Earlier this week, one of my leaguemates told me that Mike, our commissioner last season, passed away after a long battle with cancer.
I had never met Mike in person, and in this league, he was basically a friend of a friend, but without question, he was one of the best guys in the league. I’ve had plenty of email discussions with him and I can’t ever think of one bad exchange.
The league was likely going to close down last season as no one was stepping up to commish and the excitement was slowly waning over the past few years. But Mike stepped up, got a team for his wife Nicole, replacing a departed owner, and we had a great season overall.
This Fantasy Football league dates back to 1989, and it’s the oldest league I’ve ever been in. I created it way back then, with just six teams(!), and it has lasted 25 years now. So I’m ultra appreciative to Mike and Nicole for saving it last season, and now we want to continue it – in honor of Mike as much as for our own enjoyment.
Honoring Someone in Your Fantasy League
So the question becomes, how can we honor a leaguemate that has recently died?
I understand it’s a completely insignificant thing, this Fantasy Football, and in reality, it’s silly to even talk about something like this after someone’s death.
But this was the only connection many of us in this league ever had with Mike, so honoring him in the league makes the most sense.
I’ve been in hundreds of leagues over the past 25 years, including time at CBSSports.com and SI.com, and this is, thankfully, the first time I’ve ever been in a league where one of the participants has died.
My question is – how do we honor him?
Some of the ideas I came up with the night I heard about his death were the following:
1. Rename the league after him.
In other words, our league becomes the [Name] Memorial Fantasy Football League. The only major problem with this is – what if someone else dies in our league in the next decade?
2. Name the Championship Trophy after him.
From the feedback I’ve already received from the rest of the league, this sounds like the idea that makes the most sense. Unfortunately, we never bought trophies to begin with, so this would be our first trophy. That’s fine, as it becomes a revolving trophy that goes from team to team, with Mike’s name on it.
3. Send league fees to his family.
I like this one a lot because it gives the league some sort of value, and his presence in the league would benefit his family. Lord knows they probably got sick of hearing him talk about his team!
4. Not draft his favorite player.
Matthew Berry wrote about this in his book, “The Fantasy Life,” where one league had a member die, and they all decided not to draft Adrian Peterson the next year out of respect.
5. Send league fees to American Cancer Society.
The fees could also be sent to his favorite charity or something like that. In other words, someone else benefits that is dealing with similar problems themselves.
6. Set his team to Auto-Draft, and have everyone take turns setting his lineup.
This is an odd one, but basically, have it auto-draft, then have everyone take turns running his team for a week (waivers, bye weeks, set lineup). It would be pretty cool if he won! The problem here, the way I see it, is that every week, his wife would be reminded of him when she went to play Fantasy Football. That could be a good thing eventually, but maybe not just a couple months after he died.
To add to the sadness of this entire situation, Mike drafted Odell Beckham Jr. in the rookie round, which meant he was a keeper in a league where good keepers are few and far between!
Amazingly, Mike actually won our league last year, and that makes us smile when we think about it now.
In the end, whatever we do with our Fantasy Football league means very little to his wife and family. But in this day and age, when we have more connections to thousands of people that we didn’t have 30 years ago, it’s nice to reach out with some sort of tribute in honor of someone you might not have known, but respected and will miss.
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.