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Fantasy Forecast (r): How to be a Successful Fantasy Football Commissioner

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You’re surfing the net one day and you figure you want to start a fantasy football league. Why not? It’ll be fun, and it’s a great way to keep in touch with your college buddies. Besides, it’ll give everyone something to do on Saturday nights, right?

Without a doubt, the internet has fueled the fantasy football phenomenon. Online leagues have become amazingly simple to establish, with plenty of free and paid services handling every aspect of setting up and running a league. E-mail is a great form of communication, the Web allows all owners to participate in a live draft (no matter where they are physically located) and makes league updates and lineup submissions a snap.

There’s always some old-timers (really old) who pine for the “good old days.” Not me! For those who are old enough to remember, the good old days really weren’t all that good when it came running a league. Remember having to pick a time and place to herd all 12 of your owners for the draft? Or how about trying to design and distribute a league schedule? Let’s not forget all those calls at the office in code (“Mr. McCoy would like to visit your office today while Mr. Fitzgerald is up here at our location”) and buying the USA Today for the purpose of manually transferring the stats to a spreadsheet. How about having to draw names out of a hat for the assignment of a league statistician? Yecch, what a horrible job that was! I say, good riddance to the “good old days,” hello to the Internet and the geeky programmers who make our lives easy!

But there’s something that even all the HTML and PHP in the world can’t provide: the leadership of a good commissioner. The one positive aspect of “the good old days” for fantasy leagues was the development of commissioners that possessed the wisdom of Solomon, the intelligence of Einstein, the negotiation skills of Kissinger, the leadership of Reagan, the patience of Mother Theresa and the looks of Brad Pitt (in the authors’ specific case).

Having been involved in various fantasy football leagues for close to 25 years as both an owner and commissioner, I’ve had the opportunity to observe several different commissioners in action. While they all differed in style, the truly effective ones shared some common traits which allowed them, and by extension their leagues, to be extremely successful.

If you too want to be a successful commissioner of a fantasy league, seek to acquire or nurture the following qualities:

  • Patience - at various times during his tenure, a commissioner will be deluged with owner requests, complaints, suggestions, trade proposals and insults. Usually at the same time! Listen to all owners; be respectful of all opinions (no matter how stupid) and then provide your input. Avoid the temptation to completely ignore vociferous owners-they’re people too.
  • Organization - a commissioner deals with a ton of information, from game results to home phone numbers. A good commissioner has the ability to store and retrieve the mountain of data he owns in an easy and efficient manner.
  • Integrity - perhaps the most important quality for a commissioner to possess. At no point should any owner ever have cause to doubt the commissioner’s integrity. The league must be assured that all the commissioner’s decisions were arrived at via careful consideration and analysis; not for any self-serving purpose. Once the integrity of the commissioner comes into question, he can never effectively do his job again.
  • Strength - hit the gym and build some serious muscle. That way, when disputes regarding your leadership arise, you’ll be in a position to beat some sense into the other owners. Just kidding! But it is true that the best commissioners project an image of strength: strength of character, strength of will. Owners have to understand that your word is law; otherwise, your league will eventually plunge into anarchy.
  • Enthusiasm - it may sound corny, but the commissioner needs to be the league’s top cheerleader (but skip wearing the traditional outfit). If the commissioner begins to get down on the league, it sets off a downward spiral of apathy that will tear apart the whole thing. Take the time to contact owners, see how they feel the league is progressing. Ask for suggestions on how to make things better. Write a newsletter and distribute it. Folks will respond to your enthusiasm in kind.

Now if you’re really on the ball, you’ve already noticed that the acronym formed by the qualities listed above is POISE. Consider that a “bonus quality” that I’m providing to you at no extra charge (’cause I think you’re special).

John T. Georgopoulos is an 18-year veteran of fantasy sports journalism. John’s Fantasy Forecast(r) series has won the prestigious Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for Best Series, and he’s been nominated as an FSWA Award finalist on eight occasions. You can also listen to his weekly non-sports opinions here .