Virgin: What fantasy football means to me and a farewell

Believe it or not, I’ve been on the verge of tears after a loss in fantasy football.

On more than one occasion a fantasy football loss has ruined my whole week.

I have felt numb when a top player is injured all season.

I’ve been told I take it too seriously.

But would you believe that fantasy football saved my career as a sports writer? It is true.

After graduating from high school in 1992, it took me six years to finally earn an Associate of Arts degree from Citrus Community College in Glendora, California and transfer to Fresno State. With the Bulldogs, I thought I found my niche when I covered Pat Hill’s football teams and reported on all the mishaps of coach Jerry Tarkanian and his team of misfits in men’s basketball.

But before that, he was working as a correspondent, aka freelance reporter, at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, answering phones and writing high school sports scores. I’ve also worked as a water park lifeguard, pizza delivery guy, grocery store manager, and flag football coach while maintaining my hobby/love for all things fantasy football.

As I followed the players and enjoyed the drama of our league season, I sometimes wrote about everything that happened. It started out as mostly funny stories full of silly jokes as they made fun of the chump who felt almost as bad as me after a loss.

While diligently trying to further my career as a sports writer, I latched onto fantasy football.

I read the great Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times and thought of ways I could write like him. I’m sure he would write something incredibly good about the huge popularity of fantasy football and individual player prop betting if he were alive today.

During the football offseason, I read about players from the past. Fantasy football could be described as my hobby. But it became my life and actually helped me achieve my goals in sports writing and journalism.

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I always say that basketball was my first love because my childhood was consumed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Showtime. But football, mainly fantasy football, made me feel more a part of the game. If he ever made the right move in fantasy football, he would let the whole world know. There was just a different feeling.

I wrote about it. I wrote about how my league mates felt.

I wrote about my opinions on who would be the next rising star.

A free agent that no one knew about would pick him and turn him against you. Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnridge. Watch him go. Did you know about him? He did. I’m better than you.

Bernie Parmalee. He was quite a running back for the Miami Dolphins.

Kurt Warner. Our league champion picked him up as a free agent just as St. Louis Rams quarterback Trent Green suffered a season-ending injury.

As you can tell, the free agent picks might as well be my favorite part of fantasy football.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Marcus Robinson. He came out of nowhere in 1999 with 84 catches for 1,400 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was my free agent that I acquired for 50 cents.

He became Marcus Robinson from a bitch. One of my favorite players of all time.

Laughter intertwined with confidence somehow brought calm to me as I moved to Fresno and tackled my dreams.

I got my first job out of college, in 2000, at the Los Angeles Times community newspaper, Our Times. Three months after the concert, the newspapers were killed and everyone was fired. I just remember laughing because Here I Go Again by Whitesnake was the first song played in my car when I heard the news.

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I moved to the Daily Pilot in Costa Mesa. Then four years later at The Bakersfield Californian. I was writing about sports. I was living the dream. I met and wrote about Dr. Jerry Buss when the Lakers visited my new town and turned it into Lakersfield.

When I went back to work for the Daily Pilot, I wrote about Kobe Bryant, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, the Lakers, yes, my favorite team, I was able to write about them.

Of course, there were many other topics and sports that I could write about. Deep down, or maybe it seemed that way, I stuck to fantasy football.

When I took my voluntary purchase in 2017 at the Daily Pilot/Los Angeles Times Community News, I held on to my love of the game even tighter. Fantasy football somehow made me appreciate all sports and not take it so seriously.

After the purchase, I had no idea where it would end up.

And, now here I am in my last week at the Albuquerque Journal, where I’ve covered the University of New Mexico football team, had an Associated Press Top 25 vote, and a Heisman Trophy vote for the past five seasons.

I have also covered golf and have had several informal conversations with Notah Begay III.

Would you think I could walk away from that?

Would you believe I’m going back to Bakersfield?

If true. I am starting a new career without sports writing. I’ll be writing and editing features and lifestyle articles for The Bakersfield Californian.

I feel very fortunate to be closer to my daughter, to my family.

I feel so lucky that I will still have fantasy football.

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