Week 16: Do Any Commissioners Want to
Climb up on a Soapbox?
Last Week’s Question: What League-Hosting
Websites Do Readers Recommend?
week’s column, a reader named Jeremy confessed that
he and his league migrated to Yahoo! when league-hosting websites
were relatively new—and that they have remained there ever
since (out of inertia more than anything). He wanted to know about
other free sites that he hasn’t tried out yet, and I expanded
his question to include sites that charge customers in case readers
wanted to chime in on that topic.
I’m grateful to Dave for summarizing what most readers
had to say about the most popular free sites:
Until about two years ago this was an annual
discussion in the league I run. We also used Excel spreadsheets
back in the day until somewhere around 2000/2001 when Yahoo came
around to save me countless hours on Monday and Tuesday mornings
putting stats together from box scores.
In that time we've tried one season each of ESPN (2004) and CBSsports
(2005), but found that Yahoo is by far the leader of the pack.
We found ESPN to be VERY rigid and had scoring issues throughout
our season. Now apparently these issues were specific to the free
leagues, but we were VERY dissatisfied and in fact ended up switching
to Yahoo mid-season because we were so frustrated.
The season we went with CBSsports, we were relatively pleased
with [that service’s flexibility] and found they were the
only ones at the time that would allow for the commissioner to
edit the schedule versus the site choosing it for you. We probably
would have stayed with CBS, but the next year they dropped the
free option and we've never gone back.
As far as Yahoo goes, we've been relatively happy with the system.
[The best feature may be that the Yahoo website] keeps track of
all the league’s prior seasons, so you can always look up
who did what each year and funny to look up players who used to
be something but whom you've forgotten about (see the Steve Beuerlein/Wesley
Walls connection) and relive memories (such as my championship
year in 2004 driven by Billy Volek and Drew Bennett!). Moreover,
this year they added free live scoring—which is HUGE!
I always scour the fftoday forums and find that it's rare that
people complain about Yahoo scoring or the site itself while other
sites have problems all the time.
But always remember - YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. If the live scoring
isn't working well too bad, deal with it - it's free!
Unlike Dave, Donovan belongs to a league that opted to pay for
CBSSportsline after that service began charging:
I play in free leagues on ESPN and Yahoo,
plus my 20-year old league pays to play on CBS Sportsline.
The biggest difference between free and pay leagues is the flexibility
in the scoring system. On CBS Sportsline, you can create absolutely
any scoring system that you can dream up. Ours is ridiculously
detailed, developed in the paper and calculator days, and CBS
Sportsline is the only website that could handle it. In the free
leagues, there is some flexibility in developing scoring systems,
but it is a little more limited. So, if you are in a league that
really enjoys tweaking the scoring system in a specific manner,
the pay leagues are definitely the ticket. If the scoring options
offered by free leagues such as Yahoo or ESPN are good enough
for you, there is really no other good reason to switch.
As far as differentiating between the free sites, I really enjoy
like the way that Yahoo’s smack talking features work to
encourage league communication. It was fun before, but their recent
addition of another box to insult people with was fantastic. Those
features add a lot of enjoyment to our Yahoo league.
I fear I must give the discussion of sites that charge short shrift
in this discussion. It is difficult for me to tell whether the
“responses” I received concerning those sites are
legitimate reviews by genuine players or disguised advertisements
written by people with vested interests in particular FF sites.
Based on the mail I received, most people who pay fees to league-hosting
services are satisfied customers. My suggestion for readers who
want to check out these services without footing the entire bill
would be to join a league that uses one. The
FFToday forums might be a good place to do a little social
networking on that front.
This Week’s Question: Do Any Commissioners
Want to Climb up on a Soapbox?
Way back at the beginning of the season, I posed a question about
commissioners being at a competitive disadvantage when they have
to organize and supervise draft parties while trying to take care
of their own teams. A reader named Rob has apparently taken his
time to mull over that question, and he responded with a micro-essay
on the topic this week:
Concerning your inquiry, it is true that the
commish is at a disadvantage, not only at the draft, but all season
long. There are measures that can be taken to minimize the disadvantage,
as I've found over the past 22 seasons of commissionership (yes,
I've been playing since 1988!). Most of these tips are for longtime
leagues with substantially the same core owners from one year
to the next.
Draft - Hold the draft at the home of a different
owner each season. This minimizes the disadvantage of hosting
over time and also shares the load. Also, reduce the expectations
of hosting. Do not provide a "spread" of food that is
any more complicated than ordering pizza or wings and soft drinks.
Make alcohol BYOB. Charge a nominal fee to offset costs or give
the host a discount on league buy-in if applicable.
Waivers - This gets tricky in my league. Despite
the longevity of the league, we have a latent hatred for owners
who regularly use the waiver wire to turnover their rosters every
week. We have a complex add/drop process that works like a mini-draft
every week to give every owner a chance to get players. Lowest
total points gets first option, and so on. Since this process
requires manual implementation by the commish, we have implemented
an Assistant Commissioner (another rotating responsibility) that
governs any transactions involving the Commissioner's team. Add/drops
are performed by the Assistant in those cases. The main problem
is that the commissioner can "see" the requested transactions
before any other owners and could, if unscrupulous, provide information
to another owner on who to add or drop in which order to achieve
maximum benefit. The commish could also use that information to
his own advantage. We have the commissioner send his requested
transactions to the assistant commissioner and vice-versa and
impose an earlier deadline for commissioner waiver actions. This
is the disadvantage. I must plan my transaction well before most
owners have even thought about the impacts of next week's byes.
Also, as commish, I have earlier knowledge about dropped players
and therefore have earlier access to pick them up after the waiver
process. Typically, I will let those players sit available for
all to see for 24 hours before adding them. Again - another disadvantage
based on ethics.
Rules - I am responsible, as commish, for upholding
the league rules, which after 22 seasons read somewhat like the
California Penal Code. I know the rules cold. I know all of the
gray areas. I can anticipate bickering about an unwritten rule
before it even comes up. Here is the tricky scenario I am facing
this week. I have been fortunate enough to make my league's championship
game. Jerome Harrison is available in my league. I have a waiver
order advantage over my opponent. I have already emailed my requested
transaction to my Assistant to add Harrison to my roster and cut
Johnny Knox. I fully expect my opponent to request the same "add"
as he has relied on a cadre of backup RBs the past few weeks to
overcome Brian Westbrook's injury. One of those backs was LeSean
McCoy who is seeing reduced carries and will likely be sitting.
Though I have waiver order advantage, I will select Harrison and
not start him in an attempt to keep the other owner from having
access to this wild-card player - a cock-block of sorts. I can
already hear the complaints that 1) I had a priori knowledge of
his intention and 2) that a rule should exist requiring an owner
to start a player added during waiver transactions in the week
the player was added. I'm not breaking any rules, just shrewdly
working within the existing framework. This will still leave me
open to criticism.
The ideal scenario involves finding a commissioner that does not
own a team. But, this is obviously no fun for that person. My
wife reluctantly did the job one season, but found my friends'
endless requests and bickering to be a major hassle. Love, apparently,
I suspect that there are other commissioners (or seasoned owners)
like Rob who could benefit the FF community simply by sharing
their thoughts on how to make leagues more fun, more fair, or
I hope to hear from a few such folks for the final column of
the 2009 season. If you have a few paragraphs of advice (whether
for commissioners, owners, or entire leagues), please
send them my way this week.
Wk 15 - Last Man Standing
- (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)
At the end of every season, I wonder, “Was it really this
difficult at the end of last season?” Invariably, I forget
how difficult it is to pick winners at the end of the year when
your options are limited, the playoff picture starts to affect
games, and crazy things like Oakland beating Denver happen on
a regular basis.
Attentive readers may remember that some time around week 5,
I remarked how easy it seemed to pick winners consistently and
that there was no parity in the NFL. Since then, we’ve seen
countless upsets, teams fall to the cellar (Giants) and other
teams resurrect their seasons out of nowhere (Titans). The same
thing happens year after year, but our collective memories are
How that observation helps us pick winners this week, I have
no idea. Just try not to get down on yourself if you find it very
hard to pick the right games these last two weeks.
Trap Game: San Diego over Tennessee
I’m tempted to pick Matt Moore and the Panthers to beat
the Giants this week, but I just don’t have the heart to
do it. Even if you haven’t used the Giants three times this
year, it’s probably not advisable to use them any more this
year. That makes me look like pretty smart for picking them in
three consecutive weeks in the beginning of the season right before
they lost six of seven, huh?
Back to the actual selection. For starters, the line on this
game just looks odd. The .500 Titans are a 2.5 point favorite
at home over the 11-3 Chargers. The odds-makers must be banking
on the Titans’ desire to make the playoffs and the Chargers
having clinched the division already.
I’m not. Chris Johnson will get his, just like he does
every week, but does anyone think that the Titan defense is going
to be able to stop the Chargers’ prolific passing attack?
Even if they can shut down the no-longer-so-impressive RB duo
of LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, I don’t see Tennessee
shutting down Philip Rivers for four quarters. If the Chargers
can jump out to an early lead and force the Titans to get off
their game plan (run, run, run CJ, run) and make Vince Young throw
the ball, this game could spell the end of the Titans’ inspiring
3. San Francisco over Detroit
Yuck. Having the 49ers on my pick board this week just feels
dirty. This is especially true given that both teams in this game
have a greater incentive to lose (better draft pick) than they
do to win (pride).
When it comes down to it, there really aren’t any better
options, and if I trust any RB in the NFL to go out and stomp
bad defenses, it’s Frank Gore. Nobody is more consistently
mediocre against good defenses and consistently spectacular against
bad ones (though Michael Turner does come to mind).
I don’t trust the 49er defense to stop Detroit, especially
after the 17-point third quarter the Lions put up on the Cardinals
last week. Ultimately, I guess I have to admit this pick is more
of a prayer than it is an educated decision. I’d prefer
to take Green Bay over Seattle this week, but that would have
to be my #1 option, which isn’t going to happen, because
a) I am 0-2 when selecting the Pack this season, and b) my number
one option was essentially chosen for me, as you’ll see.
2. Arizona over Saint Louis
Another team I consistently caution people against selecting
finds its way into the heart of my picks this week. You know it’s
Week 16 when I pick not one, but two NFC West squads to win. That’s
tantamount to putting all your money in on a flush draw, for you
poker folks. (In fact, as an avid poker player, I’d probably
take the flush draw odds, 35% with two cards to come, over having
to pick two winners out of the NFC West each week).
Again, I am putting my LMS life in the hands of Kurt Warner and
the Arizona offense, a precarious position at best. I assume that
Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin will both play again this week,
despite injuries, and hopefully that’s enough to beat Keith
Null & Co.
If I could type that last sentence without cracking a smile,
I would be more concerned about this game, but when it comes down
to it, we know exactly what we’re going to get out of the
Rams offense each week. More importantly, we also know exactly
what we’re going to get out of the Rams defense: a whole
lot of missed tackles, blown coverage, and 30+ points for the
opposing team. That should be enough to get the W for Arizona.
1. New Orleans over Tampa Bay
Generally speaking, I am of the philosophy that you pick your
best three options each week without worrying too much about what
your options are going to be down the line. The exceptions to
this doctrine are limited, generally to situations where you know
that a team will play an opponent in a more favorable situation
(at home, without injury, etc). Otherwise, trot your best three
out there and cross each bridge when you come to it. If you don’t,
sometimes you can get too fancy and knock yourself out of contention
early after Arizona or Green Bay’s offense happens to not
All that said, it sure feels nice to have an ace in the hole.
Sure, New Orleans lost last week to Dallas, even after the epic
missed FG by Nick Folk (notice he is currently unemployed). They
were bound to lose eventually after they kept playing down to
terrible teams (STL, WAS) and pulling off miracle comebacks.
For our purposes, I’m happy they lost, aside from the fact
that it was Dallas that beat them. It means that this week they
come back with their heads back under the clouds and trounce the
Bucs. You can’t ask for a better game than this at this
point in the season.
For responses to this week's fantasy
question please email me
no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.