Ask The Commish: I'm tired of being a babysitter!

By Reginald James
Reginald James



I get what people mean about running a league. Being a fantasy commissioner is like being a babysitter for a whole nursery. I took over the office league this year. Most of us are still working remotely. It probably would’ve been worse if we were all together like before. This year it felt like there was always someone complaining to me about waiver moves someone else was making, and the trade vetoes got out of hand. I didn’t see a problem with most, but they got vetoed.  Now I’m on the other side as a commissioner, and I wish I could’ve done something.


I didn’t have fun doing it. I didn’t think it would be like this, and I never acted like this when I was just pIaying. I guess I was missing out. They expected me to be like the peacemaker or something. I don't think that’s part of the job description. At least I don’t think it should be. Overall, running the league wasn’t a lot of work, it was basically the stuff I described. I’m not sure I’m going to do it again, but I don’t want to be a quitter and I know I can make some changes to make it better. I think LOL. I wish I had seen your stuff earlier in the season. Thanks for what you do, by the way. I want to know what would be steps that I could take to address people acting like I’m the Godfather and the whole trade veto thing, without acting like a dictator.


First, thanks! I’m glad you stumbled upon my work. I like thinking that someone is reading and getting something out of my articles that helps them in some way. That’s all I want. Hopefully, you’ll see me here next season as well.


One of the reasons I do what I do, is I got tired of hearing people on sports talk radio, reading complaints on message boards (before the days of Twitter), and eventually on Twitter, about how much they hated being a fantasy commissioner. The most popular complaints are pretty much the ones you have. There’s some organizational business that goes on in the off-season, and then you have your draft. Collecting money seems to be a common issue. However, after that, there shouldn’t be much else going on. Usually the drama I hear about involves a squabble a commissioner has inserted themselves into (and shouldn't have). Sometimes interperonal issues arise in leagues because a commissioner hasn't set boundaries either for themselves, for others, or both. Let’s talk about your situation.


You are not a babysitter. You are not to be a sounding board for frivolous complaints. The league needs to hear this from you, in writing and aloud if need be. If you stick around for year two, then I would advise you to decide exactly what is off limits when it comes to public and private discourse with you as commissioner. Put it in writing. Be specific. Be overly specific. For example, there’s no reason you can’t say, “The commissioner will not entertain or respond to any complaint that does not directly apply to a specific rule.”


There’s no reason you should not state exactly what you want for the league. You’re in an office league, where things can get tricky because office politics can seep into league interactions. Think about creating a Code of Conduct. In fact, that would probably be a great move for an office league. Think about it. You don’t necessarily have to give it an official name, but the items would establish that vibe and create the structure. There’s nothing tricky about a rule that says, “Anyone caught colluding will be removed from the league. No warnings, no second chances.”


Rules are a fantasy commissioner’s best friend. Grow and nurture them. Collect them. Be your own devils advocate: try and find the loophole in your rule. Pretend to be that guy who is always trying to skirt around the rules. The one who likes to say, “Well, there’s nothing in the rules that say I can’t.” Yeah, that guy.


You can also never have enough examples to illustrate a point. Give as many examples as you need. The rules that I’ve crafted for my league is chock full of examples, to an annoying degree to suit my tastes if I’m going to be honest. However, it's hard for most to misunderstand what I mean. You have to decide how deep into the weeds you want to go, but I’d rather err at over communicating than to deal with … that guy.


The rules concerning league vetoes should definitely get changed. Put this at the top of your list. No one gets to vote on anyone else’s trades. This move will probably squash a lot of your drama immediately. There will be no more revenge vetoes taking place, because that’s what usually starts to happen in leagues where people can veto another person’s trade just because they feel like it. Legit trade proposals will no longer be nullified by the fear of competition - fantasy managers voting in their own self interest, which has nothing to do with the validity of the proposed trade. You will only restrict trades that are collusive, and in the event that such trades come across your desk, make sure you you know what you will do to penalize such actions. I’ll leave the penalties up to you, but decide what they will be and put it in writing.


Don’t worry about coming off like a dictator. You used the baby nursery reference. Children and teenagers need boundaries and limits. Structure is important. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t have to extrapolate this analogy to adults in fantasy leagues, but setting firm expectations and laying down clear and precise rules for the league to follow is not the same as being a dictator. I hear about, read about, and get letters about those types of fantasy commissioners all the time. That's not the vibe I'm getting from you. You’re not asking for more control, for more power to wield. To me, your email comes from a commissioner who just needs order in the league they’re running, and who wants to enjoy actually playing fantasy football again.


You want to create a firm structure for your league. Make no apolgies for that. I think you have the best intentions. If someone doesn’t like it and prefers the league the way it is now? Too bad. Go and create a good and fun environment for the league. If people prefer a toxic environment where they get to act like they're back in high school, there are certainly leagues that they can join and do that. It just won’t be in this league, right?


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