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By Shelley Murphy

I am a “Boy Mom.” By definition, I am the mother of only boys—and I couldn’t be happier.

This time of year, being a Boy Mom means lots of football: my sons watch it, talk it and play it. On Labor Day Weekend, it also meant both my boys returning home for their fantasy football draft.

The fantasy football phenomenon rose to popularity in the late 1990s and flourishes today. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 59.3 million people in the United States and Canada are playing fantasy sports in 2017.

I don’t pretend to understand the fantasy football mania, but I do know beneath the fantasy football trash-talk exists the foundation for male bonding. Unlike women, whose friendships are often based on shared feelings, men’s friendships tend to be based on shared activities. Men often sustain their friendships through mutual activity and fantasy football fortifies those friendships.

Sept. 7 marked the start of the 98th National Football League season. Its gridiron glue keeps my sons and their friends tethered together until the season ends with Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018.

Eighteen years ago this month, my family moved to San Clemente, and I never could’ve imagined the forever friendships my sons would forge. Friendships my boys began as adolescents in middle school survived high school and today, as men entering their early 20s, those friendships thrive, transcending the miles imposed by college and careers.

Both my sons are fortunate to share strong bonds with many of the same friends, and this tightknit group joins together every fall for their fantasy football draft. My older son serves as commissioner of their league and spearheads gathering all 10 members together. This year the task included coordinating several cross-country flights, but the group managed to meet at our house on draft day.

In the days leading up to their draft, my sons prepared to manage their prospective teams by tracking player rankings and studying performance statistics hoping for a place in the playoff bracket and bragging rights.

I prepared for draft day by making numerous Costco runs and grocery store stops hoping for a well-stocked pantry and full refrigerator.

The morning of their draft, my boys’ excitement and enthusiasm was palpable. I said to my younger son, “It feels like Christmas morning.” He replied, “No, it’s better.” Around noon their friends started arriving, many of them donning their team jerseys or hats and carrying laptops or binders.

As important as the draft itself is the draft order. My older son thought long and hard to come up with a creative and fair process to determine the draft order—so understandably his plan involved pizza.

Each of the ten competitors in the fantasy league drew from a hat a piece of paper with the name and phone number of a pizza place in town. Once all ten had their pizza location in hand, a countdown ensued and simultaneously each used their cell phone to order a pizza for delivery. The first person to get their pizza delivered got the first pick in the draft, and so forth.

They sat huddled in beach chairs on our driveway waiting for their pizzas to be delivered and determine their fantasy fate. When the first car turned onto our street and stopped at our house all 10 of them raced into the street shouting, “Where are you from? Who do you work for?” The unwitting delivery guy seemed startled but appreciative of the cheering—and generous tip.

Soon a second car rounded the corner onto our usually quiet cul-de-sac. An unsuspecting neighbor walking her dog had stopped to chat but our conversation was cut short by spontaneous shouts from our driveway of, “Car! Car! Car!”

“Some things never change,” said my neighbor. We exchanged smiles and the knowing looks of Boy Moms recalling the memories and rewards of raising boys.

I don’t need to participate in a fantasy draft—I already have the real winning team.

Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 18 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.

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