This is the ninth installment in our ongoing oral history project. You can read previous chapters here.
2014 was a big year. Alpha and Bravo Battery deployed again, this time to Afghanistan. The OIL joined the Yardbarker Network. Two longtime rivals chronicled their rivalry in an oral history. The league, fresh off losing a SECFOR brother, added 14 new teams as the league moved to a conference model. Cliburn spearheaded an oral history project to document the year in Iraq the men shared, and the men lost another brother-in-arms.
The OIL Heads to Afghanistan
ROGERS: This was my fifth season in the OIL, but it was my first deployment. I was in the 158 before their 2006 deployment and re-joined later. I wasn't sure how well I'd do competing from overseas, but I knew everyone else in the league had done it at some point.
ZERGER: This was my first year in the league and my first and only time in Afghanistan (although I'd been to Iraq twice). It brought back a lot of memories seeing familiar names that I hadn't necessarily forgotten but hadn't talked to in a while. I do believe that systems such as our league keep veterans in touch and might help some of our brothers reach out if they need help or something.
Chronicling a Rivalry
DUFFY: Cliburn and I had joked for a couple years about covering our rivalry like a legitimate newspaper would cover the great rivalries of the NFL, but we didn't know how best to do it.
CLIBURN: That changed when I read a book produced by the oral history organization StoryCorps. The concept they used was so simple that I knew we could replicate it.
DUFFY: It turned out great, even though we were probably the only two people who read it.
CLIBURN: Yeah, but it was fun to put together and set the stage for bigger projects later.
CLIBURN: I was the first to think about ordering a custom helmet. When I found HelmetNation, I knew I'd found the right company. We worked out a deal with their owner and put in a deal for the Arrogant Americans and Hangovers.
DUFFY: The helmets were incredibly well done. I would highly recommend HelmetNation to all the hardcore FFers out there.
CLIBURN: It's hard to tell in the photos, but the quality was superb. I've since created championship mini-helmets for a few teams on my own and the quality level isn't even close.
DUFFY: No. These things use 20mil vinyl decals and everything. Everyone who sees my helmet asks me where I got it.
CLIBURN: Here is the interview we posted on the website with the owner of HelmetNation.com:
Where are you located? I am located in Stansbury Park, Utah. It is just outside of Salt Lake City.
Joining the Yardbarker Network
CLIBURN: I forget how I stumbled onto Yardbarker, but I remember seeing a link to click for applications. I figured what the hell? and signed up.
DUFFY: Yardbarker is part of Fox Sports' network of sports blogs. That's big time.
CLIBURN: It is. In the offseason, we get 100-200 referrals each month from Yardbarker. It's obviously much higher during the season. It gives us an air of legitimacy.
OIL Teams in Action
Over the summer, the men got over the offseason blues by waiting for the next 'OIL in Action' image to be posted.
CLIBURN: I was browsing Fiverr.com and found someone advertising a gig offering to Photoshop your fantasy football uniform onto an NFL player and thought we had to do this. That's what gave me the idea of developing uniforms for each team. It made the OIL feel more real. Here's a quick Q&A with the designer, Ryan Hannebaum:
CLIBURN: What software do you use to "skin" players?
HANNEBAUM: Most of the work is done in Adobe Photoshop. When I have to recreate a logo (or create one from scratch), I use Adobe Illustrator, because it creates vector graphics--basically, graphics that can be scaled up infinitely without losing quality.
CLIBURN: How long does it typically take to complete a "skin"?
HANNEBAUM: It varies quite a bit based on the uniform's complexity, but I'd say the average is between one and two hours.
CLIBURN: How many players have you "skinned"?
HANNEBAUM: I started doing this for my league in 2007 and have done it every year since. That would be roughly 98 skins, plus bonus ones for the playoffs. On fiverr I did 21, and on reddit I did another 10. So I'd say I've done north of 150 all told.
CLIBURN: How'd you get started "skinning" players on Fiverr?
HANNEBAUM: I used to check out reddit for fantasy football news for my own team, and someone on there asked if anyone did custom uniforms for fantasy teams. I did a handful of uniforms for users on there, and someone told me about fiverr and suggested I might as well make a little cash for my efforts. That's how I got started on fiverr, but it quickly became apparent to me that the money didn't come close to justifying the time I was spending on the skins, so I had to bow out.
CLIBURN: What'd you think of the OIL's team logos?
HANNEBAUM: I was happy to see that there are other leagues out there as crazy as ours (the JADDL: Jared Allen's DDs League). It makes me happy when people take enough pride in their teams to come up with logos and backstories. After all, fantasy football is just an excuse for us to stay in touch with our friends as life pulls us further apart. (And it's great for talking trash.)
CLIBURN: Do you have a favorite OIL team name or logo?
HANNEBAUM: Nah, I won't go that far. My personal aesthetic--clean and simple--would lend itself to the Reapers' jerseys, even though I'm a Chiefs fan and they resemble the Raiders.
CLIBURN: Which team design did you enjoy creating the most?
HANNEBAUM: The Hippies uniforms were fun to create since they were so different. Getting that tie-dye to morph with the fabric realistically was no easy feat. Coming up with the railroad tracks down the front of the DominationStation unis was interesting as well.
Starting the AFC
CLIBURN: After Killman's funeral on New Year's Eve 2013, I thought we need to expand the league to include more SECFOR guys. And I knew that we couldn't do it half-assed either. We needed it to emulate the original OIL as much as possible. That included team logos and uniforms (click any team logo below to view that franchise's uniforms). I loved helping create the identity of the AFC. Each team had a story.
CLIBURN: Why'd everyone choose their team names?
ADAM SCHUSTER: Because Cliburn didn't like my original name of Delta Drinkers.
CLIBURN: That wasn't bad (Schuster was at Camp Delta in Iraq), but I thought you could do better. And you said you wanted something that was military-related but funny.
SCHUSTER: So Negligent Discharges seemed to fit.
CLIBURN: I love that the logo is a smoking barrel.
LYNN: I started homebrewing beer when I lived in Fort Worth, so I went with Brewmasters. I loved the color scheme and the uniforms our designer came up with.
JAMES PEACOCK: I was going to roll with Gut Twisters, but Cliburn talked me out of it.
CLIBURN: Well, Peacock was in the original OIL in 2006 before getting out of the 158 and losing touch. His name that season was simply the COCKS. I just felt that had to be the team name going forward, but playing up the Peacock element.
NICK GREEN: I'm a history buff and enjoy reading about our military heritage. That's why I chose Doughboys. I just love the old school nostalgic feel the logo gives off.
HILLIER: I guess I'm not that creative because I just went with Thomas's Team until Cliburn suggested I use Hillier FF.
CLIBURN: I felt that was better than Thomas's Team and evoked classic European sport team names. And I liked the idea of a single H with "wings" creating an F on either side.
HILLIER: I liked it too, especially the color.
NEELY: I wanted a logo inspired by Gangs of New York.
CLIBURN: I remember laughing out loud when the designer said he'd need more direction. ". . . because right now all I have is a photo of Daniel Day-Lewis," he said.
WALT MUSSELMAN: My squad was really loud and rowdy while training at Fort Lewis, so I took to calling us the Mutinous Apes.
DON ROE: I chose Rebel Alliance first because I'm a Star Wars fan. Secondly, it's a great story of a fight against tyranny. I love the rebellion logo and colors that make up my team logo.
LANCE ZERGER: I chose Redlegs because of the rich tradition the Redleg heritage and what it means to be Field Artillery. The emblem ties in our battalion with the historic thunderbird.
REED: I own a woodwork shop in Duncan, so Sawtooths fit perfectly since that's my primary tool.
FITZGERALD: Cliburn suggested Steel Reign as a play on the nickname of the MLRS: Steel Rain.
STEPHEN BROSH: I played on the fantasy football term when I named my team the Vultures. Cliburn suggested it and I loved it.
BRYAN NYE: I had no idea what I was going to be after Cliburn shamed me for using Donkey Punch. He recommended Warm Bodies because that's what we were in Iraq. We didn't get to do our Artillery jobs; we were just pawns. So we used the pawn imagery in the logo.
JIMMY VENABLE: And I named my team after the 1966 Mustang I bought after I got back from Iraq in 2007.
CLIBURN: Once we knew we were adding a second conference, we had to add a second trophy. And the name for it seemed obvious: the Killman Memorial Trophy.
REED: I liked the idea. Cliburn went ahead and ordered it and I waited for it to arrive.
CLIBURN: Reed volunteered to be the AFC commissioner (we originally referred to it as the OIL2), so he held onto it during that first season.
Starting the Oral History
CLIBURN: In 2013, StoryCorps published a conversation between my wife and me in a collection of stories in their ongoing oral history project. When I saw the book format, I thought "I can do this." So, I started sending out questions and writing prompts to all our guys so we could chronicle our year in Iraq and beyond.
CLIBURN: I don't know how much the guys liked it, but this project became very important to me. I spent just about all my free time working on it. What did you guys think? Were my emails and questions annoying?
BRUESCH: I didn't think they were annoying. I thought the whole idea was pretty cool.
PYLE: I loved it, although I never have as much time to answer the prompts as I'd like.
JESSEN: Same here. I usually just text answers here and there.
DUFFY: I really enjoy keeping seeing each chapter come together. I wish I had more time to contribute, but I'm glad Cliburn makes the time. I had to do this in bursts, but if I wasn't asked repeatedly I would probably not have completed the mission. I did not expect a volume of work so great. I figured it would be neat website information. Obviously, my expectations have been exceeded.
CLIBURN: I get a lot of guys asking how I find the time. But I don't have children and I usually work on it while watching TV with my wife. I'm the king of multi-tasking.
Rebranding: From Reapers to Roughnecks
CLIBURN: As we moved to more of a franchise feel to each team, I thought Schmidt's Dead Again and Baldwin's Reapers looked too similar. Compare Dead Again . . .
. . . with the Reapers:
CLIBURN: So I asked Baldwin if he'd be willing to rebrand as the Roughnecks.
BALDWIN: It made sense because I was a roughneck.
CLIBURN: And he liked my vision for the team. So we contacted our designer and developed what I think is a great look.
BALDWIN: Not that the old look was bad.
CLIBURN: It wasn't. But I wanted something more personal to you and something that stood out from the rest of the teams.
CLIBURN: And, since Baldwin gave up his entire franchise identity in the process, I made sure to reward him with some Roughnecks swag.
BALDWIN: I take that mug everywhere. It looks amazing.
CLIBURN: It came from our CafePress store. You can find just about anything there.
The draft is two days away. To refresh, the 2014 OIL draft will be held at 1500 on Sunday at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Bricktown Oklahoma City. Remember to show up early, meet up on the second floor, and bring an internet-connected device to draft with. Guys that can't make it, know that you're okay. You can draft online from wherever you are.
So the men all met at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Bricktown Oklahoma City for the 2014 draft. Members of both conferences were present, although some had to leave before this photograph. The NFC drafted first with the AFC, due to a scheduling error, starting two hours later.
CLIBURN: With the first pick in the draft, Cobb planned on taking Adrian Peterson, but the pressure got to him and he flubbed the pick.
COBB: I accidentally chose LeSean McCoy. I don't know what happened, but I wasn't happy.
TROVILLO: I wasn't able to make it to the draft, but I at least got to draft my own team online that year. 2013 was horrible after my team was autopicked.
NFC: Team-by-Team Drafts
AFC Draft Fiasco
The AFC draft was scheduled for two hours after the NFC's. Unfortunately, by then, Yahoo! was experiencing technical difficulties that resulted in draft day chaos nationwide.
HILLIER: That's how I drafted a kicker in the first round. I sure didn't do that on purpose.
CLIBURN: I couldn't believe the league didn't vote for a redraft after that.
NEELY: Me either. But we had to soldier on.
AFC: Team-by-Team Drafts
Trade Controversy . . . Again
CLIBURN: Of course, it didn't take long for the league to veto another Cliburn trade. This one involved Cliburn and Leal and centered around Marshawn Lynch.
FINCH: Every year you rip someone off on a trade and every year I call you out on it. But somehow people still keep trading with you.
CLIBURN: I do it just to see gems like these from you on the message board.
CLIBURN: But Finch's bullying worked and Leal revoked his consent for the trade . . . so it was vetoed like so many other Arrogant Americans trades in the past.
'Mericans Take a Risk . . . and Lose
CLIBURN: Before the 2014 season, Ray Rice was suspended for two games due to a domestic violence incident. He was dropping like crazy in the draft, so I took a chance and drafted him in the sixth round. Yes, there were concerns about rooting for a guy who had punched his wife, but we'd won an OIL Bowl in 2010 with Michael Vick at QB. Plus, it was only two games . . . then the surveillance video of Rice knocking out his then-fiancée. So I quickly traded him to Schmidt until the NFL announced Rice would be suspended indefinitely.
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.
NFC Weeks 1-2
DUFFY: After Leal dropped Josh Gordon, I swooped in for him and hoped he'd be my late-season savior.
DUFFY: Sigh. I just had to have Megatron and ended up giving too much for him.
CLIBURN: Which is funny because the attitude around the league was that you'd ripped off Trovillo.
TROVILLO: There were definitely guys who felt I'd been duped, but I knew what I was doing.
CLIBURN: After Finch led the charge to veto my trade, I loved stomping the shit out of him in week one. So I commemorated the occasion by hiring a Reddit user to Photoshop an Arrogant Americans uniform onto Antonio Brown kicking the Browns punter (with FINCH on the nameplate) in the face.
FINCH: Only clyburn would spend money to talk trash about a fake football matchup.
AFC Weeks 1-2
REED: I started out the season with a win against fellow Comanche guy Peacock.
PEACOCK: It wasn't a good start for my return to the OIL, but at least I beat fellow First Platooner Schuster the next week.
Dejá Vú All Over Again
In the first week of the season, Bruesch once again dealt with the loss of his first round pick. In 2008, he lost Tom Brady to a torn ACL. In 2011, he lost Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL. But, in 2014, he lost his first round pick to the legal system.
BRUESCH: I couldn't believe Peterson fell to me in the draft. Then I was in even greater disbelief when he was arrested. At first I thought he'd be back soon though.
COBB: Man, I really dodged a bullet there, didn't I?
CLIBURN: After a couple seasons of acrimonious trade vetoes, I decided to poll the league on switching to third-party review of trades.
CLIBURN: The poll went about as I'd imagined and we hired MyFantasyCommish.com to review our trades.
FINCH: We wouldn't even need trade review if no one ever traded with clyburn.
Kettle, this is Pot. Come in, Kettle. You are black, over.
CLIBURN: If you didn't get the joke, 2006 was the year we were in Iraq. Any time Finch (or any of us) would leave "home" (the base), he had to wear full body armor, a helmet, protective lenses, and gloves.
From Teams to Franchises
Shortly after the season began, the OIL hired Andrew Krause to design uniforms for all 28 teams.
CLIBURN: We were incredibly satisfied with the work Andrew did with our uniforms. We posted an interview with him on the website shortly after:
How long have you done graphic design?
NFC Weeks 3-4
DUFFY: Neither of us were very happy with our RB1s. So it made sense to trade them and see if something changed. That's the story behind this one.
In week three, one OIL manager had the presence of mind to add a rookie WR coming back from injury:
TROVILLO: Beckham was out to start the year and there was word he was coming back soon.
CLIBURN: Then Victor Cruz got injured for the season, too.
TROVILLO: Exactly. It was a perfect storm for Beckham and I was lucky enough to snag him off the waiver wire.
Keeping with tradition, Cobb had a game decided by less than a point. He beat Jessen in week three 127.70-126.75.
BALDWIN: My QB (Eli Manning) scored almost 40 points that game . . . and I still lost by 20+ points. That was pretty frustrating.
AFC Weeks 3-4
Going into week three, no one team had really stood out from the rest. And, this being the first season of the AFC, there was no history to refer to in order to predict how the season would unfold.
Three teams broke 190 points in week four: Fitzgerald; Green; and Venable.
NEELY: I couldn't believe I scored 166 points and still lost by 30.
CLIBURN: The custom jersey for the conference champion tradition wasn't started until 2014. That's when I asked the league about it, and they overwhelmingly approved the measure.
NFC Weeks 5-6
CLIBURN: I lost to Morgan in week five, but Trovillo avenged my loss for me the following week.
MORGAN: I got screwed in week six.
TROVILLO: It's hard to argue with you there. It's not very often you score 168 points and lose.
MORGAN: . . . and lose by .15 points, too.
AFC Weeks 5-6
Meanwhile, Neely was losing both big and small in the AFC.
NEELY: I lost by a mere 2.6 points to Brosh and thought my team was about it hit its stride . . . but then I got trounced by Reed the next week.
NEELY: I waited until week six to pull the plug on Adrian Peterson. But getting rid of AP provided the roster space for the free agent pick-up of the year in Odell Beckham, Jr.
NEELY: I ended week six at 2-4. It was time to let go of the dream of a Peterson return and pick up someone who could help now.
CLIBURN: It was a fortuitous time to pull the plug on AP since Beckham was coming back from injury.
NEELY: Beckham was awesome. He fueled a second-half surge for the Hooligans.
CLIBURN: ODB was the catalyst for a lot of fantasy teams that year.
During the 2006 mission, the men of the 158 dealt with the combat death of California Army National Guard SFC Isaac Lawson. Lawson was killed while traveling with a 158 squad north of Baghdad. Then, in 2013, they lost SECFOR member SPC Joseph "Jody" Killman, as well as former 158 member 1LT Brandon J. Landrum, who served with the 158 in Ramadi and was killed while on active duty in Afghanistan. But the bad news kept on coming.
Losing Another SECFOR Brother
CLIBURN: Ten Man was a great guy. I have good memories of him on the SECFOR mission.
PYLE: We all liked Ten Man. That was a shock when I heard he was gone.
LEAL: It was very unexpected for me. I just saw him a few weeks earlier at Wal Mart stocking shelves. We talked about him moving back to Norman and how good it was seeing each other. Very unexpected.
CLIBURN: We were already thinking of a name for the week 17 trophy, so we decided to name it in Ten Man's honor.
DUFFY: I remember telling Cliburn I thought it was a great idea, but I wish we'd run out of dead friends to name things after.
CLIBURN: It was a great point. I liked using our little fake football league to honor these men we respected and lost. But I hated that we'd lost them.
PYLE: We all did. It was too early.
LEAL: Way too early. It really hit home that we needed to keep in touch with everyone because we didn't know when someone could be lost.
CLIBURN: Exactly. And the thinking was that naming these trophies after these guys would remind us all to keep in touch, to check on each other.
NFC Weeks 7-8
CLIBURN: This was the first time our third-party trade review almost vetoed a trade. But he spoke to Baldwin about it and was convinced it was what Baldwin wanted to do. Baldwin himself reached out to the league to assure them he wanted this trade to happen and to tell them to quit taking things so seriously:
TROVILLO: Then, as it turned out, Hilton outperformed Bernard the rest of the season.
DUFFY: By week seven, I knew I needed a jolt in order to make the playoffs. So I got tired of waiting on Josh Gordon to come back from suspension and traded him to Finch for a WR that was actually playing: Brian Quick.
FINCH: Quick wasn't starting for me, so I could afford to wait on Gordon to come back.
CLIBURN: And then, the following week, Quick was injured and put on IR.
FINCH: I really dodged a bullet there.
DUFFY: That's when I knew the fantasy gods hated me. The Hangovers weren't going to catch a break, so I got aggressive and put all my eggs in the top-QB basket.
BRUESCH: I had Romo, who was having a fantastic year. So I traded Aaron Rodgers to Duffy to upgrade my WR corps.
DUFFY: Both our teams were at a crossroads. We each needed to practically win out if we wanted a chance at the playoffs. So the trade made sense. It also freed up Matthew Stafford as trade bait. I sent him to Trovillo's Dirty Hippies for Devin Hester, who was actually doing really well at WR for the Falcons.
TROVILLO: And I turned around and swapped Stafford for Doug Baldwin, the WR1 in Seattle at the time.
BALDWIN: I had Eli Manning at QB. His total points were good, but he was so damn inconsistent that I felt Stafford was an upgrade.
While the AFC's Hooligans gave up the ghost in week six, it was week seven before Bruesch finally gave up on Adrian Peterson:
BRUESCH: I held on as long as I could, but I needed help elsewhere. And all the media reports said it was unlikely he'd be reinstated.
CLIBURN: Unfortunately for Bruesch, Odell Beckham was long gone at that point.
Week seven was the most tightly-contested week in OIL history: Morgan beat Baldwin by .4; Rogers beat leal by .25; Henderson beat Jessen by .7; and Pyle beat Finch by .85.
AFC Weeks 7-8
REED: Halfway through the season in the AFC, it was really anybody's league.
CLIBURN: The only surety was that Briscoe wasn't making the playoffs, since he quit managing the roster before week one.
REED: That's why he's [Team Redacted].
CLIBURN: Yeah. I asked if he was interested in it, and he really wasn't. So we just changed his team name so his team wouldn't show up in the league archives. It wasn't mean-spirited. It was just so it'd be clear in the archives that this team didn't really exist.
REED: After starting 6-1, Schuster finally got beat again.
SCHUSTER: Of course it had to be against Sergeant Major, too.
NFC Weeks 9-10
TROVILLO: I go into every matchup with Cliburn treating it like Rivalry Week, but especially in 2014. My team was looking great, and I wanted to beat the two-time champions for some real validation.
CLIBURN: I'd told my wife, outside of me, I was rooting for Trovillo the most to win the OIL Bowl that year. The Hippies had never gotten close to a championship, and I knew how much a title would mean to Trovillo. Well, that ended after the 'Mericans got beat down by the Hippies in week nine. After that, all bets were off.
PYLE: Of course, my bad luck continued when I lost by less than a point to Yancy's Roughnecks in week 10.
TROVILLO: And I lost by only 2.65 points to Bruesch.
CLIBURN: By week 10, there were rumors Peterson would be reinstated . . . and the number one team in the league just happened to have the number one waiver priority.
FINCH: I loved adding Adrian Peterson to my team. We were already the best team in the league.
AFC Weeks 9-10
The close games continued when Musselman's Mutinous Apes started week nine by clipping Reed's Sawtooths 150.30-150.10.
REED: I couldn't believe I lost to Musselman in week nine. He was 0-8 going into that game!
MUSSELMAN: I know that had to sting. I was 0-8 and then I beat Reed by .20. Then I turned around and beat Schuster. It was too late for a winning season, but I was feeling a lot better after such a horrible start.
NFC Weeks 11-12
Duffy's Hangovers kicked off week 11 by beating Morgan's Whackers by almost triple-digits.
CLIBURN: After Finch traded for Josh Gordon, I posted the Josh Gordon prayer I saw at reddit.com/r/fantasyfootball:
FINCH: That was pretty accurate. With the number one seeds looking more and more likely, getting Gordon back seemed like the clincher for me to get my first title.
AFC Weeks 11-12
As the season wound down in the AFC, Schuster just needed to win two more games to ensure a playoff berth. After losing to Nye's Warm Bodies, his playoff hopes hinged on his week 12 matchup with Lynn's Brewmasters.
SCHUSTER: Meanwhile, my slide continued as I lost to Nye and then Lynn. It wasn't a good way to go into week 13 and the playoffs.
NFC Week 13: Rivalry Week
One more year after establishing Rivalry Week, the energy during week 13 was intense. Everyone was amped to end their season by beating their rival, but not everyone could win.
CLIBURN: After losing the 2013 Rivalry Week matchup to Duffy, I hated losing again in 2014.
DUFFY: I was just glad to get revenge for my 2013 playoff loss to Cliburn. I'd traded him LeSean McCoy for Eddie Lacy, and it looked like I won that exchange.
LEAL: I hate losing to Morgan.
CLIBURN: What was great about the AMMODOGS/DominationStation matchup was that, not only was it for Rivalry Week bragging rights, the winner would make the playoffs while the loser went home.
ROGERS: I was still in Afghanistan when my AMMODOGS stomped Jessen to clinch a playoff berth. This was maybe my most satisfying victory in the OIL.
PYLE: We busted out the alternate neon green jerseys for this one and beat Schmidt easily. That made it two in a row for Lucky Enuf.
FINCH: I finally got revenge on Baldwin, who'd won the last two or three against me. Plus my victory ensured a number one seed in the playoffs. It was a great way to go into the first-round bye.
BRUESCH: My season probably wasn't going to end in the playoffs, but at least I beat 2013 champion Cobb in week 13.
TROVILLO: We closed out a fantastic regular season with a big win during Rivalry Week and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
AFC Week 13
CLIBURN: 2014 was the first year of the AFC, so Rivalry Week wasn't established yet. Still, there were some interesting matchups. The Vultures/Cocks game featured former First Platooners Brosh and Peacock. Second Platoon-mates Hillier and Musselman matched up. Camp Delta buddies Fitzgerald and Schuster faced off. And Bravo Battery veterans Neely and Lynn finished the regular season against one another.
REED: I finished the season with a victory, which ensured a winning season. But it wasn't enough to make the playoffs. Still, it was a successful season overall.
2014 was marked by epic collapses in each conference.
JESSEN: I had a lot of bad luck that season. I had seven losses but one was by .95 points. Another was by .70 points. A third was by less than six. And I scored 182 points one week and still lost by 40.
SCHUSTER: I got complacent. I thought my team was so good I didn't need to stay on top of the waiver wire. In the end, it cost me.
Making a Comeback
In contrast, Musselman stuck with it . . . even after a 0-8 start to his first season of fantasy football.
CLIBURN: Musselman had told me he'd never played fantasy football before, and he made some rookie mistakes. But, even after losing eight straight games to start the season, he kept trying. I liked that. I respected that. That's how his Mutinous Apes won four of their last five.
MUSSELMAN: It was my first season and I really didn't know what I was doing at first. Once I figured it out, it was too late to make the playoffs. But it was fun playing spoiler. Le'Veon Bell carried my team all season.
Only one previous champion made the NFC's playoffs: Cliburn's Arrogant Americans. So, going into week 14, it seemed likely a new champion would be crowned.
#5 Hangovers vs. #4 AMMODOGS
DUFFY: I barely made the playoffs after trading for Aaron Rodgers late in the season. At 7-6, my record didn't look good but my team was a lot better in week 14 than it was during the regular season. That showed when we knocked off the four seed in round one.
ROGERS: That stung, but at least I'd kept Jessen out of the playoffs.
#6 DARC NARCS vs. #3 Arrogant Americans
HENDERSON: I was ecstatic when my team blew up against Cliburn. It was our first playoff season in the OIL and he was a two-time champion.
CLIBURN: This was so damn frustrating. Cam Newton had a monster game and Henderson scored more points than he had any other week that season. I'd overlooked his squad and, just like that, my dream of a third title was over.
#6 DARC NARCS vs. #1 Hard Targets
FINCH: With Cam Newton being injured in his car wreck, Henderson didn't pose much of a challenge. The Hard Targets were on their way to the OIL Bowl for the first time.
#5 Hangovers vs. #2 Dirty Hippies
DUFFY: My comeback of a season ended in the semifinals . . . again. It was the third time I'd made it to the semifinals and lost.
TROVILLO: It was my first time in the semifinals and I was nervous. But my guys all hit their projections and I was going to the championship.