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Memories of friends and football

They were co-workers and friends and football was something that bound us. None of us tackled or threw a block or tossed a TD, but we all loved the game.

For 23 years, the weekend before Labor Day was our time to gather around and get ready to play our favorite game. It was a wide range of individuals who played — some old and some not quite as old, men and women. We talked smack among one another during the offseason and during games. Most of the time the talk was just in fun and other times it was incredibly serious.

And when Sunday rolled around, we were all business.

That won’t be the case tonight when the NFL regular season kicks off.

For the first time since 1992, the Picayune Item Fantasy Football League, or PIFFL, will not be in action.

When fantasy football was in its infancy in 1992, my mentor, Tom Andrews, and I decided we would create our own league among our co-workers at the Picayune Item newspaper after playing the year before for the first time with a group of about 14 guys who were about as cutthroat as it gets. We decided it would be fun to form our own league.

That first season of PIFFL included about six or eight teams, but over time the league grew to as many as 16 teams. It fluctuated over the years, but through it all, there remained a core group of folks who would always form a team and join the league.

It was a labor of love. In the ’90s, there were no NFL or ESPN websites that would do the stats for you. No. In the ’90s it was me delving through the NFL box scores in the Monday edition of the Times-Picayune to figure up whose players scored how many points and determine the winners and losers.

Over time, the technology improved and so did the bond among the core group of PIFFL players.

They were die-hards and loved every minute of playing. But they also enjoyed the camaraderie that came with being in the league. We eventually came to love each other like family.

In the middle of 2015, the husband and wife duo of Frank and Judy Gaupp, a.k.a. “Wolfpack” and “Killer Angels,” passed away. They were pretty close to being the heart of our league. They were die-hard fanatics for fantasy football and even after I left Picayune in 2005, they continued to encourage me to be the league commissioner and keep the league going. I obliged, and so when they passed last year, I felt an obligation to keep the league going in their honor.

This year, Dee Andrews — the wife of my mentor and one of those who would field a team once in a while and even captured the league crown — passed away and it seems so did PIFFL.

We didn’t have our traditional draft at Tom and Dee’s home, so this year PIFFL won’t be competing when the NFL kicks off tonight.

That makes me sad, but I and my “Mercenaries” fantasy football team have some great memories of some great friends that I will cherish forever.

Rob Sigler is managing editor of The Oxford
EAGLE. Contact him at rob.sigler@oxfordeagle.com.