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Moving From League Acrimony to League Harmony. A Tale of Conflict Resolution.

Our resident psychotherapist, Stephen Pratt talk about conflict resolution for your fantasy leagues! 

One thing I have learned from practicing psychotherapy for over 30 years is conflict is a way of life. It will inevitably happen in any marriage, work setting, friendship group or sporting team. Fantasy sports is ripe for moments of conflict since it is about competing for the ultimate prize of winning a league championship.  I thought this would be a good topic to discuss and draw from an example that recently happened in my fantasy baseball league.

I have participated in my current fantasy baseball league since 2003.  I was invited in as a neophyte to playing fantasy sports so I had to learn the ropes as the season progressed.  This was an established 5 x 5 rotisserie league system using all the standard hitting and pitching categories.  We have gone through many changes in team owners, commissioners, and scoring categories as time has marched on.  Our owners now reside in Southern California, Northern California, Idaho, and the East Coast.  We are now doing head to head and have added on base percentage, quality wins and hold and saves.  Gone are average, wins and saves categories.  I think it is healthy to mix things up to keep the process fresh.

So here is what recently happened in my league and I will use this article as a learning experience to pass on when conflict occurs.  My league has 10 owners and one veteran participant decided to leave this year due to too many life commitments.  As many of you know, getting someone to commit to a long season like fantasy baseball is a tall task.  We were pleased when our league champ suggested a friend who was interesting is joining.  We performed a minor vetting process and were ready to proceed with our draft the weekend before opening day.  To set the stage this group has always been, as the 2003 movie suggests, a “league of extraordinary gentlemen.”  We have had our moments, but seemed to settle issues without too much drama.

All seemed well until conflict reared it’s ugly head. It revolved around a proposed two-player trade.  The new owner believed collusion occurred and began posting his displeasure in a more confrontational manner.   This ruffled a few feathers and the rebuttals began to get heated.  This had not been our normal experience and competitive natures begin to take root.  I have learned through my clinical training that you need to intervene early before the arguments reach the point of no return.  Here our filters go away and words can become hurtful and ugly.

One good tool I use with my family and couples clients comes from a theory called Transactional Analysis developed by Dr. Eric Berne.  He looks at three states that can occur during interpersonal interactions.  They are the Parent, Adult and Child states. The Parent has two divisions involving the nurturing or critical parent.  The Adult is the more ideal state when facing conflict.  Here we check our egos and emotions at the door, and are better able and problem-solve, negotiate, find resolutions/solutions or create acceptable compromises.  The child state has three sub-categories; wounded child, reactive child, or natural child.  The natural child is that free playful side we can experience with moments of solid connection.  Common conflict dynamics would be critical parent vs. reactive child or reactive child vs. reactive child.

This heated text exchange was quickly becoming a reactive child vs. reactive child situation.  One comment thrown out was the feisty owner being “childish.”  The situation quickly called for an adult to be in the room.  I decided to jump in and ask that everyone simmer down and explained our normal procedure when it comes to trades and how to protest if it seems to be unfair or lopsided.  My league has co-commissioners which I think is another healthy way to run a fantasy league.  They can collaborate and veto a trade if it is not in the best interest of the league.  This did not satisfy the rankled owner and more mutual sniping occurred.  To our relief the irritated owner later apologized for his behavior.  In his defense, he is used to lively chatter, trolling, and was not being serious with his banter.  We were able to settle the dispute and use humor to bring the situation to a place of equilibrium. I used a movie quote from the movie Airplane regarding the line “surely you can’t be serious.  I am serious and stop calling me Shirley.”  I find a good tool to use humor when things become contentious.

So the moral of the story is to embrace conflict by working with it instead of working against it.  As I mentioned earlier in the article, conflict is a part of life.  Using good conflict resolution skills makes it safe to find a resolution as long as we keep our wits about us and work towards a solution from the adult state.  This will lead to stronger bonds in all our relations and make for a healthier fantasy league.  Now as Brian Phelps used to say on the Mark and Brian radio show, “be good humans.”


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