Commish’s Corner: Running/Ruining the Draft

Mar 25, 2011


By Adam Holtz
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“It’s the most wonderful time… of the year!”
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Yes, draft day is here again (okay, just pretend it is). The time when old men act like they’re at a bachelor party. The time when you get together with all your buddies once again for a night of drinking and drafting. The time when you spend an evening ripping the guy who finished in last place the year before about how he’s never gonna contend, as he begrudgingly serves all the food at the draft party, a fitting penalty for such a poor performance last year.
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And it’s the time that you know your commissioner somehow, some way, is going to mess things up once again, making the night a memorable one for all the wrong reasons.
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It could be like last year, when the monstrous easel he constructed just for the occasion fell over and smacked his wife on the back of her noggin, postponing the last 4 rounds of the draft while
he took her to the ER.
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It might end up like the year before, when you held the draft in a restaurant parking lot, because the commish made the mistake of reserving their party room for the wrong Saturday night.
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It could be like that one time when the old wireless router he had pulled out of the closet hours before the draft pooped out after the first 3 picks, and the entire online draft was then conducted
by auto-picking everyone’s team.
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Or maybe, just maybe, it’ll be like that time so many years ago (actually it was just four years ago, but seems like 44), when everything went smoothly and without any problems whatsoever. Everyone had a great time, ate and drank as much as they wanted, laughed and joked the whole time, and each owner “knew” he had the best team in the league when the night was over, and were eager to get the season started.
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Truth be told, the annual draft is THE singular highlight of any fantasy sports league. More so than even the championship, everyone looks forward to it with eager anticipation, hoping that this year might be “the year.” It’s kind of like NASCAR, where the pomp and pageantry of the season-opening Daytona 500 rivals and perhaps dwarfs that of the season-ending, championship-deciding, race. The draft also is likely the only time that all of your league’s owners are able to sit down together in the same place at the same time. Because of all these factors, it is important that the commissioner make draft night a success.
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And the truth is that there is a fine line between running the draft, and ruining the draft. Just like how the two words are very similar – just one letter changes – there are also many small things that can turn a well-executed draft night party into a ruined one. Here’s a handy checklist that all commissioners ought to keep in mind when planning the draft:
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1. Get arrangements made months in advance (if possible).
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Nobody likes to have something inserted into their own personal calendar by someone else, but such an event is even more poorly-received when it is done at the last minute. I usually start putting out feelers in May or June for a draft in August. It might sound crazy, but it works.
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2. Find a date/time that works for EVERYONE.
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Goes hand-in-hand with #1. This is indeed possible if you work with enough advance time to allow others to set their schedules around it. It’s so much more fun when everyone can attend without having to “phone-in” or “here’s my list for tomorrow night” auto-pick. Plus it really ticks off the one person who can’t attend if you schedule it when everyone else but him CAN attend.
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3. Don’t try so hard to be over-the-top that you overlook little things.
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Look back at the awful instances described above. Your job as commissioner is to conduct the draft, NOT to turn it into a circus, no matter how much fun the latter might seem. Just keep track of the picks – whether that’s on overhead projector, laptop, easel, or pen and paper is all up to you. But don’t let something get in the way of tracking each pick in an effective manner. Make sure the router works – days in advance. Nothing is worse than technology problems on the most important day of the fantasy year. Confirm reservations and accommodation details with your host a week in advance. Which leads me to my next point:
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4. If you are dealing with a host(ess?), don’t assume anything on his part.
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It sounds mean, but it’s nothing more than looking out for number one. It’s your butt that will be the butt of jokes when something doesn’t go well. No one will ever care or remember that the Hooters reservation clerk you talked to when reserving the party room for your draft does not know how to read a calendar and to reserve the correct date you requested. If you have a restaurant or party room hosting your draft, contact them about a week in advance to confirm all the details – food, space, internet access, etc. Leave nothing to chance (or to stupidity). Likewise, if Bob is hosting the party, do NOT assume that he knows how much your 10 buddies will eat or drink – or that his wife has ever cooked before. It sounds harsh, but trust me, bad things have happened to commissioners who do not cover all these bases.
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5. Have a backup plan for EVERYTHING.
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This one is pretty self-explanatory. Just ask yourself “what-if” questions constantly, and you’ll be in pretty good shape here. The bottom line is that if something can go wrong, you need to anticipate that it will. Internet goes on the fritz, drunkenness leads to injuries, natural disaster, act of God, etc. There’s any number of things that could go wrong, and eventually, something will. Just remember what my old coach always used to say: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
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The most important thing to remember when planning the draft, is that you are the commissioner not for yourself, but for the rest of the owners in your league. More than likely, they NEED you to make sure the draft goes smoothly (think about it – you could name a couple owners in your league who DEFINITELY could not run a draft). But don’t let that feeling of being needed go to your head. You are the one on whom they depend for their biggest “fantasy fix,” but next year, they could always turn to someone else, too. Don’t take anything for granted, take pride in what you organize for draft day, and appreciate that the owners in your league gave you the responsibility for setting everything up. AND ENJOY THE DRAFT!
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(Anyone who has some “nightmare” stories about fantasy drafts gone bad is welcome to post comments – let us know of other mistakes to avoid!)
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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. As much as he loves fantasy football, he still wonders sometimes if his wife loves it even more than he does.
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Email the Commish: adam.holtz(at)gmail.com or check out his blog atchampguy.blogspot.com.

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