Commish HQ: Now That is Collusion!

By Reginald James
Reginald James

What is collusion? If you’ve spent any time on Reddit, or Twitter, definitely Twitter, whenever a debate pops off about whether a particular act is collusion or not, someone always trots off to Merriam Webster and comes back with the definition. They will post the definition for all the world to see. Let me first say, that most of the time, the conversation usually involves a trade that people don’t agree with, therefore it has to be collusion. Some of these folks apply the term collusion to a trade they wouldn’t do. Really, they do. They are incorrect to do so. It happens all the time.


In a previous Commish HQ I gave examples of what does not constitute collusion. Check out “That's Not Collusion!” if you’re curious. In the fantasy world, some seem to have an ongoing struggle with parsing words within definitions. Namely, for example, those folks who get stuck on one word like “secret” found in the Merriam Webster’s citation of collusion. Ah yes, I did mention the word “collusion” didn’t I? Which means I am obligated to drop the definition in short order. Fear not, it’s coming.


In this edition of Commish HQ, I’m going to discuss some of the forms collusion can take - apart from the scenario that it’s most often (incorrectly) applied. We will remain grounded in our application of the term. We will resist the temptation to allow collusion to be anything more than it is.



/kuh • LOO • zhn

secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others

“the armed forces were working in collusion with drug traffickers”



“Illegal Cooperation”


In my experience, the one collusive act that gets tagged the most, that is actual collusion, is when two teams work together to try to create a “super team” to ensure that one of them will win the league. This is not the same as an alleged lopsided trade, or a trade that a particular commissioner wouldn’t do. I can’t stress this enough.


Commissioner beware: in bigger leagues, especially in leagues where someone may have joined via an invite, where no one in the league (including the commissioner) knows who they are personally, the “two teams” often turn out to be one person. Yup. This is why I specifically said “two teams” because often it’s not two living and breathing individuals. Rather, it will be one bonified dinglehead. This happened in my league during the early “developmental” years. If collusion happens in a league, it will usually come in this form.


The problems begin, however, when a league has a  commissioner who isn’t objective about trades. Their own errant interpretations will lead them to falsely accuse two parties of "colluding" simply because they don’t like the trade, for instance, in a case where It seems like one party is getting a “better” player. With collusion, what really matters is if the end result finds us with a team that can’t compete, literally, because they’ve depleted their team of all talent. Determining whether or not there’s collusion shouldn't involve whether or not you personally think Ezekiel Elliot is a better player than Raheem Mostert, and how you wouldn’t make the trade. It’s pretty obvious if someone has a team of zombies, as opposed to a team of players you wouldn’t assemble yourself. Big difference.




I commented on this earlier, people love to get stuck on the word, “secret” as if an act isn’t collusive if the perpetrators post about it on Twitter. Wrong. We'll give Merriam a little brushback here: in the fantasy world, people are sometimes dumb enough to tell other people, brag even, about what they are planning to do or have done. They aren’t secret about it at all.  We can call them daft and possibly arrogant, and we can still call what they did collusion.




Conspiracy is an agreement to do something unlawful or harmful. Fair enough. Such an agreement will move two or more people to a common goal. What if two managers are trying to help one (or both) of them cover a bye week? That doesn't seem to harmful, does it? Yet, it is unlawful and collusive if two teams “borrow” players to address their predicament. If they swap the same players back, or more than once, then we’ve got a problem. This type of activity goes beyond the bounds of a simple trade. Take note: there are no super teams in the vicinity, no trades to garner attention. This example isn’t that dramatic of an event. It’s not that ambitious in scope. We still have collusion.


If two veterans find themselves among a group of inexperienced players in a fantasy league, they could easily achieve their goals using this method. The deal could be to cover, or help win a specific game and nothing more. A trade is a singular event. If they’re cheating, they’re going to swap the players back. Borrowing players is illegal. The intent matters, which makes such an action more than a “trade” that just so happens, to take place twice for the exact same players.


“In order to … deceive”


I’ve talked about the Two Hat Theory before, which is the idea that when you’re the commissioner of a fantasy league, you act as both a player and as a commissioner. Each role demands certain modes of behavior on the part of a fantasy commissioner that might not necessarily overlap.


As a player, you should routinely review your league’s transactions, especially paying close attention to which players have been dropped. You don’t want to miss out on being able to pick up someone that can help your team. As league commissioner however, you should give all league transactions a bit more scrutiny than you would otherwsie do as a player. You’re keeping a lookout for suspicious patterns. The aforementioned super team does not always spawn through trading. There’s a slower, more methodical way of creating one.


In a league without a waiver period, it’s easy for a team to repeatedly drop a player(s) that their partner in crime will immediately pluck up. The folks (or singular person) going about it this way, has a bit more patience than the usual brand of cheaters. They can slow drip these transactions over a number of weeks, and if a commissioner isn’t paying attention, they’ll miss it.


I'd love to hear what your stories are on this topic. Send them my way. Good luck!



Send your questions to The Commish: