make the playoffs. And I got to end the season on a high-note, beating my old Baghdad roommate.
BALDWIN: And I got to beat my old Baghdad and states-side roommate on my way to the playoffs. It was a great first season in the OIL. Rivalry Week was a nice touch.
COBB: I still think my true rival is Cliburn, but I liked beating former champion Bruesch on the way into the playoffs. Our rivalry is getting better, but I like beating Cliburn more.
CLIBURN: If Henderson wanted any chance of the making the playoffs, he'd have to win against his new rivals: Trovillo's Dirty Hippies. After starting out 1-6, he was at 6-6 with an outside chance at the playoffs.
HENDERSON: I didn't make the comeback I was shooting for, but I was happy winning six in a row to finish with a winning record.
TROVILLO: I hated losing that matchup, but I kind of had to tip my hat to the NARCS since they'd started out so poorly.
CLIBURN: We all did. Plus, tipping my hat to Henderson distracted me from the stompdown the Hangovers put on me to end the season. At that point, I knew I wasn't making the playoffs, but I thought I could at least beat my rival.
Duffy's Hangovers set a new OIL record for trades that season with 10. And, since Cliburn wasn't going to the playoffs, he focused his post-regular season time on analyzing the Hangovers roster before and after his biggest trade of the season: shipping away Calvin "Megatron" Johnson.
DUFFY: I don't doubt those statistics were accurate, but it's not that simple. I made several other moves in the interim that could have affected my team more than that Megatron trade.
CLIBURN: You gave up 96 catches for over 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns. How do you do that?
DUFFY: But I got a 1,000-yard receiver in return (with seven touchdowns) and a 1,350-yard RB with 11 touchdowns. My team may have faltered down the stretch, but it wasn't because of that trade.
CLIBURN: The first week of the playoffs, I text Cobb to ask when he was going to give up the ghost and drop Peyton Manning. His response cracked me up.
The first playoff matchup pitted the Reapers against the AMMODOGS in a battle of two of the OIL's newer franchises.
BALDWIN: I was surprised to make the playoffs in my first season. But I didn't know Rogers too well, so I didn't talk much trash. Plus, I was still overseas.
ROGERS: I hated losing so early again, but I was proud I made the playoffs. It seemed like the rest of you guys knew so much more about fantasy than I did at that point.
CLIBURN: The other quarterfinal matchup featured two 2007 additions to the OIL: the Dogs of War vs. the Hangovers.
COBB: I don't have much to say here. I got trounced.
DUFFY: I won that won easily, partly due to the six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown Gaffney had. Thanks, Cliburn.
Then Baldwin and Jessen met up in the semifinal matchup featuring two former Bravo Battery soldiers.
BALDWIN: I guess my fairy tale had to end at some point. My entire team just fell apart that week.
JESSEN: I was ecstatic to be going to the OIL Bowl, but I didn't like that my team only scored 128 points in the semis. I hoped that was an aberration.
CLIBURN: And, in the other semifinal, Duffy played 2008 champion Bruesch. I have to admit; I was rooting for the Hangovers because they'd yet to make the OIL Bowl.
DUFFY: I really thought I was going to win. I think we (at least Cliburn and I) figured out that past champs always had a deep WR corps, and we started rethinking about RB value and future draft strategies. This was the first year also that there was talk past the league championship: we were looking for the best team to represent the OIL in the DBFA championship. I couldn't be too angry scoring 146 points late in the season when bad weather games and conservative coaches stymied fantasy production . . . but I was pissed. We were so close, but Bruesch's squad was too strong.
BRUESCH: I couldn't believe I was getting a shot at a second championship, especially after a couple down years since my first title. Going into the OIL Bowl, I was excited but not incredibly confident because Jessen's team looked the best all season.
The inevitable became reality when Jessen's DominationStation met Bruesch's SoonerJack in the OIL Bowl. It was a clash of styles as Jessen's team was led by a strong RB corps (including a RB in one of his flex spots) and a below-average QB. Meanwhile, Bruesch made it that far starting five WRs and an elite QB. His RBs were below-average but did just enough each week.
BRUESCH: I did it! We'd won our second championship, and this time it wasn't contested. There was no tie and default tiebreaker. I was the champion. It felt great.
JESSEN: Meanwhile, I was crushed. In the end, my lack of quality QB play hurt me.
CLIBURN: 2011 marked a changing of the guard. Three-RB monsters were no longer the model. You just needed a good group of WRs and a QB that was above-average.
CLIBURN: I had terrible luck that year and finished in 10th place. I like to blame it on law school, but it was a mixture of untimely injuries and bad moves on my part.
DUFFY: That championship team caught us all by surprise. It didn't look that great on paper, but he'd gone 11-4 and won the OIL Bowl.
BRUESCH: Drew Brees, Jordy Nelson, Pierre Garcon and Laurent Robinson really carried my team that year. The rest were just great role players.
2011 OIL Champion SoonerJack (11-4)
World War II