Military veterans use fantasy football to cope with PTSD
JUSTIN CLIBURN: We all operated heavy machinery and deadly weapons. We should be able to figure this out. He’s had like three months to figure this out. The OIL, as we call it, is the Oklahoma Iraqis League. It was started in Baghdad, Iraq, by a group of Oklahoma Army National Guard soldiers that were missing home and missing football, and so we started this fantasy football league. When we got there, we started out doing highway patrol, the main route between Baghdad and Balad, and essentially just looking for trouble. We needed to protect convoys that came through. We had to go and look for IEDs and ensure that there was nobody setting things up for the convoys. ADAM DUFFY: Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it, and to go without football and then have it, even if it’s in the middle of the night, it was like a drug. KEVIN PYLE: I’m extremely intense. I want to win. I hate to lose at anything, and that has followed me to fantasy football. JUSTIN CLIBURN: Knowing that you actually had some sort of stake in each game, and then that gave you something to talk about for the ensuing four or five days out on mission. That was really special, because it just got to be so monotonous, and so this actually gave you something to talk about that was different than just what was in the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper, or what you saw out there on the road. -Uh-oh. OK, blow. -Let’s go. ADAM DUFFY: It was really bad for me, and I think what happened to me is what happens to a lot of people, and they just don’t talk about it. You end up living in a world where it’s cowboys and Indians. It’s survival of the fittest. You wake up. You do your job. It’s almost like a nine to five gig, but when you make it home every day, it’s something to celebrate as opposed to something you just expect. -We just got hit by an IED. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] JUSTIN CLIBURN: That’s what PTSD is to me. For a lot of us, it was– and it still is loud noises, debris on the side of the road. IEDs were often hidden in these roadkill and garbage bags, and so once you look at every single item on the side of the road as possibly being your end, you never don’t look at it like that. It’s not necessarily these jolts of error and memories that haunts you with the PTSD. It’s the every day feeling on edge and the buildup of that over time. KEVIN PYLE: It’s hard to think of one word that sums up PTSD for me. Frustration and anger about things. JUSTIN CLIBURN: For me it’s helplessness. ADAM DUFFY: Permanent. There’s no going back, you know? JUSTIN CLIBURN: Tragically one of the members of my squad passed away a couple years ago. We went to the funeral of our friend, Specialist Killman, and there were 70, 80 guys there out of the 150, and you feel a little guilty because you’re so happy to see these guys you haven’t seen in so long, but you’re at a funeral. We all said, hey, we’ve got to get together again and it not be like this. Before we could do that, another one of our brothers passed away, and so there was another mini reunion at his funeral. Over the course of that season, we named trophies in their honor, so we have the Killman memorial trophy and the Tenequer memorial trophy. It’s not like naming a bridge after somebody, but it’s something that’s special to us. When we see that, we remember them, and we remember to check on each other to make sure that nobody else ends up the same way. A lot of us go to the VA, and, well, you can go to a group therapy sessions with all these people you don’t know, or you can get together with your buddies, watch football, and say, hey, by the way, this happened the other day, and I instantly got this feeling. Has that happened to you? ADAM DUFFY: It puts you in a situation where, whether you like it or not, you have to communicate with other people. What does that really mean? Well, it might mean that you and I are trading one week. The next week it might mean I didn’t hear any chatter from you. What’s up? And you might get, well, I had a bad week. Well, I think statistically we’ve demonstrated that sometimes just talking about it is enough to keep you from doing something stupid, a permanent solution for a temporary problem, and that is probably the most drastic, dramatic outcome of this league– is that we have to stay in contact, and we take care of each other, but, you know, you really have to be around it a lot to see that. What you would see if you just took your five second in and out, your quick glance– it’s just trash talk and fun. The way we make fun of each other would make a lot of people blush. Good for you, bitch boy. Well, if I’m going to cheat, I might as well draft a cheater for a quarterback. I’ve got some balls you can deflate. JUSTIN CLIBURN: Probably shouldn’t say that too loud. ADAM DUFFY: So Justin is the gas that makes the engine run. We really owe a lot to him. This reunion, these drafts, the intensity– this would not exist if it weren’t for him, and that’s about all the nice things I’m going to say about him because he’s my rival, and he wins a lot, and I hate that. Now we’re going to talk about Pyle, and Pyle is the cry baby of the league. It’s never his fault. It’s always somebody else’s fault. KEVIN PYLE: That’s fair. In the past, sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me. First four weeks were nuts, and then you do crap the rest of the year. So are you a draft advisor also? Is that what’s happening here? -Yes. KEVIN PYLE: See, I should’ve waited, and I could’ve– well, no. I wouldn’t have had him. [INAUDIBLE]. Bastard. -It is an OIL affiliated– ADAM DUFFY: It’s fun, and we eat that up, and it drives competition. It makes you want to win for reasons outside of just winning. KEVIN PYLE: That loss of brotherhood that we lose whenever we separate from our active status and being together, I feel like that would have been completely lost. JUSTIN CLIBURN: Having the league and seeing those names on that trophy, it really gives you the wake up call to keep in touch with everybody else, because you don’t know if you can help them in their time of need, and you don’t know if this time you talk to this person will be the last time you talk to him. ADAM DUFFY: It’s just a game, but it’s bigger than baseball. It’s bigger than anything else. It was special, and it still is, and so obviously we’re still around doing what we do because of that.