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Sunday Favorites: Fantasy Football as a Modern Day Tradition

The fantasty football draft took about two hours.

Since I met my boyfriend Drew, I’ve been dragging him around the state almost every weekend in search of interesting bits of Florida history. We visit libraries, parks and museums then we write about in our Sunday Favorites column.

He enjoys our historical outings; as an Indianaplis native, it’s fun for him to explore this area of Florida, the place where I grew up and where he settled. However, he was adamant that as soon as the Indianapolis Colts' football season began, he would be trading historical adventures for Sunday football. 

“We would still have Saturdays after all,” he told me. 

So when September rolled around, he wanted to take me on his annual excursion: a trip to Orlando in order to attend a fantasy football draft party.

I never really understood football, so fantasy football was even more of an enigma than the real thing. I started watching The League just so I knew what I was getting myself into. Could fantasy football be as entertaining as the sitcom? I didn’t know, but was willing to find out. 

After a three-hour car ride to his friend’s house we were almost late to the draft, which started promptly at 1 p.m. If we didn’t arrive on time, all the good players would be taken, Drew told me. 

During the draft, members of certain fantasy football teams can create their “dream team” by theoretically picking players from various NFL teams to play on their imaginary lineup. How the “real life” players do in actual games during the NFL season determines how their chosen players do on their fantasy team. Points are given for receptions, yards gained etc. Whoever has the most points at the end of the season wins. 

The draft party was family friendly, and as the kids splashed in the pool, the ladies chatted in the kitchen and the guys sat on the patio studying their computer screens for football statistics. Every once in a while they would yell at the children for jumping in the pool because they were getting the computers wet.  

The day culminated with lots of food and fun. As the sun went down, the host Steve and his wife Angie gathered their friends in the driveway for one of their annual traditions. 

Steve’s little brother had passed away after being hit by a car a few years prior. Because his birthday was close to the start of football season, he and Angie said a few words, and everyone at the party lit paper luminaries that flew up into the night sky like glowing air balloons.

The spectacle, with dozens of the luminaries taking off at different times, was a beautiful and touching end to a great get-together.

Blue Springs State Park is in Orange County.

The next day we headed to Blue Springs State Park in Orange County. The designated manatee refuge covers more than 2,600 acres on the St. John’s River. Part of the spring is open to visitors during the summer, but closed during manatee season when several hundred manatees congregate in the year-round 73-degree water. 

Being that it was a holiday weekend, we questioned our decision to visit the park when we arrived to a line of cars waiting to get in; the park had reached capacity. However, the line moved fast and in no time we were admiring the crystal clear water. 

The “run,” or portion of the river that is open to the public, is not very long and is easily swimmable without a float. While there were plenty of people yelling and splashing, I was able to tune it all out as I floated on the surface. My ears were underwater and a wave of tranquility came over me. I couldn’t help but think, “What if I discovered this place? What if I we were the first ones here and it was the 1800s and we claimed it? “

While the spring was home to many Native Americans for thousands of years; it was not settled until 1856. Louis Thursby and his family home remain intact on the property. 

After going to the park, we stopped at Gator’s Riverside Grill in Stanford, Fla. and had some of the best fried catfish and red beans and rice we have ever eaten. During supper, Drew explained why following football was so important. It was a chance for him to relate to his friends and family that still live in Indiana. He and his family have been separated for decades, but they always have the home team to root for; a tradition that gives them something to relate to.  

Like regular football, the fantasy version was just another excuse to get in touch with his good friends in Orlando. After all, friends tend to go their separate ways when they move away from each other and have their own families. They don’t have time to hang out, but they always have the fantasy football draft.

As we headed back to Sarasota, I couldn’t help but thinking what a wonderful weekend it had been. It was filled with new experiences, old friends, personal and regional history, a touch of spirituality and great food. I can’t wait to do it again next year. Go Colts!


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