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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Q&A – Best Fantasy Tiebreakers

Last Week’s Question - Should fees for commissioners be waived/discounted?

In Week 15, I asked readers whether fees for commissioners should be waived/discounted. I received a range of responses, but I want to start with Ken’s take (because it represents a commendable attitude about cheerfully taking up a the commish’s burden for the fun of it):

We do not have a discount, and as the commissioner I have not even contemplated such. I enjoy sports and lead the league as part of my desire to enhance the esprit de corps of the work team.

I am going to [lobby for a tweak to the] playoff system next year [to allow] more teams to stay invested longer. I will also try for an auction draft (I tried this year but unsuccessfully).

I am sure other commissioners are looking at ways to improve the fantasy football process, which is supposed to be fun after all.
Even though Ken’s 2nd & 3rd paragraphs don’t really pertain to the question about fees, I included them to demonstrate Ken’s motivation, which is to maximize the fun factor for everyone in the league. A commish who shares this same attitude is likely to serve without expecting any compensation.

However, some leagues include a few very demanding, high-maintenance participants. The ideal solution may sometimes be to rotate the commissioner’s duties from one owner to the next each year, but this can fail for at least two reasons: 1) not everyone is temperamentally suited to serve as commish; & 2) few leagues last long enough for the burden of commissioning to be equally distributed among participants.

For those reasons, I understand why some leagues have decided to compensate commissioners (to varying degrees). I have no qualms with an approach like Carl’s, as long as it is spelled out clearly to all participants:
I have been running my league for 29 years now and have always collected 10% of the kitty. Granted our league has evolved in the last 29 years, including our entry fee rising from $25 in 1990 to $130 now. We started with 14 teams back then and have bounced over the last ten years between 12-14 teams. Back in the early days when everything was done by hand, I calculated the scores of our games using the newspaper on Monday morning--not to mention staying home on Friday nights until 7 to make sure everyone phoned in their line ups. The cut I get now is just making up for all the hard work I did then. Granted it is a much easier job these days using the MFL program; however, I still have to coordinate all the guys in my league to do our live draft (a job in itself) and make sure they are staying active etc.. Of the 12 teams we currently have playing, 7 are founding fathers of the league and 3 more have been playing for 20-25 years and none complain about my 10% cut which usually covers my entry and most of my fees Maybe they are just used to it!

As someone who remembers commissioners calculating scores by hand, I can understand Carl’s impulse to say that he is being compensated now for work he did back then. But I wouldn’t recommend that commissioners who feel this way say so--especially to league newcomers (who will probably resent the idea of retroactively subsidizing a service rendered long ago to someone else). Nevertheless, the nuisance of collecting fees (especially in leagues with entry fees over $100 and additional, unpredictable charges for transactions) is, in my opinion, enough to justify a commission all by itself.

Last week I mentioned that my oldest league waives the fee for the commissioner and always has. It was therefore a pleasure to hear from Michael:

Our league has been in existence since 1993. Our yearly dues are $20. The commissioner is exempt from paying [the annual fee, but is on the hook for transaction fees]. The dues we collect are used to cover the website and the draft labels used on draft night. In addition, the winner gets their choice of a $40 trophy or cash. Winners automatically get their name added to the league trophy that gets presented to the winner every year. (We also pay $2 per waiver that is used to fund the draft night food.)

Since we are not a cash award league, this may seem like “small potatoes”. However, we never wanted the league to be about money, but about camaraderie and friendship. We have seen some events and decisions in big money leagues turn into arguments and hard feelings between owners. We never want that to happen.

As commissioner the past 20 years, I bet I do more than $20 per year of work keeping the league functioning. A few newer owners have joked that “they don’t pay me enough to do this job”. This is especially true when potential grey areas of league rules are put to the test and a commissioner ruling needs to be made.

All in all, the $20 league waiver fee is good enough for me. As I mentioned before, the league is about friendship and not money. Perhaps that’s why our core of owners have been in the league for over 25 years.

Although I could have cut Michael’s note shorter, I wanted to be sure to include his second paragraph as a reminder that fantasy football really should be more about fun than money. With high stakes come high emotions--and, inevitably in some cases--long-standing resentments. Congrats to Michael’s league for keeping its priorities straight. It’s no surprise that, in such a context, Michael is happy to continue serving as commish even if he is undercompensated.

Drew’s league didn’t start with a policy like Michael’s, but eventually found its way there:

I have been the acting commissioner of a league in North Carolina since 2008. We have a conservative entry fee of just $60, but the way the payouts are delegated makes for a fun, competitive league with bragging rights being the biggest motivator.

While we began with everyone paying the same amount, it was brought up a few years ago that the commissioner's fee should be waived. I obviously supported it 100%, but would have done so whether I was commissioner or not, especially considering how involved my role is. Throughout the season I write weekly reviews on Tuesday mornings that add some personal/historical data that the Yahoo generated recaps don't provide. I also think a dedicated commissioner is monitoring all activity throughout the season, open to possible rule changes/adjustments and attempts to schedule get togethers during the season so we can smack talk in person while watching Red Zone. Creating a tradition and growing a league that can last for years takes a little more effort/time. That, in my opinion, more than justifies the commissioner's fee being waived. Obviously, if our league was a $1000 buy in, we would adjust accordingly and I would be more than happy to accept a discount. But $60 bucks spread over 16 weeks is really a drop in the bucket.

I love the role of commissioner, even though I am yet to win the whole thing in 11 tries (currently in the semis). I created a logo for our league, had custom leather pint koozies made and will pass out pint glasses featuring the logo to all the managers. It's the little things that can separate a casual league from one that provides the type of fellowship and competition that ours does.

I agree with Drew’s point that waiving a $60 fee for a commissioner who produces weekly reports (in addition to handling all other details of league management) amounts to a paltry wage per hour. However, even if the compensation works out to less than minimum wage, a fee waiver is a nice way for a league to recognize the value that active commissioners bring to the fantasy experience.

I hope Drew did well in his semis. He also included a sample writeup with his email. I pasted it in the comment section of last week’s article so that readers can find all the samples in one place.

My thanks to everyone who wrote in.

This Week’s Question: What is the best tiebreaker in the fantasy playoffs?

I’ve seen & heard multiple comments in the past week about how bad an idea it is to use the score of bench players to break ties in the fantasy playoffs. I agree. If my opponent is weak at TE, you better believe I’ll have a handful of TEs on my roster just to keep them from being played against me. If my opponent is weak at defense, I’ll do the same thing with defenses. That’s the spirit of competition at work. But using bench scores as a tiebreaker means I should probably go after QBs instead of trying to block my opponent’s access to TEs or defenses. That makes no sense.

Maybe you know of a worse tiebreaker than bench points. If so, please let me know what it is.

But I’m more interested in learning whether there’s a consensus about the best tiebreaker. I can see a strong case being made for awarding the win to A) the team with the greater point total on the season or B) the higher-seeded team. I’ll reserve my opinion for now. What’s yours?

If you have a strong preference for one of those methods over the other (or for an alternative I’ve overlooked), please explain your position in the comment section below or by emailing me.

Survivor Pool Picks

#3 Broncos over Lions (12-3; PHI, BAL, SF, lar, NE, WAS, GB, NO, SEA, ind, MIN, BUF, KC, hou, NO)

Congratulations if the Ravens (10-point favorites in Cleveland) are available to you. I can’t imagine they’re still available to anyone. But you know who probably is available? The Broncos. And this week, they’re playing the Lions. There were rumors of a possible resurrection of Matthew Stafford for the end of the season, but those rumors were greatly exaggerated. Stafford is now officially on IR, which means the Lions will roll with undrafted rookie David Blough once again, which means Detroit will almost certainly lose. Blough’s 3:5 ratio of TDs to turnovers (in his first 3 games) tells you exactly what to expect from him (except that things could easily become much worse on the road at high altitude). Gimme Denver.

#2 Seahawks over Cardinals (8-7; HOU, BAL, NE, ind, kc, lac, SF, MIN, BUF, no, car, CHI, phi, GB, lar)

The Seahawks are 9.5-point favorites playing at home with a lot at stake. They face the 49ers again next week, and a loss against the Cardinals could easily mean the difference between the top seed in the NFC (with a bye week and home field advantage through the conference championship) and the top wild card spot (with no rest and an unpredictable travel schedule). If I know anything about Russell Wilson, it’s that he understands the importance of this win & can single-handedly will the Seahawks to victory. But this one makes me nervous. The Seahawks started the season thin at receiver, and they’ve lost Josh Gordon to yet another suspension. Then too, remember that divisional games are never a cakewalk, especially against a team with an unpredictable QB like Kyler Murray showing more than occasional flashes of brilliance. I’ll bet on Wilson if I have to place a bet, but I would rather put my money on another game.

#1 Colts over Panthers (12-3: NE, SEA, DAL, LAC, PHI, dal, BUF, SF, BAL, OAK, CLE, car, MIN, sf)

I’ve taken the Colts in the #2 and #3 slots this season, & I was wrong both times. I should probably steer clear of them now, but I seriously like their chances at home against the rudderless Panthers. Admittedly, Jacoby Brissett looked lost against the Saints on Monday night, but he usually plays much better than that. So what if Brissett wilted in response to Drew Brees’ storybook, record-breaking performance? Things will be very different for Brissett and the Colts vs. rookie third rounder Will Grier in his first start under center for Carolina.

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.