By Ryan Karpinski (Assistant Director of Player Personnel)
October 25th 2017. I logged on to Twitch just like any other typical Wednesday night, sorted through the featured streams and was about to just go watch some random stream when a stream with football on caught my eye. I clicked over to it, “Hmm, simulationfl. Sounds interesting,” I thought to myself. As the stream loaded I expected to hear generic broadcasters from the video game calling the game – what greeted me was a live voice that was every bit as excited and engaging as a voice you would here calling a game for the NFL on Sundays. “Wow! This guy sounds amazing!” – I was engrossed. The casters sounded perfect together, the game played smoother than I expected from a 10 year old game, the chat was hyped to no end. The Mexico City Aztecs were playing the Chicago Wildcats in the Season 9 Championship game. I watched the 2nd quarter but didn’t say anything in the chat room at first. Halftime came and I finally asked, “What is this?”, someone answered me, “The SFL!”. Halftime finished and the voice I now know as Cameron Irvine, Commissioner of the SFL, came back to the air waves. He exchanged words with his color guys, who now I know were Demond Simien; Owner of the Houston Hyenas and Ryan Moats; Owner of the S10 expansion San Francisco Sharks.
As the game began to get the 2nd half kickoff set up they talked about what each team needed to do to walk away with the Championship. Cam talked about how to join the league and join the Discord. I knew then what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to miss any of the rest of the game. I made a mental note to myself to make sure I joined the Discord after the game.
9:22 pm PT, I did exactly that. I clicked the link to the Discord and was greeted with the introduction channel. “Introduce yourself and tell us how you found us!,” it tells me. Alright I can do that. “Caught the championship game tonight. Seemed very interesting. Wouldn’t mind trying to become a player in the league.” were my exact words. My Discord name back then was ‘oofish’. I was greeted by many people in the different channels. A new notification popped in the corner of my Discord, I clicked it and saw a message from one of the members of the server. “Hello @oofish my name is Demond AKA D.R. Sim. I am the owner of the Houston Hyenas & I just wanted to speak with you in regards to you joining my team i have plenty of positions available.” Barely 3 minutes after joining I was talking to an owner about joining his team. Over the next few days, I would begin talks with other team owners, but I felt a need to go with Houston. They were the first team to reach out to me. Demond and I really hit it off from the start. It just felt natural to go there. Ultimately, it came down to two teams for me to decide on: the Vancouver Legion and the Houston Hyenas. Both teams offered me CB positions, one of my preferred positions. After looking at team histories and speaking with the owners more I had finally decided – I was going to become a Houston Hyena.
Demond was ecstatic at hearing the news and we set out immediately to make it official. During that process the league had announced a new system would be used to Season 10 – Player Progression. They had never had progression before and I was determined to learn everything I possibly could about the system and how to best use it to get the most out of my player. I’m sure Andrew Rastelli, the Director of Player Personnel for the SFL, grew tired of me very quickly as I just pounded him with question after question about the new progression system. I wanted to become a figure in the league. I stayed as active as possible in the Discord, I talked with everyone. After getting signed to Houston, I began to talk with my teammates and Demond about player progression and used the knowledge I now had of it to lay out plans for each player to best utilize their points each week. The work I put into it wound up getting me voted as one of the Captains for the team before the first game of the season.
I continued to work closely with Demond throughout the first part of the season. Progression reminders for the team, scouting of future opponents, suggestions on plays, anything I could to help put the team in a better winning position. After 2 weeks of regular season games, Demond messaged me. This time it wasn’t to ask me about progression or my thoughts on game plan. It was to offer me the position of General Manager of the Houston Hyenas. I was in shock. I hadn’t really thought of getting a position like that. I almost immediately accepted the position and took over player progression duties and acted as a face for the team to the rest of the league, someone rookies and free agents could talk to about potentially signing with the team in the future. I spent the rest of Season 10 working extremely close with Demond and Andrew Rastelli on player progression for the team, making sure players got their progression submitted on time and correctly.
As the season continued I felt like there was more I could do, not just for my team but for the league as a whole. I looked around at the different things that people did; broadcasting, stats and beat writing. My busy home life kind of ruled out broadcasting and stat keeping as I couldn’t make it to the games every week, so I decided to message Matthew Slinn and Andrew about becoming a beat writer. I immediately started doing game recaps for various games and submitted them each week, making sure I was on time every single week. Once the season started to come to a close, Slinn approached me about writing recaps for some of the playoff games. I accepted as player progression for the teams was no longer needed after the regular season ended. After a few recaps for the playoffs, Slinn messaged me asking if I wanted something special to write up during the offseason. Intrigued I asked him what sort of project he had; he had been approached by Andrew and was asked who he thought would be best fit to write a weekly article that would compile a list of rookies into a rankings board based on their draft eligibility and possible ratings based on their chat activity and a new process; cheering bits in order to unlock progression. I accepted and undertook the task of making the board based off stats and such that Andrew compiled each week. It became one of the most talked about things over the offseason and I was super grateful for the opportunity to do such an amazing project.
During this time I was also in works with Demond and my team on getting them all re-signed and replacing any players that left. Demond put me in charge of handling salary cap and making sure the team was under the cap by the end of the signing period and that we had space for any rookies we needed to draft to finish out the roster. The whole process was difficult, trying to keep players at a high level while also cutting back to fit under cap, while scouting potential rookies based on value we needed to fill the last 2 spots on our roster. As the draft drew nearer, I was once again approached by League Staff for another project, this time I was asked to come on to the live broadcast of the Season 11 draft as a live analyst; my work on the big board was a big point in deciding to have me on the show since I already had a lot of knowledge of the rookies and their activity during the off season. The draft went much longer than any of us anticipated, about 2.5 hours longer and by the end we were extremely tired, but the show was amazing and I had an absolute blast.
After the draft and signing periods was a break in which not much could be done besides wait for the preseason games to be played. During this period is when my SFL career took a dramatic change. Andrew approached me and talked with me at some length about some of the stuff that happens behind the scenes of the SFL that he does, from tracking player progression to moderating chat and answering a million questions a day. He was getting overwhelmed with the Discord duties and needed some help. He asked me and Crash Combs, whom had an amazing first season that rivaled mine in pace, if we wanted to become Moderators of the Discord and help answer questions while trying to maintain the Code of Conduct the players were to be held to. Crash and I both accepted the positions and became moderators, for him it was an added duty on top of being General Manager and Defensive Coordinator for the Dallas Lobos. For me it was an added duty on top of being General Manager of the Houston Hyenas and the weekly recaps and articles of beat writing, but we were honored to have been chosen for the roles and tried our best to live up to the expectations.
The regular season for Season 11 started much like Season 10 ended, helping the team with player progression, scouting opponents, writing recaps for games each week; but this season I had another new job for the SFL Podcast and was determined to defend my General Manager of the Year Award and stay on the top of the game as well. Andrew and I had been working together since the offseason and I continued to do so in order to learn the new progression system implemented and the changes from Season 10’s system. August 20, 2018, the day that my SFL career took a dramatic turn. Andrew message me at 8:30 am PT, “Just got off the phone with Cam. I brought up the need for an assistant of sorts. Someone who would update the site with player changes as they come in in real time on Mondays and Tuesdays. Someone to act as the face and first contact, especially in times when I am not available (mostly nights and weekends). Someone with no team affiliation and would be considered League Staff. He agreed. I said you would be the best candidate. He also agreed. What do you think?” My mind was absolutely blown, I had only been in the SFL for 10 months, did they really think I was the best choice? At first I thought he was joking, but as we talked more he told me about how he had been needing to get an assistant. As the league grew bigger and bigger so did his duties as Director of Player Personnel. Over 216 people he had to manage on a weekly basis. I thought long and hard about it, I loved being a player and GM of a team, I wanted my player to be known as one of the greatest players in the SFL, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player; but an opportunity like this comes only once in a lifetime in a league like this. I decided I would accept the position as Assistant Director of Player Personnel and we agreed that we would wait until after my teams season had finished to announce it to the league. I was only allowed to tell 1 person of what was happening, and that was my team owner Demond. We had built an amazing friendship through the team and I felt heartbroken having to him the news of me leaving in the off season. He gave a unproven rookie who had just joined in to the league after watching the championship game a shot and I am forever grateful to him for everything he has for me. Without him giving me that opportunity none of the last year would’ve happened.
The regular season of Season 11 came to a close and the Hyenas were once again back in the playoffs. We defeated the Chicago Wildcats in the quarterfinals and moved on to the semifinals against the undefeated, reigning SFL champs, the Alaska Storm. After one of the most intense games I can recall, we fell to the Storm on a final play pass deflection in the end zone, 20-16. Once the game was over I knew it was time to do what I had been dreading for weeks and announce my retirement from the SFL as a player. It was a necessary evil that had to be done in order to take my place as League Staff as Assistant Director of Player Personnel, no vested interest in any team. The last 2 seasons had been some of the most fun I’d ever had in a community but it was time to move on to bigger and better things.