Commish HQ: It Doesn't Have to be a Thankless Job

By Reginald James
Reginald James

I see a lot of posts and comments online that being a fantasy commissioner is a thankless job. The statement is pretty much cliche at this point. What is going on that makes being a fantasy commissioner so hard? What is it about running a fantasy football league that creates the stress and the “woe is me” declarations from commissioners? We never hear anyone bemoaning playing Monopoly. I’ve never read a Twitter post like, “Man, being dungeon master is a thankless job. I’ll never do it again, it’s harder than my real job.” I’m having a little fun, but really? What is it that these commissioners are doing to find themselves in situations that they’re so miserable? The better question from my perspective, is what are they not doing?


Some people who imagine that running a fantasy football league is going to be all fun and games, in spite of what they heard, soon learn that leagues don’t run themselves. Reality kicks in, and the next thing you, they’re bemoaning their fantasy life on Twitter.


It doesn’t have to be this way. It really doesn’t. The reality is, running a fantasy league does require a commissioner to have some organizational skills, to be able to set boundaries both in regards to rules and sometimes socially, to be able apply the rules at hand, and to be able to be half-decent at communicating with other people.


Everyone isn’t cut out to run a fantasy league, just like everyone is not cut out to be a youth coach. It’s okay. It’s been my experience that while there are people playing in fantasy leagues that will make the life of a commissioner miserable, often some of the trouble can be alleviated by the commissioner first looking in the mirror. Let’s discuss.


Communicating and Organizing


Granted, some people aren’t good communicators. In general, these folks are going to have a harder time running a league. Reaching out and informing the league about new rules, or reminding people that dues are owed, for example, are part of the job. If you hate sending out emails or texts for stuff like this, and you hate sometimes having to follow up when people are unresponsive, then maybe the job isn’t for you. That’s okay. It really is that simple. There is no magic trick, or coping mantra that’s going to make it better. If you don’t like reaching out and communicating with people, like say, an office manager? Stop, turn around and walk away. You’re not a bad person.


The more moving parts you have to your league, the better organized you have to be. If you have visions of grandeur of a league that will have all sorts of bells and whistles, then you have to be cut out for the work that comes along with it. For example, instead of having a simple year-end payout for the winner of the league, you decide you want to run a league that has weekly bonus payouts. This will be more work for you. This means you’ll be potentially tracking whatever the milestone is that triggers the bonus, announcing the winner via email, text or on the message board, and then facilitating the payment. This takes more organization and planning for a commissioner.


It’s your choice to keep things simple, or to have a league where you’ve got a lot of extraneous stuff going. Don’t take on more than you’re willing to handle.


Desperately Seeking Validation?


Why are you a fantasy commissioner? Some folks, want to be in charge. They want to be able to tell people what to do. They want to feel important. They like the attention it brings. This is not a criticism, just an observation from a person who has been hearing about, and from people just like this, for years. For some, playing King Bossy Pants is the main draw of running a fantasy league.


These will be the people who will create an abundance of unnecessary drama in their leagues, by over “commissioning.” These types tend to want to rule over every trade (when they shouldn’t), vetoing ones they wouldn’t do themselves. They will change rules on a whim, well, because they can. They will write me, looking for me to validate such behavior, knowing deep down that some of the things they’re doing really isn’t cool. When the backlash comes, they wonder why people are so unhappy and complaining, and rebelling. They will ask me, “What did I do?”


King Bossy Pants tend not to have a good fantasy life. They totally bring all the drama to the fore themselves, but often can never quite seem to figure out how it happened. At least, they don’t seem to feel responsible.


If you are a current commissioner, and you’re expecting people to laud you for running a league so you can feel special, go buy a puppy. It will lick you, follow you all over the house, and will give you all the attention you want. Seriously. If this is you, I respectfully suggest you go be a youth soccer referee.


"Mo Money, Mo Problems”


One of the most common issues that comes across my radar, is commissioners having difficulty collecting league dues. I would suggest that the pain incurred in this area is mostly self-inflicted.


In this day and age of fantasy sports, commissioners have the power to lock people out of leagues. They can password protect access to the league. If league members don’t pay, they don’t play. That’s it folks. That sounds harsh, but how many of you still haven’t been paid? In Week 18? You’re out there. Some of you have written me.


It’s a simple and clear rule, and easy to enforce. If you’re sitting there with doubt in your heart that you won’t be able to say, “No. I’m sorry, Marshall. I need the money by the deadline or else …” then maybe being a commissioner isn’t for you. It’s okay if having to say this to someone makes you too uncomfortable. You’re not the only one who feels this way. It’s okay if you can’t or don’t want to deal with money issues. Step aside and let someone else do the job. Avoiding taking action is not the answer, but the path so many commissioners will take. This choice will only cause you more harm and discomfort in the long run.


If you demonstrate to everyone that you will be the type of commissioner to let things slide when it comes to paying dues, that you can’t hold the line in this area, you’re laying the groundwork for this to come up time and time again, year after year. Unless you are Rich Uncle Pennybags, you will rue the day that you have to pay out of your pocket to cover the delinquency of one or more of your league members.


The Glory of Rules


How can rules help you do your job? First of all, the commissioner needs to know what the rules are. That sound simple enough, but you’d be surprised the number of messages I get where a commissioner says, “I didn’t know …” but someone in their league did, found a loophole, and now we’ve got trouble.


I’ve written before about how commissioners need to make sure they’re honest with what their expectations are from the very beginning. This is absolutely true for someone just starting a league, but it’s just as applicable for someone taking over a league. Don’t take over a league where you won’t be able to make rule changes that can help make your job as commissioner easier.


Rules are a commissioner’s best friend. People will give you flack and brushback in response to the words that come out of your mouth, but if it’s the written word in the “league bible” people will tend to fall in line. They can’t get snarky with words on their phone.


If you are starting a league, there’s no reason to not tailor rules to fit your style and temperament. For example, if you don’t like having to explain things to people over and over again, if verbally communicating the nuances of a rule hurts your head, then load the rule book with examples to help make the rule as clear and understandable as possible. In fact, overload the rule book with examples. Who cares if someone thinks it’s overkill? You’ll be happy and not complaining on Twitter how sad your commissioner life is. Isn’t that what we’re trying to achieve here?




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