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Guide to Side Action in Fantasy Football Leagues

by Jeff Bell | @4WhomJBellTolls | Featured Writer
Jul 18, 2021

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We have all seen it. An argument begins in a league chat; trash talk escalates, then in true A Christmas Story style, a double-dog dare gauntlet is tossed down. “I bet you Deebo Samuel will not score 15 points this week!”. Side Action! The spice of life every good league needs to bring the entertainment up a level.  

From the viral Waffle House league loser challenge to any number of weekly payouts based on scores, upping the ante is a fantasy football staple. What can your league add to keep interested or bring the competition up a level? 

For ideas, I polled Twitter to see what adds intrigue to leagues. 

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Weekly Scoring Bets 

@GMenJay: We pay the highest-scoring team & highest scoring player each week, plus both for the end of the season. Help spread out some of the winnings to more members of the league. Even if you have a bad season, you can win a little money.

@Ian Legit: We do weekly payouts for the highest scoring overall and a “bad beat” payout (high score, but happened to be playing one of the top-scoring teams that week).

These concepts are simple and add weekly intrigue. More importantly, it can be a deterrent to a problem where some leagues see lineup setting fall off as bye weeks and injuries hit teams that have fallen outside of the playoff race. Invalid lineups be a commissioner’s nightmare and have implications on the playoff race for teams in the hunt. Winning one weekly payout can leave an owner walking away with more minor losses on an otherwise lost season.  

The downside is leaving less in the championship bucket. No one knows your league better than you, and the decision to allocate funds is paramount. If participation is an issue or owners would rather play for a weekly prize, these are just a couple of ideas.

Head to Head Bets

@Sharpereview: With @SportsfanaticMB over/under, Kyle Pitts breaking the single-season receiving record for a rookie TE.

@Mattydaddy247: I lost a bet one time against a rival and had to sleep outside with a homeless man.

@TheJoeyWright: Something as simple as loser buys winner lunch bets are wonderful when you reach that stage of having kids. It gets you committed to seeing your friends, which is always refreshing.

Here is where things can come up a level—small gentlemen’s wagers of a lunch date or extreme bets outsizing league pots. Competitive nature drives fantasy players, and disputes among players and teams can get very interesting.

Creating fantasy rivals with your best friends brings leagues up another level. Adding in a matchup, you mentally circle when you see the league schedule generated always creates a layer. You know your rival, lay some stakes on the line and make it enjoyable.

Season Long Bets

@preecemode:  Regular season last-place guy has to buy first place regular season guy dinner. It keeps everybody invested.

@RobFFAddict:  One year, we tracked turnovers & whoever had the most positive ratio won $50. It was a lot of fun. Put a big emphasis on what defense you were picking.

@Daboys_22:  We do an eliminator challenge. Also, in Devy leagues, we give a rookie of the year payout for the highest scoring non-QB rookie in the league.

In mid-June 2021, Lee Sanderlin achieved viral fame after the 24-hour Waffle House challenge. Throughout fantasy, wild stories of loser punishments exist. These punishments are great as they add incentive to avoid finishing last while not removing money from the championship winnings.

Fantasy leagues can continually improve. Think about ways you can create side action in your leagues to shore up weaknesses or introduce a level of chaos. Feel free to share your wild stories too!

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