Commentary

Commish's Court: The villainous veto

Updated: October 22, 2007, 6:23 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Class, today we're going to have a little lesson in etymology and, specifically, the origin of the word "veto." Anyone know where it comes from? Well, it's Latin, and it means, "I forbid." It is from the world of politics and legislation, and it is used to signify that one party has the right to unilaterally stop a certain rule or law from being enacted. In other words, a veto gives you power to stop changes, but not to make them. In other words, if you live in Beaumont, Texas, and you love to dance, but there's a law that forbids it, all the pointed dialogue from Kevin Bacon isn't going to let you boogie down on prom night. You have no veto. The time to argue was the day the law was passed because that's when the change was made. That was when you should have said, "Hey Mr. Lithgow, we can see banning the lambada, but making every dance forbidden? That's a bit harsh, no?" And then Chris Penn would have done his boogie and the vote to ban dancing would have been unanimous. But I digress.

So, when I get a mailbox full of questions each and every week asking if this trade should be vetoed, or if this other deal should have been allowed to go through, I sadly shake my head. If your league has a rule that allows trading to occur, then all trades should be allowed to occur. There should be no such thing as a league vote on letting a trade go through because trades are allowed. Remember, a veto gives you power to stop changes, not to make them. And by voting to nix a deal, you are voting to change the rules of your league, which clearly state trades are allowed.

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Now you may argue that if your league has a rule that calls for a league vote, then you are in the clear. You're just following the rules, and I am spouting nonsense. I say that the rule allowing a veto vote should, itself, be vetoed. With the exception of outright cheating, which can be policed in other ways, I have never heard anyone give me a truly good reason for vetoing a deal. Never. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about. We'll start with Andrew in Indianapolis: "I am the league manager this year in my league, and as the league was set up, only the league manager can veto. There is a guy in our league who hates Tom Brady and drafted him but never wanted him. He said to many owners to throw him a decent offer, and he'd take it. I offered him Ben Roethlisberger, James Jones, and Hines Ward for Brady and Greg Jennings. He took it. A lot of people are now accusing me of cheating. It just so happens that some people say they would have vetoed the trade, and since I am league manager, I am the bad guy. Everyone is mad at me."

So, an owner announces that Tom Brady is on the market. He's going to take the best offer. He gets an offer and takes it. All those who either didn't make an offer, or made a worse offer now scream for a veto, because they didn't win the sweepstakes. It's silly. It's like all those parents on "Kid Nation" who signed a contract that said the network was not liable if their kids got hurt, maimed or even killed. To me, that would raise some red flags. But they signed the contract, let their kids go on the show and then one of them sued because their kid burned herself while cooking. You knew what you were getting into. It's too late to whine now. Same thing here. You knew Brady was going to be dealt. He said to speak up or keep your opinions to yourself. He took what he felt was the best offer, and now suddenly trading should be regulated? Huh?

I hosted a chat this past week and somebody was complaining because the first-place team in his league was a huge Raiders fan and traded away Brady and a starting running back to the last-place team for LaMont Jordan. He wanted to know if he should join the votes to veto it because it was so lopsided. I don't dispute that, but this again goes to the heart of the problem with giving veto power to your league. Here's a deal where the first-place team is giving away his best player and everyone thinks it should be stopped. I just don't get it.

Brandon from Fort Worth adds his league's woes to the mix: "I am the commissioner of a league with a league-vote veto system. This year, several trades have gone though, no problem. This week, however, four owners (the number required to veto) created a coalition to veto two trades made by one other owner. The owner is currently undefeated. The trades in question were Antwaan Randle El and LaMont Jordan for Larry Johnson (LJ to the undefeated team) and Donald Lee for Marques Colston (Colston to the undefeated team). I thought both trades were reasonable given the teams involved. In fact, the other parties were actually getting far more 2007 fantasy points production to date, and in both cases, the trading parties were perfectly happy with the transaction. The dissenters expressed to me that they "just didn't want this team to improve themselves," and furthermore, were simply vetoing the trade "to hack him off." They think it's funny. I argued that they were abusing the veto privilege, as both trades were not unfair, and that it diluted the integrity of the league to misuse the veto just to make someone mad. I am really troubled by this. I can change my league's feature to disallow the league vote, and only make it up to me the commissioner. Should I change the rules midseason just to allow the right thing to happen?"

This is what happens when you let the inmates run the asylum. If you join a league where trading is legal, you have to let people trade. Otherwise, sit in a dark room and choose 12 rosters by yourself and see which one wins. The problem, Brandon, is that once you let the league vote on one trade, you have to finish the year with the rule in place. Changing the rule midseason is likely to cause the league to implode. They'll raise a stink. They'll mutiny. They'll want to stop this change from happening. They'll want to … what's the word I'm looking for here? Four letters long? Reminds me of "The Godfather"? Which is exactly the right usage of that power.

But you know what? In your case Brandon, because they clearly have no respect for you, the other owners, or the league rules themselves … I give you permission to change the rule retroactively to before those votes. It's a little thing called collusion they did, and they fessed up. Shame on them. You may lose your league over it, but by letting your owners vote on trades, you kind of already gave it away.

Live and learn. Now put on that Shalamar record and let's dance!!!!!

All rise … The Court has now adjourned!

A.J. Mass is a fantasy football, baseball and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.