Every fantasy season, the same questions burn deep within on how to optimally setup a fantasy football league. One of the most debated and everlasting issues is how to configure (or not to configure) waivers. There are two basic types of waivers: 1) when a player is dropped by a manager and 2) when all players are unavailable during and after Sunday, commonly referred to as Sunday-through-Tuesday waivers. In this edition of Commissioner’s Perspective, we’ll exclusively discuss the latter type, and in particular, explore the myths behind the seemingly perfect answer to one of life’s most eternal questions.
For a recap of the issue, some strongly believe that waiver acquisitions should be on a first-come-first-serve basis. The basic argument for this is that managers should be rewarded for putting in the diligence, time and effort in sitting at home on Sundays with four LCD screens connected to NFL Sunday Ticket, a laptop and cell phone on each arm, and the wife in their ear about how much of a loser they are with threats of divorce. On the other hand, the classic argument against the first-come-first-serve system is that not everyone has a fair chance, since not everyone has the time on the weekends to watch and follow every NFL game. There are other arguments and sub-arguments to this, and the main ideas are probably not new to you if you’ve played fantasy football before.
Many managers and commissioners, including a good percentage of well-seasoned vets, believe that the perfect answer lies in a blind bidding system. The idea is that every manager begins the season with the same amount of virtual “bidding dollars”, and during the bidding period, (usually Sunday through Tuesday) managers silently bid arbitrary dollar amounts on the available players in the waiver pool. The waiver pool consists of all players who aren’t rostered at the time. Whoever put the highest bid on a player claims that player for that bid amount when the waiver period ends. If the idea is new to you, have a look around the web for basic arguments for and against blind bidding. For those very familiar, there are some myths that need to be debunked about this system using sheer logic.
Myth No. 1: Blind bidding is the more “fair” than not having a Sunday-through-Tuesday waiver system.
Fact: If you compare fantasy football to other “life systems” (i.e. job, school, the romance game, etc.), it’s much more inline with a non-waiver system. In these types of controlled-environment systems, where in a job or classroom, everyone starts out on an even playing field and has equal opportunity. Quite simply, the harder you work at it and the more effort you put in, the more you should theoretically get out of it. These types of systems are usually as close to “fair” as possible, with a few, minor exceptions. There would never be a situation in the workplace, classroom or the pursuit of romantic love where everyone has to stop competing for a few days, paralyzed to do practically nothing of use so that everyone who was lagging behind (the slackers) can, in effect, “catch up” and be at an equal level with those who would otherwise be farther ahead. Could you imagine a world where in the singles scene, there was a three-day period where you couldn’t call a girl to get a leg-up on other pursuers; or in the workplace, you couldn’t pound out your TPS reports during certain days? Your boss or your professor could generally care less about what’s going outside of the workplace or classroom when it comes to your grade or job performance. The fact is that blind-bidding and other waiver systems have a very socialistic feel to them, while a non-waiver system screams American capitalism. And who can argue fairness there?
Myth No. 2: Waiver systems, especially blind bidding, are just better for the game of fantasy football.
Fact: When you take three entire days of attention and thought out of the equation, you lose a lot of participation. Most people would say that participation and competition are what make a fantasy league great and fun. The fact is that waiver systems indirectly discourage participation in leagues, which make them less active and less fun. In fact, most everything relevant happens on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in terms of injury and player news, and if you never have to be around for Sunday and the few days after, when else do you have to be around other than the day before the waiver period ends?
Myth No. 3: Blind bidding eliminates more of the luck factor in fantasy football because it’s unlucky to have to spend quality time on Sunday with the in-laws in a log cabin, in the middle of nowhere, unconnected to the real world.
Fact: This debunking ties in directly with Myth No. 1. I don’t think you’ll find many people that disagree with the notion that what is most fair removes as much of the luck factor as possible (when the luck factor can be controlled), though still acknowledging the age-old adage that luck will always exist in some capacity. But extending this further, let’s think about a quite common scenario where a very key injury occurs near the end of the season, when managers are gearing up for the playoffs. Think Ryan Grant goes down and Brandon Jackson is on waivers or Clinton Portis goes down and Ladell Betts is currently unrostered. Then you have the lucky little weasel of the league that logs in once a week, has barely spent any bidding money and decides this would be the perfect time to go all in. And, of course, it is the perfect time. The fact that the more diligent managers in the league have no shot at the waiver acquisition of the year, because of an unlucky injury at an unlucky time, is, well, unlucky. And of course, this wanna-be guru takes you down in the playoffs on his way to his impossibly-inevitable, lucky fantasy football championship, sending the entire world into a never-ending black hole for all of eternity, all because of blind bidding.
Myth No. 4: Free-for-alls are for amateur leagues.
Fact: Most fantasy leagues, even veteran leagues, are comprised of managers on at least a few different relative levels of talent, skill, knowledge and experience. Generally, shouldn’t managers that possess more of those traits have the best chance of winning? It’s only logical. Fact is, a non-existent Sunday-through-Tuesday waiver system more easily weeds out the more relatively “amateur” (or lazy) managers. More often than not, you’ll find that the more talented, skilled, knowledgeable and experienced managers also put in the most time and effort into studying stats, news, weather, etc. Obviously, those managers have the advantage when waiver periods don’t exist, right? Isn’t that the way it should be?
Myth No. 5: Blind bidding is just more ethical.
Fact: Sunday-through-Tuesday waivers increase the chance of unnecessary, unethical managerial behavior. For example, corrupt managers can easily share bidding dollar account information with others. Manager ‘A’ may suggest to Manager ‘B’ (who currently has a large account) to put in a waiver request over Manager ‘C’ for a particular player, since Manager ‘A’ is playing Manager ‘C’ that week. Without blind bidding accounts, this type of unethical temptation wouldn’t exist.
Myth No. 6: If I’m not at home watching the games, I can’t access my leagues to make moves.
Fact: Believe it or not, there’s an entity existing right now in the world called mobile technology. It comes in the form of these little objects that can make phone calls and surf the internet. I believe they’re called smart phones! Oh yeah, also,
Epson arguably invented a form of a mobile computer, called a laptop, in 1981. The fact is that most people can gain remote access to their fantasy leagues in one way or another. Don’t give me the argument about less fortunate folks who can’t afford modern technology. More than likely, these folks are not in your league, nor do they even worry about playing fantasy football.
Despite the many misconceptions about blind-bidding waiver systems, it still could be the best solution to one of life’s great debates. The best solution, as with any league configuration, should be thought out thoroughly and be heavily influenced by the league members. There is no right or wrong answer … yet at least. The point of this article is to give a bit more insight on the downsides of blind bidding and debunk some of the myths, because in my eyes, it’s unfortunate that it appears to be such an accepted, glorified, end-all solution to waivers in many fantasy circles. The fight should not end here. So I end this article with a cliche, yet important call to action: Can you create the perfect waiver (or non-waiver) system?