Ask The Commish: Shifting the Punishment Paradigm!

By Reginald James
Reginald James

Hi! Excited to get your input on this. I’m a new commissioner of a first-year league. It’s a mix of my girlfriends, and some work friends, not uber-competitive, which was a goal, a lot of us are new to the game. We’ve got a 6-4 girl-to-guy makeup. We started this league more than anything else, to be another fun thing for us to do socially. Some of the guys who have played before asked me what kind of punishment we were going to have!??!?! I didn’t know what they were talking about at first. The whole concept was explained to me, then I Googled it, of course. To be honest, first of all, I wasn’t that impressed with the idea of “punishing” the last place person as a matter of principle. But also, I hate to say it, but most of the punishments I came across were “guy-centric” like frat rush week. You know what I mean? I kept seeing the same ones, all centered around embarrassing people, not really in a mean way but in the name of “fun.” Okay, like being forced to stand at an intersection holding a sign saying, “I suck at fantasy football” while wearing a dress? I kept seeing that one. It’s not even that creative. Can you see my eyeroll from way over here? :-)


I told the league I’d think about it. I personally would rather not bother, but it’s not about me, it’s about the league. I get that. I know I need to be open-minded, especially since people seem to want us to have some kind of thing for 10th place. I’m trying to be a good commissioner my first year so that’s what I want to ask you. If I do decide to do something, I want it to be different and not something that’s going to make someone upset if they have to do it. Also, I’m not going to make someone do something that really embarrasses them. I actually want them to almost want to do it even though it’s a “punishment.” I hope that makes sense. Can you suggest a “punishment” that might actually be fun? Different? What would you do? My poll numbers are counting on you! :-) Thanks!


Hi! In a way, this was a hard question for me to even begin to contemplate because I’m a punishment curmudgeon. I don’t like the idea of “loser punishments” in general, myself. When I’m thinking how I might change things in my own league to make it more competitive or more fun, this topic doesn’t even pop up on my radar. However, it is a thing. I’m not really sure how popular league punishments are overall, but a couple of months from now, you and I both will definitely see the videos popping up on Twitter. Yup, guys with their dresses and signs. I totally know what you mean about the bro-leanings, and the lack of creativity. I’ve actually never seen anyone but guys doing their punishment online. I’m sure there are female managers out there somewhere, who end up in last place too, I’ve just never seen it. Seems to me, making them wear a dress as punishment would lack a certain gotcha appeal. In any case, and to be fair, from what I’ve seen, everyone seems to be having fun, or at least being a good sport about it all. I do appreciate leagues doing what works for their particular assortment of people. If they’re having fun, that’s what matters - it doesn’t have to be my thing, it has to be theirs, so more power to them.


Understand, my “scientific data” is lacking in this area. Don’t expect a graduate thesis on “League Losers” anytime soon. However, from what I’ve noticed, a lot of league punishments are solitary in nature. The person will do their punishment, while others film them. The Waffle House Challenge is a good example of this. Often, league members aren’t really taking part in the activity in any other way other than observing their mate’s predicament, or reveling in their potential or actual discomfort. Some leagues will actually wait and have their league mate perform their loser duties the following season at the live draft. You know, they’ll have them do something like … draft in a dress, while sitting on a pink toilet. So, in one sense, the league draft is a group activity that also happens to facilitate the punishment, so there’s that. You’ve been clear about not wanting to embarrass the people in your league, so let’s instead, try steer you in a different direction.


Of course, we’re going to ensure that the loser “pays” for their unfortunate finish. In my opinion, the activity as a whole should still also be:


• an activity where everyone can participate if possible

• fun and light-hearted in nature (not punitive)

• within the boundaries of what you know is comfortable for all

• affordable for everyone


Let’s see if I’ve come up with some ideas that actually help you achieve what you want. Even though I opined that I think everyone should be involved in some way, I’m still going to offer some examples where that’s not necessarily the case. That’s just my take, which you may disagree with, so I’m keeping that in mind. For clarity, or rather because I don’t want to keep typing “last-place finisher” or call them The Loser, our, um, last-place finisher shall henceforth be called “Lastly.”


League Chef for a Day - Lastly has to cook a meal for the league. The rest of the league gets to construct the menu. Whatever they come up with, Lastly has to deliver. No frozen, pre-prepared meals, or carryout/delivery, because, well, that’s not them actually cooking. Decide on the level of individual participation by the rest of the league, as far as what degree they want to assist the chef.


Escape Room - Throw Lastly in an Escape Room. Lastly has to find their way out. Some places may require a minimum of at least two people. If so, maybe the last two finishers are the ones who go in, or Lastly chooses someone from the league to do it with them. The only problem with this solo, or dual-partnered activity, would be that this limits the participation of the whole league. Then again, you did ask for something different, right? Still, if everyone got to take part in this “punishment” and worked together, that would certainly qualify. This activity could be cost-inhibitive, so keep that in mind.


Random Acts of Kindness like the Helpful Honda People - Task Lastly to spend the day offering random acts of kindness to strangers. You can get real imaginative with this one. Do you play this straight, with Lastly dressed normally as they wander through a mall? A public park? A free art festival downtown? Or, do they engage with the public in costume? League members get to decide if they have to walk around as a T-Rex, a Sumo wrestler, Goku, or as a former president. You get the picture. The possibilities are endless. This is another activity where everyone can get involved as well, as opposed to passively watching or live-streaming it.


Sweet Charity - This is similar to the above acts of kindness idea. The difference is that the league chooses a specific charity to help. Lastly is responsible for volunteering in some way. Maybe they spend the day working at a soup kitchen, helping at a food bank, or joining a group that picks up litter on the beach. Once again, this can easily flip from a solo venture, to one the whole league can participate in.


A Week with a Garden Gnome - Have you seen the movie Amélie? Procure yourself a garden gnome. Lastly’s “punishment” is to take the aforementioned gnome with them wherever they go. Grocery store? They ride in the cart as if it was their kid. The bar? Yup. The barber or hair stylist? You betcha. The gnome’s travels have to be documented. League members can do an impromptu video/photo check whenever they want to make sure that Lastly is adhering to the rules and still traveling with their diminutive companion. Set a time requirement where they have to be attached at the hip for a set period like 8 am to midnight. Lastly also has to document their activities with the gnome on social media (a Vlog would be fun) if they’re a user.


League of Losers Art Gallery - Produce a portrait of the last-place finisher. Use an AI art generator to create a portrait of Lastly. The rest of the league getting to decide what the portrait is going to look like, is the “punishment.” It’s really easy to tell the generator the art style you want to create. How about a cyberpunk Lastly fighting a Demogorgon? What about Lastly drawn as an Anime hero, standing on a giant scallop shell? Have your confab during a league party while you experiment generating different ideas. Get some drinks and eats together, and blast some music while your Fantasy Art Council has fun coming up with the parameters for the final portrait. Think about the collection you’ll amass for your gallery as the years go by. You could also create a website to “house” your burgeoning online League of Losers gallery. Everyone can share in this activity, and continue to enjoy the results over the years by visiting the website.


Bad Hair Day - Lastly has to take part in a public outing wearing a wig. Of course, the league members decide the style of the “punishment” wig, as well as the public space they occupy as Lastly sports their possibly (hopefully) irreverent hair. This could also be a group activity.


I hope one of these ideas works for you, or at least inspire you to come up with something that you find satisfying that suits the tastes and needs of your league. Maybe you can start a new trend with whatever you come up with, where the goal is to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone in the league. Please tell me what you decide to do.



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