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How to Start a Fantasy Football League: 10 Headaches You Want To Avoid

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How to Start a Fantasy Football League

Fantasy FootballFantasy Football season is one of the most exciting times of the year. I get more excited for my fantasy football drafts than I do Christmas day, so when it comes to drafts, I try to be in as many as possible to extend my Christmas.

For years I have commissioned my own league, but now that everyone and their grandmother (literally in some situations) is playing fantasy football, there are plenty of leagues to join and save myself the headache of creating and managing my own league. Here is the list of troubles you and I can both save ourselves by letting some other poor suckers sign on for the task of, “Being the Commish.”

Collecting Buyins

I’m not getting into a fantasy league unless it’s for cash. Typically I can find enough friends to agree to be in a money league and make it worth everyone’s while. But, on draft day it never fails, there will always be “that guy ” who “forgot” to bring his buy in. ‘Oh, it was $20? I thought you said $10.’ ‘Sorry man, I will get it to you when I get paid.’ ‘I promise I will get it to you next week.’ The excuses are endless, but we have to accept them into the league anyway because it is draft day and you don’t have anyone sitting around waiting to take his place. If you do, good for you. This person gets into the league and days go by before you send a reminder text. ‘Do you have the buy in?’ They respond, ‘I will itĀ have next week.’ Next week rolls around and you send another reminder. This time you get no answer. Eventually, it is the playoffs and this individual still hasn’t paid you and he some how made it in. This person won’t pay you because they think they will finish in the money. Inevitably, he somehow ends well enough to get his money back and get out of paying you, making them feel all the more obligated to, “forget” the buy in next season. My advice is don’t let this person back in the league. I don’t care if they are your best friend. You want people in your league that are reliable and make things as easy as possible for the commish. You don’t want to be hounding people for days, weeks, months, years that you still need their buy in. If they don’t have it by the beginning of week one, boot them and sell their team. Simple solution.

Deciding On League Entry Fee

Getting the people seems to be the most natural part, coming together and agreeing on a buy in can be like pulling teeth. Odds are if you set up the league you will feel good about your chances of making some money from it. Therefore, you want to set the bar as high as it can go. You want to do at least a $50 league and half of the people are OK with it and the other half say it’s too much. You keep dropping the number like an auctioneer just looking to sell the box of random junk nobody wants until it isn’t even worth it for you to commish the league. The thing is, you are the one setting up the league. It’s understandable that you want your buddies to be a part of this experience with you so you can talk smack to them, but sometimes the acquaintances would be a better replacement because it will help you more than double the pot. This may sound like me being greedy, but if you put all of that work in the offseason into fantasy prep, don’t you want it to pay off? I know I do. If you can’t find 10 or 12 people willing to cough up $50, lower it to $40. If you only have two guys or gals who say no, twist their arm and call them out for being cheap until they agree. Nobody wants to be, “that guy,” or “that girl.”

Finding People

I stated above finding people seems to be the easiest part. The key word there is seems. If you are having problems finding people to meet the minimum buy in like I also stated above, this may be a challenging task if you want a 12 or 14 team league.

Most of us who play fantasy will know enough fantasy junkies to fill a league, but once you factor out the person who won’t bring the buy in, the other who still owes money and the guy who doesn’t want to pay $50, you may have slim pickins among your associates. If you have a solid core of friends, ask them to ask someone they know. If you only have a few people, there are still plenty of options. You can make your league public and post it on ESPN, Yahoo, NFL or any other website you create a league with. You can also call for help through social media. One bonus of running your league online is making it so a player can’t be in the league until he or she pays the entree. This avoids the guy who doesn’t pay altogether.

Deciding On The Rules

There are so many different types of players out there that if you are brave enough to start a league, there will always be one or two people who disagree with the settings in some way. You created this league, right? You are the one who put the time into finding enough people to fill it, right? It is your league, you make the rules. If someone doesn’t like it, find a replacement. This may sound an awful lot like a dictatorship, but you know what? It is! This is your league, you run it, you decide the buy in, you make the rules. Don’t let someone threaten you with a, ‘If that’s the way it’s going to be, count me out.’ OK, cool. Count them out and find someone else. Let them set up their own league. You took the effort to set it up, you should be able to enjoy every aspect of it just the way you like it.

Location

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Location of the draft is crucial. If you had to make your league public and can’t find enough people to fill it, odds are you will be hosting it online. If you did find enough friends who agreed with the buy in and the rules, this is the dream scenario for every commissioner. Now you just have to decide the perfect local for what could become an annual tradition, given you have a quality group of people. Typically, bars, a man cave, someone’s living room and or a garage can be an ideal place. I have been to drafts in nearly all of the above and have found the leagues in which I have the most amount of fun in the draft are the ones hosted at a bar type scene. This way you don’t have to provide everyone with beer, food and you don’t have to worry about them making a mess of your place. Let them drink and eat as much as they want on their own budget, after all, you have a buy in set for this league. Why pay double the entry fee just to host a good draft party when a bar can do it for you. Often times bars will even offer you specials or tape off a room just for you and your league mates knowing they will be making a chunk of change off of the group. Call in advance and try to find a place that will offer you a little something extra.

Keeping the League Fresh

You had a league of 12 people last year and it was great, but this season you want to expand it to 14. You ask one of your friends who watches football if he wants in the league and he says, ‘I would, but I’ve never played fantasy football before.’ You go ahead and let him in thinking easy money. Although this chump may be easy money for you and your fantasy shark friends, it is a pain in the butt post draft when it comes to his team for multiple reasons. 1: He somehow drafted a few awesome guys who end up carrying his team and he wins games he has no business winning. 2: He forgets or just doesn’t care enough to log in and keep up with his team. This is leads to other issues such as, 3: The three all-star players he has are players you and your league mates would love to have on your team. The problem is, he doesn’t log in so he can’t make trades. So frustrating. 4: While he isn’t logging in, he also isn’t setting his roster. Every week he has a player starting that’s on a bye. He has 2 or 3 wins on the season and he somehow pulls off a win over a guy who has a great chance at being the 2 or 3 seed in the league. This alters everything and it drives the guy who lost crazy because there is no way he should have beat you. But yet OBJ went off for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns, so you lost by five points. So long first-round playoff bye, and hello disappointing first-round loss. This has to be one of the most irritating players in the world. Don’t let this guy back in the league, EVER!

Arguments

This always seems to be a struggle no matter how close you are with the individuals that make up your league. It can be an argument about the buy in, the rules, the roster settings, the location of the draft, what to do with the guys’ team who doesn’t log in, the possibilities are endless. Also, one of the most common and controversial topics that arise are the way waivers are set. In my mind there is only two ways to go about setting up waivers: Apply a bidding system or simply do a revolving order starting with the guy in last. If you set it up so the guy in last place always gets the top free agent he puts in for, he could go from last to winning the league over night. This isn’t fair for the people who already have solid teams and put the waiver in for the guy before he did. I also like first come first serve, but a lot of people seem to be opposed to this and want waivers. Over the years people have contested that they don’t have all day to sit around and watch football like I do. Well, your problem not mine. Same as any other topic in this piece, this is your league, you make the rules. This is a dictatorship and you have the final say on every decision whether all the league approves or not. Often times, you will have to be the one to squash an argument. An easy answer to a lot of these quarrels will be, ‘If you don’t like it, I can give you your money back and find someone else.’ This may seem cold, but just see how it goes.

Player Releases

We are all competitive and love playing fantasy football. When we lose games or lose tough playoff matchups, some of us still haven’t mastered the art of being a respectable looser. Instead, some go on and on about how they got ripped off and demand their money back. Others go as far to release every player on their team after the loss, right in the thick of the fantasy playoffs. With many leagues, you can lock eliminated teams. However, if this guy just suffered a brutal loss in the first round of the playoffs and chooses to be a bad sport and release all of his players, this can be a headache for an owner. Guys will inevitably go and pick up the best of the best that he dropped and then you, as a commissioner, have to explain that “Joey Bad Sport” decided to release all of his players in childish fashion and now you have to go back, redo all of the moves and lock his roster. Needless to say, these are also players that should not receive an invite from you as a commish. Sometimes guys will even lose a bet with a friend behind the scenes and will make a “questionable” release, as the guy he lost the bet to grabs the available player and strengthens his lineup. You as a commish have to make the call whether to over turn this decision. This kind of player should also not be invited back, and possibly even have his team stripped.

Type of League

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Part of this could be implied with the rules. Before the season begins you need to decide if you are doing a PPR league, half point PPR, standard, touchdown only, IDP, whatever you want it to be you need to establish this well before the draft so people can prepare properly. One other factor that needs to be decided pre-draft is whether or not your league will be a keeper league. Some may take a vote and decide after the season, but this is something that needs to be set in stone before your draft begins, not after. It may not affect strategy as much as say a dynasty league, but it could still have a tremendous impact on decisions when it comes to keeper and redraft leagues. In order to run this dictatorship, you have to make moves that back up your status as the unquestionable leader. Making these pre-season calls will help bolster your claim.

Payouts and Prizes for the Winners

Half of the fun of winning comes with collecting the prize. Most of the time money is enough, but what makes a fantasy football league even more exciting is the trophy, belt, ring, or whatever other title you decide to give away to the winner of the league. Payouts can range from winner take all, top two split the pot, pay out a 75:25 ratio to 1st and 2nd, payout the first three spots, pay the division winners, pay the team with the most points scored half the money and the champ the rest, the list is endless. However you decide to pay out the cash, a trophy or a belt makes winning about 10 times sweeter. Who doesn’t want to have that trophy that has their name on it, sending snapchats to their friends as the following season approaches, letting them know who is the reigning champ? Some people may not like these kinds of winners and you don’t necessarily have to be one, it just makes for a good time and a lot more fun. Not to mention we are now all adults and odds are we don’t compete for trophies like we used to in our glory days. This helps us relive the experience a bit.

With all of the factors you need to consider when hosting and creating a league, it really doesn’t seem to be worth it anymore. If you have a great group that you already draft with or want to create one, that is great! That is what makes the game what it is today. But if you struggle with some of the aforementioned topics above, leave the “Commish” title to someone else. Afterall, the only real title that matters in fantasy football is, “Champion.”


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About the author

Ethan Lillard

Ethan Lillard

Ethan is a lifelong sports fan and has been involved in sports for as long as he can remember. He played football in high school and was a part of two Class 3A State Championship football teams in Illinois at Illini West High School. He is currently the sports editor at the Hancock County Journal-Pilot in Carthage, IL and is trying to get more involved in fantasy and professional sports journalism. Ethan has played fantasy football since he was 14 years old and considers himself an admitted fantasy addict, but sees no problem with this. He competes annually in fantasy football, basketball and baseball leagues with his friends and has even accomplished a three-peat in one of his football leagues, winning three-straight seasons. He nearly had another three-peat in the same span in another league, but got third in 2015. Writing about and covering sports is his passion. After entering the sports journalism field in 2015, Ethan knew covering sports was his calling and will never turn back.

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