Who is the SFL Commissioner?

by Cameron Irvine

Hello virtual football world. Some of you know me well, many of you know of me and some may not know me at all. I have been the operator of the Simulation Football League for 11 years running and have run the league exclusively, professionally since the COVID outbreak. So who am I and how did I get here? I'm not here to self-indulge, although it can be fun walking down memory lane. 

No, it used to be that I spoke with everybody, knew everybody and everyone knew me. As the league has grown that is no longer the case. Some might feel I am too busy for them, or may not even know what I do or what life is like as the guy in charge and we are never afforded the opportunity to meet and bond. Like what I try to do for so many every week in the SFL, let's tell a story - only this one is mine.

I grew up a Texas boy, surrounded by a loving family and more imagination than I could hold. I was the only child - not just in my house, but on my mother's entire side of the family. While that means lots of attention, it also means lots of time being spent with adults, not children. TV time with grandma, game night with the domino group, Chinese checkers with mom and mini golf with grandpa. When you don't have children your own age to play with outside of school at family functions and in daily life, your mind begins to wonder, and my mind always took me to the make-believe.

Maybe some of you can relate here. I used to go outside and throw the football against the curb to move an offense down the field. I would build football stadiums around my electric football game and stage games and seasons. Even the handheld with the three red lines had teams, leagues and history associated with these late-night matchups when I was supposed to be sleeping. Friends came to play at my place, sure - why wouldn't they? I had the dead-end street, I marked the yard lines with chalk and I had the glow-in-the-dark football so we could play all night.

I officiated the playground flag football games in fourth grade and organized a schedule structure so the five fifth-grade classes could play against each other all school year long. I kept track of the results on the back of my blue folder and kids would stop me in the hallway to get updated standings or to see who won the day before. In high school, I convinced the art and science teachers if we finished our work early we could play paper football on the long tables and ran that league all season long too. Teachers loved it because everyone actually cared about staying on task and getting good grades. You're welcome America. I had a website where I was tracking scores for some video game leagues I had started and someone left a comment that they were looking forward to next week's results. It was then that I thought maybe other people may want to get involved in these worlds I had created.

You see, I was born to do this. The SFL is a childhood vision that was so strong that it actually came to life - it actually became real. But all childhood dreams end up distant memories. So how did this one become how I make a living?

When I was 16, a recap I had written about the football game between my school and its rival was picked up by an editor of the city paper. I was offered a job to cover high school sports for the area. This worked out because I had been going to high school football on Friday nights since I was eight years old. The only time I ever missed a game was a Thursday night game between Roosevelt and Alamo Heights because I hadn't finished my homework. Yes mom, I still remember the matchup I never got to see. I went to games and stadiums all over the state making tight deadlines and telling the stories of athletes that otherwise would have never been told. Eventually, I ran the college's sports section and got a job as a Sports Editor in a local town. I told every athlete's story there was to tell in that place for two years, while running the SFL on the side, often times on the clock.

At some point, I felt constricted. I was envious of the broadcasters, the public address announcers, the television crews, the graphics on the big screens. I needed more. I quit, and ventured off into the world to reinvent myself. I got a job with the Dallas Morning-News covering high school football on the side, I walked into the office of Texas Revolution indoor football an hour away from my apartment and I said, 'who needs help with media? I'll do it.' I walked into the office of the Sports Information Directors at colleges and said, 'who needs a broadcaster, I think I'm pretty good.' I covered high school sports, I called games for the college and I commuted two hours a day six days a week for $100 a week and whatever a one-off call paid. And then I came home and sat in front of my computer and ran the SFL too - because I was born to do this.

While I was working three jobs, my now-wife was working four jobs - commuting 1-4 hours one way to four different colleges teaching and building her resume, racking up debt to achieve her doctorate. She believed in herself just like I believed in me - and we believed in each other. None of this came easy, none of it came special. 

Passion doesn't let dreams die.

All those things I was envious of, I did. I was the public address announcer for a professional football championship. I did build graphics in large arenas, I broadcasted collegiate football, volleyball, basketball and baseball. I wrote tens of thousands of articles and then COVID sat me down in the same office chair in front of the same video game I had been sitting in front of for years and shut everything that had been achieved, off.

COVID was a terrible time. Going to the grocery store at 6 a.m. just hoping you could get the type of bread you liked or the flavor of chips you hadn't had in months because they were stuck on a ship or a truck somewhere. Watching the news and seeing the death and despair, worried if you would be next. I didn't have to go out into the world and do things I wished I had done, interact with people worried about if the mask was actually doing what it was supposed to do - I had just done those things. I just needed to stay inside and do what I had done for all the people out there, for all the people in here. Take everything I'd learned, and give it to the SFL.

So I produced SFL on television, I created graphics packages, we trained broadcasters, we added studio shows and most importantly, I stopped pretending. This wasn't make believe anymore. This wasn't some fantasy about being a quarterback or being a coach or being a team owner. This was real life now. Real stakes, real people, real money and real responsibility.

Nothing can convince me that I am not the most qualified to be here. No one can convince me I don't care about them, or their concerns or their trials and tribulations in life. I have cared about all that since the day I realized other people wanted me to care. I have cared about this universe since it was first documented on that blue folder and 22 years later...wow, it's 22 years later.

So many people believed in me along the way … gave me a chance, gave me the keys, helped me swim when I was sinking, gave me friendship, gave me a broadcast partner, gave me peace, gave me confidence, gave me a soft place to fall, gave me love, gave me hope, gave me the freedom to dream - all of these things helped me to succeed when I otherwise shouldn't have and are important things to give to the ones you care about. 

My mom was a teacher, grandfather a social worker, grandmother a retired nurse, dad a military veteran. No one I knew owned a business, or worked for a small one. No one I knew had connections to sports, or journalism. I've never interviewed for a job - I walked in and made them, took them, owned them. Who can say the same? I don't say that to bolster myself, I genuinely cannot comprehend how that happened. But I bet the passion soaked up the concern people had. Because passion doesn't let dreams die. 

When you next watch the SFL, take time to enjoy what you have helped create because without you, my dream would have died a long time ago. A child can afford to make believe inside their own head. An adult can't spend time living in delusion and without each and every person that makes up the SFL, that's all the SFL would be.

Around here, it's not a delusion. It may not be real to everyone out there, but to everyone in here, how could we not get lost in it? Have some fun, live out childhood dreams and help grow bonds. Make new friends, get the family involved, walk into that team locker room like I walked into all those places of businesses and say 'hey y'all, I think I'm pretty good.' 

Share your passions. Be a light to the darkness of the world. If you do that, I promise you the passion I have for you and for the SFL will never die and I will be able to live out my imagination, the dream, through all of you. Thank you for being a part of my story and helping me be who I am today.