Commish HQ: That's not Collusion!

By Reginald James
Reginald James

The fantasy football world on Twitter tends to be pretty tame. Usually, there’s a daily dose of innocuous tweets like people asking the fantasy “community” to choose between two players to start, or someone offers their take on a particular player. Of course, there are the customary trolls that will try to provoke folks (under the cover of anonymity) seemingly for no other reason except that they can. The fantasy community deals with these types much better than what happens on political threads. Nothing too exciting popping off is the standard order of the day. However, every once in a while someone will post something that causes a stir, where a heated debate ensues. Inevitably, one such tweet will come from a commissioner asking whether or not they should veto a particular trade (No, they should not), then someone will toss in the word “collusion” and, then, bang! We’re off to the races.


This week someone posted:


Ok fantasy Football Twitter conscience, what do we think about this: The guy I’m playing in week 7 is decimated by the bye, I’m ok but don’t have a starting QB (neither does he) Gentleman’s agreement that neither of us start a QB this week - ok or not?

Now, this one got my attention, and I had a lot to say about it. I got into a couple of mild back and forth with a couple of people. All the while, I was thinking, “Boy, I’m going to write about it this week!” I had totally planned to get into why I thought that what the person was describing was collusion, really getting into the details. The problem was going to be, however, that I really didn’t know the real story. I knew what made sense to me, but it was based primarily on the original tweet. He gave a couple of the same responses saying that he thought of the idea because he didn’t want to drop any players to pick up another quarterback. That was pretty much it.


He never really engaged too much in the discussion and the debate swirling around his tweet, leaving us commenters to our own devices to theorize about him and the other guy. I myself, imagined a scenario where the person who started the whole thing was an experienced player, and that the other guy wasn’t. I thought what the guy was doing was pretty slick, but neither cool nor clever, and that he was taking advantage of the inexperience of his league mate.


Turns out, they didn’t go through with it. It wasn’t until the next day, the guy tweeted at me remarking about how I had “put together a hypothetical story from inception to conclusion.” He was correct, I had. I responded, telling him that I've been answering letters and writing about this type of stuff for years, so what he had described wasn’t new to me. I had seen it before, so me coming up with what made sense to me wasn’t much of a stretch of the imagination. He said that he wanted me to know that his intentions wasn’t as underhand as I imagined.


As I began to formulate how this particular edition of Commish HQ was going to look like, I decided that I would depart from my initial idea of discussing the tweet itself and the story (or lack thereof) behind it. Instead, I decided that I was going to keep things simple, and address collusion because unfortunately, some people have no idea what collusion is. What they’ve imagined in their heads are a whole lot of things it is not. Not surprisingly, someone will always post the definition. I’m going to do it too, just give me a moment. One of the themes that kept cropping up in the thread was people thinking that if the action ended up not helping the parties who colluded together, then it really wasn’t collusion after all, because ultimately they reasoned, collusion can only benefit the parties involved. This is ridiculous. I remarked to one person that a collusive act not being smart or successful doesn't disqualify the act itself as collusion. It’s the intent that’s a major factor.


First, it’s my turn to post the definition. I can’t resist, it’s almost a tradition at this point. Folks tend to like this one:


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”


We good? Moving on.


Now, let’s talk about the fallacies of what collusion is. To some of you, some of the things I list are going to seem silly. You would be correct to feel this way. However, in my efforts to help fantasy commissioners and managers throughout the years, you’d be surprised what people claim is collusion.You might also be just as surprised as to how quickly they may be to dismiss collusion, failing to call it what it is, even if it fell through their ceiling and landed square on their head. Let’s proceed.


• Collusion is not a trade you don’t like (and as commissioner you feel compelled to veto).


• Collusion is not a lopsided trade that you wouldn’t do yourself (and as commissioner you feel compelled to veto).


• Collusion is not a trade that isn’t lopsided, but still a trade you wouldn’t do yourself (and as commissioner you feel compelled to veto).


• Collusion is not a trade that you don’t understand (and as commissioner you feel compelled to veto).


• Collusion between parties doesn’t have to be successful.


It could simply be just a dumb plan that didn’t work out the way it was supposed to, but still the act itself is still collusive.


• Collusion doesn’t necessarily have to end up turning the league on its head. The end result doesn't necessarily have to have a huge dramatic affect leaving bloody collateral damage in its wake, in order to qualify as collusion.


There are “milder” forms that can go down, but are collusive acts nonetheless.


• Collusion is not the same as a beneficial trade.


One could argue, as some often do, "What’s the difference?”


Yes, a trade is supposed to (or should) benefit both parties. We can assume that the folks who are colluding together have the same set of expectations as those who commit to a trade. No one would desire for the results of their collusion to be anything less than beneficial. Again, as already mentioned, just because a collusive act somehow fails to benefit the involved parties, the act itself does not magically turn into something it is not. The difference is the intention of the parties involved. The process matters. Their actions matter. And, in a fantasy league where the commissioner has done a good job at writing rules that are specific about collusion, league members should have a clear understanding about what’s acceptable.


• Collusion is still collusion even if the parties involved are dumb enough to tell other league members what they have done (or planned to do before they did it).


Some folks get hung up on the “secret” part of the definition. Just because  a couple of cheating dimwits, for some unexplainable reason, decide to make the league aware of what they’re going to do, still doesn't make it right or absolves them from being guilty of collusion.


If there isn’t brushback from the league or the commissioner (remember the Alex Letter?) then that just means they are okay with collusive behavior or don’t know any better, which means that league has way bigger problems than the two knuckleheads blabbing about it.


I hope this helps. I’ve made a conscious effort to have some fun with this, because at the end of the day, most of us, or most of the people I know and hear from, are not professional fantasy football players. Beyond the high-stakes leagues, there’s basically the rest of us, who are looking to play a game, socialize, and yes, possibly in some cases, win some money. What most of us don’t want is having to deal with cheaters ruining the experience. What I personally hate to see is commissioners and league managers ruining the fantasy football experience because they are acting in a self-serving way i.e., vetoing trades, or mischaracterizing certain acts as collusion. We all don’t have to agree about each other’s trades, but if we can all get on the same page as to what collusion is NOT, that would be a wonderful thing.


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