Turtle International Football League: Buddle Huddies Edition


Thomas Harley

Senior Dylan Carol watches in agony after a Sunday of suffering.

The sport of fantasy football was established as not only a game of paper and pencil, but a game of heart. Even as the technological advancements of the late 20th century were made, and the game transitioned to a computerized system, the passion for the game of football has held strong in the hearts of millions of competitors. The premise of Fantasy Football may seem simple: every member partakes in a draft to fill their team with real NFL players, and that member’s success is based on the success of these players in their respective games. Players who are not drafted are put on the “waiver wire”, where every member is free to add these players to their team, as long as they remain under the 16-player limit. However, contrary to popular belief, Fantasy Football is rooted in strategy, as it does not suffice to know the basics of football. There is an inherent need to see beyond conventional statistics, to delve into the depths of analytics as a means to outmaneuver your opponents.

For seven years, eight students at Coral Gables Senior High School have dedicated their lives to a particularly prestigious league: Turtle International Fantasy Football League. They have spent countless days scavenging the waiver wire for late season assets, marveling at the immortality of Larry Fitzgerald, and debating the seemingly omnipotent nature of the god they refer to as Josh Gordon. Friendships have been broken and mended.  Improving one’s roster has time and time again superseded studying for looming examinations in importance. Revolutions against the Almighty Commissioner have been planned, as he governs with his iron fist. But through it all, the League stands tall and consistently brings eight students together in friendship.

The League, as it is so endearingly referred to, was brought to life in 2012. The original leader and founder of the league, “The Dads”, is now absent from league, but forever holds a place in the heart of present-day members as an original member of the League. Seniors Sutton Payne, Max Rego and Jack Band all entered the realm of fantasy in their 6th-grade year, and have been steady members ever since. Payne has long been the most successful of the bunch, with three League Championships under his belt. A savvy player, Payne’s greatest attribute is his persuasive tongue; he has a robust history of swindling other members into very unfavorable trade deals. On the other hand, Rego and Band have both been plagued by a history of mediocre rosters, boneheaded decisions, and most of all, the occasional unlucky turn of events.

As the league progressed, members were lost as their passion for the game dwindled. These former competitors could not handle the overwhelming pressures that the League can bring about, so replacements had to be found. With that came senior Dylan Carol, whose hubris was unmatched. He entered the League telling stories of his past successes and prophesied his future domination. These promises have turned out to be empty, as success has been wholly unattainable for Carol through his three-year tenure in the League. Despite his repeated failures, his confidence remains unrivaled.  Carol’s determined nature allows him to never be satisfied, a valuable trait in the game of Fantasy Football.

The final addition came in the form of the most eccentric: senior Ivan Perez-Hernandez. In his junior year, he was accepted into the league in the form of a two-team expansion. While his knowledge of the game is not always up to par with the others, he is always able to craft an extremely serviceable roster, leading him to relative success in these initial two seasons.

Three additional members partake in league festivities but are unnamed for the sake of desired anonymity. These students are key cogs of the league, facilitating monumental trade after monumental trade. One is a bastion of success with a taste for missed opportunity, making the League Championship four times, but only claiming victory once. Another experienced the taste of victory in at a very young age; he was the victor in the inaugural season. The final was a member of the two team expansion involving Perez-Hernandez and achieved a spot in the championship in his rookie year- an extremely impressive feat.

The eight participants duke it out on an annual basis for something greater than any tangible prize, other than perhaps a substantial amount of money. The pride that results from a League Championship is a feeling like no other. The victor spends a year surrounded by an air of superiority, and deservedly so. Accompanied by this pride is the Championship Ring – a beautiful piece of jewelry crafted from precious metals, that Payne invested in during the splendor and celebration of his second championship.

For all the pleasure that participation brings the league members, the good-natured fun is not always free from controversy. Several notable incidents have strained relationships between members. Rego is a notorious fan of proposing the “coup détat”, suggesting a seizure of power from Commissioner Payne. Payne is consistently viewed through an adversarial lens, due to both prolonged success and his often shady managerial practices.

Payne would like to think of himself as a win-at-all-cost player, with an insatiable need to improve his team. According to most of his league mates though, he has a history of extremely questionable administrative practices. He is an alleged puppeteer of managers less knowledgeable than him, persuading with ease and using them as pawns. The greatest controversy of all stemmed from a player named Odell Beckham Jr. In 2014, this noteworthy rookie wide receiver for the New York Giants exploded onto the scene. Payne immediately knew that the star must be added to his roster, but he was faced with a dilemma that was preventing the grasping hands of Payne from reaching the glorious frosted tips of Beckham: the order of the waiver wire. Beckham’s meteoric rise to greatness left him available for the time being, and every league member had their eyes on him, undoubtedly wanting to enlist him on their rosters for his extraordinary ability. The quirk of the free agency pool was that claiming a player was not simply a first come first served process. The “waiver order” determined who had the first, second, and third right to claim players, one at a time. Esteemed member Jack Band quite clearly had the highest waiver priority, and because of that had won the golden ticket: a free Odell Beckham Jr. As Band confidently swaggered to his desktop computer to claim his riches, a feeling of not simply confusion, but horror, hit him. Odell Beckham Jr. sat triumphantly as a member of Commissioner Payne’s team, and the seven league mates stared at their disgraced leader in disgust after his unbridled display of corruption. While this recollection of events may change depending on which league member is discussing it, the one constant is a feeling of enmity towards the Commissioner. Whether this is due to an abuse of power, or jealousy that stems from his long runs of success, will never be known.

“The loss of Odell Beckham Jr. has haunted me for years. I can’t sleep at night, and when I do, I see him in my dreams,” Band said.

Aside from Payne, other members have quite a lengthy rap sheet of rule violations that cause uproar among the masses. Jack Band is always an active perpetrator of collusion, which in the world of Fantasy Football, refers to the illegal practices of cooperation between multiple managers. Band tends to put up a front of cluelessness when attacked for his actions, claiming that he was unaware of the moral gray area that he had strayed into. Other managers have issued a mass release of their roster to the free agency pool as a sign of protest, which usually results in a day of mass hysteria before the balance of power is restored. As a whole, while the League has dealt with countless noteworthy issues, they are always overcome and solved, and never cause a strain beyond the virtual world of Fantasy Football.

After 13 grueling weeks of regular season fantasy football, team managers face the daunting playoff bracket. It’s a single elimination system, imposing a pressure to perform like no other onto the members. Contrary to common sense, the tensest playoff matchup to date did not take place in the championship game, but rather in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Max Rego was pitted against Sutton Payne, with no clear favorite heading into the matchup, and to the surprise of the entire league, no winner at the end of the week. The teams had ended their matchup with the exact same score, and in a system with no tie-breaker, chaos reigned supreme. Rampant bickering ensued, as everyone had their own idea of how the winner should be decided, and no one wanted to concede that the commissioner has such a large influence over a scandal that he was at the center of. Ultimately, the league confided in Lady Luck to pick the winner; two out of three flips of a coin would decide between Payne and Rego.

It was a stormy Tuesday afternoon in Coral Gables when the event was held, attended by all members. The first call was given to Rego, and after much thought he chose tails. He would soon see himself trailing his opponent, as the face of George Washington stared back at him from the hand of the designated coin flipper, Dylan Carol. Now it was Payne’s turn, with a chance to end the controversy once and for all. His choice mirrored Rego’s, and so did the result of the flip; he had let his best chance of winning slip through his fingers. Following Payne’s failure, the two players were tied. There was a palpable anxiousness in the air, every member had their own idea of how this should play out, and these sentiments could no longer be suppressed. In the midst of everyone’s angst, the coin was launched into the air, seemingly taking hours to come back down from its orbit. Rego had chosen tails once again, as he could not fathom that the coin would flip the same way three times in a row. Carol finally caught his last flip, pausing for a few seconds as the eyes of the world descended upon him. He slowly turned the coin to reveal the face of America’s first president, signaling the end of Rego’s playoff dreams, and resulting in a deafening shriek from Payne, relishing in his victory.

“There was no way a coin could be heads three times in a row. Somehow that corrupt commissioner rigged it,” a dejected Rego said.

The most tension-filled moment in league history soon came to pass, leaving a permanent mark on every member. So much was the impact of this incident, that the league has not been able to speak of adding a tie-breaker without the prospect of anarchy looming. Maintaining the status quo has served as the most efficient means of leaving the incident in the past, and the League Commissioner seems content in allowing luck to decide further quarrels.

The past seven years have brought about unforgettable moments, both joyous and scandalous, for those eight inseparable friends. They hope to grow old together, with the League holding them together as a bonding force for the years to come.