Food for Thought
By Barry Etheridge

This thought troubles me. I'd like to take a moment ....

.... to consider just what it is we're doing here. For all the hours we pore over rosters, and game plans; for all the emails we ping around the world negotiating trades; for all the irc resources we drain in drafts and auctions; still, at the end of that glorious Super Bowl day, there is really nothing at stake here bar a little (usually male) pride. No ring, no trophy, no cash prize will come home to the stadium office (read squalid garret in most cases!) for most leagues do not even bother to send a certificate of acheivement with which to grace your walls. There will be no TV coverage, no interviews with Madden, no coaching consultancies. The Times and the Tribune will be silent even in your moment of immortality and only a handful of fellow coaches will know that in that hour of gladiatorial combat you emerged triumphant - and most of them will assume that you cheated, especially if you happen also to be the commissioner. So why, in the name of all that's holy, do people take it so seriously?

In my FBPro playing lifetime I have known owners to flounce out of the league with barely concealed fury over a trade deal that failed to materialise. I have known commissioners receive abusive, threatening and, frankly, criminal mail because a roster change has been made wrongly or a draft pick has disappeared in the confusion that attends the preseason beanfeast. Coups have been conducted, wresting control from the legitimate founders of leagues. Only wars remain to be fought over a rule change for the sad story to be complete. And all over a game, an amusing distraction, an entertainment?

Of course, we're all bound to feel a little ticked off when something doesn't go quite as we planned. And it is in the very nature of the remote league to be left wondering how on earth you lost a game in which you outyarded the opposition, had the ball five minutes longer and sacked the pathetic excuse for a quarterback ten times. Of course, we want to administer the odd stinging rebuke. But, hey, it's just a game, and one far from free of inconsistencies and latent bugs that may not crash the program but do mess with your head when the results come out.

Commissioners, on the other hand, are merely human. They make mistakes at the best of times and 2.00am on trade deadline day, when they're finally finishing off the roster changes, propped up by black coffee and the clear morning air, is not the best of times. Unpaid and unloved, these guys are truly overworked by owners who simply fail to appreciate how much is involved in taking all their little changes and requirements and multiplying by thirty. It's no wonder that even the most successful leagues have Commissioner turnover rates that outstrip those of food tasters to the most vile of dictators.

Nobody's suggesting that we should simply accept crass errors or rank unfairness but hold the tantrums for they achieve little that a simple explanatory note will not. This is meant to be fun, for everyone, and that includes the man at the top, be he champ or chump (or chimp, for that matter). Many leagues emphasise this in their rules but then fail to deliver on the promise of expulsion for the offender when the crunch comes because they feel vulnerable to the loss of members. That's understandable but ultimately bad news for the rest of us as people begin to think that they can get away with it. They, and you, should not be allowed to think that. Reasonable behaviour is, after all, something to do with reason, a gift that all us human beings are supposed to possess. Would you say to someone's face what you're thinking of dropping into that email? If so, then you have no place in the FBPro world. If not, please don't take advantage of the anonymity that an Internet competition affords you.