My friend, Mike Tagliere

“What are you writing?,” I asked my buddy and co-worker Mike Tagliere at the Omni in Dallas in January of 2016. At that time, Mike and I were both writing for Pro Football Focus and we had the opportunity to meet at the FSTA Winter Conference.

That was an All-Star crew PFF assembled. Mike Clay, Jeff Ratcliffe, Nathan Jahnke, Tags, myself. I relished the opportunity to meet some of my friends from fantasy football Twitter and get the chance to network in the industry that I had come to love.

Turns out, what Tags was writing was a note to Mark Cuban, millionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and the guest speaker of that season’s FSTA conference. See, Tags was driven to be successful as a writer. To be full-time in this space and he wasn’t going to let this opportunity escape.

After Cuban addressed the participants, Mike and I lingered out of the conference room and Cuban spoke to a handful of people. Before he was escorted away by his one-man security detail, Mike Tagleiere worked his way through the growing crowd and managed to shake hands with Cuban and handed him the note that Mike had scribbled down.

A few minutes later, we were making our way down to the hotel’s bar for a drink and as we walked, I asked Tags what he said to Cuban. Mike kinda told me about how important it was for him to “make it” and that Cuban responded with some encouraging words.

It must have been amazing motivation because Tags soon had a rocket propelling his momentum and he went out there and achieved everything he ever wanted to be. And it couldn’t have happened to a better person. Mike represented everything about making it the right way.

Tags never had to resort to gimmicks, passive-aggressive quote tweets, thrusting himself into others’ conversations, or trolling athletes. He simply worked harder than anyone else, remained kind, and gave some of the best analyses and opinions that were out there.

Even as Tags continued to ascend the ranks of “made” men and his influence grew, he never changed who he was. No matter how inexperienced or new an aspiring writer or podcaster was, Mike always found the time to give back and donate his time. And he was always humble and so appreciative of those still willing to put in that grind.

One of my favorite all-time podcast spots I’ve ever participated in was with Tags and his beautiful wife Tabbie, back when they kicked off my favorite show, The Hot Route Podcast. I was the second-ever guest on the show and it was such a fun hour. Tags, Tabbie, and I talked about all kinds of non-football things and I even made it through the segment with off-the-cuff embarrassing personal questions that gave that show its unique edge and flavor.

Sometime later, I started my own program, The Old School Podcast, and true to form, I had Mike on as my second guest. By that time, he had really come into his own as a talent. I was always envious of how Tags could join any media, television, podcast, local radio, satellite radio, it didn’t matter. Mike was so good at his job that he had the data and facts ingrained in his head.

Mere mortals like myself often need pre-show notes to prepare facts and numbers but Tags was such an amazing writer and analyst that he didn’t need prep time. That, to me, is the mark of a consummate professional, and one who certainly should be considered among very the best at his craft.

As great as Mike was in football, nothing made him happier than his wife, Tabbie, and his two kids Alyssa and Jonathan.

Back to that chilly week in Dallas, Mike was the person I was most looking forward to connecting with. And to be honest, I kinda tagged along with Tags all week. I didn’t know she was coming, but Mike brought Tabbie to the conference. After meeting her, I had a better understanding of Mike’s drive.

Tabbie was the most caring, kind, and supportive spouse I’d ever encountered. She filled Mike with encouragement, motivation, and genuinely wanted him to achieve his dreams. I watched in amazement how Tabbie could socialize with us scrubs, support her husband, and use her downtime there in the hotel to study. She wanted to become a nurse, and in true Tagliere fashion, that’s exactly what she achieved.

I remember sipping on an IPA and thinking to myself what an amazing couple and how nice it must be to have someone be so supportive in life.

On the second night in Dallas, after the main conference and cocktail hour, the vast majority of FSTA participants gathered to carpool off to American Airlines Center to watch a Mavericks basketball game. As part of the festivities, an extra $100 bought all FSTA participants a ticket to the game and all-you-can-eat-and-drink seating at the Jack Daniels Bar.

Maybe because we weren’t “made” men yet, but Tags and I had elected not to buy the ducats. But after some talking, we decided we certainly wanted to go. It was Tabbie who said, “let’s just go; what’s the worst that can happen?”

So Tabbie had this cool app on her phone called Uber and next thing you know, the three of us showed up at the arena and found a big group of people with FSTA lanyards on. We sorta just got in line and wouldn’t you know it? They waved us through like we were supposed to be there.

And man, was that fun. Great laughs, socializing with so many people in the fantasy industry, unlimited food and drinks…oh, and the game went into overtime too!

Not long after that, I took my annual February sabbatical and watched with amazement how my good friend Mike Tagliere became “Tags”. Mike landed a full-time job with FantasyPros. It was truly inspiring to watch Mike’s real personality come out on the FantasyPros Podcast, and I was privileged to join the show several times.

Mike was integral in me landing a gig with FantasyPros a couple of seasons later. As someone who has done this for more than a decade, I can say I have no idea how Mike had the energy to be such an amazing dad, friend, colleague, and talent.

Anyone of us who had the pleasure of meeting or interacting with Mike knows that he absolutely loved what he was doing for a career. I’m so happy that Mike achieved everything he ever set out to do and was able to spend more than five years of his life doing exactly what he wanted for a living. That’s the dream so many people have, yet so few people are able to live it.

Back in June, I was devastated when my dad passed away. Mike was the first person from Twitter to reach out to me via text. Just like he was when I first asked for prayers for my father back in March, and just like he was when I was going through other personal pains in the previous two years.

“I’m so sorry, Jody. I wish words could express how truly sorry I am, but they do no justice. If you need anything, let me know. May your dad Rest in Peace.”

It was a beautiful text from a good friend. One who wanted to be there for me in what was the lowest point of my life.

Six weeks later, Tags reached out to me again to wish me a happy birthday and ask how I was doing. Ultimately, not a huge time commitment, but the fact that Mike took the time out of such a busy time of the pre-season prep to still message me shows the caliber of person that he was.

A few days later,  I reached out to Tags to see how he was doing. Unbeknownst to me, Mike was sick. I expressed my apologies and encouragement but Mike just had the most positive attitude. He was hurting but had the most amazing outlook.

I never mentioned Mike’s situation to anyone else, but eventually, all of us in the fantasy football community became aware of Tags’ illness and fight. As the days turned into weeks, I think we all grew more and more concerned about our guy and this awful virus.

Although he wasn’t able to respond, I kept texting Tags support and that we all looked forward to him coming back better than ever. And I never doubted that he would.

#TagsStrong

When I saw Tabbie’s tweet this afternoon that my friend Mike Tagliere was gone, I just couldn’t quite believe it. How could this happen to such a wonderful person, who did EVERYTHING right?

As the realization set in, I felt those familiar emotions well back up. I threw away the rest of my meal and am not afraid to say that I cried. Cried because I’d just lost another person I cared about. Cried because it seems so unfair. Cried for Tabbie and those two gorgeous children who just lost their daddy.

I’m not ashamed to say that I had genuine love for Mike Tagliere. He was one of the nicest, most sincere, and fantastic humans I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. The world is truly worse off without Mike in it, but all of us are better for having him here while we had him.

To Tabbie, Alyssa, and Jonathan, Mike was one of the finest humans I’ve ever met. He helped me in so many ways and I have never had one negative opinion of him in the years that I knew him. I am so truly sorry for your loss and wish there was something more that I could say or do.

Mike, I hope you’re up there looking down on all of us. It feels so inadequate for us to go on concerned about something as silly as fantasy football. It feels so feeble without you here, showing us the way. I’ll do my best to move forward because I believe that’s what you would have wanted.

Until I see you again friend, I love you Tags.

 

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