Commish HQ: Preemptive Strike List for the New Commissioner

By Reginald James
Reginald James

You finally decided to start your own fantasy football league. You have now entered the world of being a fantasy football commissioner. Congratulations! Many new commissioners this season, will make the same missteps or oversights as their predecessors. A couple of seasons down the road, a good number of you will be moaning on Twitter, “It’s a thankless job. There’s nothing worse than being a commissioner!” I really hate continually reading that tripe, so this installment of Commish HQ is to try and steer you away from that road from the very start.


Welcome to our own version of The Minority Report. Give me a second to channel my inner Precog. What am I jabbering about?


The Usual Suspects


Basically, we’re going to try to prevent you - first-time - commissioner - from committing common and predictable commissioner “crimes” before you get the chance. The best part, is you won’t get arrested and Tom Cruise won’t come bursting through your door. Let’s get started.


Commingling Bye Weeks and Playoffs


If you chose to have a league with a playoff, go look at your schedule right now. Which week do you have your first round scheduled? Is it during a Bye Week? Is that a problem for you? Will that be a problem for your league mates?


Some people suffer great mental discomfort if they have to play in a fantasy playoff during a Bye Week. For them, the idea of managing their roster - just like they have all season - suddenly becomes too much for them to handle. Meanwhile, others look at the last Bye Week as just another element of playing the game, no different than what they’ve already dealt with. You have to decide which side of the fence you and your league mates stand. Fix this situation now if you feel it’s necessary.


Leaving Ginormous Loopholes in Rules


Yup, I said, “ginormous.” Sometimes new commissioners will fail to go over the rules of the platform they’re using. Some, even may not have read the rules at all because perhaps they’ve played on the same platform in other leagues and never really thought that they needed to.


Some of you are scoffing and thinking, “C’mon, this nut is saying there are commissioners who don’t read their own rules! That’s fake news!” Yes, that is what I’m saying, fake news nowhere in the near vicinity.


New commissioners need to view their own league from a completely different perspective than they did as a player. Some naively fail to do that. There’s a big difference between simply playing in a league and running one.


Trust me when I tell you, commissioners continually come to me with the common problem, where a league member has told them, “Well, there’s nothing in the rules that says I can’t do it.” That league member is usually giggling uncontrollably, jumping back and forth through a newly discovered rules loop hole, as they say this to our fellow blindsided commissioner. If there’s a loophole in the rules, someone is going to find it.


Make sure you read the rules from beginning to end. Pretend that you’re looking for a rule, or lack thereof, to exploit. Your job is to decide if there is anything that is left unsaid in the rules that needs to be added. Any additions gets put in writing.


Allowing Members to Play Without Paying Pool Money


Has everyone paid their pool money?


Yup, someone just read that question, and thought, “no.”


Boy, I’d be rich if I could bet a Caesars props based on commissioners who allow league members to not pay their dues, allow them to participate in the draft, and to begin the season. This is one of, if not the top bellyacher items that I hear and get asked about the most. The worst part about collecting dues, is that the longer you take to collect the money, the less likely you’re going to get it - especially if the player that owes is one who begins to feel that they’re not going to win or place that season.


If you have allowed this to happen, make a pledge to yourself, that it won’t happen again. More importantly, you need to take care of this situation right now, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you.  Let’s see how long it will take for you to round up the fees in this inaugural year. I’m rooting for you! In lieu of my ineffective well-wishing, I would suggest instituting a “No Pay, No Play” policy next year. It’s literally what it sounds like. The keys to making this work:


• Have a definitive deadline for payment

• Be willing to replace anyone who doesn’t meet the deadline

• Build and have a manager replacement list ready


 Make sure you've given yourself enough time between when the money is due and draft day, to lock in your new league member. Your top choice on your replacement list, might not be able to join your league, and you may need time to work your way down the list.


Procrastinating Setting a Date for the Draft


This is a fave of the jaded commissioner crew. My dear new commissioner, you shall henceforth choose and declare a date for your league’s draft as early as possible.


I know there’s a whole crowd of folks who get off on drafting in July with training camp barely starting, but I recommend drafting as late as possible, and announce that draft day date as early as possible. The same goes for all other deadlines and actions which may include the pool money deadline, or revealing the draft order. Give everyone as much time to plan and schedule their fantasy business into their lives - just like everything else. You want to create an environment where you don’t have to deal with a bunch of excuses. People plan for all kinds of things like weddings, concerts, birthday parties, and going to the dentist. They can do the same for their fantasy league draft.


No one demands that Taylor Swift change her scheduled appearances at the Thunderdome to fit their own personal schedule. Nope. They don’t bellyache and make excuses about the dates, coming up with reasons why they can’t go, right? And, by the way, Taylor’s tickets will have gone on sale months ahead of time too. Right? If someone wants to see her, they buy that ticket, and schedule it in.


You might also want to consider making the draft day the same time every year. For example, you could choose the Saturday after the last preseason weekend. You could make it the third weekend of August, every year. You get the idea.


Notice that earlier, I said “you shall henceforth choose,” as in you, not the league. Commissioners are always complaining that they can’t get their league members to agree on a date. I would not leave it up to the league to come up with a consensus for draft day. Granted, the dynamics of every league is different, and coming to an agreement might not actually be an issue. However, the old adage, “too many cooks spoil the broth” is more likely to play out than not in this scenario, resulting in no decision and you having to choose anyway. The solution is to take the hive out of the equation all together. You decide. Take the lead commissioner, and set the bar.


I totally get it, life happens. However, we need to prevent new commissioners from morphing into those who moan to the Twitterverse that it’s so hard to come up with a draft date. There’s a big difference between a conflict coming up for a league member months after the draft date was announced, and issues arising because a commissioner took too long to nail the date down. The longer you take to make a decision, for whatever the reason, the more time you give league members to plan for and schedule other things instead.


Happy Trials


I wish you the best this season and all the ones going forward. I hope I’ve set you up to help steer you away from some of the early pitfalls that other new commissioners have stumbled into. Fantasy Football is just a game after all. You should have fun playing it. You should also have fun running a league. Yes, I know people are hard to deal with. I know that one or two knuckleheads can ruin the whole experience. When you bring money into the equation, things can get toxic real quickly as well. A lot of scenarios will pop up throughout the years that you’ll have no control over. Members may die, get arrested - a whole slew of unfortunate happenings may fall upon the league. Nonetheless, there are things that you can absolutely control as a commissioner. These are the things you need to focus your energy on and master. The aforementioned “crimes” fall into that category. So, step up in year one, and make it happen for yourself. Both you and the league will benefit. Good luck.



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