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< Gov signs bills; tightens Gold League standings | Main | Coming back? Probably >

The view from the top

Posted at 2:37 PM on May 30, 2007 by Bob Collins (12 Comments)

(Guest posting from the winning manager of the Gold League, George Linkert)

It appears the only points out there to win is HF562, that won't affect the Redress position as Gold League MFL Champion. So I have been working on some thoughts...

I occasionally play Diplomacy online, a game which usually lasts months.  After a game of Diplomacy, often each of the players writes an End of Game Statement, analyzing the game they just finished from their perspective.  I thought I would take a few moments to share my thoughts in this fashion about the MFL.

GML4's End of Game Statement

MFL was a very enjoyable, worthwhile learning experience for me.  I learned a lot about the state's legislative process, and have had fun "bantering" with the other managers online.  Only in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would actually win first place, but as a novice to state politics, I am very pleased and proud of myself and my efforts.

The Minnetonka Redress Season

The Minnetonka Redress draft was a mixed bag.  We felt real good about our DFL teammates, believing Senators Rest and Scheid, and Representatives Mahoney and Clark would be top bill writers, leading to the most potential points.  Our GOP bench was much more suspect, including the drafting of Senator Ortman who ended up on our team because I had listed several GOP legislatures who were not in office anymore.  I dropped her as quickly as I could (remember this later!).

The season opening was extremely interesting as bills introduced were the only points scored, and the committee points loomed so large.  I focused heavily on the committee's schedules and agendas, finding who had bills to be heard in committee.  I have to say I did not intend to drop and add so many legislators throughout the season, and this strategy goes against my nature.  I do believe that my "Flex Seat" strategy compelled the Redress, who were as low as in 9th position, up to 3rd place by around week 4 or 5.  The key transactions at this time were Rep.
Hilstrom, Benson, and Bly who brought the Redress a lot of points while on the team.  I struggled all season with my GOP side, not really finding satisfaction until the last couple weeks.

Throughout the season, I continued tinkering with my team, believing that I had a shot at catching the leaders, but was constantly frustrated as I gained little traction.  When the commissioner mentioned that the house was going to be making Omnibus bills there priority in the middle of April, I dropped nearly all my Representatives for Senators.  I strongly felt that I needed to shoot for the gold, and that I was relatively safe from the distant forth place team at the time.

I made a little traction, and cut the lead nearly in half those two weeks however my gains were lost the next week, leaving me more frustrated then ever, and more resigned to a third place finish.

The last couple weeks were clearly going to be big points as there was a lot of legislation moving the governor's way.  I took my focus off of the committee schedules to find the legislation that was getting Other Chamber and Governor Signature points.  When I saw GOP Sen. Johnson's name on a bill that the Governor was going to sign, I leaped on it.  Getting that easy 50 points, along with another 50 led to a late night for me on May 10th.  I searched through a lot of bills and legislators; seeking more free agents that would be getting lots of points like Senator Johnson did for me.  The Senators I picked up that weekend (Olseen, Sparks, Gimse and Ortman (oh yeah, remember her!?) were key to our end of season success, as the Representatives were not being nearly as productive as the Senate.

Even going into the last week though, I still didn't believe I had a chance to win.  At this point I was going to make myself be happy that I would win third place, and was planning on drafting, my second cousin, Sen.
Carlson (DFL) the last weekend so I could say I had family on my team.  But Thursday, May 17th, when I had leaped up to within a couple hundred points of the leaders, I spent another late night looking at the legislation that was moving and who would be getting the big points.  I had impressed myself with the transactions from the previous week, as they were still making points, and so dropped my last Representative (Bly) to make room for Sen. Latz.

It was clear to me Saturday that my chances for winning were very real, and when we took the lead the final day was very exciting for Minnetonka Redress.

All the transactions the Redress made this season contributed to its championship.  I tried desperately to make more trades, but other managers didn't see value in my offers.  The commissioner was very patient with me and my questions throughout the season; that is very much appreciated.  Clearly the foundation the Minnetonka Redress was built on, Senator Rest, made it easy to drop and add the rest of the roster.

The MFL: Overview and suggestions
Not paying much attention to the Maroon league, I took a look at what happened there, and find it an interesting contrast to the Gold.  The Carriers drafted a good team, and made no transactions, dominating the season.  Yikes.  I don?t know if I would've enjoyed playing in that league.

After a couple weeks, I was worried that the commissioner would lose track of legislation.  There were so many bills out there; I couldn't imagine how he was tracking it all.  I will admit to questioning some of the points, which he responded to politely.  After a while, I just had to trust what he was doing.  The play-by-play page was good and helpful.  I wonder if the spreadsheet the commissioner was using could be made more widely available.

I clearly took advantage of transactions, I felt a bit guilty of dropping nearly my whole team the last two weeks, giving me nearly an entirely new team to finish the year.  I would suggest a transaction deadline the last month of the season, where players could no longer be dropped, then have offer to allow teams to expand their roster by one in the last two weeks, to pick up one legislator to finish the season with.  Teams would have to plan better for long term with this schedule.

I don't like transactions being dealt by the position one stands in the league standings.  If two teams are trying to pick up Sen. Olseen in week 4, I would suggest a coin being flipped, and the Senator going to the winner of the coin flip.

I enjoyed the draft, and feel this probably would be the best way to handle it in the future.

As a former Fantasy Football commissioner, I longed for head to head match up.  For the MFL, I imagine week one having the Redress v. Beavers, and the Sadist v. Confidential Sources, then in week two Redress v.
Confidential and Beavers v. Sadist.  Then have a playoff the last two weeks with the top four teams.  There would be a number of positives because of this.  First, it would make the game more personal, and offer interaction between individual teams.  Also, this would allow more competition at the end of the season, making the Carriers fight for their championship.

I would not be in favor of a "redraft" as was discussed a couple weeks ago.  Forcing teams to drop players doesn't seem fun to me, and hurts teams who had worked on their roster.

The discussion of a "bench", where the teams would have legislators on their rosters, but not making points for their team unless they "start them", in the MFL is intriguing.  I don't know if I would favor it, as it seems silly to have legislators on one's team, but not able to generate points with them.

Big kudos to our commissioner!  Keeping up the scoring nearly every day, and posting interesting tidbits about our legislature and its processes kept things lively for me.  I have to admit a couple weeks in February where my interest waned a bit when I was absorbed in other things, but Bob was clearly focused on making the MFL run as smoothly as possible. 

Thank you as well to Julia and others at MPR for all the support given to the MFL.

Remembering that "Telling the truth can be dangerous business, honest and popular don't go hand in hand" I have to admit I was very excited by the idea when Bob Collins suggested it back in December.  This game offered a chance to watch our state legislative process up close, which I tried to take advantage of the best I was able.  I sincerely feel I've grown a lot in my knowledge of state politics, and hope to learn more, both with this game, and in other ways down the line.  Please don't file this in the file labeled "Ishtar" The Minnetonka Redress would love a shot at defending its title next year. 

Comments (12)

From my lofty perch I'll offer one suggestion for next season: only "original" bill authors/coauthors get BF, BH and CP points. Everyone who signs on later gets points for TF and beyond. Preliminary results show that this year total points were most strongly correlated with CP points. The suggested change might help put more emphasis on the later stages of the process. (BTW the Carriers racked up 12000 BH+CP points out of just over 17000 total). More work for Our Commissioner of course.

Go Carriers!

Posted by Doug Gray | May 30, 2007 4:30 PM

I'm not convinced this would be worth doing again. I'm not sure how many managers were actually paying attention. I enjoyed doing it, but the period where there are committee deadlines -- and the three weeks running up to that -- required about 10 hours of work a day.

I still think this thing could be huge for teachers in a civics class.

As for emphasizing one stage of the legislative process over the other. Why?

Posted by Bob Collins | May 30, 2007 4:53 PM

I think there were 3 types of managers:

1) Day traders that were making adjustments on a frequent basis

2) Choose-and-hold managers that would select legislators based on long-term value (whatever that means)

3) Those that joined and did nothing.

I may not have had many trades, but I was engaged on a daily basis.

I had no idea of the time this would take up, but it was a great experience. I hope you feel it was worth it Bob, because I had a good time and learned a lot and I think others did too.

Posted by David Younk | May 30, 2007 5:02 PM

I think there were 3 types of managers:

1) Day traders that were making adjustments on a frequent basis

2) Choose-and-hold managers that would select legislators based on long-term value (whatever that means)

3) Those that joined and did nothing.

I may not have had many trades, but I was engaged on a daily basis.

I had no idea of the time this would take up, but it was a great experience. I hope you feel it was worth it Bob, because I had a good time and learned a lot and I think others did too.

Posted by David Younk | May 30, 2007 5:02 PM

First of all, congrats to George, you earned the victory. A suggestion I would have for next year would be for MPR to "hire" an intern both to help out Bob and provide listeners and readers of MPR with more frequent updates on the legislative session in general. There are a zillion story lines that could use better coverage, especially now with the downsizing of the various news organizations in the State. It would be a great internship for any student interested in a career in politics, journalism or community organization. The insights gained and relationships developed while covering the Capital would be invaluable.

Posted by mike simpkins | May 30, 2007 5:27 PM

I'd like to find a current AND a former legislator to blog about the Capitol happenings. It would be great to get some real inside stuff.

Posted by Bob Collins | May 30, 2007 5:31 PM

Bob, I know that Linda Higgins checked in from time to time, and when I wasn't trying to help navigate the final days on Energy (yes!) and Elections (bummer...) I did a little bit of floor blogging myself.

I might be willing, depending on a couple of other projects that are in the works for next session.

I second the idea of an intern, or two or three, to do the mundane daily work. It'd be a good experience for the right college student or fresh-faced bacheloreate.

Posted by Jeremy Kalin | May 30, 2007 9:50 PM

First and foremost, congrats to George. You ran a good race, and beat the pants off of Mike and I with your late session moves.

And thanks to Bob. The amount of work that went into this thing must have been bizarre. I totally understand if you choose not to do it again, but I certainly hope you do.

As one of the choose and hold managers mentioned earlier, my interest certainly fluctuated with the standings, but rarely did I go more than a few days without checking in. And, I was blessed to have a team member, as mentioned by Rep. Kalin, who would point out to me when our team was doing well, and when she thought we were floundering.

By and large, a great first crack at the game, and my third place finish left me hungry for a chance to take town George and Mike next year.

Posted by Nate Dybvig | May 30, 2007 10:43 PM

I sympathize with Bob the fact many "Managers" were not engaged with the project. This follows the pattern I found when I was the commissioner of my fantasy football league. There were always teams that were rarely "managed". It makes you wonder why you're doing all this work for them, when it seems they don't care. Then when the next season starts, they are all excited about the game, and want to play again.

You must be tracking how many hits the MFL webpage was getting, could you share those numbers?

10 hours a day is too much to ask from anybody for entering data work. I wonder if a partnership with the online people at the capitol might make the job more manageable for the commissioner. I would imagine the people at the capitol have loved this attention, and would try to accommodate the MFL, including better access to the online database for easy imports to the commissioner spreadsheet or database.

I appreciate the kind words from my competitors. The Sadists and Beavers (Nate and Mike) were formidable opponents that seemed untouchable until those last days. I do have to say though you guys look much better from the top, than distant third place.

It was neat when Sen. Higgins chimed in with a comment. More of that would be great!

Posted by gml4 | May 31, 2007 12:11 AM

As a long-time friend of George, and the man who took over as commissioner of the fantasy football league he started, let me express my total surprise and hearty congratulations!

In college, George started his own fantasy football league, and led it for nearly a decade. Throughout that period, he seemed to be the only one unable to lay claim to the championship trophy - and we gave him some good natured ribbing for it.

But now his search for glory has finally reached its proper conclusion! I'm proud of you, George! And on behalf of the LFFL, congratulations!

Posted by Scott Johns | May 31, 2007 6:49 AM

I thought it was fascinating. People have varying ways of determining who is a "good" legislator -- number of bills passed, number of times seen on TV or quoted in the newspaper, even number of bills vetoed! This form was fun, and it showed (to me) that when you look for an author or two from across the aisle, you often go to one of the moderates, who gathered lots of points in the MFL!

However, I would suggest giving points to coauthors only once, maybe for bill introduction. Coauthors really don't do anything to get the bill passed, truth be told, but they really racked up the points in the MFL. Jim Abeler was, by FAR, the highest vote-getter, but I wonder if any of the 33 bills that he chief-authored actually passed.

I'd also suggest that since a bill must be passed by both the house and senate, both the house and senate lead authors get points when a bill ultimately passes. Whether it's ultimately a house file or a senate file, determined by which body takes it up on the floor first, is sometimes just plain arbitrary. sometimes, like in the case of e-waste, we decided the house would go first on the floor since the senate had already passed it the past four years and the house had never, in all the years we'd worked on it, actually voted on it on the floor. In other cases, one author pretty much does all the work, but the other author got the points by taking it up first. On omnibus bills, in case anyone is interested, leadership just divides them up so half are house files and half are senate files. (Bills that raise taxes and the bonding bill must be house files -- or "originate in the house," as the constitution says it.)

As a budget chair, I'd also request points for the omnibus budget bills. The budget chairs spend their entire session putting together those bills, and it was a little weird to have them not count. I know it would be impossible to track all the bills inside the omnibus bills, but the authors of the bill-as-a-whole should maybe get some credit for shepherding it throught he process.

All in all, I'm glad Bob and the team captains did the MFL this year. It was exciting to be on the two top teams -- till the last-minute surge! Congratulations to everyone!

Posted by linda higgins | May 31, 2007 8:23 PM

I've warmed to the idea of points only to the chief author after a bill is filed. Everyone gets a point on the BF (bill file) but after that, let's face it, it's the chief author that shephards the thing and does all the heavy lifting. There's really no reason why a co-author should get the same points.

I think I want to increase Floor Session Palooza points too. I know people dismiss Paul Kohls and Mark Buesgens but I think they did contribute to the legislative session even while they did nothing legislatively. But on the floor, they carried their side's debate and that should count for something.

Same for Sen. Hann in the Senate. I thought he did a fine job in presenting cogent arguments and I think that was underrepresented.

As far as omnibus bills are concerned, yes, I'm also warming to points for a chief author (only).

But I think I would recommend changing it so rather than points for overriding a veto, a legislator would lose points if a bill is vetoed.

I wonder how that would've looked this week. Let's say we rejiggered the point scale a bit. The entire standings would've depended on the Pawlenty vetoes (or not).

Posted by Bob Collins | May 31, 2007 8:37 PM