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Thursday, August 23, 2007
Fantasy Meets Reality (Part II)

Back in January, Professor McCann wrote a blog entry about Sports Judge -- my small business that uses legal principles to resolve fantasy sports disputes. Professor McCann's blog-entry was so widely read that several other publications picked up his story. In fact, in the August 27 edition of ESPN the Magazine, author Paul Kix wrote a six page piece called "Truth, Justice and the Fantasy Way," in which Kix discussed the emerging world of fantasy dispute resolution. Playing off Sports Judge's strict interpretation of fantasy league constitutions, Kix even wrote that "[i]f Antonin Scalia played fantasy, he'd take his disputes [to Sports Judge]."

Since launched, so much has changed in terms of fantasy sports. Initially, my goal was to standardize fantasy rules. However, in just a short period of time, I found that owners do not want their rules standardized. In fact, often as new default rules emerge, fantasy sports owners revise their constitutions to "opt out" of them.

To provide one such example, shortly after Sports Judge published the case Big Red Rockers v. The Big City Bombers, which states "the standard of review [of a trade] is simply whether the trade adequately benefits both teams," several fantasy leagues changed their constitutions to avoid this default rule. One fantasy league added to their constitution that "as neutral arbitrator, shall approve all trades absent evidence of collusion or bad faith." Another league changed its constitution to state "[t]he arbitrator should lean towards rejecting any trade that he feels may possibly be inequitable."

In many ways, one should not be surprised by this development, as businesspeople act in a similar manner when they draft contracts that include out-of-state choice-of-law provisions or liability caps.

According to Kix, one day people will "look back at our mad roto world and laugh." I think Kix is right, but maybe not for the reasons that he thinks. To me the funniest part about the emergence of a complex fantasy universe is not that universe is both complex and make-believe (as ESPN points out), but rather that what was once just fantasy has actually morphed into something real. Now, as to whether or not that is a good thing, I will reserve judgment.


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