Commissioner Commandments

A very good read for all.

Some good points. Some I don’t agree with at all.

I am acting as commish for 6 years now. Started with one league, 2 years later came a second one. And now a third, probaby a 4th and 5th this year.

In all modesty, I can say that all owners seem to be quite happy with the way their leagues are ran. Yet I would not recommend to follow those Ten Commandments.

  1. Thou Shall Be a person of Integrity

I agree with the general premise, and also with the importance of communication. But I strongly disagree with

People like being told what to do, so tell them.

My personal experience is the complete opposite. People hate to be told what to do. Of course, that doesn’t negate the need for rules and their enforcement. But if you base your commish philosophy on the principle of “I talk, you follow”, your league is doomed.

  1. Thou Shall Pick Your People Wisely

The author seems to play mostly buddy leagues, with the managers coming all from the same town. Maybe that is the rule, I don’t know.

But in two of my leagues, I don’t know a single person in that league. It’s a random bunch of people from all over the globe. I have no idea of their personalities, and I strongly doubt they would read a weekly newsletter. Those of us with office jobs have to process hundreds of e-mails every week. Some every day. A weekly newsletter may have been a fancy feature in the 90ies. But they are long gone.

  1. Thou Shall Have a Live Draft When You Can

Before this paragraph, the author breaks the spectacular news that girls play fantasy football, too. So don’t make your league a boys club.

And then he goes straight on to suggesting drafts should be live ones, scheduled at 4 pm at your local bar.

What 4 pm? Yours or mine? Because those two 4 pms may easily be 10 hours apart. And meeting in your local bar would mean taking an intercontinental flight for me.

Drafting live at Sat 4 pm in the local bar is a great thing. If your league is a local boys club. None of the leagues I play in are.

Slow draft is the way to go. 24 hours per pick. If you hold a live draft (even an online live draft), there will always be that guy who doesn’t show up and ends up on auto draft. And who will be the no-show during the season, because he has no personal connection to his team.

A slow draft is something even the guy on vaca and the dude on a biz trip can handle. Once every 24 hours, you need to find 3 minutes to check the draft board and pick your favorite player.

  1. Thou Shall Embrace Technology

Who would disagree with that? Technology makes life easier. So we should use it.

But then the author goes on showing how you can use technology to make life as complicated as possible. Use Zoom to allow absent managers joining that 5-pm-in-a-bar live draft. Doesn’t solve the problem that your 5 pm could be my 3 am. And believe you me: I most certainly won’t get up at 3 am on a Sunday for a Zoom meeting.

Nor do I want to (or expect my league mates to) familiarize with dozens of third party tools. I want to play fantasy football, not study computer science.

Use technology to make things easier. Not more complicated, like the author said.

  1. Thou Shall Get the Money Before the First Pick

I do agree with that. Even better approach: don’t make your league a cash league. If the only way to motivate your league mates is by making them pay $20, with the chance to turn them into $150+, then half of the league will be inactive by week 8, when it becomes apparent that their team just won’t cut it.

The much better way to motivate them to keep playing: make it a dynasty league.

  1. Thou Shall Set the Rules for Scoring, Transaction, etc. well before the draft.

That one I fully agree with. And in dynasty formats, most rule changes need to be decided upon and communicated 2 seasons in advance, so that managers have time to adapt.

In one dynasty league I play, we decided that the rookie draft should not snake any longer. Unless there is a unanimous decision to do so, you can action that plan only for the first season no picks have been traded for yet.

  1. Thou Shall Be the Settler of All Disputes:

Yes and no. As a commish, at the end of the day, you will have to make a final decision in a dispute. But you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) get there all by yourself. Get the other managers involved.

Many disputes circle around situations that weren’t covered by the rules, because nobody thought of it. That happens more often than you would think. In my oldest dynasty, two teams managed to score the exact same amount of points, to the last decimals. We never discussed how to handle ties.

Last year, there was the Damar Hamlin game, that was cancelled after kickoff.

A year before, we had a situation where a team saw both QBs hitting IR. By rule, they had to start a QB, but no startable QB was on the waiver wire. The team’s IR was full already. Was that team still required to cut a player in order to make room for a QB who would only see the field that week in case of an in-game injury?

Those situations need to be settled. But you don’t have to decide that on your own. Propose a good solution and then discuss it with all team owners.

I’m a no veto guy.

I’m not. As a commish, I’m neither the lineup nor the trade police. But if questionable decisions are being made, I will take action if I see the need to do so…

That will usually start with a polite request to the involved parties to elaborate themselves. If there is a good explanation, fine. That actually happened once, with a lineup decision that made more sense than I had initially thought.

In all those years, I vetoed trades twice. And I did not make that subject to a public vote. There is no universal rule how to determine if a trade or lineup decision is fair or not. This is the one field where a commish sometimes needs to be a dictator.

A good league should not require such decisions. But when it happens, you need to take action. Otherwise, your league will quickly run out of balance and die.

I know this is an unpopular stance among commishs, because, contrary to what the author claimed in #1, people hate to be told what (not) to do.

But if you explain your veto, there is a chance the affected manager(s) will understand. Like that one trade I immediately vetoed. Turned out both managers had gotten wasted together that night. They actually thanked me for stopping their “trading under the influence”.

Allowing people to trade their team to doom may lead to a derilict team that is so terrible no owner wants to take it over. That can kill a dynasty league. It’s not easy to find owners who are ready for multi-year turnaround projects.

  1. Thou Shall Know What We Are Playing For. Have Payout Structure and Trophies Ready

As mentioned before, I prefer leagues with managers who are motivated by more than the chance to make a few bucks.

  1. Thou Shall Keep It Going and Going

The author ends on a bullet point I can agree with. I still won’t subscribe to his multiple podcasts and YouTube channels, thank you.

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My solution: Start the guy on IR. No it isn’t perfect, but it is reasonable under the circumstances. Remember during COVID when one team (I think it was the Broncos?) had to start a non-QB because their entire QB corps got sidelined by COVID?

Let’s be honest, how many times does an injured QB end up starting because he’s a game day scratch? it’s an honest mistake, and I think this solution takes care of the problem. Sometimes, inelegant problems lend themselves to inelegant solutions.