For years I've discussed the virtues of congratulating your league champion. No matter how the year turned out for you, the classy move is to acknowledge the owner who won it all. I've always believed that, and I still believe it today.

I just didn't think it would be so hard to take my own advice. But this year was a challenge.

When I say it was a challenge, I don't really mean from a fantasy standpoint. Like every year, there were ups and downs: Some disappointment, some success and a good amount of fun. But how I performed shouldn't affect how I handle things when the games end. It's important to recognize owners who played the whole year, stayed active and competed to the very end.

In one league, it was easy. I finished near the top with regard to points, but my record didn't reflect that and I was out of the playoffs. I had also won the previous two years, so I know what it's like to have a little luck on my side. This year it went against me, so I couldn't complain. I was happy to send regards to the winner, who had beaten me pretty handily during the season. Fun league, fun year.

But it was a different story in two other leagues. In both cases, I felt like some questionable trades had marred the season. In one league, an owner who had abandoned their team a month previously chose to log in out of the blue to trade away their best player. The trade itself wasn't lopsided per se, but it seemed unusual that a one-win team chose to come back simply to hand their best player to a division rival. They had nothing to gain since they weren't contending for the playoffs; they weren't even bothering to start an active lineup. Why show up simply to make that trade? What happened during those discussions? Were they promised something? Some of us thought the circumstances were questionable.

There was some league discussion about those circumstances, and the hapless team never bothered to comment. The trade went through, and we continued the season.

In another case, an owner's girlfriend seemed happy to lose games while trading their best players to their significant other. They even used their preferred waiver position to pick up players, and then promptly trade them to their higher-seeded buddy. The trades weren't great in my opinion, but that's not really my business. One team serving as an extra roster and bonus waiver claim is my business, and I had a problem with it.

Again, the trades all went through and we kept playing.

Now, you might not have had a problem with those circumstances. Some leagues leave the judgment up to the trading partners and let things be. I understand that philosophy, and I don't like overly-nosy leagues or commissioners. But sometimes the desire to win causes owners to test the bounds of fair play. When something looks fishy, and if common sense seems strained, it's fair to question what's happening. In these cases, it seemed like elements outside league play were affecting rosters and weekly competition. And that was an issue.

As it turned out, the beneficiaries of both those scenarios ended up in their respective championship games. The guy who somehow found that lost owner before the trade deadline ended up winning it all, and I was the first one to congratulate them. I didn't like what happened, but the trade was voted on and approved, per league rules. So that was it, and I saw it as my responsibility to follow the advice I'd been dishing out for years. I offered my congratulations in a group email.

In the second league, I didn't have to congratulate the owner because I defeated them in the title game. But if I had lost, I would have done the same thing. I might have been tempted to congratulate their farm team as well, but that would have been snarky. I was prepared to be a good sport and acknowledge the league champion.

But full disclosure: I didn't completely take my own advice. In the past, I've written that a generic group "congrats" isn't good enough, and a phone call or personal email is more appropriate. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I acknowledged the champion, but I couldn't pretend I was condoning the season's activity with a warm call. It would have seemed fake, because it would have been fake. The congratulations were real, so I stuck with that.

So this year was a little different. I did the right thing, but it was tough. Then again, if it was always easy maybe everyone would do it. So I still recommend you stand out from your fellow owners and always congratulate your champion. Even if it hurts a little.

Is your league full of sore losers, gracious winners or friendly competitors? What is the end of the year like after a heated season of competition? Share your thoughts below.