This is the seventh installment in our ongoing oral history project. You can read previous chapters here.
The period from the 2011 OIL Bowl to the 2012 season may have been the quietest in OIL history. With no one in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Walter Reed, the commissioner's only concern was getting the draft planned.
The 2012 draft was scheduled to be the third in a row conducted at Buffalo Wild Wings in Lawton. But their Internet wasn't working so, with just minutes until the start of the first round, the men loaded up and drove to The Hog Pin bowling alley and sports bar instead.
CLIBURN: Once we realized we weren't going to be able to draft at B-Dub's, my wife told us to go ahead and go; she'd take care of the tab. We jumped in Josh's truck and made to The Hog Pin just in time.
JESSEN: There wasn't the same atmosphere at that draft. There weren't as many guys who could make it to the live draft location, including Duffy.
CLIBURN: Duffy was going into his second year of living in his family's home state of Wisconsin. It didn't feel right not having him with us.
DUFFY: I had two drafts that day: my OIL draft, and I was working on the Norse draft at my brother's house. I was distracted and trying to do too many things at once. It was a beautiful day here in Wisconsin, and we were outside with laptops and beers. It was a very cool setup, complete with a bonfire and a TV on the deck.
BRUESCH: I remember going back and forth between Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster up until the day of the draft. Adrian Peterson was my favorite player but he was coming off ACL surgery.
CLIBURN: There were many text messages back and forth preceding the draft debating which one to take. I did the math based on projected points and found Bruesch's projected points were higher if he went Arian Foster. But, with Foster's injury risk, choosing Rodgers was a safer pick.
BRUESCH: And I went with the safer pick. I couldn't risk my number one pick missing a good chunk of the season.
DUFFY: Cliburn and I did a lot of mock drafts together at Fantasy Football Calculator.com that summer. So I felt like I had a good idea what he would do at 1.13, but then he chose Sproles.
CLIBURN: I did the math and knew Sproles was my best bet in the first, but I didn't want to tip my hand. So I never chose Sproles in any mock draft leading up to the draft so no one (including Duffy) would know how much I valued him.
DUFFY: The story of the 2012 draft though was Adrian Peterson.
CLIBURN: Remember, Peterson had torn his ACL late in the 2013 season, and no one thought he'd be the same for the first few games of 2012. That's why I chose Ryan Mathews in the second round over Peterson.
COBB: I still can't believe a league full of Sooner fan let me choose Peterson at 2.10.
Adrian Peterson finished 2012 as the number one fantasy RB, but 13 RBs (outlined in yellow) were taken before him on Draft Day.
DUFFY: We hadn't seen a draft day freefall like this since Aaron Rodgers in 2005, but only one QB was taken before Rodgers that year. In 2012, there were a lot of RBs taken before Peterson.
CLIBURN: Thirteen, to be exact. In hindsight, they were pretty dumb decisions, too: Chris Johnson at 1.06; Darren McFadden at 1.07; MJD at 1.10; DeMarco Murray at 1.14; Steven Jackson at 2.01; Ryan Mathews at 2.02.
DUFFY: I still can't believe I chose two RBs and neither of them were Adrian Peterson, but no one knew he'd recover from his ACL tear like he did. That draft was full of risk, and Cobb was the one willing to take on that particular risk.
CLIBURN: But RB wasn't the only position of uncertainty. In the sixth round, I bit the bullet and selected Peyton Manning, who missed all of 2011 with a neck injury.
DUFFY: I had 5.14 and had my choice of Philip Rivers or Peyton Manning.
CLIBURN: I was holding my breath because I really wanted Peyton, but Duffy had two picks in a row, and I wouldn't put it past him to draft them both to hedge his bets.
DUFFY: I chose Rivers because I felt he was safer. Remember, Manning had just missed an entire season due to a neck injury and he'd moved on to a new team.
CLIBURN: I knew Manning was a risk, but it was a risk I was willing to take.
DUFFY: So I chose Philip Rivers and Roy Helu back to back.
CLIBURN: I remember asking what the hell you were thinking with Helu (through the draft chat).
DUFFY: I was convinced he was going to be a PPR monster that year.
CLIBURN: He showed promise, but, in hindsight, look at those players that came off the board after him: Demaryius Thomas; Pierre Garcon; Torrey Smith; and Anquan Boldin. And that was just round six.
DUFFY: Look; I admit it was a mistake. At least I didn't take Fred Davis in the fifth round though.
CLIBURN: Hey, he wasn't a bad pick. He just had a problem staying not suspended.
Outside of a long undefeated stretch by Baldwin, the 2012 season was marked by overwhelming parity. Not much separated teams 2-10, and the playoff picture wasn't settled until the last week of the season.
Weeks 1-2's Trades
CLIBURN: I started off the trading season by trading away two rookie starting RBs and Jason Witten for Jimmy Graham and Mike Wallace.
SCHMIDT: He tried getting Graham for Witten and a scrub, but I needed RBs after my bad autodraft.
CLIBURN: I knew Martin would do well. That's why I drafted him in the third round. But I didn't know my 16th-round pick (Alfred Morris) would do so well.
CLIBURN: Going into week one, all eyes were on Bruesch's SoonerJack squad. Could he be the first to win two OIL Bowls in a row? The first to win three OIL Bowls? Would Jessen's DominationStation make it to a third consecutive OIL Bowl? Could he finally win one?
NOTE: The Hard Targets competed in 2012 as Stafford Infection. He began the season as the fuckwads before renaming his team midseason. It wasn't until 2014 that he permanently rebranded as Hard Targets.
CLIBURN: I loved starting out 2-0, but I knew I was lucky to get that second W. With only 137 points, I would have lost to a fair number of teams that week. Fortunately, Jessen's team didn't even break 100 that week. But then neither did my main rival: the Hangovers.
DUFFY: My expectations were still high even after a somewhat mediocre draft. Then I started out 0-2. But, after watching Henderson and others make a late push in previous seasons, I was upset but not panicking.
A New Tradition
In week three, Baldwin, Cliburn, and Finch went to the Buccaneers at Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
BALDWIN: My wife had gotten me the tickets for my birthday. So I took Finch and Cliburn and another Guard buddy to the game.
CLIBURN: We had a blast roadtripping down there and everything. It cracked me up when I saw Finch was wearing a Tampa Bay shirt because I knew he didn't care at all about the Bucs.
FINCH: I was just trolling the locals. We got a lot of dirty looks and yells in our direction, too.
CLIBURN: Yeah. Then, after the game (which Dallas won), everyone outside the stadium was yelling "how 'bout them Cowboys!" My team had done really well that day, so I yelled (after several $8 beers) "how 'bout them Arrogant Americans!"
FINCH: It got real quiet after that.
CLIBURN: Yeah it did. One guy said, "what'd you say?" and I said, "it's my fantasy football team." All of a sudden all was forgiven, but it felt pretty awkward there for a second.
BALDWIN: It was a great time, so we decided to make it a yearly tradition.
Weeks 3-4's Trades
After starting 0-2, the pressure was on for the managers of the Hangovers, DARC NARCS, and Hard Targets (known that season as Stafford Infection).
CLIBURN: I started out really well at 3-0, but then I got trounced by Cobb . . . again. He'd beaten the hell out of me in week four of the 2011 season, too, and it was getting pretty old.
COBB: In 2011, I had Aaron Rodgers leading the way. In 2012, I had Adrian Peterson on his revenge tour for you guys letting him slip to 2.10.
CLIBURN: By that time it was clear that Cobb was always going to be a thorn in my side. We had a pretty good rivalry going and he was winning.
COBB: We did. I knew we were rivals because I got more pleasure out of beating you than anyone else.
Our First Sponsor
CLIBURN: In September, the OIL was contacted by a PR rep for a daily fantasy start-up called FanDuel. They offered to pay for the OIL to post a sponsored article authored by FanDuel. It wasn't much money, but it was a big step for the league and its website. It felt like we were relevant.
DUFFY: I didn't think much at the time, but Cliburn, Josh, and I always knew this had potential to be a big deal. I hadn't played for money yet, so I was a believer in playing for pride. However, after playing for money, I now realize some people give up more easily when nothing else is on the line. That's why I'm glad we crafted rules and strategies to help prevent folks from tapping out like that in the OIL.
CLIBURN: I was glad to be relevant enough for someone to actually pay us to host their content, but I didn't give FanDuel much thought until much later. They pay out millions of dollars in winnings every year now. I'd like to believe we had a hand in getting them started, but I think they were early entrants into a huge untapped market.
Losing Sight of What the League is About
2012 was the low-point of the OIL in one respect: sportsmanship. The league always encouraged trash-talk, but, in 2012, the message board posts lost the good-natured tone of years past. This was especially the case with the way Cliburn handled trade vetoes.
CLIBURN: The 2012 season was characterized by trade drama. Three trades were vetoed by the league, including two involving my Arrogant Americans. Then Henderson inadvertently discovered a loophole in the Yahoo system to get out of a trade after it had been accepted. As commissioner, I tried to make the fair and just decision, even though it involved my team. So I made a new rule I hope I never have to enforce.
DUFFY: We had an issue with federalism. The DBFA was still supreme, and the leagues were bound by many fairness rules to make the week 17 World War work.
CLIBURN: If I remember correctly, the guys in the Norse were really turned off by all our in-fighting.
DUFFY: Well, the Norse guys were all used to keeper money leagues. No trade vetoes: if someone wanted to punt their season away and work on next year, they believed in letting them. They just don't believe in trade vetoes.
COBB: That's where I stand. Let managers make bad decisions if they want to.
CLIBURN: So, the Norse would have let basically any trade go through, but that was based partly on their keeper league mentality. We weren't a keeper league, and I'd always been a veto-moderate. It's a good tool to prevent collusion, but the OIL was long past the point of having to worry about that.
DUFFY: Yeah. Meanwhile, the MGL had trades being challenged by guys in the OIL who knew the same trades wouldn't stand a chance in the OIL.
CLIBURN: I'm guilty of that. I'd see my trades getting vetoed in the OIL and then see trades that seemed more lopsided (to me, at least) get approved in the MGL. So I started pointing it out and then MGL managers starting raising hell.
DUFFY: So each league had a unique mess, but the OIL might have been the most dysfunctional. Nobody believed in the Army Values once they realized they could prevent a rival from making their team better. Trades got vetoed out of spite.
CLIBURN: That's exactly what happened. But it wasn't just "a few bad apples." I think we all started viewing every trade with skepticism.
DUFFY: And I used the "buy-low, sell-high" method of improving through trades, so I knew it would only be a matter of time before I was a victim of these vetoes myself. I caved to that pressure and started voting to cock-block any trade that posed a threat to my team.
CLIBURN: I let things get to me personally that year. I should have just let things go, but I lashed out. And that was a theme all season.
COBB: It pissed me off, but I didn't let it get to me too much.
FINCH: I thought it was hilarious you were getting so upset about it.
CLIBURN: Yeah. I took it too far. Even when Pyle had his yearly message board meltdowns, there was always an understanding that he was just blowing off steam. He didn't truly didn't take things personally, and he didn't honestly accuse anyone of wrongdoing.
PYLE: Thanks, I think.
Weeks 5-6's Trades
After four weeks, the Hangovers, DARC NARCS, and Hard Targets all stood at 1-3. Something had to change fast if they wanted to make the playoffs. That's when Duffy decided to cash in on perhaps the most valuable player in PPR: Calvin Johnson.
DUFFY: My team needed a spark. We were getting the best TE in the league in Gronk and getting two PPR-worthy RBs in Spiller and Rogers.
TROVILLO: And I gave up two RBs I didn't really need along with Gronk to vastly upgrade my WRs.
TROVILLO: The two weeks after the Megatron trade seemed to justify giving up Gronk, as I scored 149.60 and 153.75 points. But I lost to the Hangovers.
DUFFY: Week five made me think I'd made a huge mistake, but I did bounce back and beat Calvin Johnson and the Hippies in week six.
DUFFY: This was so frustrating. Sitting at 2-4 really put me behind the 8-ball. It seemed like nothing I was doing was working.
HENDERSON: Same here, and I ended week six at 1-5.
CLIBURN: Every once in a while, it's good to remind ourselves that our trophy is named after a guy who won the entire ESPN.com fantasy championship while homeless. In 2012, I was in my second year of law school, and I was using that as an excuse when I didn't post the standings in time. But I knew I was wrong, so I stepped up again in week six and vowed to be more like Harrington.
Weeks 7-8's Trades
As prime bye-week season began, fantasy scores suffered. Teams won games scoring 100.70, 106.55, and 117.05 points, but a win's a win.
DUFFY: I don't remember much about this, but I was getting very frustrated with the fact that even my "star" players were getting hurt and/or underperforming. I had roster debacles weekly that season if I remember right. Drafting Roy Helu in the sixth deserved that kind of punishment I suppose.
CLIBURN: And it had to hurt seeing Peyton blow up that season.
DUFFY: But Rivers wasn't horrible.
CLIBURN: No, but Andy Dalton outscored him by 50 fantasy points. And Peyton outscored him 431 to 296.
DUFFY: In hindsight, it was the wrong choice, but it didn't ruin my season.
The Sympathy Card
After Duffy's week seven loss (dropping his record to 2-5), his rival Cliburn sent his condolences.
CLIBURN: I found a sympathy card that read "We are so sorry about your loss" in cursive and added an "es" to create "We are so sorry about your losses." I mailed it to Wisconsin and patiently awaited Duffy's response.
DUFFY: I was pissed, but Leslie thought it was funny. Then I thought it was funny . . . then I was pissed again. Either way, I wanted week 13 revenge, so I really started trying hard to wheel and deal at this point.
CLIBURN: He didn't even text me about it. He post posted it on the Hangovers Facebook page while calling us bastards.
Weeks 9's Trade
CLIBURN: Going into week nine, I was 6-2 and seriously starting to think my team had what it took to win it all.
CLIBURN: I couldn't believe Pyle's luck those two weeks. He lost two games by a combined 3.25 points.
DUFFY: I always thought Pyle was a baby about losing, but I became a believer in his Murphy's Law curse once this was posted and I started looking closer at his meltdowns of the past.
PYLE: I know I rant a lot, but, you have to admit, I have the worst luck in the OIL.
CLIBURN: You do, even if your name is Lucky Enuf. Meanwhile, I was happy the election was over, so America's patriots could turn their attentions back to the Arrogant Americans.
One Final Trade and One Final Veto
COBB: Cliburn and I kept getting screwed by trade vetoes that season. It got really old.
FINCH: We were saving you from horrible trades. you should be thanking us.
DUFFY: This demonstrated that without universal value assigned to individual players and team situations that we would never fairly assess trades. What also sparked controversy was when trades were processed...how big a window of opportunity Was to close a deal before rosters were locked, use of commish powers, etc. Something had to change.
CLIBURN: I adopted Remember the veto! as my team's rallying cry, and it seemed to work. I think I took it all so seriously that it became clear to Finch I wasn't spending my Sundays in the pews.
CLIBURN: Just as I started to think my team could finish 11-2, we got humbled twice before the all-important Rivalry Week.
BALDWIN: Beating Brick is always nice. It gave me a lot of confidence as we got closer to the playoffs, too.
PYLE: And I got to beat 2008 nemesis SoonerJack in week 12.
DUFFY: Meanwhile, I lost to Pyle and Rogers both in a row before going into Rivalry Week. All I could do then was hope for a week 13 miracle.
CLIBURN: It wasn't all bad news though. Leal won two in a row on the eve of week 13.
LEAL: And I somehow almost had the exact same score in both weeks: 134.65 in week 11 and 134.75 the following week.
Week 13: Rivalry Week
2012 was the second year of the OIL's Rivalry Week, pitting longtime rivals against each other every season in week 13. In each matchup, the team that won the previous season's Rivalry Week matchup was the home team.
CLIBURN: 2011's Rivalry Week went well. It gave managers out of the playoff hunt something to look forward to and provided a spark late in the season. So I was excited about 2012's Rivalry Week.
DUFFY: There was a paradox in place by 2012. Those who didn't take the rivalry seriously in 2011 and lost their first official rivalry game seemed to care more coming into the second year of Rivalry Week, whether they were playoff bound or not. In 2011, it felt forced, but in 2012 it felt like the first round of the playoffs. For many it was the first round, because their playoff hopes hinged on winning that matchup. And nothing improved year over year more so than the overall quality of the teams. It's become normal for five or six teams to go into week 13 still in the playoff hunt.
CLIBURN: And that's on top of all the teams that had already clinched a playoff spot.
DUFFY: Correct. It also gave everyone an incentive to keep managing their rosters all season, even if there was no way they'd make the playoffs.
CLIBURN: Not that that had been a huge problem in the OIL, but we were always looking for ways to keep the competition going all season.
DUFFY: And it wasn't just for the guys who were out of the playoff hunt either. Personally, I love to see the Pyle-Schmidt, Leal-Morgan, and Finch-Baldwin matchups at the end of the season. The energy of the league just feels different during week 13, if that makes sense.
CLIBURN: After losing to the Hangovers in 2011's Rivalry Week, it was nice getting revenge in the all-whites.
DUFFY: This was the final punch in the gut of a long, ugly season for the Hangovers. If I never have a season like 2012 again, I'll be happy.
CLIBURN: The Morgan vs. Leal matchup of Rivalry Week 2012 was one of those games that had more than pride on the line. The winner would make the playoffs. The loser would stay home. It was that simple.
MORGAN: And, just like the 2007 OIL Bowl, the Whackers were victorious over the Nobodies.
LEAL: That was a double whammy for us. We lost to our arch rival, and that caused us to miss the playoffs. All in all, it wasn't the worst season we ever had, but it was pretty heartbreaking.
PYLE: Not as heartbreaking as my season! I had the most points in the league and, even if I beat Dead Again in Rivalry Week, there was no way I could make the playoffs.
CLIBURN: Once again, Lucky Enuf had the worst luck in the OIL.
PYLE: And then I lost to Schmidt to finish with the most points in the league and a losing record.
SCHMIDT: It wasn't a great season for us, but at least Dead Again beat Lucky Enuf to close the year.
JESSEN: 2012 was pretty unlucky for me, too. I had the second-most points in the league, but I went into my Rivalry Week matchup with Rogers at 6-6. I needed a win to make the playoffs.
ROGERS: Meanwhile I had no chance at the playoffs, but I still wanted to beat my old launcher mate. But it wasn't meant to be.
JESSEN: I won by 18 point and got to move on to "the second season."
BRUESCH: A year after winning the OIL Bowl, I went into Rivalry Week 3-9. It was horrible. Rodgers was great for me, but he couldn't do it all. I lost to Cobb by a wide margin, and he went on to the playoffs.
COBB: I was excited to finish 8-5 and make the playoffs. I thought this might actually be the Dogs' year.
FINCH: I couldn't believe Yancy was 10-2 going into our Rivalry Matchup (although I still don't think Rivalry Week is as big a deal as clyburn thinks it is; you play these guys every year either way). It was his second year in the league and the second year he'd make the playoffs.
BALDWIN: Hey, I was surprised, too. But I'll take it. I was on track for the number one seed, and hoped my team didn't falter late again. But, of course, it did.
FINCH: I won in a landslide. I didn't make the playoffs, but I got to send Yancy into a tailspin heading into the playoffs.
HENDERSON: I was in last place and knew I wouldn't make the playoffs, but the NARCS still had a chance to knock the Hippies out of the playoffs.
TROVILLO: And they almost did. We lost by four points and sneaked into the playoffs with a 7-6 record somehow.
The top two seeds went to the Reapers and Arrogant Americans. The other four playoff teams were DominationStation, the Whackers, the Dirty Hippies, and the Dogs of War. Meanwhile, Cobb made it clear he was still angry about the last-minute trade veto in week 11:
Morgan's Whackers had the #4 seed and faced Jessen's third-seeded DominationStation in round one.
JESSEN: We all knew this was going to happen. I wouldn't let Morgan beat me at anything.
MORGAN: That was frustrating. Not much else to say . . . except one of us has a championship and it's not Jessen.
CLIBURN: Meanwhile, Cobb and his third-seeded Dogs of War faced the sixth-seeded Dirty Hippies managed by Trovillo in the other quarterfinal matchup.
COBB: I went into the playoffs borrowing Cliburn's battle cry: Remember the Veto!
TROVILLO: And it worked. My dream of a Harrington Trophy was over just like that.
COBB: Adrian Peterson, who Trovillo passed on in the first and second rounds of the draft, came up big-time for me. I was ecstatic and ready to beat the 'Mericans again in the semis on the way to my first OIL Bowl.
The first semifinal matchup was Bravo-on-Bravo with Jessen's DominationStation facing Baldwin's Reapers.
BALDWIN: My team floundered late again and got trounced 208.80 to 111.10. It felt like I was never going to go further than the semis.
JESSEN: That victory put me in my second-straight OIL Bowl. After losing to Bruesch in 2011, I couldn't wait to see who I was facing in 2012.
CLIBURN: It would be either me or Cobb, as my second-seeded Arrogant Americans faced Cobb and the third-seeded Dogs of War in the other semifinal.
COBB: I lost in the semifinals by three-tenths of a point . . . 0.3!
CLIBURN: Man, I felt bad for Cobb. But I wanted to win, and I wasn't going to apologize for that.
COBB: "Zero point three!" became my new rallying cry. I couldn't believe it. That's three yards.
CLIBURN: But, if you'd beaten me, you would have lost to Jessen in the OIL Bowl.
COBB: It doesn't matter. Who knows if I'd had the same lineup the following week? 0.3 . . . that was hard to shake.
CLIBURN: On the eve of the OIL Bowl, I decided to live up to my team name and boast a little. But no one responded to my obvious (to me) joke, and I just look like a dick in hindsight.
Justin C. Cliburn's Arrogant Americans
QB: Peyton Manning 33.2
RB: Darren Sproles 25.25
RB: Lesean McCoy 15.6
WR: Eric Decker 26.6
WR: Jason Avant 7.9
WR: Jeremy Maclin 12.2
TE: Jimmy Graham 26.5
W/T: Antonio Brown 10.10
W/R: Brandon LaFell 11.6
K: Justin Tucker 6.00
DEF: Chicago 9.00
Josh Hastings's ThroatPunchers
QB: Peyton Manning 33.2
RB: Know. Moreno 12.4
RB: CJ Spiller 19.1
WR: Lance Moore 16.10
WR: Dan. Alexander 10.4
WR: Julio Jones 8.6
TE: Aaron Hernandez 9.4
W/T: Kyle Rudolph 4.0
W/R: Darren Sproles 25.25
K: Matt Bryant 5.00
DEF: NYG 7.00
Ryan Osterude's Franchise & Son
QB: Aaron Rodgers 40.25
RB: Chris Johnson 13.5
RB: DeMarco Murray 9.2
WR: Dez Bryant 11.10
WR: Reggie Wayne 8.00
WR: Dan. Alexander 10.4
TE: Greg Olsen 8.3
W/T: T.Y Hilton 22.05
W/R: Kno. Moreno 12.4
K: Matt Bryant 5.00
DEF: Philly -3.0
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Salute To Service