At 37, a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan is finally attending his first game. He never envisioned it would be because of this.
FARGO — Just days after a procedure to remove a cancerous tumor in his brain in late August, 37-year-old Travis Anderson, of Fargo, thought he'd take a shot in the dark. A hail mary, if you will.
"I didn't really know if he would reply," Anderson said.
Equal parts fantasy football junkie and Minnesota Vikings fan, Anderson turned to an unlikely resource to open up to and share his story. It was with ESPN's Matthew Berry, the foremost face — and voice — in fantasy football today.
At ESPN, on-air personalities' contact information is, understandably, not made readily available to the public, so finding a way to reach Berry was not going to be an easy assignment for Anderson.
To get to the top, Anderson was forced to start at the very bottom. The bottom, as in, the "Contact Us" tab on ESPN's website.
"I basically just went to the ESPN 'Contact Us' and put 'brain tumor' in the headline and wrote it was for Matthew Berry and I told him my story," Anderson said.
For those not familiar, the name Matthew Berry is synonymous with fantasy football.
A former Hollywood screenwriter, Berry was hired by ESPN in 2007 as the company's first "Senior Fantasy Analyst," a title which he has been quoted as saying he can't believe exists. He's also a New York Times Best Selling Author for his book "Fantasy Life," and is the creator of the "Fantasy Life App," a fantasy sports mobile app where players can join chats, get advice and earn props.
Though a wearer of many hats, Berry is first and foremost a writer at heart. Prior to this year, Berry's "Love/Hate" column was among the most popular reads each week on espn.com during the NFL season.
Due to a health scare in 2017, Berry was urged by colleagues and peers to scale back his workload, which spelled the end of his Love/Hate column.
But in 2018, after refusing to give up his passion for writing, a new, scaled-down column was born, titled "50 Facts."
'It's been stressful'
A controller for Blackridge Bank in West Fargo, Anderson has lived in Fargo since he was 1 year old. He and his wife, Donna, have three sons: Andrew, 6; Jackson, 3; and Ethan, 1.
In early August, Anderson began getting headaches, something he said he's never really had in the past. Shortly after the headaches began, the back of his neck began to ache, so Anderson went to visit local chiropractors to have the issues checked out. The chiropractors tried to resolve Anderson's pain, but what they tried didn't work.
He then started having difficulty communicating his thoughts.
Knowing something was wrong, Anderson made an appointment to get a CAT scan. On his way to the hospital to get the scan, Anderson received a call from his doctor's office. It wasn't good news. They told him that his insurance wouldn't cover the cost of the scan, but it would, however, cover an MRI, which he scheduled the for the following week.
Meanwhile, the pain wasn't going away. So with his father's encouragement, Anderson decided he couldn't wait until his appointment and drove to the emergency room to get the MRI done.
On Aug. 23, Anderson was told by his doctor that he had a brain tumor, a grade IV glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), or brain cancer. Within the next 24 hours, Anderson was in surgery at a Fargo hospital to have it removed.
After a four-hour procedure, the doctors were able to remove 99 percent of the tumor from Anderson's brain.
On Wednesday, Sept. 26, Anderson begins the next step in his healing process. Each weekday for the next six weeks, Anderson will undergo radiation treatment with lower-dose chemotherapy. After that, he'll do six different cycles of higher-dose chemo at a five-days-on, 23-days-off schedule.
"It's been stressful," Anderson said. "The kids don't know a whole lot yet ... I told my oldest that I'm sick and my hair's going to fall out, but we're not using the cancer word yet."
Win the Battle
On Thursday, Sept. 13, Berry's second-ever weekly "50 facts" column was written and published to espn.com.
More than just some take-it-or-leave-it fantasy football advice, Berry's weekly columns always lead with a great story. Last week, it was Anderson's.
For Anderson, who took a shot-in-the-dark chance of messaging Berry weeks before to share his story, it was, for him, a hail mary — completed.
His message had miraculously made its way up the endless rungs of ESPN's corporate email ladder and into Berry's inbox. A phone conversation ensued.
"We chatted for about 45 minutes," Anderson said. "He's just your typical guy."
Since 2005, Anderson, along with a bunch of buddies from high school, have competed in a 10-team fantasy football league called "Win the Battle." The league name, coincidentally, is named for another player in the league, Mike, who was diagnosed with cancer last year.
The timing of Anderson's diagnosis was particularly tough for him for more than the obvious reasons.
As commissioner of the longstanding league, Anderson felt he couldn't neglect his duties to the league due to his health.
"I wouldn't not be able to keep the league going," Anderson said to Berry as part of his Sept. 13 column. "I really enjoy fantasy ... it gives some excitement to Sunday afternoons, Monday nights and Thursday nights. It gives me something to do each day, each week."
A lifelong Vikings fan, Anderson has never made it to a Vikings game in person.
So when word spread about his story after Berry's column was released, a familiar face to Vikings fans stepped in.
Logan Johnson, community relations manager for the Vikings, said that marketing representatives for Kirk Cousins had contacted him recently looking for a way to host Anderson and his family for an upcoming game.
"But it was my impression that Kirk found out and wanted to do something about it himself," Johnson said.
For Anderson and his family, the news came as a welcome shock.
"That was definitely a surprise to me," he said. "It was immensely appreciated."
Johnson says that having a player of Cousins' character is just as beneficial off the field as it is on it.
"From a community side, (Cousins) makes our job pretty easy," said Johnson. "When you have guys like Kirk who is willing to get involved and give back, it's pretty rewarding to be able to help and assist with that ... we're definitely lucky to have a guy like Kirk on our side."
Though not confirmed, it is both the Vikings' and Cousins' hope to be able to have the Anderson family on the field prior to an upcoming game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Berry writes that he, along with ESPN, will continue to help the Anderson family through his recovery process by getting him in touch with The V Foundation, a cancer research foundation founded by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993.
"Because, you see, Travis Anderson is one of us," writes Berry. "Which means he's busy getting 'The Dirt Merchants' ready for Week 2. Just like we all are. Let's get to it."
If you'd like to help Travis Anderson and his family, click here to donate to his GoFundMe page.