Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Top 10 Rules For Running A Live Draft

Last weekend, I ran the third annual draft day for the baseball league. Only after it was all done, and everyone had left happy and grateful for the event, did I realize just how many times I've done this over the years for various leagues... and how there's a reasonable chance that I could actually help someone who hasn't done this do it better. So here's what I've learned over the years.

1) It's a gig. In my 20s, I fronted a rock and roll band, and played a few hundred gigs. Some were among the best nights of my life, and some were among the worst. But in every instance, the 30 to 60 minutes before people came were the absolute worst. If everything is perfect, you stare at the clock and worry; if anything needs to be done, you run around at breakneck pace, completely convinced that this is the last time that you are ever going to put yourself in this position again. Just know that the last hour is the worst, and accept it.

2) There will never be enough of one thing. For this draft, I ran an extension cord to a pole in the middle of the Man Space, wrapped it perfectly around the pole, then mounted a six outlet surge protector for people who were bringing a laptop to the draft. There were 10 owners at the draft plus myself, with one owner drafting remote; I went off a cheat sheet and did not use my laptop.

Which meant that, of course, there was not enough outlets, since it seems that every single person at the draft brought a computer. Or three. Gahhh. (They worked it out among themselves. Helpful.)

3) Someone will "help" you to death. I prepare for the draft by ordering a premium draft board and label kit, and mount it a week or so before the event, so that I'm sure that the board won't fall during combat. The last two drafts I've held, I've sprung for the "Jumbo" option, which means the labels can be seen from a good 10 to 15 feet away, even if your eyesight is failing with old age, like mine.

Which means that, this year, my most fussy owner decided to show up 75 minutes early with a projector and league manager software.

Now in past years, I'm sure that I'd have gotten loud in my desire to tell this guy where to put his projector, especially since he wanted to block my driveway to unload it... but this year, I just told him to come over early and try it out. And when the garbage trucks blocked my driveway, preventing him from loading it out, then having to lug it a half a block while I ran out to pick up food... well, for once someone else had the hard final hour before the draft.

4) Order food and pick it up. You don't want the stress of having someone else cook for you (or, at least, I don't). You also don't want to have to rely on some delivery clown. So the best options is to order from a solid place (for me, it's a local place that does chicken and ribs spectacularly), then go get it and bring it back. It's better than snapping at people for bothering you in the last hour before things begin, and and it's better than obsessing over your rankings or the other stuff that, well, people do. It's not as if your draft is really going to change in that last hour, or that it should. So get out of the house and drive a little.

5) Accept that you are going to take a bit of a bath. You can ask people to chip in on the food -- and I do. You can leave out a tip cup for beverages (don't make them all go 100% BYO -- that's just tacky). You can even put in a commish fee into the league fee. It's not going to matter. You aren't going to come out ahead on this, and you probably shouldn't.

When you commish, you aren't paying for gas, tolls, train fare, wear and tear on the car, and you are on your home field. That's the most comfortable situation you can have for a draft, and that's why so many commishes tend to finish in the top half of their leagues. So don't be a penny pincher on the soda and pretzel bills. It's just not worth it.

6) Expect your owners to be as on tilt as you are. At my draft last week, 20 minutes before the draft, I'm wolfing down lunch when one of my owners... wants to hand me his entry fee. Because, really, there's nothing I want to do more in the middle of inhaling a sumptious rib than to drop the meat and get your $20 bills all greased up. And I'm utterly certain that they'll do it again next year.

7) Make lists. Being commish is like being a parent; a never-ending list of things you gotta do. And as you get older, and you try to not just do what you did before but make it better, it's just impossible to remember it all. Get yourself a clipboard and make a list of the things you've got to do, and the order in which you want to do them. It's the only way to stay sane.

8) Don't overcomplicate things. One of my owners couldn't get out of work, so he was over the phone. Now, I could have ran a Web meeting so that he could have access to the spreadsheet that was being updated with the results. I could have put him on mutual speaker phones and spaced them out enough so that the feedback didn't kill all of the vermin in the area. I also could have bought a Web camera, punched his image through a plasma screen, and in short ruined my life for good and for ever. Instead, we just had him call my phone and put him on speaker. Worked out fine.

9) Accept imperfection. When I was a musician, I drilled into my band that when tech mistakes or screw ups happened on stage, that they absolutely positively had to smile as if they had just found a $50 bill. Why? Because when you get all shoe gazey in that situation, even the least sophisticated audience knows that you are as good as dead in March. But if you have a good smeg-eating grin on your face, they actually had to know how the song went, or that you weren't just trying something new.

So when your laptop dies, or the food order is wrong, or the board falls over or a third of the league is stuck in traffic, just breathe and relax. It's still going to be the best day of the year, provided you don't prevent it.

10) Push for feedback. This year, I asked my owners, most of whom haven't said anything less complimentary than "I hope you never stop being the Commish", to fill out a 15 question survery where they ranked their level of agreement on a 1 to 10 scale. I worded it tricky enough to make sure they had to read the questions, rather than just check off a bunch of 10s. With luck, I'll actually learn something I can use for future drafts.

And if not, well, it's still worth a shot. And who knows, maybe it will spark a thought among the others. So... moving on.

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