Commentary

The Commish's Court: Honor code or horror show?

Updated: September 30, 2008, 11:22 AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

I've always been a big fan of horror movies, but let's be honest: Most of them are schlock and not worth the price of admission. Apart from the lack of any perceptible plot or anything resembling realistic dialogue in most of these films, an even worse crime, in my eyes, is when the filmmakers don't even bother to come up with a reason for the "monster" to be wreaking bloody havoc. For every Freddy Krueger who can at least attempt to justify enacting revenge on the children of the parents who decided it was within their rights to burn him to a crisp, there are a hundred bogeymen whose entire justification for their murder sprees is that they're "pure evil." Please! Come up with something a little more creative.

Still, I think my favorite horror movie villain of all-time is Pinhead from "Hellraiser." I'm only talking about the first few films, though, before the series devolved into random violence followed by incredibly lame puns. Why do I like him so much? Because even though his arrival usually signals incredibly grotesque carnage to come, most likely involving pointy hooks, Pinhead and his fellow hell-dwelling comrades, the Cenobites, actually have a code of ethics they follow. They don't kill for killing's sake. They only punish the people who deserve their painful comeuppance. In fact, when a young girl is tricked into opening up the puzzle box which summons the demons, Pinhead actually gives her immunity from harm. "It is not hands that call us," he explains, "it is desire." I always thought such honor made this movie monster actually quite admirable.

Kurt Warner
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesKurt Warner's solid start makes him a top fantasy commodity, but he's also caused fantasy headaches for more reasons than just his turnovers.
Unfortunately, far too many fantasy football owners don't feel obliged to play by any ethical code of honor whatsoever. For instance, Ryan from New Hartford was concerned about a trade that went down in his league: "Two teams agreed to a trade of Kurt Warner for Reggie Wayne. There was a condition to the trade, since Team A (who is getting Warner) had Peyton Manning on bye, he needed a quarterback for this week only. So he's agreed to essentially 'rent' Wayne to Team B for one week, and then both teams would swap back those players. I don't like it."

I'm with you Ryan. I don't like it either. First off, there's the obvious flaw in this deal that if Manning is on a bye, then Wayne is as well. Therefore, this planned trade-back amounts to Team B loaning Warner to his buddy for nothing. That's clear collusion. But let's say you didn't know about the planned "backsies" and you let the deal go through. Now, one week later, Team A proposes the reverse-deal and Team B simply declines. What if the deal had included Carson Palmer instead of Kurt Warner, and Team B decides he doesn't want him back, and would rather keep a top-notch wide receiver?

There's too much that can go wrong with conditional trades, even ones that don't appear as shady as this one does. That's why I recommend a rule that prohibits two teams from making two trades with each other involving the same player. This way, you prevent the unfair sharing of rosters that can result. Especially since the potential next step in this progression is for three teams (X, Y and Z) to be fighting for the last playoff spot, and for Team X (who is playing a weak team) to trade three studs to Team Y so it can beat Team Z, and then get them traded back along with two of Team Y's studs for the next week when Team X faces Team Z.

However, sometimes having a heart can result in the good guy getting burned. Take this horror story from Jake of Ann Arbor: "In my league, two owners agreed to trade Kurt Warner for Michael Turner. But the owner made a mistake and accidentally dropped [Warner]. At the time, I was unaware of this, so I saw Warner on waivers and picked him up. Warner's original owner explains what happens and asks me to trade him to Turner's owner, and that he will give me a player as compensation. Before we can work everything out, it is game time, and I can't move Warner. I feel that it's wrong to me to start Warner, so I pick up another quarterback and start him instead. My brother, who is my co-owner, got mad at me because I ended up 11 points worse, and lost my game. I think I did the right thing. What are your thoughts?"

Here's a big reason why I prefer a league where waiver moves are only allowed one day a week. A simple mistake created a problem that would otherwise not have occurred, simply because of the rush to get moves squeezed in right before kickoff. With a little more lead time, it would have been easy for the owner who mistakenly dropped Warner to let the league manager know what had happened, and to make right what went wrong. However, once Jake selected Warner, things clearly got chaotic.

Now, I think Jake's heart was absolutely in the right place. Once he found out that Warner was dropped in error, he agreed to make sure to return Kurt, like a lost puppy, to his proper owner. He didn't have to do this. He could have simply said Warner was his. However, Jake is not a soulless ghoul. The "right thing to do" would have been for all the involved owners to immediately send a message to the league manager explaining that the deal had been agreed to, and that there had been a snafu which resulted in Warner ending up on Jake's team. Each team could have submitted their intended lineup to the league manager right then and there, before any games had started. This way, when Jake's attempt to rectify the situation got blocked by the kickoff deadline, there would have been no need for any panic. The league manager could inform the entire league as to what happened, and correct the rosters and the scoring later on.

If Jake had started Warner, which certainly he could have done, he would have won his game, but at what cost? Yes, it wasn't his fault that Warner ended up on the waiver wire. No, there was no reason for him to suspect picking Warner up was going to cause him this huge headache. In fact, it was completely possible that by picking up Warner, instead of an "actually available" free-agent quarterback, that Jake may have ended up missing out on the best available signal caller. What if another owner (or two, or more) also claimed a quarterback moments after Jake pulled Warner? Now, when Jake goes to select again, he's missed out. Or perhaps by the time Jake realized he wasn't able to send Warner where he belonged, he was also locked out from selecting several of the players he would have considered taking at the time he opted to go with Kurt.

At that point, maybe Jake would have been justified to start Warner, since he would otherwise have been hurt by someone else's mistake. Even Pinhead would have let Jake slide, since it was never his "desire" to get involved in this while sordid affair. But Jake had an out, and he took it, as he should have. If he hadn't, then the hooks would have rightly flown and the suffering … the sweet, sweet suffering … would have been well-deserved.

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

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