Fantasy football horror stories about collusion, nonsense and shenanigans! Pizza and wings anyone?
Over the 15 years I’ve been playing fantasy football, I have been no stranger to all kinds of collusion, nonsense and shenanigans in various leagues. Some of which I was a part of and some I observed from a distance. Just like all of you, I am doing anything I can to quench my thirst for football until the season arrives.
I usually play in eight yahoo leagues a year (eight is the limit) along with a bunch of FanDuel tickets every week. This year I have added 4x best ball teams on the Draft App. Also, this year is my first year playing dynasty. There will be a couple MyFantasyLeague best ball teams stemming from our IDP Guys mock drafts as well. So the short version is I am in a shitload of leagues this year. To make sure all of them are drafted before kickoff week 1, it is necessary to draft some of them earlier than I would like.
Checking back in on a squad I drafted a few days ago, I noticed the commissioner had been up to some bullshit. With the prodding of our ringleader (@natecheat) I decided to write an article about this incident. With the help of a few others, I am compiling our personal history of fantasy football shenanigans.
Over the years I have been involved in more than a few scandals and questionable trades. I have also seen many more that haven’t involved me. The vast majority of all this is in my past. As I get older I find myself getting less and less worked up over this kind of stuff and over football things in general. In my early 20s, I would argue with anyone until I was blue in the face over things like Brady being a system quarterback, Belichick being a cheater and any other strongly held opinions of the past such as those.
Quite frankly that stuff doesn’t matter. I’m far more relaxed in my old age. (lol if you wanna call 35 old) I’ve dialed back the ridiculousness in my life as a whole. A good portion of that is football related. However, upon checking in on this league I drafted a few days ago, I found the commissioner had been up to some nonsense and here we are.
This guy dropped players (Lev Bell, Julio Jones and others) and transferred them to his team. Thereby making his squad nearly unbeatable and ending all competition in the league even before the first preseason game. Thank goodness it wasn’t a cash league. Still, it was enough to piss me off and now I’m typing like a maniac an hour later. Anyone who has been playing fantasy football long enough has some of these stories about collusion and commissioner cheating. It is just a fact of fantasy football life.
My earliest memory of a gigantic league-wide debacle would be a trade I made in 2007. The trade involved one of my really good friends and league mates. My trade partner, let’s call him Jimmy, was in dire need of a quarterback due to injury. I just so happened to have had an extra one sitting on my bench. Jon Kitna, the then QB of the Lions.
After starting the season 1-0 and coming off of a 3 TD performance against the Raiders, Kitnas stock was as high as it was going to get. I offered him Kitna for Ray Lewis (that decade’s Bobby Wagner IDP-wise) straight up. Not expecting to hear yes, I was shocked when the trade was accepted. Kitna finished that season with 18 TDs and 20 INTs while Ray Lewis put up 120 combined tackles in 14 games.
Nearly everyone in the league knew this is how it would end up when it was all said an done. The objections were loud and consistent. It was definitely a bullshit trade and never should’ve gone through. Instead of listening to their objections and letting the league vote on the clearly, ridiculous and unfair trade, I changed the settings to commissioner approval for trades and removed voting on trades.
It was a Caesar-like move on my part but ended up working out. Over the next several years, the amount of trading in the league increased exponentially. Previously, trades that were perfectly fair were being shot down by league vote because no one wanted a strong competitor to get stronger. No one ended up trading at all. By removing the league votes, everyone started trading again. Obviously if it were a fire sale or smelled of collusion it would be shot down. However, in the end, it worked out pretty well.
Pizza and Wings
This next story is from a fellow author from the IDP Guys and is a doozy. It’s 1998-9, the first year my buds and I did a cash league. The Commish lost his job halfway through the season. This was back when scoring was done with box scores and pencils manually. He squeaked into the playoffs and pulled out narrow victories to win the championship.
The next year he said he didn’t want to be the Commish anymore. It was a lot of work and he’d been doing it for years. Someone else stepped up. The following season we found nfl.com had a fantasy service (we got kicked off two years later), and the Commish job turned into just being the guy who sends the email every year.
A decade later we’re hammered at the “everyone’s 30th birthday bash” and it’s confession time. He hands us each $20 bucks and spills that he had spent the league money and fudged the scores because he had no way to pay the winner. We ate $200 worth of pizza and wings but didn’t give him any. I mean, he was hosting the party and had made a massive meal for everyone to kick off the night. He just ate leftovers, but he had to be punished somehow.
Rules Exist for a Reason
The next story is from Brian, also a writer on our IDP Guys team. It was our first year doing a league. The commissioner was definitely making the playoffs. This was 2013 and none of us paid too much attention to the league rules. Around week 9 or 10, I tried to make a trade but realized the trade deadline had passed. No big deal. The crazy thing is my commissioner must have gone back and taken trade deadline off. In week 14 (right before playoffs), he completed a trade for Antonio Brown. Basically, he just straight up changed rules mid-season to serve his own purpose. I never played in that league again.
Cross Sport Collusion
Another story I can recall from years back was a multi-league and cross sports collusion scandal that rocked my home league. It was discovered that two of the players in my home league were also players in the same fantasy basketball league. That should’ve been a red flag. Once both seasons were a good portion of the way done a situation developed.
In the basketball league, one of those guys was in 2nd place and had a great shot to win it all. The other guy was in the basement. At the same time in the football league, the guy who was terrible at basketball was in contention for playoffs. The member who was doing great at basketball was in the dumpster in the football league. A perfect storm for collusion.
What ended up happening was Lebron James was traded from the basement-dwelling basketball team to the contending basketball team for peanuts. At the same time, a couple high scoring running backs and receivers went from the basement-dwelling football team to the contender for peanuts.
Both trades were made to look legitimate enough to pass the eye test and not be accused of being a fire sale. In reality, Lebron James was traded for a great WR and RB and both teams got what they needed. They almost guaranteed that they would do well in playoffs in the league they actually had a chance in. It was the first time I had ever heard of or seen cross-sport collusion.
Painkillers, Cash and Burners
Hell, over the years I’ve seen painkillers traded for IDP prospects, cash for players, future concessions on trades when someone wanted to win now and pay for it later. All kinds of nonsense. Within one day of asking on Twitter for stories about league collusion and hijackings, I received 3 stories in less than 24 hours. Many others said they’ve had incidents but not large enough for them to be bothered about it years later.
My buddy Bryce from an IDP heavy league I joined this year told me he’s seen leagues where a commissioner sets up the league and then adds in a burner profile or two as players in the league. Throughout the course of the season, the commissioner would conduct trades with these “alternate” teams. Slowly he or she would funnel players from his or her backup teams to the primary team. Essentially they would create a super team with a great chance of winning a title.
This can also be done in any yahoo league where invites are open. Anyone can make a second profile and join a league with both of them. Then slowly over the season, they conduct trades between the two owned teams and funnel the best players all into the primary squad. This wouldn’t be as big a concern, except Yahoo has a policy where they will not interfere with private leagues. This policy applies even if cash is involved and there is proof of cheating. Obviously a stupid policy. So make sure if you’re playing a cash league you know who you’re dealing with as the commissioner, things can go south quickly.
Fantasy Football is Fun
I hope all this was entertaining and didn’t scare anyone off playing a bunch of leagues or random leagues. I make it a point to join at least a couple new or random leagues every year just to try something new. They usually have some wonky position layouts and point scoring systems and are always fun.
Despite being burned for my first time this season with that commissioner hijacking the league weeks before the season even starts I’ll still play out the season and try and at least get 2nd place. Or maybe the fantasy gods will punish him for being a shit-stick and Bell/Julio and the rest of his team will tear their ACLs. (Editor’s Note: We are not putting that voodoo on anyone! We take this comment back!)
Who knows. Regardless, if you read this article I just helped you kill five minutes, and that means we’re five minutes closer to the start of the season. Can’t wait.