By Jared Clifton

It’s been a tough year.  I’m certain I’ve caught no one off guard with that declaration, but it needs to be said.  Illness. Death. Wildfires. Racial injustice. Civil unrest. Division. Joblessness.  Quarantine. Extremism. Unhappiness.  It’s enough for Billy Joel to put pen to paper in an easy follow up to his catchy and still relevant smash hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.

Stay with me here, because this article isn’t about all the bad in the world or the bleakness that has encompassed nearly an entire calendar year of our lives.  This is an article about community and how the subsections of our lives can intersect to bring hope.

We’re living in historical times and just like all of those historical times before us, there is hope in the morning after.  There is an engrained resilience in nearly every human and with that resiliency, comes resourcefulness and community.

Just think of the positive things to come from such uncertain times.  Connectivity amongst family and friends has been made possible by advances in digital technology, often overlooked as luxury; now deemed essential to continuing business and social behavior.

Dialogue on topics often left in darkness, have led to at least progression on discussions that will not go back into the shadows and with that, resolution in sight to better each and every standing in this country. 

Lost in the daily news tickers are communities coming together to assist those most in need; a nearly forgotten mechanism in a society that had been trending dangerously close to closing itself off from itself.

It may still feel like the world is broken and on fire, but it’s not.  There is restoration coming. Reconstruction. Revival.   

And in the midst of such a devastating year, I have personally discovered a community that largely embodies why I have hope for this country and frankly human race. 

The fantasy community was not on my radar until the beginning of the pandemic this year.  I consumed the usual fantasy advice from still great, but very mainstream sources such as Matthew Berry, Field Yates, John Hansen, Christopher Harris and The Fantasy Footballers; just to name a few. I still do and always will, so long as they are putting out content.  

But, when searching for something to be a part of this year, I was very fortunate to find a group of guys in Ride or Dynasty that welcomed myself and several other novice wanna-be writers and analysts into their fold and allowed us to have a voice in this hobby that we love so much. It’s not a huge site in the grand scheme of listener and readership, but these guys knew their stuff and were ready and willing to allow us all to be a part of that.

From the beginning, co-founders JJ Wenner (@JJWenner), Michael Klos (@michaelsklos) and Ryan Bickerstaff (@thedevydirtbag) gave me the first taste of what the fantasy community could and should look like and from that moment on I was hooked.  I learned so many new angles on all things dynasty, fantasy and injuries from the brilliant takes of Kyle Allen (@kallen_4), Don Detwiler, Brendan Taffe (@BCTAFFE) and Blair Pierroz (@Blairpierroz).

I labored through my first few articles, eagerly awaiting feedback on Twitter and through the site.  I started to find my voice and was amazed and excited by the content coming out from the other guys new to this endeavor.  By the time that I was invited to take part in my first Podcast (couldn’t have been more nervous and probably over-prepared), I just wanted more.

So in addition to working to hone a craft that I didn’t know could bring such enjoyment, I went out to find and consume as much comparable content as I possibly could.  The insights, humor and just hard and fast great advice out there is astonishing and the passion and preparedness of literally thousands of women and men that put unique voices and viewpoints on this game is remarkable.

And it was in that period of time, meticulously crafting articles, prepping for shows and reading and listening to as much of the fantasy communities work as I could fit in my day, that I realized the bleakness of the situation we were all collectively facing was beginning to be…muted.  

This was truly a community and one that works tirelessly, many of whom have day jobs and other responsibilities to boot, to provide entertainment and validity to something that goes above and beyond a simple game. In doing so, they provided enjoyment. Escape. Levity. Substance.

I watched in amazement as lesser known analysts such as Troy King (@TKingMode) and Kacey Kasem (@thekaceykasem) took their followings to new heights and bigger roles within the community, just based on sound advice, entertaining quality and sincerity of character.

I saw a gender diversity that defies the outdated boys club mentality that football often brings, with stellar content from such analysts as Kate and Michelle Magdziuk (@FFballblast and @BallBlastEm), as well as FantasyFootballChick (@liveocgirl).

I found Podcasts that kept me laughing and intrigued at work and on the drive home, from awesome shows such as The Sideline Squib Podcast (@SidelineSquib) and Fantasy In Session (@FantasyNSession).

Numerous articles from too many amazing contributors to list in one article, that highlight my must reads for all my waiver and must start decisions each week. Literally thousands of different voices, seemingly united in a common goal of educating and entertaining, with debate and discourse as a tool for progression, not a method of belittlement.

But, it’s the overall community that keeps me coming back every morning and is usually the last thing I check before I lay down for the night. There’s a kindness, a willingness, a persistence of positive interaction that flows so smoothly through this community. 

I’ve seen complete strangers take time out from their day to reach out to those that are hurting.  People offer assistance, both monetarily and mentally to those in need of some help and some escape. A raising of money and spirits, without the slightest self aggrandizement or ulterior motive.

I’ve been astonished by the unfettered access to as much information and help as a person could legitimately ask for by nearly everyone in the community.  Few questions asked, unanswered.

And it became clear to me, from this microcosm of one subsection of one part of one sport, that what the world needs now is community.  It feels so large, the fantasy football community, and it is literally a very small portion among thousands of others for nearly any interest out there, reaching millions upon millions of people.  Having spent the majority of my time invested in this community, I am not certain if the positivity and willingness to maintain such a constructive tone persists amongst those others, but I would encourage all of those to use the fantasy community as true North for setting the tenor.

If it’s not, then it becomes equally important to expand the amazing qualities of this community to others.  Take it as a challenge.  Invest and expand.  Get more people involved.  Build up all those around, so as more people come in, they see what community really should be.

I am so thankful to each and every one of you that, at a minimum, helped a 38 year old guy looking for a group of people to fellowship with and accidentally found a group of people that inspire sincere encouragement on what the next chapter of this world can be.  Maybe we didn’t start the fire, but we certainly have the quantity and quality of people to use it as a light to guide people to what they truly need.  Community. 

Listen, there’s an importance to what you all do and although it may not always be tangible, it’s there. With every joke. Every word written. Every well thought out segment. What you are is an example and a damn fine one by my accounting.

Keep up the good work everyone. I mean it.

Jared Clifton –  Host of Cover 3 Podcast, Editor, Writer
Ride or Dynasty
@unstuckintime82