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Keeping It What It Is, A Game
Tim Van Prooyen
July 30, 2010
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Every year as the draft season wears on it will inevitably occur to me tha, we don’t spend near enough time discussing the interpersonal aspects of fantasy football – or fantasy sports in general.  Now, before you start rolling your eyes, give me a moment to expound a bit more.  Interpersonal is just a fancy way to say “how well you play with others” – nothing more.

Most owners, I’m sure, play just fine with their fantasy counterparts – some however – as I’m sure most of us have witnessed, do not.  I would argue that, beyond even the extreme cases you probably just relieved for a flash, many of us act inappropriately from time to time and don’t even realize it.  Either way, I’ve identified a few areas that I think are worthy of mentioning, in hopes that all of us will take a few minutes to bring them to mind and do our best to conduct ourselves in the best way possible throughout the entire fantasy football campaign.

After all, it is simply a game.  It has rules, but it is supposed to be fun.  Remembering these simple things can help keep the fun intact for everyone in your league – including yourself!

Being Where You’re Supposed to Be When You’re Supposed to Be

For no reason in particular I’ll start with this one.  This area is two sided – as most of these can be considered – and can have endless incidentals.  Being there.  What exactly does that mean?  Focusing on draft season especially, it means showing up for your draft on time – either in person or online – if at all possible.

Being a commissioner of multiple leagues, this one plagues me year in and year out.  Most owners are great about it, but inevitably one or two either shows up right on time, has issues or questions about the interface and ends up holding everyone up from starting on time, or not at all, forcing the commissioner to scramble to find the best way to proceed.

Of course, the other side must be acknowledged.  Sometimes there are legitimate reasons why owners fall into the above situations.  Family emergencies do happen.  Work does call you in unexpectedly.  Computers do crash.  Internet connections do go out.  Power outages do happen.  These all are legitimate reasons some may be AWOL or late for a draft.

But the key is in the attitude.  On both sides.  Owners should be serious about the league draft, regardless of the prizes on the line or whether or not there is an entry fee.  People play leagues for fun, but owners not present at the draft can detract from that fun.  At the same time, commissioners – as well as other owners – should be understanding.  Snide comments can be funny, but can be hurtful as well.  Every situation will obviously be different.  Some owners may be best of friends with the offender and may know the situation and could have every right to “rib”.  The same situation with an owner who doesn’t know the offender by anything more than a team name is a league, with an impatient streak or tight time circumstances of their own, could sap the fun spirit right out of a draft – and I think plenty of us know exactly what I’m talking about.

The bottom line on this one is this:  Be conscientious.  Be thoughtful.  Be patient.  Be careful with your words.  And do these things whether you’re the offender or the offended.  This will keep things fun and civil, getting the season off to a great start.

Be an Invisible – Not Non-existent – Commissioner

Being a league commissioner is not an easy gig.  If you’ve never done it you really can’t grasp the full scope of the job.  Commissioners have the responsibility of making sure the league runs without a hitch – or at least trying to make it run without a hitch.  The commissioner has responsibilities every week during the season, if only to make sure trades are approved, waivers are run and lineups are in.  However, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, when something has to give, often the commissioner’s duties are the first to suffer.

This is not appropriate.
This is not considerate.
This is not acceptable.

There is, however, a difference between being a non-existent commissioner and an invisible commissioner.  An invisible commissioner is a good commissioner.  This is the commissioner that manages the league well, regardless of what comes up.  He or she does not overreact to each “crisis” that arises, making a bigger mess than necessary.  He or she uses common sense and caution before making judgments that affect the league.  Basically, the invisible commissioner is only visible when necessary, and out of the way the rest of the time.

The invisible commissioner is also understanding of individual differences in the league.  He or she knows who the hot tempers are and who is easier going, working within those parameters when dealing with issues.  He knows when a trade is fair, or defendable, as opposed to a trade between an owner who has given up and an owner trying to stack his team.

The job of commissioner is important.  It holds the league together and gives it credibility.  It could be said that “As is the commissioner – so is the league.”  This should be recognized, respected, and honored by all fantasy league commissioners.

Remember That the Commissioner Is Human Too

Commissioner bashing.  A great sport for some I suppose, but not very high an aspiration in the world of gamesmanship.  Some owners seem to have a life’s cause to find any little thing that goes slightly off kilter in the league and badger the commissioner over it mercilessly.  Not only is this less than civil, it is also annoying as all get out.  Nine and nine-tenths of the time these owners never have had the distinct pleasure of being a commissioner.  Ten out of ten times they would fail miserably if they ever were put in that position.

Some owners, however, are generally civil overall, but just seem to complain every time the situation arises.  They become pesky, not willing to let anything go, but rather making mountains out of molehills.  Again, they do this without getting ‘ugly’ if you will, but they just make of themselves a nuisance.  Sometimes they’ve played the commissioner role, sometimes they haven’t, but in their case it doesn’t matter.

Regardless of the type of person they are, they both are thorns in the side of the commissioner, and a reason most guys avoid the job entirely.  However, someone has to do it, and whoever does certainly deserves a good bit of respect and consideration.  While some commissioners are not good at the job, most have the best of intentions.  Most are not looking to screw everyone and benefit theirs and their ‘friends’ teams.  So, understanding this, it is incumbent upon fantasy owners to do all they can to remember this simple rule:  The commissioner is human too.  Treat him like you’d want to be treated if you were in his or her shoes. 

Don’t Be a Deadbeat Owner

There are very few things that upset a fantasy owner more than getting into the middle of the season, finding themselves in the middle of a division race, and realizing that their closest competitor is playing a team whose owner decided he’s out of the running and hasn’t put in a valid lineup, or at least a lineup with players who are actually playing that week.

The reality is, not every owner is going to have a great season every year.  This is a fact.  Sometimes your first round choice is going to go down in week one and your season is going to be in trouble from the get go.  Sometimes you’ll be almost good enough every week, but lose by single digits week in and week out, ending up with a lousy record by midseason in spite of your best efforts.  Regardless of the reasons, when your team has gone south it is completely unacceptable for you to abandon your team.  There is any number of reasons for this, but first and foremost is gamesmanship.  It’s like walking away in the middle of a Monopoly game that you’re a bit behind in.  It’s like quitting when you don’t like the score of a pick-up basketball game or softball game in your neighborhood.  It just isn’t right.

No matter what you call it, quitting on your team in the middle of the season is just bad.  The league members are depending on each other to run their teams to the best of their ability to make the league competitive.  Any owner not keeping up with the basics of their team, meaning submitting a valid lineup each and every week, hurts everyone in the league, hurting the league itself.

Deadbeat owners are the scourge of fantasy football.   If you’re one of them, you should be ashamed of yourself.  Period.  End of story.

Don’t Take Things Too Seriously – It’s a Game After All

All the above things can be summarized with this one.  Fantasy football is a game.  It is a fun, participatory game that isn’t played individually in most situations, but as part of a group.  It is meant to be fun.  It is meant to build friendships, camaraderie and football savvy.  It is not supposed to cause hurt, pain, or break up relationships.

But, unfortunately, it does.

As with most things in live, feelings and emotions get in the way. People take things seriously that shouldn’t be.  Family should be taken seriously.  Religion should be taken seriously.  Some would argue politics should be taken relatively seriously.  A game should not be taken too seriously.

When owners get too wrapped up in the game, begin to take everything said or done in the game as though it is a personal affront to them, they quickly bring the spirit of the game down, sapping any enjoyment of the game for all involved.  They take things out on others in the league, begin arguments about nothing that matters, and for the most part make people wish that they’d never joined the league in the first place.

Don’t be that guy. 
Enjoy the game for what it is.
Have fun.
Play to win.
But most of all, simply play to have fun!

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