I was 25 years old, living in Los Angeles, and I was single. Once I was hanging out with my friends Kevin and Kim, a longtime couple, and they started lamenting the fact I didn't have a girlfriend because they wanted people to double-date with. "So set me up," I said.
They thought about it for a moment, then Kim turned to Kevin and said, "What about Rachel?"
"Yeah," I said, "what about Rachel?"
Kevin thought about it for a second and said, "Actually, you and Rachel are perfect for each other. That's a good idea."
"Great," I said. "Always happy to meet new people. Let's set up a casual group drinks or something and we'll all go out, see if there's anything there." Kevin said, "Done deal." And Kim was all happy.
Six months later and I still hadn't met this woman.
I found out much later that Kevin's best friend actually had a big crush on Rachel, and while Rachel wasn't interested, this guy didn't want Kevin to set her up with anyone because he was still trying to work it. It's actually a long, semi-insane triangle story that's for another column, but the takeaway is that I never did get set up with her.
Kevin and I played in a weekly pickup basketball game back then, and one week Kevin showed up with Rachel. She played high school basketball, so Kevin had brought her along. She held her own in the game and, more important, we finally met. Later that night, Kevin called me. "So, I just got off the phone with Rachel, who asked me all sorts of questions about you."
"Yeah. And at the end she said, 'Well, if he calls you and asks for my number, give it to him,'" he said. "So, you want her number?"
I did and I called her. We went out the following Saturday, had a great time. Called her Monday, we spoke for two hours on the phone. Went out again Tuesday. Then again Thursday. And once more the following Saturday. Inseparable from that moment on, our different groups of friends merged, parents were met and Kevin and Kim finally had a couple to double-date with. Two years to the day after our first date, we were engaged to be married. Eight months after that, we were married.
And we were still very, very young.
It was around the time we got married that I started writing my first fantasy column. Rachel gets credit for the name Talented Mr. Roto, by the way, and yes, it was inspired by the Matt Damon flick "The Talented Mr. Ripley." As our marriage continued, I started to get more into the fantasy sports industry, going from one column to two a week, then adding radio hits, then adding some magazine stuff, then deciding to start my own websites and everything that comes along with that: Hiring people, promotion, fixing and improving the website, continuing to write my own stuff, meetings, proposals and emails. So many emails.
There was no end to the stuff that needed to be done, so after doing my script writing during the day, I spent my evenings working on my fantasy stuff and there were way, way too many nights that she went to bed alone while I stayed up working. My dual careers continued growing and as that was happening, we were both growing older. And apart.
After a number of years, it was clear there were some real issues in the marriage. We decided to go to couples therapy. It helped a little but it was clear there were fundamental and important differences between us. We didn't fight very much and there was no third person or infidelity or any sort of drama like that. It was just ... we met when she was 23 and I was 25. Now 33 and 35, respectively, we were very different people from the ones who had met. Not better or worse, just different. And with me working so hard trying to start a second career (and her being very supportive of it), we didn't notice we had grown apart until it was too late to fix.
I had been thinking about it for a long time. Do I leave? Do I stay and continue fighting for it? I looked in my heart and realized that while I really cared about this woman, I no longer loved her or was in love with her. And I didn't know how to tell her we should split up. I tend to hate confrontation and as I said, this was not a "War of the Roses" situation. I liked her. A lot. Would never want to hurt her. But I could just imagine the scene. I would tell her I wanted out and she would cry, clinging to my leg, "Don't leave! We'll work it out!"
I knew I had to do it; it wasn't fair to her to be in a marriage with someone who didn't love her, but I never wanted to hurt her and I knew this was going to just crush her. When do you say something like this? When's the right moment to do this? Do you sit the person down and say, "We need to have a serious talk," so at least the other person is prepared a little? But then you have the other person worrying until you have it. Do you just blurt it out? I had no idea.
Eventually, I summoned up the courage, and one Saturday afternoon when we were both home, I sat her down and said we needed to talk. I stumbled through how much I cared about her, but it was clear we had had problems for a while and I was thinking, well, you know, maybe, we should separate?
I braced for the reaction. She looked at me and ... smiled wide. "Oh my God. You too? Thank God. I thought I was the only one! Oh what a relief."
It was actually sort of hilarious. We had this great, cathartic moment where, now that it was on the table, we could talk about it freely and we were in complete agreement. We went back and forth, comparing notes, finishing each other's sentences, connecting like we had when we first dated, except the subject was how we had become totally wrong for each other.
We called her parents, my parents and then went to dinner with our closest couple friends to tell them and have a few drinks together. Friends say it's the most amicable divorce they've ever seen. We didn't even hire lawyers, figuring out a settlement between us in one easy lunch. She remains a friend to this day, and someone I will never say anything bad about. She has since happily remarried to a great guy and continues to be very successful in her job (among many other great attributes, she's whip smart). And no doubt, without her support and encouragement, there's no way I'm here at ESPN today. She played a big role in allowing me to try to pursue this full time, so I'll always be indebted to her.
But ultimately, we weren't meant to be. We had good intentions, entered with open hearts and hope, but things changed and in the end, it didn't work out. Sound familiar, Toby Gerhart owners?
I don't mean to make light of the end of my first marriage; it's certainly not something I'm proud of and I'm of the belief that there's too much divorce in the world as is, so I hate that I contributed to that statistic. But it is what it is and while the stakes are much higher, the emotions are the same. Just because breaking up isn't easy to do doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Or that you ultimately won't be better off in the end.
We're in Week 7 and looking at the ownership percentages of players in ESPN.com leagues, there's a lot of divorcing that needs to go on. (And while you can't account for everyone on every team, the ownership percentages are taken from a select group of active leagues, so this isn't a case of neglectful owners).
In standard 10-team re-draft leagues, here's whom I have no issue with someone separating from if they need the roster space (all owned in 60 percent of leagues or more): Montee Ball, Chris Johnson, Gerhart, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Shonn Greene, Adrian Peterson, DeAngelo Williams, LeGarrette Blount, Terrance West, Matt Asiata, C.J. Spiller, Donald Brown, Bernard Pierce, Kendall Wright, Greg Jennings, Riley Cooper, Dwayne Bowe, Hakeem Nicks, Wes Welker in non-PPR leagues, Mike Evans and sadly, yes, I'm still hanging tough with Cordarrelle Patterson, but I get it if you want to bail.
Time to give up on Zac Stacy or Steven Jackson being bell-cow running backs, on any Jacksonville running back having any value, on getting consistent standard-league value out of Cleveland's wide receivers, of ever feeling really good about starting Marques Colston, of Washington's playoff hopes (sigh), of Percy Harvin ever getting targeted consistently downfield, of Ryan Mathews getting his job back full time, of Larry Fitzgerald being more than just a borderline WR3, of getting consistency out of any San Francisco wideout, of Frank Gore having the job to himself and of Doug Martin ever returning anything close to what you paid for him on draft day.
They say breaking up is hard to do and they are right. But no matter how much you invested, no matter how much you wish it wasn't so, no matter how you want to try to turn things around, sometimes you have to just look at yourself in the mirror and be honest about what's working and what isn't. And instead of beating yourself up about what went wrong, you make a clean break and start fresh. And you'll see, while there will be growing pains, everyone will ultimately be better off for it. Let's get to it.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 7
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis: Your leader in fantasy points through Week 6, Luck has scored at least 18 points in every game this season. Over the past two weeks, no defense has allowed more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Bengals. I include this super-obvious guy because I think he's worth the price in daily leagues and I ranked him No. 1 overall, highest he has been all season.
Tom Brady, New England: Two weeks on the hate list, six touchdowns, over 550 yards and 50 fantasy points. You're welcome, America. Still think it'll be a little more up and down than the past two weeks suggest, but certainly he's back to being a low-end QB 1. Great matchup with the reeling Jets Thursday night; since 2010, he has averaged 277.4 yards and two touchdowns per game against them, and only my beloved Washington has allowed more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Jets have this season.
Carson Palmer, Arizona: You know what soothes an ailing neck? Hot cocoa butter generously applied, the dulcet tones of Mr. Clay Aiken, and facing a Raiders team that allows the second-highest completion percentage on deep balls this year. Trust me. Ask any doctor. Carson loves to throw deep and throw deep he shall.
If you're desperate: I'm not saying he throws five touchdowns again, but considering Joe Flacco leads the NFL in touchdown passes on deep throws, it's easy to be Wacco for Flacco this week as the Falcons come to town, allowing a league-high 27.3 (!) yards per attempt on deep throws. ... Tony Romo now has at least 15 fantasy points in four straight games. ... Alex Smith, off the bye and always a threat to get you a few points with his legs, has thrown all eight of his touchdowns on short passes (10 yards or fewer). No team has allowed more touchdowns on short passes than the Chargers this year. That would be the same Chargers team that just gave up four scores to Derek Carr. ... The jury is still out on Kirk Cousins as a NFL quarterback, but in the Washington offense, against Tennessee, he's a viable fantasy one.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 7
Drew Brees, New Orleans: Can't imagine you have better options here, but he's outside my top 10 for the first time since I can remember. As our player card notes, he's averaging just 15 points a game on the road since the start of 2013, I'm expecting him to be without Jimmy Graham, and the Lions are playing great defense, allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, including holding Aaron Rodgers to just 10 points in Week 3. He's still Drew Brees, so he'll be fine, but just outside my top 10 this week, and I'm not using him in daily leagues or Gridiron Challenge.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta: Another guy who is worse on the road, Ryan has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) away from the Georgia Dome, averaging just 14 fantasy points a game in states other than Georgia. Banged-up offensive line against a Ravens defense playing lights out at home, having allowed Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton to combine for just two touchdown passes total in three games this season.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: Aside from his crazy game against Washington (sigh), he has averaged just 12 points a game this year. Dallas doesn't have a great defense, but what they do have is an amazing offensive line that controls the line of scrimmage and is third in the NFL in time of possession. Hard to score when you're not on the field. Mama taught me that. Dallas has faced the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson this season, allowing an average of 13.3 points a game to opposing QBs.
Running backs I love in Week 7
Ben Tate, Cleveland: Run, run some more and what the hell, one more run. Welcome to the 2014 Browns playbook, the runniest (it is too a word) team this side of Dallas. Expect Cleveland to ride Tate, averaging over 23 carries a game since coming back from injury, against a Jags team that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore: Ho hum ... DeMarco, Le'Veon, Giovani, Marshawn ... Justin?? Yep. Only five running backs in the NFL have at least six fantasy points in every game this season and I just listed them. Probably the most surprising name in the top 10 scorers of fantasy running backs, Forsett leads the league at 6.4 yards per carry, a yard ahead of the next-closest rusher. And you remember how bad the Falcons are at defending the pass in the Flacco paragraph? They're even worse against the run, allowing the most touchdowns and fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo: Pick a stat, any stat. Second to Matt Forte in receptions among running backs, top 11 in total yards among running backs, Vikes allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, not C.J. Spiller.
Andre Ellington, Arizona: Getting all the red zone rushes the past two weeks, at least 20 touches the past three, and, you know, Oakland.
Alfred Morris, Washington: Five scores in his past five home games against a team that is tied for the sixth-most rushing touchdowns allowed. ... If not now, when? If not him, who? If not for this gimmick, we could get to the next player that much quicker.
If you're desperate: Always tricky to start a Patriots running back, but on a short week, expect Brandon Bolden to get a decent amount of work against a Jets defense that has allowed 150 rushing yards per game the past two weeks. ... Think Reggie Bush wants to make a point against New Orleans? Me too. With Calvin Johnson out again, expect him to be a big part of the passing game and to get his revenge. ... I'm am not a Jonathan Stewart fan at all, but he should be back this week, he should get the majority of carries and the matchup with Green Bay is good enough that I can hold my nose while saying he's probably flex-worthy.
Running backs I hate in Week 7
Steven Jackson, Atlanta: At some point, the Falcons are going to #Freeantonesmith. Trending that way, as Jackson's rushing totals have dropped each of the past three weeks. Bad offensive line, bad away from home and again, Ravens playing great defense, allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis: Part of a three-headed committee, he has yet to get more than 12 carries a game, and he's facing Seattle's front seven. What's not to hate?
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo: Five points or fewer in three of the past four, he's averaging the lowest yards per carry of his career. Just three red zone rushes to Fred Jackson's 14 this year, he has yet to score a rushing touchdown this year. That will still be true Monday.
Bishop Sankey, Tennessee: Saw a meme on Twitter -- I forget from whom, apologies, it's not mine -- that had the blonde girl from "Mean Girls" with this caption: "Stop trying to make Bishop Sankey happen. It's not going to happen." Love that. And certainly true this week as Sankey has just one carry this year inside an opponent's 10-yard line and faces a Washington team that has a lot wrong with it, but does play decent run defense. They've allowed just one rushing touchdown to opposing running backs this season.
Khiry Robinson, New Orleans: Mark Ingram is back, Saints struggle on the road (Sensing a theme yet?) and Detroit's defense, especially their run defense, is so fetch. Second-fewest rushing yards a game.
Frank Gore, San Francisco: Did you watch that "Monday Night Football" game? You see when the 49ers needed a score from inside the Rams' 5-yard line at the end to put the game away? Or when they needed to convert a fourth-and-1? Did you see that? Because Frank Gore sure did, standing on the sideline. To which I'll add that the Broncos have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards in the league this season.
Wide receivers I love in Week 7
DeSean Jackson, Washington: Dude's a deep threat. I mean deep. Averaging 47.8 yards on deep passes, by far the most in the league among qualified players. Guess who has allowed the fourth-most deep receptions this season. Go ahead and guess. I'll wait. Seriously. Take a guess. Did you guess the Titans? Because I lied. I didn't wait, I got bored and immediately started checking Twitter. Anyway, it was the Titans. Top-15 play this week.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis: Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown ... and T.Y. Hilton. Sorry, just listing the four wide receivers who rank in the top five in both receptions and receiving yards this year. As anyone who owns it can tell you, the Bengals defense is getting destroyed these days. The T.Y. stands for Thank You. Another top-15 play.
Rueben Randle, New York: Only Jordy Nelson has more red zone targets this year than Randle; I like his chances getting into the end zone in the first game post-Victor Cruz.
Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati: At least 70 yards and a touchdown in three of the past four, this isn't a great matchup, but volume should make up for that as Cincy tries to keep up with Indy.
If you're desperate: Cecil Shorts has played only two full games this season, but he has either a touchdown or 100 yards in both of them and it's a good matchup with Cleveland. ... Since Week 3, Brandon LaFell leads New England wide receivers in yards and touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Jets have allowed seven touchdowns to opposing wideouts, tied for sixth most in the league. ... Over the past three weeks, Andre Holmes ranks in the top five in the league in both receiving yards and touchdowns per game while the Cardinals have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 7
Percy Harvin, Seattle: Not sure who hates him more. The refs, Russell Wilson or his fantasy owners. No consistent usage downfield, it's all underneath stuff, and last week they went totally away from him. Rams have played wide receivers tough this year (except of course last week, when I was facing Anquan Boldin. Thanks, guys). Anyway, I'm putting him on my hate list and as a result, I am sure he will go off. Once again, you're welcome, America.
Keenan Allen, San Diego: On here until proved otherwise, the big difference this year has been his yards after the catch, which have been cut nearly in half from 6.1 to 3.2 this season. Five points or fewer in five of six games this year, he faces a team off a bye, where the Chiefs are tied for the third-fewest receptions allowed to opposing wide receivers.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco: Crabtree has yet to reach five fantasy points in a game without the help of a touchdown this season. His 9.8 yards per reception are on pace for a career low. The Broncos have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.
Tight ends I love in Week 7
Jordan Reed, Washington: As long as he's healthy, Reed is the guy. Washington targets the tight end quite a bit in this offense (54 targets between Reed, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen, that's seven more than team leader Pierre Garcon) and will continue to do so against the Titans, who are tied for the fourth-most touchdowns allowed to opposing tight ends this season.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland: Two reasons to love Cameron this week. Great matchup with Jacksonville, of course, and the fact that I am facing Stephania Bell in the War Room leagues this week, and Cameron is her tight end. Which means he's definitely going off.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City: Leading all tight ends in yards after the catch, they actually get him in space quite a bit with a short passes and let him do his thing. And I suspect he will be able to do his thing (actual NFL term) against a San Diego squad allowing the second most yards after the catch per reception to opposing tight ends.
If you're desperate: Still no A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham was second on the Bengals in all major receiving categories with eight targets, six receptions and 68 yards, and he faces a Colts team allowing the most yards per reception to opposing tight ends. ... Jared Cook has at least 70 yards in two of the past three and, believe it or not, the Seahawks have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. ... Dwayne Allen keeps finding ways to get into the end zone and I bet he does this weekend as well.
Tight ends I hate in Week 7
Martellus Bennett, Chicago: Averaging only 3.5 receptions and 34.5 yards with no touchdowns his past two games as Brandon Marshall gets healthier, he needs to score to be a strong play this week. The Dolphins have allowed the fewest yards per reception to opposing tight ends this year. Given the other options available this week, he's not a top-five play.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh: Five points or fewer in every game this year but one, he needs to score to have any value this week, and with J.J. Watt & Co. in town, I suspect he'll be staying into to help block more, further limiting his chances to score. How lucky do you feel?
Defenses I love in Week 7
New England Patriots: Oh, Geno. It's not all on him, of course, and I thought he looked a lot more composed against Denver last Sunday. That doesn't change the fact that he is still turnover prone. The Jets have allowed an average -- I repeat, a whoa, crazy, crazy average -- of 20.7 points to opposing defenses this season, and never fewer than 14. Which was in Week 1. At home. To the Raiders.
Buffalo Bills: OK, they didn't show up against New England, but before that game they were second in the league in defensive fantasy points. With Teddy Bridgewater looking like an up-and-down rookie, Mike Zimmer yelling about Cordarrelle Patterson and a run game that seems stagnant, this is a team that is, um, in transition, to put it politely. Like the Bills to rebound strongly at home this week.
Cleveland Browns: Every defense has reached double digits against the Jaguars.
If you're desperate: Doing it with an offense that is limiting possessions, the Dallas Cowboys have turned into a viable streaming defense, and it's not as if Eli hasn't turned the ball over in his life. ... As much I was just bagging on the Minnesota Vikings offense up there, it's not as if Kyle Orton is lighting things up. I could see the Vikings do well on the defensive side this week.
Defenses I hate in Week 7
Cincinnati Bengals: What the hell? That's minus-12 fantasy points the past two weeks. As in, you'd have been 12 points better off by having an open roster spot. They'll get it together at some point (I think) but doubtful it happens on the road against Andrew Luck, as the Colts give up just 1.3 fantasy points to opposing defenses at home this year.
Carolina Panthers: Negative fantasy points three times in the past four, you're not risking them on the road against Green Bay.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- doesn't have to give the "let's still be friends" speech to Cordarrelle Patterson. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You also may have heard: He has written a book.