OpinionMarch 27, 2005

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The Commish: A Thankless Task

By Brian C. Grindrod

Your friends have been talking about it. Your colleagues at work have suggested it. Yahoo Sports sure makes it easy. Just as the salmon cannot fight the urge to swim upstream every year to the place where it was spawned, so must the armchair coach heed the call to join a fantasy league to play the role of owner and general manager of a fictional franchise when a new professional sports season gets underway. However, fantasy league players are not created equal and never will be. The motivation of each fantasy general manager varies from the guy who just wants to hang out with the boys on draft day to the human sports almanac that lives, breathes and sleeps ESPN. As history always demonstrates, amidst a group of people who share a common goal, a leader always emerges to plan a better world for his brethren. In fantasy sports leagues, this person is commonly known as ‘The Commissioner.’

Unlike his professional counterparts in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, ‘The Fantasy League Commish’ is not usually paid or fully rewarded for all the time and effort that he puts into this make-believe league so that others can get a chance to escape from their daily chores. His goal is to coordinate a set of rules and settings that all participants have agreed upon in order to have some great moments. It sounds like an easy and honourable goal, yet there are some obstacles that must always be hurdled over in order to achieve this. Not surprisingly, the blockages are often caused by the very people who would not put forward any endeavour to organize a fantasy league. Indeed, these are the guys that complain about the policies once the season or keeper league has begun its course while constantly crafting new ways to cheat around the system. They do not realize that such a course of action reflects not what type of player they are but rather what type of person. They also have a knack for constantly putting the commissioner’s integrity in doubt when they find themselves in a situation that is unfavourable to them, and are the first to veto any and all trades without just cause.

The next category of fantasy players that can cause a keeper league or a season to collapse are the ignorant, short-sighted dupes who should not be allowed to reproduce in order not to contaminate the human race. They immediately stand out like a sore thumb at league meetings and on draft day with their lack of talent analysis, but worst of all, have little or no regard as to how their negligent actions affect the rest of the league. These clowns are the bane of every possible fantasy sports league. Commisioners have seen it before while dreading it each and every time it happens. I am reffering to the type that will pick a Jason Varitek in the first round over a Bobby Abreu or Todd Helton to be assured that nobody else will draft his favourite player. Another likely scenario is the case where some dull-witted GM acquires Edgar Renteria and Johnny Damon in exchange for Miguel Tejeda and Ichiro because The Red Sox are his favourite team. Even worse! Some bonehead trades Randy Johnson, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez away because they are ‘too old,’ swapping those stars for young unproven talent such as Dallas McPherson, BJ Upton and Dan Haren. If the league rules do not allow your general managers to veto trades, this type of move will be the one that spells doom for your league. But as commish, you have to interfere even if a member or two will be crying foul about your honesty while your only true goal is to maintain the integrity and balance of power of the league whether it is for one season or for years to come.

Last but not least are those that jump off the bandwagon once the season starts or that leave when the team they drafted is hitting rock bottom. Do not invite them back next year, and immediately expel this sort of person from the league. While you may eventually come to terms with the person who agreed to the lopsided trade that caused a rival to have a dynasty team, it pales in comparison to those who do not respect their commitment to put up not only a competitive roster but a healthy one.

To those who put in long hours, effort and love into creating and maintaining fantasy leagues, I offer my heartfelt thanks. You make our favourite sport even more enjoyable.

To those who sign up for fantasy leagues; for Pete’s sake, if you are not going to commit to a league, don’t’ join! Yes, it will take a chunk of your time, and yeah, you may have to do some research, but isn’t that the fun part of being in a fantasy league? If it’s ‘work’ to you, do yourself as well as other sports fanatics a big favour and please don’t sign up for crying out loud. Read the rules or manifesto of the league and judge if you can make it a hobby that you and thereby the others who are in the league will enjoy. Commisioners have enough to do that they do not need deadbeats complicating matters.

Brian Grindrod is the proud father of a three-month-old daughter. He was able to write this article while his wife and baby were out for the day.

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