Resolving a Yahoo Outage Dispute
As we all know, Yahoo’s servers crashed during Week 10 of the NFL season on November 11, 2012. This outage affected hundreds of thousands of fantasy players who could not make transactions, adjust rosters, or set lineups. It created mass hysteria amongst those who were affected and led to a plethora of questions and inquiries submitted to Fantasy Judgment on how certain situations should be handled. While Yahoo did issue an apology, an explanation, and an outline of how they planned on handling things internally, it still led to a lot of confusion and gray areas for several leagues. The following case was recently submitted to the Court dealing with a lineup issue stemming from a Week 10 game.
SUPREME COURT OF FANTASY JUDGMENT
E vs. Braj
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI FROM THE POLO VETS 2
FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Decided December 6, 2012
Cite as 4 F.J. 320 (December 2012)
A fantasy football league called the Polo Vets 2 Fantasy Football League (hereinafter referred to as “PVFFL”) is comprised of ten (10) teams who compete against each other on a weekly basis during the National Football League (“NFL”) season using the statistics of professional players as a basis for accumulating points in head-to-head competition with opponents to determine which fantasy team won or lost. The PVFFL is hosted on the Yahoo fantasy football platform and is governed by the internal settings input by the commissioner.
As has been well documented, Yahoo’s servers crashed during Week 10 of the NFL season which created numerous problems for fantasy players trying to make transactions and adjust lineups. As a follow-up to that event, Yahoo’s director of fantasy sports issued an apology email and laid out how the service provider would handle those affected by the outage. Commissioners of private leagues have the option and ability to retroactively change or modify lineups if they so desire. However, public leagues do not have the same luxury and those results must remain as is.
In the present case, the PVFFL is a private league and the commissioner was faced with an issue over whether to change a league member’s lineup retroactively. E’s lineup had Randall Cobb (WR-GB) in it, but Green Bay was on a bye that week. At that time, he had two wide receivers on his bench – Wes Welker (WR-NE) and Danny Amendola (WR-STL). Because the servers were down, E was unable to replace Cobb from his lineup.
E’s total score for the week was 95.92 including the 0 received for Cobb. His opponent scored 116.98 for the victory. However, if Amendola’s 21.20 points were in his lineup, E would have scored 117.12 for the victory. In comparison, Welker scored 13.40 points which would have had no effect on the outcome of the game.
At 7:21 PM EST on Sunday, November 11, 2012, E text messaged the commissioner the following:
“Yo commish, I wasn’t able to put Amendola in due to the servers being down. And I would have of played him as he’s the only WR I have.”
The commissioner responded that he was aware of the servers crashing and wanted to wait to see what Yahoo’s actions would be regarding how the situation was handled. He also asked other leagues members for their informal votes on whether E’s lineup should be changed. Most of the league members that gave an opinion said that he should not be able to change his lineup. Ultimately, the commissioner decided not to put Amendola into E’s lineup.
(1) Should the commissioner’s decision to not change E’s lineup be upheld?
There is no statute of limitations on when an issue can be brought to the Court for review. See Bald Eagles vs. Weasel D, 3 F.J. 205, 209 (November 2011). However, whether recourse is available for the moving party must be determined on a case-by-case basis. If there is an unreasonable delay in seeking recourse, then the Court may bar recovery under the legal doctrine of laches. Bryan LaHair Club For Men vs. League Commissioner, 4 F.J. 26, 27 (April 2012).
The PVFFL commissioner did in fact contact the Court immediately after this incident arose and stated that he had to deal with it internally before deciding whether to submit the case for review. As a result, the Court accepts this case almost a month after the date of the incident.
When a case is submitted requesting retroactive adjudication, the Court will only consider the facts and circumstances that were presently known on the date of the incident. All subsequent details will not be part of the analysis. See PrimeTime vs. The Swani, 4 F.J. 220, 225 (August 2012); Steelers vs. Patriots, 3 F.J. 218 (November 2011).
The PVFFL is not governed by a constitution or written set of rules outside of the settings and parameters chosen by the commissioner on the league’s Yahoo website. The commissioner is empowered with the tasks of creating the league’s rules, settings, and guidelines. Bryan LaHair Club For Men vs. League Commissioner, 4 F.J. at 28. When a league does not have a written constitution, the commissioner will typically have the final say on issues that fall outside the scope of the league’s host site’s parameters. Dwayne Bowe Peep vs. The Boston Tea Party, 3 F.J. 188, 190 (October 2011).
Unquestionably, the commissioner was well within his authority to make a decision on how to handle this unique predicament. He was also provided with guidance by Yahoo in its formal response on how it internally handled the situation. As stated above, only commissioners of private fantasy football leagues had the option to retroactively adjust the results of Week 10’s games. This, at the very least, gave the commissioner the option to do so if he wanted.
The Court was presented with several questions and inquiries about Yahoo’s server outage as it created mass hysteria within the industry. While it was unfortunate and affected hundreds and thousands of leagues, there can be no perfect or ideal solution that will appease everyone. We must analyze each scenario on a case by case basis.
Here, E is alleging that he would have started Danny Amendola instead of Randall Cobb, who was on a bye during Week 10. The Court has no reason to doubt that E would have made a lineup change at some point on November 11, 2012 to replace an inactive player. However, there are two problems with E’s request for intervention. The first is the fact that his request was made at 7:21 PM EST after that day’s games had almost all been completed. Yahoo’s servers had been down all day, so he was well aware of the situation for several hours. The second problem is the fact that E had Amendola and Wes Welker on his bench. Neither the commissioner nor the Court can validate or presuppose which of those players E would have chosen earlier in the day before their points were already tallied.
In hindsight, it is incredible that Amendola would have scored just enough points to give E a victory by less than one point. But it is too convenient for E to state, after the fact, that he would have chosen Amendola over Welker given how things played out. If Amendola was the ONLY eligible wide receiver on E’s bench, then it would be more palatable to accept.
One of the arguments made by fellow league members was that E knew Cobb was on his bye all week and could have or should have adjusted his lineup prior to Sunday. This is irrelevant. Fantasy owners are entitled to manage their lineups and rosters according to their own preferences. He would have had the ability to make this change up to five minutes prior to kickoff of the games his players are in. Granted, E was precluded from making a change due to Yahoo’s servers being down. But it is impossible to know for sure whether he would have selected Amendola or Welker to start.
Because it is pure speculation and conjecture as to what E would have done, the Court simply refuses to engage in such an activity. It would be prejudicially unfair to E’s opponent that week to simply take his word that Amendola was his choice. When balancing the interests of the league overall, the Court cannot justify allowing E to receive the benefit for being a Monday morning quarterback with knowledge after the fact.
It is every fantasy league owner’s personal responsibility to enter and submit their lineups correctly. Typically, game results, standings, and scores should never be modified, overturned or changed unless there was an obvious scoring mistake by a stat server or proof of cheating or collusion. Didn’t Hit Submit vs. Commissioner, 1 F.J. 23, 25-27 (January 2010). Of course there are rare instances where additional leniency should be afforded. This Yahoo issue could be one of them, but only under the right circumstances. Had E contacted the commissioner and/or his opponent prior to games starting and informed them that he was unable to change his lineup by replacing Cobb with Amendola, then the Court would endorse his request.
Based on the foregoing, the Court affirms the commissioner’s decision not to adjust E’s lineup and place Amendola in for Cobb. Yahoo’s server outage affected many people playing fantasy football, including E. However, to allow him the benefit of changing his lineup conveniently after he saw which of his two options was most beneficial is not acceptable. The Court empathizes with E because it is truly believable that he would have made a lineup change. However, there is no way to know for sure which choice he would have made when he had two viable options on his bench.
IT IS SO ORDERED.