Almost every year, two of my groups of friends get together for a fantasy football draft party. Both leagues are nearing the decade mark, and it’s incredible that these groups have stuck together for as long as they have. Something keeps us coming back.
There are many different personalities in each of these groups. There are people on both sides of the political spectrum, and yet football proves to be our common ground. Most of the individuals involved are very outspoken, and the atmosphere of these drafts quickly gets loud. At the first draft of this year, we happened to be in a private room off to the side of a bar, and we were able to close the doors, sparing the rest of the patrons from our lunacy. At the other, we were in the familiar confines of a casino hotel room, where all ten of us crash in that very same room every year. It gets more and more ridiculous that we all stay in the same room, as we all move on to better jobs and better paychecks, but it’s tradition. We were all in college together or most of us were, and maybe the fact that it’s reminiscent of simpler times is why we all end up sleeping on the floor.
It’s still about football, but for me that matters less and less over time. These drafts provide a reason to take a day off from our lives, and to spend some time with each other. These drafts keep us in each other’s lives. There’s no doubt that life from here on out will only get more chaotic, more busy, more demanding. People will get married, they’ll buy houses, and they’ll have kids. Sometimes people will lose jobs and suffer catastrophic breakups, all the ups and downs that a life well-lived contains. The beauty of it all is that we still come to these events, and have been for almost a decade. We still value the strong connection we have with each other, and we still want to know how everyone else is doing. We still care. The football becomes more of an excuse than anything else.
In one of these draft groups, I’ve got three friends that I’ve known since grade school, some even longer than that. As we all approach 30, even though I’ll be the first one to summit that mountain, I’ve found myself reflecting on all of the life experiences we’ve shared together. There have been girlfriends, and while some of them have stayed, a lot more have gone. There have been good times, trips taken to exotic locales like Tampa Bay, and so many meals and beverages together. When we were in high school, we’d go out into someone’s backyard and play Wiffle ball in the summer, with my Dad sometimes watching from the porch, and it’s hard to think of a time in life that I loved more.
These same three friends have also been there when times have been tough. After my father passed, I texted them to come over, and they showed that night up with no hesitation. As we stood together in the kitchen and chatted, I’m not even sure we talked about Dad. Instead, the conversation stayed light, and the jokes kept coming. We’ve been known to give each other a good ribbing every now and again, but at the end of the day there’s nothing but love. It’s amazing to think of how young we were when this friendship started. The amount of stories we have from each decade of our lives is endless.
“We’ve all aged well,” a friend of mine said to me, and I agree. I’ve read so many articles about how important it is to dump friends that don’t give you something, that don’t inspire you in some way or compel you to better yourself. Luckily, all the people I still associate with are working at improving who they are. They’re trying to make a better life for either themselves, their family, or both. They’re chasing their passions, and are trying new things that broaden their horizons in some way. I’ve chosen well, although I often wonder what they see in me.
I remember having a conversation with my Brooklyn roommate years back, and after discussing a few of his friends, he mentioned how cool it is to have friends that he’s known his entire life. I decided long ago to value friendships and relationships over money, and I have yet to be disappointed or regret my decision. I’m not trying to sound self-congratulatory, I just know what my values are, and this just happens to be one of them. I know that it will get harder in this life to keep certain people in it. That’s where things like a fantasy football league or a book club can come in handy. It can be something, anything, any excuse to meet every now and again.
Having good friends who live in different places can give you a great excuse to visit a place you’ve never been, but I’m grateful that mine have stayed put for the most part. I’ve picked up and moved a few times, but it’s comforting to know that there’s a place I can go where everyone is. I probably won’t live here the rest of my life, but selfishly I hope that they stay. I’ll never mind going home if everyone I love is already there.
When it comes to good friends, or any relationship for that matter, a little effort goes a long way. Just show up, that’s really all you have to do. Make time to be where you need to be, and you will be rewarded tenfold. Sometimes you have to fight to keep people in your life, but they have to fight too, it’s a two-way street. I’m blessed to have the friends that I have, and as long as they keep putting in the effort to keep the band together, I will too. Thanks for reading.