Commish HQ: The Two Hats Theory

By Reginald James
Reginald James

I have a theory that I call the Two Hats Theory. It involves the idea that when you are commissioner of a league, you wear two hats. In other words, you have two roles, one as a player and one as a commissioner.


Sometimes commissioners will find difficulty in negotiating between being one of the crew, and carrying out their duties as a commissioner, especially those who are doing it for the first time. The Two Hats Theory can serve as a helpful reminder that being a fantasy commissioner comes with expected responsibilities, but also, being the commissioner can place one under a level of scrutiny that in some situations they might not be expecting and be ready for.


Player Hat: This is the hat that you wear when you’re participating in the fantasy league simply as a player. You get to compete and have fun with your mates, watch football, and enjoy all the good stuff that comes with being a fan.


Commissioner Hat: Unlike your fellow league mates, however, as the commissioner of your fantasy league, you also own another hat. This hat is the one that you wear when you’re carrying out the duties as commissioner such as organizing the league, modifying rules, or settling disputes.


Never the Twain Shall Meet?


If all you are is a league manager, you can trash talk as much as you like on the message board. You can even give advice, and trade tips to your league mates when you’re hanging out together. However, if you’re a commissioner, you have to accept the fact that there are just some things you shouldn’t, or may not be able to do anymore like the trash talk, or giving unsolicited waiver wire advice.


Those same aforementioned acts can sometimes come back to haunt you. Why? Because if you’re a fantasy commissioner, you’re likely to be held to a higher standard. Your actions are usually examined a bit more closely than the other members of the league. You have the power and the responsibility for tending to the league. Scrutiny (sometimes unfairly) can come with the job.


Toil and Trouble


Let’s consider the following acts, that under normal circumstances would appear to be pretty harmless if done by a league mate. However, a knucklehead looking to cause trouble could claim the very same acts are harmful to them or to the league if a commissioner does it.


Giving unsolicited trade or waiver wire advice:


• can flip into you showing bias or favoritism to a manager

• can turn into you intentionally helping someone defeat their opponent, which conversely, can morph into you purposefully giving “bad” advice (if it doesn’t work out for the recipient of the advice you offered)


Reminding one person to update their roster (out of courtesy), but then not doing the same for someone else in a similar situation.


• can open you to accusations of showing bias or favoritism to a manager 


Smack talk on the message board/chat room


• It was okay before, but now you’re guilty of bullying or harassment


Some league members will be glad to treat you as one of the gang until they have a vested interest to not do so. One day someone may decide they have an issue with you. You might make a decision in favor of another manager that they don’t like. Next thing you know, they’ll claim you were biased against them all along. They’ll point back to a moment where the two of you were having a good go-around talking smack on the message board. It was pure innocent fun back then, but not so much now.


Our House


The makeup of your league is a key determinant factor in how you choose to think about “Two Hats.” You might be a bit more lax in a league with family members. The more familiar you are with one another, or rather the more familiar they are with you, the more freedom you may have in how you relate to everyone. There can be a lot of inherent poking and prodding that goes on in a family structure that’s already present whether moms, cousins, and uncles discover fantasy football or not. Family units tend to have a lot of experience in this regard.


The Office


If you’re in an office league, you might need to be more guarded. In fact, I would strongly urge new fantasy commissioners to think about including the Two Hat Theory as part of their commissioner framework. The interpersonal dynamics in the workplace in comparison to family leagues are very different. Deciding to keep the two worlds that you straddle as distinct and as separate as possible, would be a good bar to set for yourself.


There are power dynamics inherent in the workplace between bosses, managers, the staff and employees that are generally not present in families. There are romantic relationships, or desired entanglements yet to be initiated, that also color office interplay. All of these things exist before the office fantasy league comes along. 


If you decide to run an office league, just know that all of these elements, that intertwine and overlap in various ways, can affect what goes on in the league itself. As a commissioner, you want to remain above it all. You should strive to be the human version of Sweden, impartial in every way. If you’re already wrapped up in some office drama of some sort when folks start chirping about having a fantasy league, then being the commissioner might be something you’d want to avoid taking on.


A Face in the Crowd


Fantasy football gives people in an office something to talk about. If it wasn’t for fantasy football, Sarah in human resources, may have nothing to say to Becca in accounting. 


For lots of people, part of the fun of being in a fantasy league, especially in the workplace, is the social aspect that it promotes. Moreover, the social interaction involving people discussing trades, and the natural verbal ribbing and boasting that can come along with playing fantasy sports, can churn on a daily basis. Some people thrive on and really get into the social elements of it all. 


Then, there are the “fantasy ninjas” who quietly play the game, who don’t get caught up in all the league talk and activity. 


Some people join in just to be part of the crowd. When it really comes down to it, they may not really care about the NFL from a fan perspective. Fantasy football is merely another game that they play, and nothing more.


Which of these descriptions would apply to you? If you find yourself to be the hyper-social type as opposed to a fantasy ninja, you may need to work a bit harder to maintain a certain awareness about what you’re doing as commissioner. Don’t get blindsided if you’re running a league in the workplace. Think about setting limits for yourself.


Dear Commish …


It’s a choice we each have to make as a fantasy commissioner. I can hear some of you out there saying,”Man, you’re too serious about this stuff. It’s fantasy football. What’s fantasy football without the smack talk?”


Yup. It’s your choice, and then one day that email comes. There’s drama. People choose sides. There are commissioners out there, who have experienced how quickly things can erode in a league because they failed to apply some forethought into what their role actually entailed besides, “having fun.” 


I’ve read those letters from fantasy commissioners bemoaning, “I was just playing around and now I’m being accused of creating a toxic environment for our league.” 


I’m not trying to lay it on thick with the doom and gloom. Really, I’m not. What I’m aiming to do is prepare you for the worst case scenario. If you are a new commissioner and you begin your venture with some basic guidelines to follow, you’ll be mentally prepared if something comes up. If you are lucky enough to avoid some of these stumbling blocks that others have had to deal with, great. If not, it’s better to be prepared than sorry. Good luck.


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