Whatever readers might think of the relative value of the players
involved, the key points were contextual. The Cooper owner is
out of post-season contention and is giving up his best player
(Cooper) to his nephew, who is poised for a playoff run—in
exchange for a running back (Michael) who is unlikely to break
into his own lineup more than a couple of times before the end
of the season.
The commissioner who referred this question to me said that in
his opinion, the relative value of the players was less important
than the fact that the trade presented the appearance of collusion.
Some readers, such as Michael, agreed with the commissioner:
To put it simply, yes it presents the appearance of collusion.
We have a small family league. We’re all related (by marriage,
at least), and we love each other; but, we also want to destroy
our opponent each week. We play for a pretty small cash prize
at the end of the year, but we play more for pride than anything
else. As the commissioner, I have had a couple of situations come
up (in 10 years mind you) that I truly felt would disrupt the
competitive balance. They are rare, thankfully, but they happen.
I always take a proactive approach. I tell everyone that once
the season starts, I want to just be another one of the managers.
But, if you make me become the commissioner, I will. I have broad,
unilateral powers as our commissioner, and I’ve used them
The fact that Michael has used his veto power only twice suggests
that he is reluctant to interfere in trades—as I suspect
most commissioners are when saddled with this responsibility.
RJ also thought the trade appeared collusive, but the commissioner
in his league wouldn't be responsible for blocking it all by himself:
That trade is definitely full of collusion. . . . In our league
the commish decides if there is collusion. Then if he does and
the two teams want to contest the decision, we have two other
league members who have a meeting with commish and the two teams.
In the end the commish and 2 league members vote on whether it
in the best interest of the league. If the commish or the two
senior league members are involved in said trade then they are
removed from the decision and alternates sit in for the decision.
It has worked perfectly and we only had to veto maybe 3 trades
in 22 years. The league members like it cuz it is very fair and
unbiased and not everyone is involved in deciding if the trade
should go through.
However, the "appearance" of collusion wasn't plain
to all readers, as Rick explained:
The fact that the trade partners are related is irrelevant. The
trade should be addressed on its own merits. With all the RB injuries,
I don't see an issue with having a CMike on the bench for insurance.
The "appearance of collusion" is in the eye of the beholder.
Let guys manage their teams as they see fit. There is absolutely
nothing in this deal that warrants a reversal by the commissioner.
We're just three comments in, and we've already encountered two
diametrically opposed reactions. RJ says, "That trade is
definitely full of collusion," and Rick says, "There
is absolutely nothing in this deal that warrants a reversal by
But even where there seems to be agreement on other points, the
agreement is tenuous. Like Rick, David thought it best to set
aside the uncle/nephew relationship, but added that "uncle
or not, any team out of the playoff picture trading in a non-dynasty/keeper
format is a red flag for me."
Rick didn't comment on that component, but since he said that
the trade "should be addressed on its own merits," my
guess is that he would consider the uncle's record as irrelevant
to the discussion as any blood ties involved.
David was cognizant of the ways in which these characteristics
of the trade might contribute to the appearance of collusion,
but worried about a "slippery slope":
It's certainly a slippery slope with regards to diagnosing collusion
in that it tends to set a precedent for any and all future rulings.
Does one decision mean that relatives are no longer allowed to
make trades? Vetoing a transaction strictly based on relationship
can understandably be problematic in long-standing leagues where
the owners tend to know one another fairly well. All in all, I
think it's reasonable, and even expected, that commissioners should
make every effort to identify and eliminate collusion. In fact,
I think it's the only reason a trade should ever get vetoed in
a pay league. Every owner paid their entry fee to manage their
team in any way they'd like.
David's last point (that owners should be allowed to manage their
teams as they see fit) was the most common thread in the responses
I received. Dan wrote: "Even trades that look foolish, I've
let go through because it's not the league's job to police owner
stupidity. Doesn't matter that they're making a big mistake in
most people's minds." Bruce echoed this sentiment: "Absent
clear evidence of collusion, I would assume stupidity and let
the deal stand."
So it seems safe to say that A) leagues don't want collusion,
but B) they also don't want commissioners interfering with trades
just because the commissioner's opinion of the players involved
makes the trade seem collusive to her/him.
The commissioner who referred this matter to me probably instituted
his appearance-based policy on collusion because he thought it
would take some of the tension out of the veto process. ("I'm
not calling you guys cheaters," he could say when issuing
the decision, "but I'm saying that to some people this might
look like cheating.") However, that qualifier may only have
made his job harder.
The solution that almost everyone endorsed involved an arbitration
panel of multiple owners. Some readers (such as CJ, whose comment
is posted below last week's column) advocate a league-wide vote
on all trades. But most of the comments I've received on league-wide
votes over the years have been negative. They may work well in
some leagues, but they can easily lead to a vindictive scenario
in which owners veto each other's trades because of grudges about
So avoiding league-wide votes makes sense, but avoiding commissioner-only
decisions makes sense as well. As Dan put it, "I love the
arbitration panel of 2-3 other owners in case commish decides
to veto." In Tom's league, "There are 3 guys assigned
to our 'trade committee' that have the final say whether a trade
is fair or not." And anyone looking to inject anonymity into
the arbitration process should check out this comment from Mr.
Some years ago I developed a three-member "trade commission"
board to be able to eliminate favoritism or accusations of it.
I am not part of the board unless one of the trade commissioners
is actually involved in the trade. I only execute the transactions.
Also, most importantly, I have made sure that they don't know
who the other two members are. All trades are evaluated by the
board and a simple 2 votes either for or against. Every owner
in the league knows how it works, and they don't know who the
trade commissioners are either. The trade partners both let me
know why they're making the trade and I can answer questions that
the trade commissioners have. This has completely eliminated any
trades that are even close to shady, and no trades have been vetoed
in the last 9 years or so.
So the moral of the story seems to be that having a commissioner
rule on the "appearance" of collusion is less productive
than putting the decision into the hands of a committee. I hope
that's helpful to commissioners struggling to combat collusion
without becoming meddlesome, and I'm grateful to everyone who
posted comments to the original column or took the time to email
This Week's Question: Do you have
too many lineups to juggle on Sundays?
Since the questionable tag has been expanded to include the old
"probable" category in the NFL, it's more important
than ever to pay attention to the list of inactive players released
roughly an hour before kickoff on Sundays.
An hour is plenty of time to adjust rosters in a few fantasy leagues,
but DFS enthusiasts (many of whom play oodles of tickets each
week) may not be able to review all of their lineups thoroughly
in light of late-breaking information.
Worse yet, some West Coast folks have to get up before dawn to
make lineup adjustments for players involved in London games.
So I can't help wondering if anyone out there has become so overwhelmed
by roster management on Sunday mornings they they've abandoned
traditional fantasy to make time for DFS . . . or vice versa.
More generally, I wonder whether the growing popularity of fantasy/DFS
contests is making Sunday mornings a blur of frenzied data analysis
for people in general—or is it just the crazy folks I hang
out with? If time management on Sunday mornings has become a problem
for you because of your fantasy habit, please comment below or
My top picks this week all feature surging teams vs. sputtering
inter-conference opponents. That's great news if these selections
are available to you in your pool; if not, you'll probably have
to resort to intra-conference (or even intra-divisional) games.
However, before you commit to such a choice, please bear the following
caveats in mind: 1) Minnesota seems like a powerhouse vs. Detroit,
but the unexpected resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner
will probably translate to a big step backwards for Brad Johnson
and company in Week 9; 2) Kansas City looks like a lock vs. dismal
Jacksonville, but the Chiefs will be missing Alex Smith and possibly
Spencer Ware (as well as Jamaal Charles–IR); and 3) the
division-leading Atlanta Falcons have already lost to the struggling
Buccaneers once this season.
#3: Green Bay over Indianapolis: (6-2,
JAX, OAK, DAL, MIN, PIT, NE, CIN, TN)
Aaron Rodgers made an emphatic statement against the high-flying
Falcons last week, finishing second only to Derek Carr in fantasy
terms. Cheeseheads have rightly been worried about the Packers'
glitch-ridden offense this season, but it's now clear that Green
Bay can score even without Eddie Lacy or James Starks (or Ty Montgomery,
for that matter). As for the Colts, Andrew Luck is having a solid
year with 2284 yards and 16 touchdowns at the halfway point, but
QB stats don't translate to wins all by themselves. Consequently,
Indy is 2-4 and looking up at both Tennessee and Houston in the
AFC South. While the Packers are finding ways to win without running
backs, the Colts are finding ways to lose to teams like the Jaguars,
so it's hard to see them stealing a win in Lambeau. Put this one
on autopilot while you prepare a cheese plate to celebrate a Packers
#2: Seattle over Buffalo: (6-2, HOU, AZ,
CAR, WAS. GB, TN, NE, MN)
The Buffalo Bills are 4-4 with quality wins over the Cardinals
and Patriots in Weeks 3 and 4 but are currently riding a two-game
losing streak. That said, their schedule gets easier after the
long trip to the Seattle to take on a Seahawks team that is still
working through the identity crisis sparked by the retirement
of Marshawn Lynch. Last year’s rookie phenom, Thomas Rawls,
has been out since Week 3, so the inconsistent Christine Michael
will be called upon once again to carry the load this week. On
top of that, Russell Wilson's leg injuries still seem to be compromising
his mobility. As Wilson struggles to achieve scramble-mode in
the absence of Beastmode, Pete Carroll is probably wishing that
Lynch would come out of retirement. The bad news for Carroll is
that the only retired Seahawk returning to the league this week
is Percy Harvin, who will shore up a battered Bills receiving
corps. The good news for Carroll is that he gets to play a team
so desperate for offensive talent that it just signed the retired
Harvin. So even though the Seahawk offense is a little anemic,
I'll take Seattle at home against a Bills team whose LeSean McCoy
has missed practice this week and whose newest receiver has missed
practice all season.
Dak Prescott is making a strong case to remain the starting quarterback
in Dallas, and Tony Romo may want to consider taking the retirement
package that the Cowboys will very happily offer him at the end
of the season. With three major back injuries in the last few years,
it would be in Tony’s best interest to walk away, but he wants
to compete. Unfortunately for him, he may not have a choice in this.
The Browns hope to get their first win of the season, but the combination
of Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott (ranked 4th in the rushing), and a
surprisingly stout Dallas defense makes it very hard to foresee
a Cleveland upset. The duel between rising QB stars Prescott and
Cleveland’s Cody Kessler will make this fun to watch, but
the Dawg Pound will be howling at the moon for at least one more
week before winning a game in 2016. Mike Davis has been writing about
fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer
than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped
inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can
be found here.