As a commissioner, a dispute between two teams in the league regarding a league setting, rule, or situation is one of the most difficult tasks to manage. An owner may submit a questionable lineup. Two General Managers (GMs) may make a trade that looks very one-sided. The NFL may change the scoring of a particular play and it changes the outcome of a fantasy game, or one site may say a player is a tight end and the other may say the player is a wide receiver. The longer your league is in existence, the more likely you will run across one of these situations. You can try to anticipate these types of things with your constitution, but what if you run into a situation that does not quite fit into what you already have in place? Here are a couple of different approaches you can take to resolve these situations without tearing your league apart.
Always remember any dispute should be resolved with the overall goal of the league in mind. It is not about what works best for you or the guy who is your best friend. You need to approach each situation thinking, "How will the league benefit the most from this decision." Even if the dispute is only between two GMs, the rest of the league will be impacted by the decision. You are setting a precedent for future situations, and it might not involve just two GMs next time. Always ask yourself what will benefit the most people going forward. If you proceed in a reasonable manner, you should come to a fair decision that works best for your league.
Another thing to remember is you are the commissioner. You took on the position because you wanted to run the show. Your decisions may not be popular, and some people may be disappointed. They may even be mad at you for not taking their side. That is okay; it's your job as the commissioner of the league. When the NFL commissioner suspends a player for an off-the-field violation, the team, the player, and even the fans may not be happy with the outcome. As a commissioner, your job is not to make everyone like you. Your job is to do what is best for the league. General Managers do not have to like your rules; they just need to follow them.
Perhaps the most important thing to realize is timeliness counts. When a dispute gets to a point the commissioner is involved, things have already gotten ugly. Do not make things worse by dragging it out for weeks at a time. Hear both sides of the argument, weigh the options, gather additional input if necessary, and then make a decision. You do not need to make a decision on the spot. In fact, saying "I need time to think about this" is probably the first answer you should give as a general guideline. Once you have taken a little time, however, render your decision and move forward.
To Vote or Not to Vote
It has been said before, but it is worth repeating. Opening up decisions for a league-wide vote is not always the best solution. In many cases, it can cause more trouble than it is worth and create clear lines of division across the league. In cases where an owner proposes a new rule, or you are planning on making a major shift in the way the league is run, putting it to a vote might be appropriate. However, if the dispute is between two General Managers, especially if it involves a trade or some type of transaction between the two, be smart and leave the rest of the league out of it. What happens in most cases is the friends of both teams come to their rescue or they side with whatever decision will benefit them the most. Putting these types of disputes to a league vote takes it from a scuffle between two teams to dividing up the league. Avoid the temptation to let the majority rule unless absolutely necessary. It could end up damaging things more than you might think.
INFORMATION AND SUGGESTIONS
Footballguys.com has an entire message board community dedicated to discussions about your fantasy football league and team. The Assistant Coach Forum has hundreds of people, and staff members reading on a daily basis and adding their opinions. If you are really stuck with a unique situation, or just want to see if anyone else has run into it before, feel free to pop over and post your specific question there. Make sure to give the specifics of your league and provide as much detail as possible. Many of the folks in the Footballguys.com community have been playing fantasy football for many years, and they bring a variety of different opinions and experiences in every situation.
Ask the Footballguys Staff
Everyone on the Footballguys staff has a dedicated footballguys.com email (usually firstname.lastname@example.org). Many also have Twitter accounts and other methods to reach out to them. If you prefer to talk to resources one-on-one, feel free to send any of us an email asking for help. Remember depending on the staff member the response time will vary based on their to-do list.
COMMISSIONER PERSONAL INTEREST
There may come a time when you are personally involved in the situation or conflict. If that happens, you can go a couple of different routes. If you make a ruling, you must be absolutely sure you have the overall best interest of the league in mind, and you need to make sure to publicly explain your reasoning and why you went the way you did. Especially if you plan to rule in your favor. Ultimately this is never a good option because no matter how impartial you may be, your decision always looks self-serving. Your next option would be to nominate an owner who is not involved and instruct them on the provision about serving "the good of the league". In an extreme case, you could put it to a league vote with you and the other owner abstaining, but as mentioned above, this should be a last resort.
One of the provisions we had in the sample constitution was for the creation of an executive committee of the league. You and two other General Managers are chosen at the beginning of each season (it can be the same GMs, elected positions, or just round-robin selection). When a dispute comes up which is not covered by the constitution, then the executive committee can decide on it as a group. This also works if you or one of the committee members are part of the dispute because you can excuse yourself from the decision and there is still someone who will make the final call.
OUTSIDE SERVICES, THE LAST RESORT
Google "fantasy football dispute resolution", and you'll find a landslide of different services that can help with fantasy league dispute resolutions. If you have tried any of the above suggestions, you probably won't need to use this type of thing. But if none of those ideas fit your style or league, I would encourage you to check out some of these other options as well.
Once your ruling is over and the league moves on, as commissioner you still need to think about the future. When the season is over, you need to draw up a new provision to the constitution that covers or prevents the situation, if you did not already. This way you are covered for the future. If you had a good experience with the Footballguys forum or some other method, you can also add a provision to stipulate any future dispute which is not covered by the rules that will be resolved in the same manner. As your constitution evolves, you will cover more and more of the fringe areas until you have almost everything you need. Good luck!