Sports binds us. Anyone dedicated enough to sports to consume content has at least one story: A time they met their best friend at soccer practice or the last game they watched with a beloved grandparent. These stories are fundamental to our passion and love for the game, and ultimately to the tenants of our life. Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees has been woven through my sports story.
High school was a fresh start. I left behind classmates of nine years and became the dreaded “new kid”. Desperate for belonging, I latched on to what I knew best: sports. Growing up in the heart of Big Ten country in a football-crazed state – long before every game was broadcast on ESPN 8 “The Ocho” – options were limited. I was a Buckeye fan in Ohio, so I was covered. However, a kid playing at Purdue caught my eye. I wore out the ear of anyone who would listen. That kid would go on to lead a downtrodden basketball school on a magic Rose Bowl run. My keen eye for talent and incessant raving allowed me to break down the barriers of friendship. I was transfixed.
College was next. Dorm rooms and new social challenges loomed, but I was given a secret key so many of us used at that time in our lives: Madden! Hours were spent with floor-mates building franchises, always starting with Fantasy Draft mode. My team was always the best, of course, because I had a secret weapon; a rookie quarterback from Purdue who I could select as one of the last starters. Through these hours spent, everlasting friendships bloomed and I met my best man.
Next up, the real world. It was hard to relocate; harder still the job I landed was in a city where again I would be alone. Brees was also leaving his previous home in San Diego that offseason. There were rumors my beloved Buffalo Bills would be a suitor. Head coach Nick Saban targeted him but the medical staff in Miami wouldn’t approve. In retrospect, I am extremely thankful he identified and partnered with an up-and-coming coach in Sean Payton, picking the Saints.
Sixteen-year-old kids are driving around New Orleans not knowing “the before times”. The franchise more commonly referred to as the “Aints” desperately needed help. I could not begin to tell any of their stories. I only watched from the safety of hundreds of miles away, but the fans and residents I have come to meet will never forget the transformation orchestrated by Brees. Ask any of them and they will bare their soul for the man who impacted that team in more ways than one.
Brees led the Saints to a period of sustained success which culminated into a Super Bowl appearance in 2010. I had relocated again to the city I now call home and had been getting to know a strong, smart, and beautiful woman. The Super Bowl was coming up and I let slip I was cheering for the Colts. It would not be the last time she set me straight. A woman willing to stand her ground and argue with me on football; I was hooked. We have been happily married for nearly a decade and have two beautiful children I cannot help but show off.
Several years later, I received a medical diagnosis. It was nothing serious but it would lead to a major lifestyle adjustment. I found myself Googling information to learn about the required adjustments when I happened across a list of famous individuals who shared the condition. The name at the top of the list was – you guessed it – Drew Brees.
Brees is not my favorite football player. However, we all have a Brees; a player who is something else, a constant in our sporting minds and stories. You will see comments about him holding on too long, and maybe he did, but his ability to overcome concerns about size, shoulder, and signing with a bad team shine as examples of what perseverance can accomplish. I know I will never blame someone for holding on too long to something they love.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Brees’ comments from the summer of 2020. It served as a stark reminder that while we spend hundreds of hours with these players, none of us truly know them. It spoke to all of our needs to take a moment to reflect and strive for a deeper understanding. We all have struggles, but choosing empathy and positivity is always the right path. Treasure what you do have, it can be gone quicker than a whisp on the wind.
It only seems fitting I embark on fulfilling a life’s long passion, as Brees embarks on a new chapter of his life. I am extremely excited and grateful to be a member of this fantasy community. I am continually awed by the hard work, intelligence, and kindness of those involved. Football and fantasy football have meant so much throughout my life and for part of that, I say thank you Mr. Brees.