The weirdest thing about the ascension of King Charles III after the death of his mother was the discussion of his "duties." Because the truth is, he has none. I mean, he has things he's supposed to do. Technically, he has to give his assent to bills passed by Parliament, but that's basically a formality. A royal hasn't refused such assent in more than three centuries.
But in reality, the United Kingdom keeps going no matter who holds the title of king or queen. They're a figurehead with no power, overseeing an organization that doesn't really have much use for them anymore. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the commissioner in most fantasy leagues.
Like with kings, commissioners used to wield real power. They would resolve disputes, clarify scoring questions and keep unruly teams in line. They weren't monarchs, but they were able to step in and fix problems as they came up. People would complain (because people like to complain) but it was a good system.
Now, a typical commissioner is a figurehead. Their main job is "overseeing" the draft, but they don't hold any power there, either. During the season, they just refer people to the website policies, shrug their shoulders, and go on with their day. Whatever the website says is what goes, and even an egregious oversight is relegated to offseason discussions. And that's basically it for the commissioner.
Admittedly, it's a lot easier this way, because nobody has to do any thinking. The cold, unfeeling, website handles all, and everyone simply accepts whatever the program dictates. Scoring debate? Whatever the site says is what goes. Waiver request didn't go through? If the site didn't record it, it didn't happen. What is Taysom Hill? Whatever the site says he is. Easy, right?
Sure. And also unfair in some circumstances. Right now, as I type this, there's a hurricane headed pretty close to where I live. It probably won’t affect my fantasy lineups, but what if it did? What if I didn't have access to the Internet and had to call the commissioner? Suppose I left a message that they didn't get until the games started? I realize that fantasy football wouldn't be the most important thing during a natural disaster, but sometimes you need a distraction.
In some leagues the commissioner could still step in and make adjustments. But in many others, they wouldn’t even try. Change a lineup after the games started? Make a drop/add for someone? Rule on a positional dispute that goes against the website? Commissioners don’t have that kind of power or trust anymore. Aside from pausing a draft if someone gets kicked off the website, there isn’t much a commissioner can actually do. They have a title and they get to fiddle around with meaningless “jobs,” but they aren’t needed anymore. Just like kings.
I’m not saying that we need commissioners to be dictators and rules leagues with an iron fist. But I am saying that when a good commissioner has power, and uses it to better the league, there's a guiding force that keeps unruly managers in line and gives human input to circumstances that come up from time to time. Back when fantasy leagues were made up of friends, it was easier to put your trust in a commissioner. Now, when strangers can play together for years without knowing each other’s names, there’s no reason to trust one of them to make decisions that are fair. So maybe it’s a sign of the times, or maybe it’s just a path of least resistance. Whatever the reason, the commissioner is becoming an empty title, and I think leagues suffer as a result.
I used to write about how being a commissioner is a thankless job, and how league members should appreciate all the hard work they do. I’m not sure that applies today. In many leagues, being a commissioner is barely a job at all, and requires little work on a weekly basis. If they can collect money and get through draft day, they’re home free. Maybe that’s a good thing, at least until a real dispute comes up. And by then, a commissioner might be powerless to do anything even if they wanted to take action. I hope that doesn’t happen in your league, or you have a commissioner who is willing and able to step in when necessary. Good luck this week.
Does your commissioner have real power in your league, or are they mostly a figurehead? Would you trust a stranger to be the commissioner of your league? Do you prefer to let the league essentially run itself? Share your thoughts below.