Fantasy Football Definition of "Ghost Ship"

A "ghostship" in fantasy football is a team that's been abandoned by the owner. Fantasy football owners sometimes call this "being on auto-pilot". Ghostships can happen through a variety of reasons, but almost always occur due to the fantasy football General Manager's indifference. A ghostship can occur as early in the season as "immediately after the draft" or, more likely, after the ghostship's team falls out of the playoff chase. A "ghost ship fantasy football team" will leave their lineup the same throughout the season, regardless of injuries and byes, and will otherwise make no other transactions.

Ghostships are hated by the other owners in their fantasy football league, because the team is usually an easy win, because they will often have 0's in the bye weeks between NFL weeks 4 through 10. Because byes only happen once, though, not every team is given the same advantage, with the result that one or two teams get an unfair advantage over all others. Also, ghostship teams can frustrate owners who make the team offers, because those trade offers will sit on the table for days and weeks on end with no reply. When an owner brings a ghostship into a league, that owner is usually not asked back the next year.

Ghostships and Draft Dashers

Some ghostships happen because of owners known as "draft dashers". A draft dasher drafts a team and then abandons it. Drafting a fantasy team is the part of fantasy football the draft dasher most enjoys, so he joins as many drafts as possible. Inevitably, though, the draft dasher has one or two leagues he enjoys the most, so he will abandon the rest of the teams early in the season. This is usually determined by which team rosters of his he thinks are best. If he doesn't think he can win, the draft dasher just gives up. Often, the decision to dash from a league is determined by the results of the first week of the fantasy season.

Ghostships and Fantasy Football Playoffs

Other ghostship owners participate until they perceive they have no more chance to make the fantasy playoffs. Once this happens, the owner gives up and the team is on auto-pilot the rest of the year. In this case, the ghostship owner is being a poor sport, selfishly refusing to play unless he can win. This often means the ghostship teams gives up an easy win or two late in the season, when several teams need a loss from a competitor to make the playoffs. Given that it takes about 30 seconds a week to start a competitive lineup, this type of ghost team is despised. The only type of fantasy player more disliked is the team that colludes to help someone else win as soon as they're out of contention.

How To Spot a Ghostship

Ghostships are easy to spot. Complete lack of activity on the league site is all that's required to qualify as a ghostship. Here are things to look for:

  • No activity on the website in weeks. Most fantasy football league websites show the last time an owner logged in, and those that haven't logged in an 10 days or more are on their way to becoming a ghostship.
  • Injured players in the starting lineup. If a team plays someone who was declared inactive before Sunday morning, that team might be a ghostship.
  • Bye week players in the starting lineup. Teams that start players on bye weeks are definitely ghostships, since that team owner knew weeks in advance the player would be out.
  • No response to a trade offer for 7 days or more.
  • No free agent or waiver wire activity. No team drafts so well they never need a free agent addition.
  • No message board activity. Not always a sign, as some active team owners fit into the lurker category.

What To Do With a Ghostship

If your league owners are active and expect other members to be active, you probably need rules in place to deal with a ghostship. One rule I've found useful is to have either the commissioner or the primary division rival of the team the ghostship is playing that week decide on the ghostship's best lineup, then have the League Commissioner force-change the lineup. This way, teams in the league feel like their opponents are getting an unfair advantage because of some a-hole's apathy.

In my oldest league, we have a rule that any team not starting a lineup two weeks in a row will have their starting lineup taken over by the commissioner, who (talks with one or two other players) and starts the ghostship's best lineup every week. On the off-chance that, through some combination of bye weeks or injuries, that team can't field a full team, the Commissioner will even pick up a free agent to start for that player.

This isn't a perfect rule, since the ghostship team will play one week on auto-pilot before the ghostship rule kicks in. But this is considered an unobtrusive way to keep ghostships from ruining the league. Anything can happen any given week, from illness to work to some emergency. But when a team owner goes two weeks without website activity or contacting another league owner, that team is in ghostship mode.

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