Ask The Commish: My Decision Was Unpopular. What More Can I Do?

By Reginald James
Reginald James

This past weekend, I had an owner in my league pick up Brian Robinson off the wire. They dropped their kicker and never picked up another one. They put up their starting roster last weekend without starting a kicker (they won too). I didn’t notice, others did and it was brought to my attention.


I’m under fire now because, a bunch of them want me to reverse the transaction and the guy’s win because they say you’re supposed to start a full roster of playable players. I agree with having a starting roster, but I’m stuck because there’s nothing in the rules that says they can’t do that, that they have to start a kicker, or any other player, I guess. The guy who did it, pointed that out when I asked them about it. They’re right, but I also think what they did was bush league play, but as a commissioner, I can’t enforce a rule that doesn’t exist. That includes going back retroactively and enforcing a rule that doesn’t exist.


Their “excuse” was we have shallow benches and he was trying to get a jump and get Robinson before someone else did. He thought the risk was worth it. I get it, but I don’t. Know what I mean? Isn’t there supposed to be a gentlemen’s agreement to not do stuff like this?


Now some are threatening to do the same thing, not playing kickers to add to their bench. I told the league that I would address the rule in the off-season, but I wanted us to all agree that no one else can do this, and we had to have all positions filled with active players. Some of them aren’t happy, but I don’t know what else I can do about it right now. What more can I do to make things better? I think that’s it. I’m standing firm on not reversing the transaction or penalizing the owner.


Wow. Ah yes, the nebulous and mercurial “gentlemen’s agreements” that some commissioners never specifically address in their rules, assuming everyone is on the same page. Things are splendiferously great - until someone decides a “gentleman” they will no longer be, and it all comes crashing down, unceremoniously, through the roof. Drama ensues.


In short, yes, you’re doing the right thing.


You’re right not to reverse anything. You’re right not to penalize the manager. What would that entail anyway? Taking away a win? That wouldn’t be right. You’re spot on about not being able to enforce a rule, retroactively or otherwise, that does not currently exist for your league.


To answer your question about what more you can do, I’d say there’s not much else. You did the right thing in addressing the league, stating your position, and asking for some sense of decorum once more.

You said you’d address the rules next year. Your job is done in that regard. You just have wait for feelings to simmer down. That may be the hardest part. It’s early in the season, so there’s a lot of weeks left for grumbling episodes if someone is so inclined .


Also, I wouldn’t worry about the whole I’m-not-starting-my-kicker-too-in-protest yammer. I understand, some folks are all fired up, but that’s just silly. I doubt someone is going to purposefully miss out on points, and risk losing their matchup, just to demonstrate their disagreement with you or your decision. I mean, you never know, but if they do, that’s on them, they won’t be hurting anyone except themselves with their one-way ticket to Dummyville.


This scenario you’ve found yourself in, is common. The fix, writing an actual rule, is easy. You’ll just have to wait out the season to do something about it. That’s actually not true. While I think waiting until the season is over is the best choice, you do have another option. Let’s entertain the option of changing the rule now, applying specific language requiring managers to put forward an active and full starting roster.


The problem, is no matter whether or not some viewed what the dude who picked up Brian Robinson did was a simple rule violation, or one that gave them an advantage, they’ll probably feel they should have the right to do it too. Even though they probably won’t.


Creating or changing a rule mid-season is generally something that shouldn’t be done. Sometimes, there are exceptions. In this case, you’ve asked everyone not to repeat what the one league member did. Even so, since one person got to do it, one has to maintain the tenuous facade of fairness, meaning the others need to feel they can do it too, that they could go rogue too if they wanted. Again, it’s unlikely anyone would. However, this should be enough for some folks to calm down and go about their business.


What I just said may seem a bit strange, but it makes sense. People don’t want to be told what to do. They also don’t want to be told what they can’t do - especially if other people have “gotten away with it.” Get it? It’s silly and it doesn’t really have to make sense, but how these thoughts manifest themselves in peoples heads and drives their behavior is quite real.


Clamping down now, may give folks who would otherwise stop growling and move on, another reason to stay agitated. I think you asking the league to “do the right thing” going forward and leaving the “non-rule” intact for the remainder of the season is the better move. That’s just my take.


To fantasy commissioners, far and wide, I say: gentlemen’s agreements have no place in fantasy leagues. Anything that resembles or even smells like an agreement of any kind, aka a rule entailing something that managers should or shouldn’t do, shall be corralled, duly restrained, and forever memorialized in writing. This is my way of having a little fun throwing around a bunch of words to simply say: Put everything in writing, everything.


When someone decides they are going to start their own league, the most important things they can do when crafting or adopting rules, is to:


• Be the most aggro devil’s advocate you can be. Look for loop holes that can be exploited by a manager.


• Make sure that all the things you believe people should simply do “because it’s the right thing to do,” gets put in writing anyway.


• Provide examples for your rules and be overbearing in your specificity.


In the future, any time you change or modify your league rules, apply the same scrutiny described above. This is one of the best ways to protect the league from future drama, and yourself from potential commissioner mutiny.


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