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By Scott Pagel, 4for4
Special to Yahoo Sports
It doesn’t seem possible when you consider the number of people who play fantasy football, but it seems like the sport and hobby continue to grow and become more popular every year. As a result, those who play and run leagues are always looking for different ways to make their league unique and special.
I think one of the more interesting changes is the attention paid to the team that finishes in last place. As long as I can remember, the last place team simply went off into the sunset, forgotten and ignored all while collecting the 1.1 pick the following year and becoming the envy of the league leading up to the day when they kicked off the draft with the best available option.
Getting the first pick the following year doesn’t sound bad at all, right? In fact, when it gets to a certain point in the year, and you’re the manager of a failing team, why not just mail it in? Maybe disguise that lineup a little bit with a couple of poor matchups and then act bummed out when you lose again.
But times are changing, and as a fantasy commissioner myself, the above scenario is what you always want to avoid in your league. So, those who run leagues around the fantasy world are finding ways to deal with the tanking manager who is trying to lose. A lottery system works pretty good, but it isn’t always the perfect solution.
So the trend lately is a last-place punishment.
Now, it really depends on how extreme you want to get here. I’ve searched the internet far and wide as well as social media to find out what leagues are doing to punish a manager who finishes in last place. Not all of them are pretty — in fact, some are downright pretty disgusting, and I won’t go there in this article.
But those ideas are out there if you really want to find them. All that said, let’s take a look at what might be the best options for your league should you decide you want to implement this as a rule or tradition.
Just "Award" a Trophy
This isn’t very exciting and kind of seems like a waste of money in the end. But, some of the best options I found were toilet trophies and the back end of a horse. I’m sure there are worse.
But making someone display a toilet bowl trophy in their home for all to see is kind of neat.
An idea is to have one trophy for your league and award it to the last place finisher who has to keep it for a year. This way you aren’t buying a new one every season. Many leagues do this for the winner. But, there is no guarantee the loser of your league will even display it, which again, seems like a waste of money. Now that quarantines are winding down, this can maybe be policed a little if your league is a group of friends.
Wear a Jersey of Your Least Favorite Team
Again, this isn’t a terrible last place punishment. I saw the idea online where a Steelers fan had to wear a Bengals jersey. I’m not sure the exact details and how often the jersey had to be worn, but it wasn’t just a one-and-done thing, nor was it just wearing it to the following year’s draft. It was a pretty significant amount of time. The downfalls of wearing it in public mean not everyone will know what the punishment actually is; they may just assume you’re a fan of that team. Also, jerseys aren’t cheap so maybe a hand-made T-shirt is a better idea?
In certain areas of the country, this would be much more dangerous than others. I live north of Philadelphia, so if I had to wear a Cowboys or Giants jersey around every day, I’d be putting my life at risk. Having your leaguemates take photos of you and posting them on social media seems like a good enough punishment to me.
Host Next Year’s Draft
I think this is a pretty fair one for league’s not looking to get too extreme; it’s more of a pain in the behind. I’ve hosted at least one draft pretty much every year since the late 1990s and I honestly don’t mind doing it and can make them go smoothly. Over the last couple of years, I’ve hosted two drafts, which is more of an issue for my wife since both are over Labor Day weekend. The biggest perk is you can drink as much as you want, so keep that in mind when finishing last.
If you’re going to make the loser do this, you should probably make that person do it the right way. It can’t be a draft with a couple of bags of chips. Maybe make it a full-on cookout? I’d say the host has to pay for the drinks, but that can be costly depending on everyone’s tastes, meaning, a 30-pack of beer might not be an acceptable option. So, try to at least be fair while installing this punishment. Keep in mind a hidden punishment in all of this is the manager and host may have to deal with a spouse or roommate who isn’t happy 10-12 drunk people are destroying and stinking up their home.
This is something one of my leagues has put into action. And, it was even voted into approval by the league. The loser has to put a license plate holder on his car that says “I suck at fantasy football” for a whole year. This league also has a sweet first-place trophy that’s passed around to each winner as well, and the commish is kind enough to pay for the shipping as we have people from all over the country.
This happens to be the first league I’m a part of that’s began this tradition for the loser. It just so happens a good friend of mine who lives near me lost two years ago and had the plate on his car for a whole year. I don’t want to say I policed this punishment, but I did take a look if we happened to be hanging out. This seems like a moderate punishment and while it’s easy for me to say I wouldn’t notice it, I wouldn’t want it on my car.
I thought this one was pretty funny, and the photos online were even better — seeing an adult at a little table with handmade signs selling lemonade cracked me up. Maybe you can even make the loser dress up? Also pictured was a pitcher of lemonade with cups. I’m not sure what kind of business these stands make, but if this person is made to go in a busy section of your neighborhood, maybe the money made in the end can be donated to a charity. If that was advertised, it may create more business in the end. Doing this at a big, neighborhood yard sale would also make sense. This is a punishment that could be for a good cause when all is said and done, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sports Illustrated-like Body Issue
I’m sure we’ve all seen this, or at least accidentally seen it, come up on the news: a favorite athlete from your favorite team posing about as naked as can be without seeing the privates. While I love this idea and it’s like a train wreck to look at for a fantasy football loser, it’s easy to feel this is an acceptable punishment when it’s not me posing. Now there are some things to consider here:
Who will take the photos? Maybe this can be a job for the second last-place team? (Although, I’m not sure what’s more of a punishment to be honest.) The hope is maybe a spouse could do it, but I personally can’t see my wife wanting any part of that. Good thing phones can take pictures with a timer.
How many photos? If you’re going to do this, may as well make the person do several different poses. If you’re going to the trouble for one photo, why not feature at least three?
Will they be published? Again, if it’s not me, this would be great to see on social media assuming you wouldn’t get a strike or violation. Those with computer skills could even dress it up a little, put some logos on there and funny captions and things like that. It really just depends how far you want to make the loser take it.
Doing Something in Public
I’ve seen a ton of this kind of punishment all over social media. Last-place players with homemade signs taped to them just standing around in a public venue showing the world how terrible of a fantasy football season they had the past year. Some things to consider here is where exactly you make the person do this and for how long, even what they have to wear. Unlike the below idea, the only thing affected is the person’s pride and self-esteem, so maybe you can couple this idea with the one below and give a choice.
This was one of the newer ideas I’ve seen, and if your league is a tight group of friends, this could be a blast. The loser is hunted by the rest of the league. In the end, this can be like a league-bonding outing while at the same time having a fun time. What's left in the end may just be a couple of bumps and bruises.
Piercing or Tattoo
I admit this would be a little extreme for me and something I would never agree to. But, I don’t have either so that’s probably why. That also makes me an ideal candidate for why this form of punishment would be quite amusing, and definitely a punishment. Still, this is pretty severe and there would be a lot to consider if you want to begin this as a way to punish the last-place finisher in your league. As I said above, maybe couple it with another choice, like the one above, to give the loser an option.
If you really want to get crazy, you can draft your punishment. This involves everyone putting an idea into a bag and then picking it at the end of the season. The loser would then have to do what is selected.
This isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if you’re going to make this a complete surprise and have no idea what the different options are. What’s interesting would be if you pick your own punishment, so do you put one in that’s on the lighter side, or go all out? This would scare the crap out of me. So maybe a better idea is to at least know what you may be getting into and have everyone agree on all the items going into the hat before anything is picked.
The bottom line
While these are just a few ideas of punishments, this is something that is sure to evolve into more detail as the years go by. Like I said, there is anything you can imagine online that gets pretty extreme. The last place punishment is more designed for a close-knit group of managers versus a league where not everyone knows one another all that well.
For me, I’m not about the extreme punishments, but one thing I noticed about every social media post dumping on a last-place manager and what they had to do, the words “Thank goodness I didn’t finish last” were usually part of the post.
What’s hidden in the whole list of punishments should be the goal of the punishment for your league — to keep managers from tanking and finishing last because they lost interest or motivation during the season. A last-place punishment that keeps all the managers engaged and active right up until the very end is the perfect punishment, and what every league and commissioner should strive for in their league.
Scott Pagel is Sports Editor for the Bethlehem Press and has covered Philadelphia Eagles training camp since 1997. Scott has played fantasy football since the 90s and has been contributing at 4for4 since 2005.
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