How To Run A Fantasy Football League Without Making Everyone Hate You

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Because your friends are lazy and untrustworthy, you were somehow the best choice to run this year’s fantasy football league, which means you’ll set up the draft, oversee trades, handle money, and use the internet an hour or two more per week than usual. Congratulations. Now, you just have to tackle this responsibility without losing your mind and having your furious league emails plastered all over the internet. And the season begins in less than a month, so better start now. Should be easy.

A good fantasy football commissioner is like a good referee: They should be heard from as little as possible. Your job here is to keep things running smoothly, and nothing more. Yes, it’s a huge hassle, but that’s what you’ve signed up for. There’s no Fantasy Football Commissioners Union (yet), so don’t expect much out of this beyond a pat on the back.


While acting as commissioner, the mantra to keep in mind is this: Fantasy football with friends is supposed to be fun. Money might be involved, but you’re all supposed to enjoy this. Don’t take everything too seriously, even and especially when an issue needs to be resolved. Be friendly and find a fair solution while maintaining your composure. While your idiot sports friends argue on the internet about something petty, you need to chill.

Keep a reliable line of communication. Most leagues have built-in message boards, but some teams might turn off their notifications. Email threads usually work; if not, open a Facebook group chat. (You can mute the chat if the messages get to be too much while you work, but check in at the end of the day.) It doesn’t need to be used all the time, but for anything important, these options provide a better chance at everyone seeing it.


Set clear deadlines. If this league involves money, entry fees might be a pain in the ass, because there will likely be one or two unresponsive friends who refuse to deliver. Those guys suck. Also, in every league with a draft, you’re going to have to find a date and time that works for everyone. (One way to do this: A friend showed me Doodle last year, which lets you set up a scheduling poll and send the link to everyone in the league. It’s much easier than writing it all down.) Figure these out a week or two into August, so everyone has plenty of time and no excuses. If someone misses the entry-fee cutoff date, email them directly. If they don’t respond after a couple of days, they’re probably dead. Attend their funeral before moving on.

Another issue with money leagues is who handles the cash. Unless there’s someone else in the league that you trust more, it should probably be you. Responsibly handle the money. Collect everything through Venmo, Paypal, or whatever you use for micro-payments so that there’s a clear record of it. If everyone’s paying with cash, keep it all together and don’t screw with it. Pay out weekly amounts on time. Wednesday’s normally the best day, because Tuesday might bring stat corrections, and that could turn awkward.

Don’t be Roger Goodell. Little grievances don’t need to turn into big ones. You do not have a big, swinging dick. Relax. During the season, trades might be the most contentious transactions. There are usually two options for that: league vote or commissioner approval. The league vote is democratic and preferred, as long as you feel your fellow teams aren’t blatantly colluding. The commissioner approval can get weird if you’re one of the teams in a trade. If things are getting out of hand and there’s blood all over the email thread, step in, but don’t be petulant.

This, of course, comes with the assumption that your friends are otherwise level-headed people who have the ability to be mature, rational adults. If not, you’re going to have to be the voice of reason among your whiny baby peers. After the season’s over, you can go ahead and stop hanging out with them altogether. They’re probably the ones responsible for Deadspin’s Facebook comments.


Remember how we said this whole thing’s supposed to be fun? Do that by giving your league its own perks. Have a party for the draft or championship week. Watch games together at a bar or someone’s place once a month, if your members aren’t all over the country. If you can find an hour or so a week, write an email recap with your own stupid inside jokes or whatever. Suckiest team of the week goes to Donny! Haha, got you Donny, you fuck. In one league, I put together an end-of-season “awards” list, and try to mention every team so everyone feels included, even if their team sucked. It’s my thoughtful, Communist signature on the season.

The most stressful part of fantasy football should be your lineup decisions. Be cool even if everyone else isn’t, and everything will be fine.


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Image by Sam Woolley.

Adequate Man is Deadspin’s new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.