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Week 17

Last Week’s Question: Do Any Commissioners Want to Get on a Soapbox?

In last week’s column, I invited experienced commissioners from the FF universe to climb up on their soapboxes and preach about whatever was on their minds. Since it is the end of the season, I should not be surprised that the main thing on people’s minds is the collection and distribution of funds, but I will postpone addressing those concerns for the moment. I want to let readers hear from Michael first because he speaks for a number of the commissioners that I hear from regularly:
The only repeated issue we have in our league is the one or two owners who do not read the rules (or even the email reminders I send out) concerning trade deadlines, waiver deadline changes due to Thursday games, listing their subs in order for playoff game tiebreakers, etc.

They then act incredulous when they missed waivers or trade deadlines, as if it is my fault, putting pressure on me to allow exceptions [for them].

They are then very put out when I say “no can do.”

(I do have support of the veteran owners in the league as this problem seems limited to the newer owners.)

I always refer back to what happened to me as owner and commissioner when Hurricane Katrina forced the postponement of the early Sunday game at the Superdome. I had only one TE on my roster that happened to be playing that day. Waiver period for our league had ended the previous Thursday.

I had to play with only six players that day. I also ended up losing that week by one point, but me not having two TE’s on my roster was a risk on my part—not the league’s, not the commissioner’s, not even God’s fault.

The bottom line is the whiners and complainers are everywhere, so you just need to be firm as commissioner and tell them to read the rules.

As Lloyd Carr (the former Michigan coach) once said about the critics, “The dogs bark and the caravan rolls on.”

I certainly understand Michael’s frustration with whiners and complainers in fantasy leagues. My hat goes off to all the commissioners in all the leagues around the world who take time away from their families and job responsibilities to listen to the complaints of adult human beings as they become emotionally involved (and sometimes overwrought) concerning the outcome of imaginary contests between fabricated teams!

Although I do not have statistics to support my opinion, I believe that the commissioners who started in leagues before the automated league-hosting websites came along have an easier time imposing order on their leagues than the newer commissioners. Anyone who used to do the tedious work that went into serving as commissioner is likely to have a special kind of credibility with her/his league. As it becomes easier and easier for leagues to function with less and less input from a commissioner, owners who dislike any teeny tiny thing about a league seem to be quick to conclude that the grass will be greener elsewhere.

The attitude that I think most commissioners need to adopt in this climate is consistent with Michael’s recommendation that commissioners should “be firm . . . and tell [owners] to read the rules.” Some people will tell you that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Others will tell you that it gets replaced by a wheel that doesn’t squeak. I prefer commissioners who subscribe to the latter formulation. Almost invariably, the owners who expect exceptions to be made for them are squeaky wheels that will only stop squeaking when they win a championship and collect a purse. No commissioner can make such owners happy without being unfair to the other owners in the league.

Michael says that some of his owners act “put out” when he says, “No can do,” so I want to remind him and other commissioners that many fantasy owners try to make a game out of manipulating their commissioners. They may not be nearly as “put out” as you think they are. I have been out drinking with fellow owners who bragged about how they boo-hooed a commissioner into taking a ridiculously minor complaint seriously. This seems to be particularly common among owners who are eliminated from contention fairly early in the season. Once they can no longer “play” their teams with any hope of success, they apparently conclude that the only way to get their money’s worth is to try to “play” the commissioner. A great deal of what seems to commissioners like frustration on the part of owners is a silly mix of bluster and crocodile tears.

As I indicated earlier, the main thing that people wanted to talk about this week is the collection and distribution of funds. I heard from a handful of commissioners who are dissatisfied with their owners’ refusal to pay fees in advance or to pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season to cover costs that might or might not be incurred during the season. I also heard from an owner named Levi who asks, “How is it that I know in December how much money I won, but I never get a check until April?”

I suspect that this column could do a little bit of good for the fantasy community by focusing on fee collection and purse distribution at the end of the season, but something tells me that the discussion will do everyone a great deal more good before the fantasy season gets underway, so I will try to focus on this topic during the summer of 2010.

Until you hear from me again in June, I want to thank everyone who takes the time to respond to the questions I pose in this column (whether I have the space to include those thoughts each week or not). I also want to thank Marc Mondry for bringing his prognosticatory savvy and sense of humor to the LMS picks each week. And of course I want to thank Mike Krueger for providing a space in which the members of the FF community can talk things over. Happy New Year all. 2010 will get off to a fantastic start for me, as I am heading to Dallas to see the Cowboys play the Eagles on Sunday!

Wk 15 - Last Man Standing - (Courtesy of Marc Mondry)

Well, we’ve come to the end of the season, and I must admit I’m somewhat glad it’s over. The Giants were particularly pitiful last week, compared to their somewhat pitiful performance for the second half of the season, and I’m ready to be put out of my misery.

That said, it was another exciting LMS season. I had a great time writing for all of you and an especially enjoyable time reading each of your picks this season. Unfortunately, as people messed up picks, they stopped submitting, and there was only one reader to submit picks every single week this season: Mark Den Adel.

Mark did a spectacular job this season picking winners and still has a shot at the title if all goes well this week. The current standings are as follows:

  • Mark Den Adel: 41/48, 85.4%, 688 point differential, average game spread: 14.3 points
  • Marc Mondry: 42/48, 87.5%, 650 point differential, average game spread: 13.5 points

I’ve got a one-game lead going into Week 17, although Mark’s point differential and game spread were slightly better. Mark actually sent his picks in to me yesterday, so I could safely pick the same three teams and ensure a victory this season, but if you’ve read this column regularly, you know I’m not that kind of guy.

In fact, I went about thinking of ways to make this week interesting, like picking all of Mark’s opponents this week, picking none of the same teams, etc., but all of those options looked a lot like LMS suicide.

What I ended up with was picking at least one team that was an underdog as one of my picks this week, just to make it interesting. I also chose not to select Denver as an option this week, even though they look like a great LMS pick and would likely have been my #1 option.

No reservations though: if Mark wins, he wins it straight up. No excuses.

For those of you still following this challenge, Mark has selected the following three games:

  • Denver over Kansas City
  • San Diego over Washington
  • New York Jets over Cincinnati

Before we get to the picks, I’d like to quickly thank all of the readers for their feedback, support, and loyalty over this second season of my writing. You guys are what make this column fun. I’d also like to publicly thank Mike Davis for including these picks each week and allowing me to usurp part of his column. His support, editing, advice, and friendship truly made this column worth slaving over each and every week. Thanks for everything, Mike.

Trap Game / Pick 3: Jacksonville over Cleveland

When you get to this point in the season, it’s tough to pick winners because you never know what the top teams are going to do with their best players. That issue was exemplified last week by the Saints’ loss to the Bucs: New Orleans took a 17-0 lead into halftime, sat the starters the second half, and went on to lose 17-20.

One of the ways to avoid this issue is to pick contests featuring two teams that are out of contention and hope that pride matters enough to both teams to be competitive for 60 minutes. Usually, it does.

That’s where we are at with Jacksonville and Cleveland, two teams with no shot at post-season play. If both teams bring their A game (do the Browns have an A game?), Jacksonville should walk away with this one easily, despite being a 1.5 point underdog at the time of writing.

Oh, you actually want some analysis? Two words: Maurice Jones-Drew.

2. New York Jets over Cincinnati

I was on the Jets’ bandwagon from the very beginning of the season, recognizing what Rex Ryan could do with the defensive personnel in place there, as well as singing the praises of wunderkind Darelle Revis. It turns out the Jets struggled so much offensively that the defense was kept on the field far too long, and the team has dropped to a mediocre 8-7.

That said, by virtue of some bad losses around the league, they find themselves needing only to win to secure a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

Interestingly enough, they play Cincinnati this week, a club that has very little incentive to play starters to try to win this game. However (and it’s a big however), if the Jets do make the playoffs, they could very well play the Bengals in the wild-card round, so it’s not like the game truly means nothing to Cincinnati. A loss to a team that you might have to play next week is never good for morale. On the other hand, there is something to be said for seeing everything the Jets will have to throw at the Bengals this week, whereas Cincinnati could hold back, as it won’t be forced to play its entire hand this week if it chooses not to.

Certainly, there are some interesting dynamics at play this week, and what my pick comes down to is Rex Ryan’s ability to motivate his team to win in what looks to be a win-or-go-home situation.

1. Houston over New England

Somewhat odd for a #1 selection, no? I never thought I’d see the day that I would pick the Texans as my #1 option, nor did I think I’d ever pick a team playing against Bill Belichick’s Patriots.

It all comes down to incentives. Houston is at home and can taste its franchise first playoff appearance, after years of struggling in the competitive AFC South (they were 1-5 in the division this season). You have to think that Houston crowd is going to be maniacal and that the Texans are going to leave everything out on the field on Sunday.

The Patriots, on the other hand, locked up the AFC East and have essentially no incentive to win whatsoever. There are no records to pursue, no egos to stroke, and no reasons to play the starters for more than a quarter or two. In fact, some people have suggested that the Patriots will roll over this game just to spite the Steelers, whose playoff hopes would improve with a Houston loss.

Put it this way: if you were Bill Belichick, would you want an inspired Mario Williams barreling down on your franchise player for more than a couple of minutes? If I were calling the shots for the Pats, Brady, Moss, and Welker would get one series to stay fresh and then park themselves on the bench for 50 minutes. Houston should win this game, but unfortunately for Texans fans, a playoff berth looks like too much to ask for this season. Be proud of the first 9-win season and in imitation of Giants fans (including yours truly) look forward to 2010.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.