by ja on 5/30/2012 1:15:54 AM
I was listening to a podcast at lunch the other that was totally unrelated to fantasy basketball. The host was talking about strategies involved in running a good workshop or classroom. He said something that made sense in the context of his talk, but a few minutes later it hit me that it also makes sense when it comes to running a fantasy sports league. His statement was something along the lines of "don't give your workshop away for free, because people will not have any real skin in the game when things get to the hard part". People may be really excited to start learning about something new, but then once they get down into guts of the subject they find that it's more complicated or harder than they wanted it to be or thought it would be. Then they leave and you've both wasted time on each other. Another example of this same type of thing is the world of fitness training. Trainers will tell you that the really serious people often choose to pay upfront so they have a vested interest in showing up for every class - an interest other than losing weight... their money! Some will decide it is not worth hanging around no matter what, but far fewer will do so if they've paid for it all upfront.
I have found this exact same logic very applicable in being the commish for fantasy sports leagues. Frankly, I've gotten to the point where I don't even like to play in non-money leagues... even among friends... especially among friends. Things can get weird / annoying without it. If we put money into a pool, even a small amount, then we have very few drop outs or no shows. People set their lineups religiously. But if we don't include a buy in for the league, then managers are more likely to take a day off or even the rest of the season off when the going gets rough for their team. They feel like it's okay because "geez, it's not like we were playing for money".
I need to explain how this viewpoint can be consistent with a post I did a few months ago called Playing Fantasy Sports Purely for Fun and to Socialize
. In that post I said rule number one for a social only league was to not play for money. What gives? Well, what I said was true. If you play for money people will be far more likely to get their panties in a wad if they sense collusion (which they should if they were certain, but they're normally wrong) or if someone ruins the league by walking away or making bonehead plays. But if you don't make people put in money then there's a better chance that the league will be ruined by someone because noone's got a hard incentive to keep going. You'll have to do some risk assessment yourself to decide which situation is worse, but you can probably cover both problems if you do something like what I talk about next.
I recommend that whenever possible fantasy leagues should require a "buy in" from league members, and while it can go into a pot it doesn't necessarily have to go towards a pot. Other options are a portion of the money is given back at the end of the year to teams that never went absentee. Maybe it is divided up amongst those who kept playing. Maybe it all gets donated to a charity the league agrees on at the beginning of the season, but only in the names of the people that played all season with those that didn't play the whole season being left off the "from" tag. There tons of options, but I do know that when people have absolutely nothing invested in their league other than the time they put in they're more likely to leave when the going gets tough and their team drops from the standings. That ruins it for everyone.
I am curious how others feel about this subject or if you've seen the same types of issues. How did you handle them after the fact (when people quit playing) and how do you go about preventing it now? If you've got suggestions about how to make sure people will play before they join your league I'd love to hear them!
by ja on 5/25/2012 11:23:29 AM
Last night was Game 6 of the Miami Heat vs Indiana Pacers. Normally I'm either trying to get a kid to sleep or working frantically on an update to the fantasy tools SignAndTrade offers, but last night was different. Last night the baby fell asleep during the pregame show - about 20 minutes earlier than usual. It was glorious! Last night, the wife wasn't feeling well so she went to bed early. I don't take joy that she didn't feel well, but I won't lie and say that it wasn't nice to have some time to watch playoff bball without distractions.
So, let me start by saying I was pumped about this game. Larry Bird's comments had been running through my head all day about how he was let down by the fact that the Pacers had been S-O-F-T in the previous game. Miami had gone home after game 4, stepped into their building on their home court and decided that they wanted to send a message to the Pacers. They physically manhandled the Pacers. And the Pacers, almost to a man, took it. But after Larry Bird called out his team I just knew that game 6 was going to be some kind of retro 1990 grudge game. Bodies flying, stare downs and bow ups, technical fouls being called to a point that the refs just couldn't call any more because they didn't want to throw out the stars. You know, what playoff basketball should be by the time game 6 rolls around. It was going be controlled chaos. Indiana was gonna take the role of Detroit and Wade / Lebron were going to have to assume the role Jordan. They were going to have to earn a win and the respect of the fans (as opposed to just the adulation) - It was gonna be awesome!
But alas, we ended up with a pile of stink. It was a decent game, and yeah, as Rasheed Wallace would say, both teams played hard. But other than that it was kind of sad. The Pacers jumped out of the gate and took off to an early lead. They turned the ball over several times in the first quarter which allowed Miami to stay in it, but those turnovers weren't the important thing. What was important was that I never once saw a message delivered by a Pacer that they weren't soft and that the game wasn't going to be a cake walk for Wade and Lebron - that Miami's dynamic duo wouldn't be able to just go to the rim anytime they wanted. I never saw that Indiana "got the hearts right". Maybe players were afraid of being ejected. Maybe they didn't want to take a chance on being suspended. More likely though, maybe the Pacers actually are S-O-F-T.
I think Indiana is going to have some soul searching to do. They're a good team and a young team. They'll get better even if their roster doesn't change. But not enough better to win a championship - not enough better for Larry Bird. Larry is going to have to find himself a tough guy. Somebody like Haslem who will put it on someone if that is what is necessary. Somebody like Charles Barkley who once said if someone came down the lane repeatedly that eventually he'd give them a good hard foul. Not to hurt them, but just to let them know he was thinking about 'em.
Wade And Lebron together combined for about 50% shooting in game 6 and a LOT of those shots were layups. The way to beat Miami is to keep those two guys away from the rim - for someone to place a boundary around that rim and then enforce it - with escalating amounts of force as necessary. Hibbert can protect the rim by blocking shots, but that's simply not the same thing. I just don't see anyone on Indiana's current roster who has the mindset to be that guy, and more problematically the team as a unit doesn't seem to have the heart to do it on a long term basis like they did in game 3. They've got to find out how to tap into that every night or they'll have to get used to early playoff exits.