Commish’s Corner: How to Conduct Yourself

May 27, 2011


By Adam Holtz
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Note: This column and the one that follows next will be a two-part installment. This column will focus on how a Commissioner should act. The next column will focus on how fantasy league owners should act.
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Part One: Conduct Befitting a Fantasy Commissioner
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Who are you? Are you just one of the guys in your league who play fantasy football? Are you just some guy who collects money from the rest of the league owners and pays it out at the end of the season? Are you just the guy who runs the draft and then fades off into the sunset for the rest of the year? Of course not. As the commissioner, you are the “point man” for anything that takes place in your league. That includes dues money and draft night arrangements to be sure (as I have mentioned in previous columns), but it also includes other things like mediating disputes (over scoring, trades, etc.), penalizing owners when necessary, and even things like moderating the league message board and congratulating owners when their teams win.
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You’ve probably read in other places some kind of “Ten Commandments for Commissioners” list that says what one may or may not do as a commissioner. I won’t try to parody that sort of list, but I will give you some tips on how a commissioner would conduct himself if his goal is to garner respect from the league’s owners.
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Treat the league owners with respect. Remember that (in most cases) you are an owner as well. Don’t talk down to them as if you’re the U.S. President or had any kind of authority that actually mattered in real life. As commissioner, there might be times where you need to show some authority (i.e. discipline), but if you do not at all times show the others that you respect them as partners in your league, why should they respect you in return?
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Be consistent in all your decision-making. This includes things like scheduling (both games and the draft), vetoing trades, handing out penalties, changing or implementing rules, chastising or praising others on message boards, and the like. If anyone feels like you are playing favorites, guess what: he’s also lost a lot of respect for you as the commish.
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Maintain open lines of communication. Before you decide to up and change the draft to an auction or go from waivers to a free-agent bid system, run the idea past the league owners. Let everyone bat the idea around for a while. Let the owners know that you care about their opinions. They need to know they can drop you an email if they think a couple of owners might be colluding. If they have a concern that a certain rule might unfairly penalize a team, they need to know that they have an open line to your “office.”
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Give the league owners a stake in the league itself. This is sort of like the last point. Let them vote on rules changes. Maybe you let the league owners vote on whether or not to veto trades. Let everyone decide together how to divvy up the prize money (probably best to do that before the season starts!). Things like this show the owners that you’re not out to be a dictator and that you value their input on important details.
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The most important thing to remember here is that as the commissioner, you don’t necessarily need the rest of the owners to like you, but you want them to respect you and the (somewhat limited) authority you have. You can win a lot of respect by simply doing the things mentioned above.
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Some other ways to earn kudos from the rest of the league:
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  • Be a back-patter. If you notice that a bad fantasy team (or even a good one) is having a surprisingly good day, let them know about it: “Hey D., great game from Jahvid Best today! I was wondering when he’d finally be back in form after that injury.” Let them know that you observe what’s going on with all the teams, even theirs.
  • Make a periodic message board post about goings-on in your league. Try to sound like a reporter getting a hot scoop: “Will the recent signing of suddenly-hot Peyton Hillis give D.M. Infinity the boost they need to finally make it to the playoffs this season?” Or post a Power Rankings list. Everyone seems to love those – they tend to get some discussions going. And it shows the league that you follow everything going on in the league.
  • When the league champion is finally determined, be the first to congratulate them (as long as it’s not your own team – that would be tacky), just like the commish does in real sports. Get on the message board, or send an email to the entire league announcing your personal offering of congratulation.

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As always, comments are welcome. Let us know how your commish has earned your respect.
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Coming in the next installment of Commish’s Corner, Part Two: Conduct Befitting a Fantasy Owner.

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Adam Holtz is a former college sports information director living in southern Minnesota. His 15 years of playing fantasy sports – as well as 15 years of commissioner work – have given him a wealth of experience on which to draw. For the record, his wife’s signing of Peyton Hillis did give her team the boost it needed to make the league playoffs, while the Commish’s team languished in the Toilet Bowl playoffs.
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Email the Commish: adam.holtz(at)gmail.com or check out his blog at champguy.blogspot.com.

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