Last Week's Question
Thanks to the responses to my question in last
week's column about the best league-hosting services on the
Internet, I now know which of the service providers is indeed the
best one for my needs. Unfortunately, I'm the only one who knows.
And even more unfortunately from your standpoint, I have no idea
which league-hosting service is best for you.
I do know, however, that I am an idiot.
More precisely, I suppose I am whatever it is that comes up short
of idiot on the IQ scale. I must be a sub-idiot, as any idiot could
have seen that the question I posed last week was bound to provoke
an overwhelming variety of responses from readers who have different
needs and therefore different opinions about the same services.
Also, it's difficult to integrate responses from the readers who
have only used one service with those from readers who compared
services. As I read through one response after another, I found
myself thinking the same thought, "Yeah, this one seems honest
and perceptive enough, but I just don't see any meaningful way to
connect it with that last one, which was also honest and perceptive."
And then came this very simple suggestion from Joseph Cechvala:
Another way to address this issue is simply to ask people to rank
those features that are important to them. You could then provide
a matrix of the various sites' features and their cost.
Great idea Joseph. I wish I had thought of it. In fact, I'm going
to start this whole project over as if I had thought of it. In next
week's column I will present readers with a questionnaire that they
can answer concerning the various league-hosting services that they
make use of.
For example, my response would be:
Must Have: reliable live scoring (NO crashes); the ability to create
my own schedule and divisions; bulk loading of rosters; and commissioner
power over waiver wire transactions and trades.
Nice to have: fractional scoring, year-to-year carry-over of league
Don't care: support for individual defensive players.
What I want to do this week is to collect a list of the features
that most readers are concerned about having available on their
league-hosting services. As a point of clarification, I fear I must
take a moment to distinguish league-hosting services (which serve
purely an administrative purpose) from the many FF information sites
out there that offer insider tips and expert advice on how to guide
your team to a championship. There may come a time in the future
when I will ask about whether one panel of experts is better than
another at giving advice about who to start each week, but at the
moment, I am only concerned with league-hosting services, such as
those at Yahoo! and RTSports. These services generally provide automated
scorekeeping for leagues and allow FFers to make roster and line-up
changes without having to bother a commissioner. I am not asking
you to reveal the name of the site that gives you a winning edge
in your league.
Joseph has done an excellent job of getting us started on a list
of features that matter most to FFers when it comes to league-hosting
services. Does the service offer live scoring? Does it allow for
fractional scoring? Can it keep track of the performances of individual
defensives players? How much does it cost?
Other questions that I can add to the list from the responses I
have received so far include: Does it allow for live chats with
the other members of my league when they are logged in at the same
time I am? Do I have to enter the results of my draft into the service,
or is the draft handled by the service? Will it keep track of the
rounds in which players were drafted throughout the season? Does
it provide a sortable list of players in terms of productivity at
their position? Will it give me news updates concerning the players?
Does it provide me with a warning message when a player on my roster
is injured or coming up on a bye week? Is it reliable all of the
time? During the week? On Sundays when everyone is trying to check
their scores? Are the administrators of the league-hosting service
receptive to customer suggestions and complaints?
This Week's Question
So this week's question is very simple. Can you add to the list
of questions in the preceding paragraph? What features in a league-hosting
service matter the most to you? I'll do my best to organize the
responses to this question into a coherent questionnaire that readers
will have an opportunity to respond to in the future. Then perhaps
the information I receive will be useful to more than the one person
who receives and digests it all!
I owe some readers an apology for an assumption I made last week:
the assumption that virtually all FF leagues had made the move to
online league-hosting services. To my surprise I received a number
of notes from old-school FFers who still handle scoring and league
administration internally. Some, like Don Davis, manage things with
I do not like the league-hosting services. I have been
part of Yahoo and CBS leagues. Frankly, I find them too expensive
and hard to justify the cost. At the moment, I am the commissioner
of a league and we use Fantasy Football League Manager
from Sideline Software. This is a darn good product that should
fill most people's needs in fantasy football at less than half
the cost of those other on-line services. The upside is that you
can create any reports you want, customize web pages and what
not (if you are an HTML whiz, you can do all types of stuff).
The downside is that there is no built in message board and that
someone needs to manage the software (add line-ups, do trades,
run reports, etc). However, isn't that what a league commissioner
is for? After being a commissioner for the last six years, I don't
think I could go with anything else.
Other readers, like Gary Heidenreich, pay for nothing. Gary designed
his own spreadsheet to manage his league and still does things the
old-fashioned wayby himself:
Our league is a 16-team, touchdown-only league with minimal defensive
stats used. Over the years, we have always used our local paper
for the stats (league started in 1989). Now, even with all of the
options that are available to me, I still use my spreadsheet system
that I have created for the following reasons:
My thanks to readers such as Don and Gary for reminding me that
not everyone has gone the way of the Internet. However, I will point
out that it is unsurprising to see that Gary's league is a TD-only
league. I'm sure there are plenty of commissioners out there who
are perfectly capable of managing a performance league with nothing
but a calculator, a legal pad, and a weekly set of box scores. But
why would they want to? And while I understand that Don's question
("Isn't that what a league commissioner is for?" ) was
mainly rhetorical, I will say that there is plenty for a commissioner
to keep up with apart from how many points Tiki Barber earned this
week according to a particular league's scoring system. A commissioner
has to organize the draft, establish the rules, collect the fees,
monitor the league for problems, settle disputes, and distribute
the winnings at the end of the season. The commissioner of our league
still does all of these things, but since we moved to a league-hosting
service, I'm sure he wonders how he used to find the time to tally
our scores and update our line-ups every week.
- It's much quicker for me at the draft to write it down on a team
roster sheet. Our draft takes 3.5 hours.
- It allows me to use my spreadsheets with the standings and rosters
as my weekly mailings and web pages.
- Only 75% of my league has access to the web. The official scoring
is from the newspaper, which everyone has access to. In our rules,
if there is a problem with the newspaper, NFL.COM is my backup.
- Our sheets are personalized, as is my weekly write-up. The write-up
was a tradition started before I became the commish (in '95).
Final Thoughts on Collusion
I received two late responses concerning collusion this week from
readers who did not have a chance to see my question concerning
the topic until the follow-up column had already appeared. I include
them because I think they will be of particular interest to readers.
The first comes from Mike, whose league has a unique way of handling
We have a long-standing FF-League (dating back over 25 years), with
20 or so owners pretty consistently over the years. To curtail collusion,
we cut off inter-franchise trades after Thanksgiving. However, any
"fishy" trades prior to that cut-off can be vetoed by
our panel of Commissioners, usually 3. Anyone who is [unhappy about
the commissioners' ruling] can lobby to become a Commissioner the
following year, but in a league our size, nobody really wants the
responsibility that comes with being a Commissioner. Therefore,
we never have a problem with such trades.
This is one of the funniest ideas I've ever heard. "If you
try to cheat, we'll make you serve as commissioner! See how you
like the added workload."
Another suggestion came from Paul:
I didn't see your article until today, Nov 11. I just wanted to
make a quick suggestion. We don't use this rule because we use a
veto rule, but I will be putting it up for vote next draft.
An interesting suggestion. It certainly would keep the 12th-place
team from colluding with the 4th-place team, but I'm concerned because
it would also prevent the 12th-place team from making a perfectly
reasonable trade with the 4th-place team. Most trades occur because
one team has depth at a position where another team is thin. If
I have an extra running back and need a receiver, I don't just pick
a receiver's name out of the air and try to trade with whatever
team has that receiver. I look at the other rosters and try to find
the team that needs help at running back and appears able to spare
a receiver. Usually I'll be lucky to find one or two suitable trading
candidates in any given week in a 12-team league. By this proposed
system, I had better hope that those teams are close to me in the
standings, or I can't deal with them. If anyone else has had success
with a method similar to the one Paul suggests, tell me about it
and I will try to cover it in the near future.
What if teams can only trade up or down two spots based on the standings?
The 1st-place team can trade with 2nd- and 3rd-place, 3rd can trade
up or down from 1st to 5th etc, etc. Last place (12th) can only
trade with teams in 10th- and 11th- place. This method would definitely
stop bottom dwellers from dumping their good players to top teams.
Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt)
Trap Game: St Louis at Buffalo
St. Louis completely handled the Seahawks last week in their win
at home, but this week they are outside in the cold breezes of western
New York. Buffalo's defense is ranked fifth in the NFL and if the
weather is bad, the game should play into the Bills' hands. Tory
Holt might not play because of a concussion suffered in last week's
game and the Rams are built for speed on dry turf. Also, the Rams
are giving up 140 yards per game on the ground, a weakness that
Willis McGahee should be able to take advantage of.
#3: Jacksonville over Tennessee (5-4
Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that Jacksonville
would be in 1st place while the Titans were in 4th in the AFC south?
Jacksonville is playing good defense and David Garrard has filled
in very nicely for the injured Byron Leftwich. Look for Garrard
to get the start again this week for Jacksonville while Antowain
Smith fills in for Chris Brown at the running back position for
the Titans. Brown has been hampered by turf toe all season and this
will not heal until after the season. Look for the Jags to win this
one on both side of the ball at home this week.
#2: San Diego over Oakland (7-2 this
Ladanian Tomlinson and cast look to continue their winning ways
in Oakland this week. The Raiders rank in the bottom 3rd of the
NFL in all defensive categories while the surprise Chargers are
ranked second where it counts, on the scoreboard. Look for this
to be a runaway as Marty mixes it up with play action passes and
quick hitting runs.
#1: Indianapolis over Chicago (6-3 this
Okay, last week's pick in this spot was a little bit of wishful
thinking, but Arizona was ranked 28th against the run. This week
the Colts roar into the windy city against a starting quarterback
with a 49.1 passer rating and a 3-0 record. Sooner or later Krenzel's
lack of security with the ball will come back to bite the Bears
and with the Colts defense improving, this may be that week. Marvin
Harrison will also look to reconnect with Manning as he was all
but forgotten in last week's game. The Colts should get up on the
Bears early and be able to tee off on the inexperienced Krenzel.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football