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Q&A - Pulling the Purse Strings Taut

Last Month’s Question: How Much Attention Do We Need to Pay in June & July to Prepare for Drafts that Happen in Late August?

In last month’s column, I explained that I am making an effort this summer to spend less mental energy processing information about the NFL that may not be relevant by the time the season starts. I asked readers how much time they had spent moving Ricky Williams around their draft boards in the summer of 2004 before his “retirement.”

Denny’s answer to that question was consistent with the tone of most responses to the article:

Sure, I moved Williams up and down my draft board back in 2004. It was NOT a waste of time for me to do that. When Williams retired, I took him off my board. Every running back below him moved up one notch because the work of sorting them out (according to my own preferences) had already been done. The point of working on my running back draft order was to be ready for something exactly like Williams’ retirement. I don’t sit around this summer thinking, “Oh my God, what will happen to my draft board if Maurice Jones-Drew gets hit by a bus?” The exercise isn’t about Mojo or AP; it’s about ranking the running backs so that if something unexpected does happen with a top back, I won’t go into my draft panicked and bewildered because my whole draft was built on the assumption that I would get _____ with the number _____ pick.

Like Denny, Charlie was skeptical of the procrastination approach advocated by my June column:

I think you take the idea of inaction a little too far. You are trying to set up laziness as a virtue just because it is something that you can get away with in June and most of July. Your article read to me like a direct response to the emails that I keep getting from [FF websites telling me that I should subscribe immediately before I fall further behind] my competitors. The funny thing is these same websites will be the ones sending me emails in the middle of September saying that “It’s not too late to be competitive” if I subscribe then.

One side of the truth coin is it won’t be easy to catch up to my competitors in September. The other side of the truth coin is that I cannot really fall very far behind them in July. Summer laziness isn’t as desirable as you make it out to be; it just isn’t as terrible as the scare-and-sell approach makes it sound.

Jack doesn’t buy completely into my procrastination approach, but he thinks it is partly salvageable with something that I would call “selective laziness”:

Procrastination on your information gathering is only good to a point. I agree that [some FFers] spend too much time in June and July thinking about stuff that will sort itself out by September. For instance, I am not worried about figuring out exactly what I think about Felix Jones and Marion Barber right now. An injury or contract dispute or any number of things could happen that would send one of them much higher on my draft board, so I am not thinking too hard about their situation until the season gets closer. I also don’t worry too much in July about which NFL matchups are “favorable” during the fantasy playoffs. Too much can happen between now and the end of the season for me to believe that a certain quarterback will be awesome in Week 14 because he will be playing against a defense that happened to be weak against the pass last season.

But that doesn’t mean that I just stop thinking critically about developments over the summer. Sometimes speculation in June is almost as good as speculation in late August. Right now I am trying to decide what I think about Donovan McNabb working with Mike Shanahan in Washington. If I try to wait until August to figure out what I think about that situation, I won’t be able to take in all the relevant information. By starting to think now about what I think of McNabb in Washington and of Kolb in Philly, I will be in a position to make sense of both teams before my draft.

The only person who wrote in to agree with me (Matt) did so sarcastically:

I didn’t finish your article because I agreed with it. I got a couple of paragraphs in before I decided to put off finishing it until August. Have a great summer!

Funny stuff Matt.

This Month’s Question: What Policies and Enforcement Procedures Do You Use in Your League to Make Sure that the Checks Come in and Go out on Time?

Some leagues have no problems with payouts or fee collections because everything is kept simple. Participants pay a flat fee before the draft. If they don’t pay, they don’t draft. The exact amount of the prize money for the winners in such leagues is known before the season starts. In some cases, the fact that the commissioner knows the day when he will write the check for the winner means that he can calculate interest on the fees, deposit them in an interest-bearing account for the duration of the season, and structure the payouts to award more prize money than is actually collected.

Other leagues (particularly those that charge transaction fees during the season) have a harder time managing money. The commissioners in such leagues may have no clear idea of how much prize money there is to award until the season is over. They may end up with the winner breathing down their necks for a check when three people still haven’t gotten around to sending in their entry fees. Some commissioners feel pressured into covering the fees of participants that are too slow to pay the transaction fees they incurred—and are then compelled to spend the offseason trying to collect dribs and drabs of cash from various owners. I have heard from multiple commissioners who have retired solely because collecting the money for their league turned out to be too arduous and time-consuming a chore.

I realize it is the middle of summer and that most of the FF community is not paying attention to this column, but I urge those of you who know of leagues with effective policies for fee collection and prize disbursement to forward this column to the commissioners of those leagues so that they can send me brief explanations of which policies have been particularly effective for them over the years.

My next column will be written on August 18th, which should be perfect timing for many leagues to review their strategies for handling money matters. I have posed this question in the past and received excellent feedback, but the timing has not been ideal. No one likes to change policies mid-season, so I am hoping to hear from as many commissioners as possible about time-tested purse-management policies before mid-August.

For responses to this month's fantasy question please email me.