Anthony Gabbard never won our fantasy football league. Never came close, really, despite often being armed with more picks in the first seven rounds than the rest of us had in the full draft. He would methodically fill slots based on need, meaning he always – ALWAYS – ended up taking a kicker not just too early but entirely too early. Like ridiculously early. Like seventh or eighth round early, having already rounded out a roster and ready to go worry about other things, usually poker.
Unlike others in the league, Gabbard didn’t study charts or meticulously pore over fantasy gurus in the days leading up to the draft. He preferred to print out a couple of sheets, then let the numbers be the guide while the team fell into place.
This is not to say, however, that he didn’t come prepared.
His first year playing in our league, he arrived with a briefcase filled with papers, pens, pencils, markers, highlighters and an energy shot. We had a good laugh over this official-looking case, but chalked it up to the fact he owned a small business, making a briefcase a sensible accessory.
I took a closer inspection a few rounds into the draft, though, and realized the full story. The briefcase mostly contained “hot flavored” potato chips and a few packages of peanut butter and crackers.
We roared with laughter, but his reasoning made perfect sense. It was his first draft, and his wife, Ramona, didn’t want him to get halfway through it and get hungry, so she made sure to send him out the door armed with enough snacks to feed the eight-person league.
While the rest of us fretted over who Matthew Berry might recommend taking as a backup running back or tried to work out star-studded trades, Gabbard arrived for one reason only: to have fun.
Every subsequent draft has had versions of The Briefcase of Snacks, and we continue to have a good laugh, both at Gabbard and with him. That’s what fantasy leagues – at least the great ones – do: allow people to bond over the slightest slips. It’s winner take all and loser absorb all, but all in all, it’s all in fun.
That’s who Anthony Gabbard was.
I’m not used to writing about him in past tense – it’s not even been 48 hours since he died as I type this – but I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. I miss him. Everyone in our league misses him. There is an unfillable void in his absence, and while we will have others join the league, there will never be another Gabbard.
We gather this week to bury him, then the league will gather in a couple weeks after that for our draft. I don’t know how we’ll do it. We’ll laugh and tell stories and cry and draft a kicker way too early.
And we’ll have that briefcase, thanks to the thoughtfulness of his widow, his beloved Ramona. She’s already told us she’s packing the briefcase full of snacks and bringing it to us.
“So he can be there,” she says.
He always will.
Note: If you’d like to help Anthony’s family with the funeral expenses, please consider this GoFundMe account.