In January of 2006, after more than a decade of being the
commish of my 12 team money league, I decided to step down from the job. I
“just an owner” since the early 90s and wanted to relax and enjoy
the season by concentrating on my team and my team only. Six days later I
celebrated this personal milestone in the most sane and rational way possible.
I helped formed a new, 48 team league and became the
commissioner of that.
Why yes, I do know I have a sickness. Thank you for asking.
I don’t know what it is though. It’s in my blood or
something. I’d like to think it’s simply that I’m a born leader…unfortunately;
the truth is I am probably just a perfectionist with control issues. Either
way, I know that I (and many other similarly afflicted souls) absolutely thrive
on it. Like IDPs or Auction Drafts do for some Fantasy Football players, being
the commissioner of my league adds some intangible element to the game. It’s an
additional challenge that if done well can be as great of an accomplishment as
actually winning the league.
Eh….alright, I admit that last line is a bunch of crapola.
It does feel good however to know you did a good job running
a league and that your owners are appreciative of your efforts. There is
something great about knowing that you are in many respects responsible for the
direction and progressions your league takes. Over the years I’ve seen my money
league go from using the USA Today as our Bible… to incorporating spreadsheets
and e-mail… to downloading stats for the first time… to using an online website
as our league host… to live, online drafts for owners literally scattered
around the world. I believe you have to be proud of what you do if you plan on
continuing to do it well.
Every year, thousands of guys take on the challenge after
looking around the room at their friends and uttering the words that ultimately
change their perception of Fantasy Football forever.
“Sure. What the Hell.
I’ll be the commish. How hard could it be?”
How hard can it be? Well, by years end many of these same
guys will find themselves being voted out of the position. Many will find
themselves looking for another league altogether. Some can even
get burnt out on Fantasy Football after just
one year of being a commish. And as sad as it is, some guys will also
unfortunately find themselves with fewer friends then they had six months ago. The
reasons for this vary. Whether its apathy or over-involvement or even a simple
and lack of understanding of what the job entails, some guys find out the hard
way that they are just not cut out for the role.
The goal of any commish should be to form a league that will
stand the test of time and will retain its members from year to year. Over the
years I’ve seen and heard of countless leagues that have chronic member
turnover issues and of those that have ultimately disbanded due to poor
leadership. As the popularity of the game continues to grow, we see these types
of failures more and more. Neither online leagues like those found here in the
Tank nor leagues in the three dimensional world are immune. It takes a great
group of players to form a great Fantasy Football league. It takes a solid
commissioner to keep it running.
For those of you who are new to the role, I thought I would
pass on a few tidbits of wisdom from my experiences that I feel might help you
succeed. Also, if you are considering taking on the responsibilities of
commissioner in your league, perhaps some of this might help you decide if you
are the right man for the job. If you are a veteran commish, you most likely
have learned all this years ago and probably have additional suggestions of
your own for the newly in-charge. Remember, these are just suggestions and
ideas. They won’t guarantee a great league, but along with quality members
perhaps they will help get you there.
For God’s sake, get organized. If they are not already,
the owners in your league are going to start asking you about the draft, lineup
requirements, trade rules, deadlines, waiver guidelines, and everything else
under the sun. You are going to need to know the answers. The smoother things
run, with as few hiccups or unexpected turns as possible, the more confident
your members will be in your ability to handle the job.
* I don’t care if it takes you 10 minutes or 10 years,
start developing your league’s rules and regulations (also known as a League
Constitution) now. Get everything… and I mean everything… down in writing so
that there is no confusion later on. Be sure to promote it as a “living
document”; one that can be amended to in-between seasons in order to account
for the issues you encountered that weren’t previously addressed. Be sure to
include items that state what is expected of the owners as well. Submitting
weekly line-ups, responding to trade offers, and paying dues on time may sound
like common sense topics, but you’ll save yourself a lot of headache by
addressing the penalties for not doing these types of things ahead of time. Brevity
is not a virtue in this case. Be detailed.
* The key to dealing with your leaguemates is to be
decisive, consistent and fair. Do what you think is right for the league,
regardless if it’s going to make someone upset. If your goal is to please
everyone every time….well, you might want to try Fantasy Golf or something
because it isn’t going to happen here. A wishy-washy commish is a useless
* With that in mind, having thick skin is very important.
When things go bad for an owner, they will direct their frustration and anger
in one direction every time….at the commish. They may not like a rule or a
decision and may take it out on you, but you have to be diplomatic in your
response. Don’t make it personal. Ever. Even if they do.
* In most cases, you will be a team owner in the league as
well as a commissioner. Never let the two intertwine. Perception is everything.
The first time the other owners even think you are using your commish powers to
do something to benefit your team, you are done. Nothing kills a league quicker
than an unethical commissioner. If you are not sure you will be able to keep
the two roles separate, don’t bother trying.
* You run the league….but it’s not YOUR league. Always
remember that you have 11, 15, or maybe even 47 other owners that have a say in
how the league rules are written. You will have to make some decisions on your
own, but save the big ones, the important ones for a league vote. Some owners
will want the league to vote on every single minute change that comes along. If
you hold out hope that your league will progress and mature over the years, don’t
allow that to happen. Your league has to be able to trust that you will make
the right choices on your own in most situations or you will all get bogged
down in the details. Fantasy Football is no fun when the whole league is bogged
down in the details. Too many cooks.
* From what I’ve seen, leagues that allow the commissioner
to approve or disapprove every trade rarely last. As a commissioner, you do not
want the pressure of having the final say on any week to week transactions that
can ultimately affect the outcome of the league. Nothing good can come of this.
If you make a completely impartial decision that ultimately costs a team a game
or worse – a championship, that owner will often blame you for a long time and
could try to paint you as “corrupt”. Count on it. I have my own take on how
trades should be processed of course, but I’m not going to bore you with how I
do it….or how anyone else does it. There are many acceptable ways that take the
ultimate final responsibility out of the commissioner’s hands. Just remember, don’t
go it alone.
I hope this helps. If you find you still have questions (if
you are a new commish… you should have LOTS of questions by the way), feel free to look me
up in the Tank. Myself or one of the many other Sharks with commissioning
experience will be glad to help you out.