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The Commish

August 2006:

A world-weary man, herein referred to as Kent Dorfman, 26 years old, sits patiently waiting to deliver his acceptance speech.   Deep breath.  Relax. You earned this.

It was a hard-fought battle, wrought with muckraking, personal attacks, and the defection of not one, but two campaign managers.  As new candidates threw their hats in, and subsequently removed them from the race, Kent’s name was continuously and disproportionately dragged through the mud in the press, with little regard given to the decorum or personal boundaries typically upheld by competing candidates .   “ Kent Dorfman is a slimy scumbag who has no business in this position.”  “Kent is useless.”  “He should just die.”

So, in an unprecedented strategic decision, Dorfman finally eschewed all campaign assistance, saying “I am running by myself with no help from any advisors, vice commissioners or others interested in helping me with my campaign.”

However, despite the fallouts and name-calling, on a balmy day in the year of our Lord 2006, Kent Leon Dorfman, at the spry young age of 26, managed to unseat the incumbent to take over the coveted position.  Dorfman became the Commissioner of the NNFLF Fantasy Football League.

The league was formed in 2002, when 8 high school friends, including this author, were faced with both the post-college realization of, and subsequent depression from, the fact that the real world is just plain miserable.  None of us knew much about football, but we knew how to trash talk since it was the basis of our relationship. So, despite being clueless, we gathered together in one member’s backyard, where we have continued to gather every Labor Day weekend in order to draft our fantasy teams.

Since its auspicious beginnings, the league has grown to 16 members.  Some are now across the country, most are married, all are full-fledged grown-ups with real-person jobs, who for 13 weeks of regulation play and 3 weeks of playoffs, become complete and total children. The league message board is littered with outlandish insults and news stories penned by members, mostly intended to humiliate other members of the league. It is, quite possibly, one of the most ridiculous things I have ever participated in in my life.

What makes this particular league so absurd is just how seriously the team owners take the integrity and professionalism  of an imaginary sport.  For instance, a member was found to be sharing information with someone who was not a fellow team owner in the league.  As a result, he was made to write a 500 word essay discussing his dedication to the organization. And he did it. The front page of the site has been home to member created new stories meant to expose various “scandals” that have rocked the league to its core.

But, this particular group is prone to taking such trivial things as a fantasy football league to epic heights. Our yearly beer-pong tournaments see teams showing up with silkscreened t-shirts bearing the name of their squads. One team entered a match to a light show complete with a fog machine.  So dedicated are we to humiliating one another, that a running tally of “blunders” is kept on an excel spreadsheet and the best and worst are chosen in a yearly awards ceremony. ( A blunder is a mis pronunciation or diction error, like calling the popular NBC sitcom “40 Rock”, or referring to legendary quarterback “Dan Elway” We have been known to play rather seriously.  When you are with us, you bring your A game.

So, when the original commissioner of the league stepped down due to “not feeling like dealing with it anymore”, the ensuing election for a new commissioner began. The race lasted for months, largely based on the same principles that dictate the manner in which the league is treated to begin with. No one but Kent really wanted the job at all. The candidates came and went not because they were interested in the job, but because they were interested in the drama and sheer absurdity of it all.

When Kent finally took office, he did so by giving an inauguration speech in our yearly backyard meeting. The meeting was now adorned with a full draft board, podium, and microphone. Dorfman took to the stage and said,

Martin Luther King once said, “I had a dream.” Well, Kent Dorfman is telling you, the good people of the NNFLF, that I must be dreaming. It was a long journey to the top. Thousands of lives have been lost. Marriages broken up. Babies Born. Stock Market Crashes. Now about my term as commissioner…I don’t want you to worry. I don’t want you to snap. This league is in good hands. I will dedicate all my time and more so that you all feel safe and secure. Problems will get solved, fights will be stopped, issues will be tackled. Today is the first day…of the rest of your lives. Thank you all, I love you, and I won’t let you down. Bailey…we did it!”

Bailey is Kent’s dog.

What Kent didn’t quite realize at the time was that, despite the tongue in cheek nature of the election, he was accepting a true leadership role, complete with real world responsibilities and challenges.  It is by no means easy dealing with the strong personalities of a group which includes several professional comedy writers, sales executives, and software engineers, each looking for any opportunity at all to embarrass the commissioner of the league, or anyone else who leaves himself open to an assault.

But the truth is the league is a living, breathing enterprise, where money is at stake. There are rules and regulations, and any changes to these rules are dealt with in a democratic fashion, with each member getting an equal opinion. (Except one member, who joined late and is only allowed to count for 1%, mostly for comic effect).  Kent is tasked with overseeing these rule disputes, as well as the incredibly thankless job of collecting dues from the individual teams.

Also, do the intense ball-busting nature of the league, Kent is forced to constantly deal with being baited into arguments.  One has to wonder why he even wanted the job to begin with. I don’t have to wonder, because I can just ask him.  The response:

“Well Jay, I’ve always considered myself a leader rather than a follower.  In fact, back in Hebrew School, I once got in trouble for orchestrating the singing of Alvin and The Chipmunks theme song during class, and the Hebrew School principal labeled me the leader resulting in near expulsion. That said, when I saw the opportunity to represent the office of the commissioner of the best league in all of the world, I took the opportunity as a sign to give in to my calling”

Then I asked him to drop the Colbert-like character of the Commissioner, and tell me the truth about the day to day challenges of being a real leader in a fantasy world.

“Being commissioner, there are challenges every day. As far as jobs in fantasy football go, it’s the job with the most work that gets the least appreciation. Dealing with league issues, scoring changes, writing recaps, organizing draft orders and draft dates, collecting money from your friends, and dealing with an internal society within the league, whose sole purpose is to get me out of office has it’s challenges. Trying to collect dues, or raise prices is extremely difficult considering everyone in the league is on different income levels, and money is obviously a sensitive subject off the bat when you’re dealing with your life-long friends”.

A long pause. Then. “It’s terrible sometimes.”

Kent has been the commissioner for 5 years now, and shows no signs of slowing down. He has shouldered every insult and taken every ounce of abuse that was thrown at him, all in the name of keeping our core group of friends entertained and interested in the league. What’s more, he has become the commissioner of two OTHER leagues. “One at work, one with school friends, and one with home friends from growing up. Put it this way, I don’t think I started balding until I became commissioner”

So why does he keep doing it?  He was joking about the Alvin and the Chipmunks in Hebrew School thing, but the truth is that Kent has always been the organizer and coordinator of the events among our friends. He has consistently taken initiative and responsibility, which has caused him an immense amount of grief. In other words, he is a leader.

He says, “I’m confident that I can do the best job, keep the league most entertained, and trust myself with the money more than anyone in any of the leagues”

Another long pause. Then. “And what the hell else do I do?”



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