OpinionAugust 31, 2009

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Be Careful Out There

By Eli Ricke

I don’t know how many times I’ve read posts in fantasy football forums on the subject of cheating in a league. Whether it be a corrupt commissioner locking all the teams and taking all the good players for their own or collusion between two owners in a league, the subject gets a lot of mileage every season. With this in mind I thought it might be a good idea to help people stay out of these types of situations if they’re joining a league with total strangers. This advice is not guaranteed to work, but it should improve your odds of having a fun fantasy football season.

Before I start, I should admit that I have not played every fantasy football site out there. Each site has different features and for the purpose of this article I will focus exclusively on the Yahoo! fantasy football site. This one is fairly popular and has been used by most fantasy football players at one time or another.

When joining a new league in Yahoo! it is important to research the league as much as possible before you commit to the draft. Once the teams are drafted there is no getting out. After signing up for a new league there are some key things to look for.

One feature that I do like about Yahoo! is the player profiles. You can click on each user and look up their past history in Yahoo! fantasy sports. There are several things to pay close attention to when viewing player profiles. Here’s a checklist that can help tip you off to a bad league:

1. An Insanely High Winning Percentage – It’s not uncommon to run across a player profile with a very high rating. Usually, once a player has enough leagues under their belt, that percentage will drop somewhat. If you see a player with a rating of 94 but they’ve only played in 3 leagues that should not be as alarming as someone who has the same rating but has participated in 30 leagues. There are three possibilities here. 1. They are really that good. 2. They are really that lucky. 3. They cheat. These are all plausible, but not equally so. The next few tips may help you identify if that third option might be a reality.

2. Multiple Profiles that have Played Together Before – Another thing to pay close attention to is multiple player profiles in the league that have played together in the past. It is not always possible to determine this because sometimes their past league names are hidden. Of the ones that are not hidden, make note of the league names and see if it matches any on another profile. When two owners in a league have played the same leagues in the past you should be wary, especially if one of them wins a lot of trophies and the other does not. It’s not a given but you may be competing against someone who has their own little farm system going. If this happens to be the case with the majority of the league you might not have to worry so much. Chances are that you’ve joined up with a league where most of the owners are already familiar with each other.

3. Multiple Profiles with Similar Names – Just this year I dropped out of a Yahoo! league because I noticed that four of the 12 teams in the league had a user named “Max” something-or-other. I don’t remember the names exactly, but it was something along the lines of “max123”, “Maxwell_K”, “MadMax” and “Max759”. Now Max is a fairly common name but when 33% of the league shares it I tend get suspicious. Three of them were new profiles with no history and the 4th had a fairly good winning percentage. I didn’t want to risk it, so I dropped out.

4. Owners with Poor Winning Percentages or New Profiles – I’ve already touched on this lightly, but creating multiple user profiles so that you can trade players to yourself is not as uncommon as you might think. It’s best to err on the side of caution and join leagues where all of the owner’s profiles show a good amount of participation and activity as well as decent success rates. Not only is this a sign that nobody is cheating, but it can make the league more challenging and in my own opinion, more fun.

5. The Commissioner’s Profile – If the profile shows the user as having been commissioner of 10 leagues and they have 10 first place trophies, then you should get out while you still can. He may be completely legitimate, but seeing that should make you suspect that there might be some funny stuff going on. If you stay, don’t be surprised if the scoring settings change drastically after the draft.

Once you’ve checked out the player profiles, here are a few more ways to ensure you’ve landed in a good league:

6. Commissioner is Active – A commissioner that does not respond to questions posted on the board or that does not reply to e-mails should be avoided. If the commissioner is open and answers questions in a timely fashion it is a sign that he is a good commissioner, although not a guarantee. If they are totally unresponsive to simple questions they may be unresponsive to issues that arise during the season and it is best to part ways with that league.

7. Trade Reviews – No matter how much I trust a commissioner, I will not play in leagues that have commissioner reviewed trades. The only way I even consider that is if every member of the league, including the commissioner, is a close personal friend. Any time one person in the league has the ability to approve their own trades there is the chance that things could get ugly. About 95% of the time there would be nothing to worry about but I don’t want to risk wasting my time on a league if I join one of the other 5%. If it’s not set to “league votes” I head for the nearest exit.

8. If You Happen to be Even More Paranoid than I Am, Stick to Public Leagues – Yahoo! has a policy that they will not interfere with custom leagues. If the commish goes on a rampage and locks down every team in the league there really isn’t anything you can do about it. They will, however, intervene on occasion with issues that arise in the Yahoo! public leagues. By joining a public league you are stuck with the standard Yahoo! default scoring settings, but at least you have an avenue to override an obtuse commissioner.

Most leagues are run by honest people and chances are you will not run into any problems at all, but all it takes is one bad experience to ruin your season. I’ve never seen figures and so I will not take a guess at what your odds are of landing in a bad league but I will boldly say that it’s at least a million times more probable than winning the lottery. Follow the above advice and hopefully you can reduce your risk landing in a league you regret joining.

Eli Ricke knows absolutely nothing about Fantasy Football that everyone else doesn’t already know. All of his success in Fantasy Football can be attributed entirely to dumb luck. He has been playing Fantasy Football since 1999 and is a habitual liar. You will occasionally run across him in the café forums under the name 204BC, a name that has no particular meaning whatsoever. He just made it up, the same thing he does with most of the advice he gives.
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