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By Jeff Melinyshyn

Welcome to Edition 5 of Inside the Front Office. This week’s sit down interview is with Cameron Irvine, the commissioner of the Simulation Football League. He is the one who dreamt up the idea of the SFL and has been here every set of the way. Yes, there have been some ups and downs for sure, but no matter what, he has stayed the course and has done a miraculous job to say the least.

Jeff Melinyshyn (Jeff): “Hey Cam thanks for taking time to meet with me, man this office is spacious! So, what does the daily agenda for the commissioner look like?”
Cameron Irvine (Cam): “Actually, Jeff, it might look spacious, but the office is actually a mere 200 square feet – but we pack a lot into it and stack equipment pretty high! Hopefully, one day, we’ll move into a bigger headquarters! The Daily Agenda…well, first of all I am a night-owl. I got my start working in the newsroom, which typically is a 3-midnight shift. It’s hard for me to get going in the mornings and it’s why I’m often seen burning the midnight oil in coaches’ channels and in general chat when I’m feeling conversational or when I want to try to get to know some of the new faces around here. Once I get going, a call to Andrew Rastelli is typical – on Friday’s Rastelli, myself and Ryan Karpinski will jump on a call to catch each other up to speed with all the goings-on in the community. Jermaine’s task is pretty simple – I send him the rosters, Rastelli sends him a change file, he makes the adjustments and the cycle continues so he’s the lucky one! After that, every day is different – which is what makes this job so fun. Friday’s are playbook change day plus the Friday night game if we have one. Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for content preparation and production, while me and our team in social, stats and broadcast prepares broadcast rooms with things like stream keys, weather, milestone information or playoff scenarios. Broadcast teams prepare for their matchups and sometimes will swing me some questions. Sundays and Mondays are all about the action. I am the Executive Producer, so it’s my job to produce all live games and get the broadcast teams up and operational. When they aren’t, I am the point of contact when our Director of Broadcasting Mike Daggs is on a call. Tuesdays-Thursdays are my ‘easy’ part of the week. This is the time to work on league growth efforts, sponsorships, multimedia and just – in general – try to catch up from the busy weekend. There might be some community members who just want to talk about life, want to discuss league or team business or just want to see how I am doing – which I am always very grateful for. I try to – at least one day a week – just take a breath at least for half a day and tune out to re-charge. A burned out Commissioner is no way to function properly.”
Jeff: “Holy cow, that is a busy schedule no doubt. I do not know how you do it, but I and the rest of community thank you for your service to this awesome league. So, from when you first thought of the idea to now, how would you say it has gone personally speaking?”
Cam: “Well, when I first started I decided to have 56 team slots and thought I could sim 28 games a week and everything would be fine – obviously, there are some mindsets today that can’t even be compared to how it all was when I first launched the idea but there are certainly things that have panned out. Having my own league and seeing how season’s progress, who rises and who falls … it’s all just as exciting as I knew it would be. I believed that people would want to get involved and that would make the experience even more enjoyable – which it has – the good times still outweigh the bad. This is the people’s league, not a league that can only be enjoyed by the rich and powerful and the athletically gifted from up close. I’ve always been a visionary and the overarching vision is still coming together as planned – we’re close to realizing some next major steps in our growth process and that helps keep me focused on the big picture all the time. What I didn’t realize was two things: 1) I didn’t realize that this could make an impact in people’s lives. How it’s brought families together, how it established new life-long friendships, how it changes the way people think about themselves and how people see them. That difference-making is such a treasure and will always be one of my life-long accomplishments that I will forever cherish. 2) The effort that coaching staffs put into their game plans are second to none and really is incredible. It’s made the product so much more enjoyable – better than I ever thought possible – and made the games matter so much more. It’s become a (hopefully) healthy addiction for many and something that they can truly enjoy – while enjoying and embracing the beautiful game of football. I certainly never expected it would become the competitive, hard-working environment it has become. If you’re not a coach or on a scouting staff – you’re really missing out on a big part of the SFL and what makes it special.”
Jeff: “I certainly agree with getting on a coaching staff or even front office staff. I never thought that I would be able to impact people, but being a General Manager and reaching out to FA and Rookies for potentially joining the Knights is something I really enjoy. The coaching staff I agree, it is amazing the amount of time and effort being put in to these game plans. So, my next question is how many more league staff positions would you like to fill in the next year? I know this may also be a challenge because the person would have to retire their player.”
Cam: “Ultimately, league and support staff will be broken into three different sectors as we grow and ultimately get to the places we want to get to. I will head the Production of the league as Executive Producer. The Production staff will have heads of Multimedia, Social Media, Broadcasting, Stats and Player Immersion. Obviously, three of those five positions have been filled. The Head of Multimedia will be responsible for the content team of the eventual SFL Network, which we are now in the process of building with our technology partner FUEL. We intend to have a fully-functioning network of content by the end of the calendar year. The Head of Player Immersion will be responsible for the Bits Give Back services, which will include player highlight reels, push notifications of big plays and milestones and any other player-specific content. Due the massive size of our player pool – which will continue to grow in the coming years, we should have this all firmly in place by the end of 2020 – the overhead and infrastructure needed to accomplish these goals is not easy to put together but once it is will create a product unlike anything ever conceived and cannot possibly be accomplished by anyone else. Our strategic partners will make the difference in the type of immersion we can provide to our players. I will soon need an assistant producing games and helping out with motion graphics and league branding. 10 games per week – producing all 10 by hand – is an incredibly tall order for any one person – and as life progresses naturally, it will become completely unfeasible for me to do on my own. That person will become the Associate Producer of the SFL and would have to join the league in full capacity, retiring their player or choosing to give up ownership in their franchise for the greater good. That’s just my department – which has the most need for help as growth and immersion goals will most effect this department and its size. Andrew Rastelli heads the Player Personnel Department. He now has an assistant (Ryan Karpinski) who has been a major help in improving accuracy and timeliness of updates to the website relating to player ratings and progression. That department may need to grow in future seasons, but for now has a solid infrastructure that can support short-term growth. Jermaine Smith heads the roster/hexing department. He will need an assistant as time wears on and the league gets larger. For now, he’s a one-man band, but we hopefully can start apprenticing someone we can trust in the next year. That position would also be completely league-centric and require no team involvement.”
Jeff: “Wow, I never knew of some of the behind the scenes departments. I knew of Player personnel and Jermaine Smith doing his stuff. What will be on the SFL channel? I am doing something’s with Crash, Marcus and Christian this offseason and covering everything you can think of. What can people look forward to next season and beyond?”
Cam: “I think what’s important in any community is that the community understands all the content they have to view. Reaching the individual in all the noise of general discussion and everyone pings is critical to engaging with our new fanbase, learning players and diehard veterans. The SFL has been working on a comprehensive network plan over the last year. We have so much content, nearing 1,000 games in league history. We’ve done player interviews, teams have their own podcasts now, content that is being generated through our SFL Beat Team can easily have a video component made for their brilliant ideas. Weekly highlights, team highlights, player highlights, coaches show, A day in the Life of our staff, our owners and our coaches, top player lists, play lists, best commentator calls, top play lists – all sorts of things. In an internet world, it’s all about constant engagement and pushing what can actually be achieved here. There’s no reason why we can’t have our own network with our own content that showcases just how vast and real this all can be. Without community support and passion and the right business vision and partners – this stuff can’t be achieved. But for us, it’s just around the corner. One of the greatest struggles in running this league is dealing with fatigue and the effects that a community of this size can do, both good and bad. When you are so passionate and believe so strongly in something, often times it’s up to you – and only you – to keep yourself going. This can also apply to teams and coaches who are struggling and feel like no matter what they do, they won’t succeed: “One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.” Napoleon Hill “Some quit due to slow progress. Never grasping the fact that slow progress is still progress.” Anonymous “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” Banksy “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Babe Ruth. When I speak with partners, I often talk about the type of football team the SFL is. We aren’t an offense that throws 50-yard bombs and can run up the score. We’re the type of offense that hands off to the fullback and picks up three yards. We’re going to keep picking up three yards until we reach the end zone and our opponent will be so tired by the time they get off the field, they’ll just want to quit. I am that full back, my staff is that offensive line and our community is the quarterback, offering encouragement and support to our team. The support and love Sunday night for Steven Mullenax’s final scheduled game on the air with me was really special. They showed just how much people can support people.”
Jeff: “Yeah Steven Mullenax will be missed by the community. I really enjoyed his broadcasts. He was very good at his craft. Where do you see the SFL in 5 years?”
Cam: “Where do I see the SFL in five years? In a better place. Five years ago, we had seven teams, one broadcaster, no live stats, stats in an excel doc, eight actual people involved, less than 10 viewers for every broadcast, Facebook groups for communication and I ran the entire website. I streamed games out of a walk-in closet with no fan. If you would have asked me then where do you see the SFL in five years, it would have been impossible to predict because life is impossible to predict. But I believe in the ultimate goal and mission: To bring a football world to life for those who left the game, miss the game, wish to be a part of the game or never had the opportunity to be while getting a chance to feel what being celebrated is like. We will be our best self in that regard five years from now – it is my life’s work to bring that to life.”
Jeff: “What would you like your legacy to be? Cam: “I want my legacy to be that against odds, he made his dream happen and that he always stayed true to who he was. Someone who was fair, passionate and caring about every single part and every single person in the league. But more importantly, I want a legacy that made people’s lives better. If I can do all that, then I will have realized fully a childhood dream and lived it. You don’t get much in life, at least I will have that to take to the grave.”
Jeff: “Alright SFL fantasy question, who would be your first overall pick in a fantasy league?”
Cam: “Colin Hart, for sure. #1 in the league in all-purpose yards this season; the Sparrows get the most out of him. That’s just this season though, and congrats to Colin on a terrific season – someone else will burst onto the scene next year I’m sure, we had a ton of fantastic rookies this season all-around!”

Mark Your Calendars:
April 22nd – League honors Show
April 23rd – Championship
May 1st – Owners Meetings end, Pro Bowl Uniform voting ends
May 2nd – Pro Bowl Draft
May 3rd – 9th – Re-Signing Period
May 7th – Rookie Check-ins end
May 10th – Free Agency begins
May 13th – Rookie Showcase
May 15th – Rookie Showcase round 2 (If needed)
May 22nd – Schedule Release Show
June 1st – Rookie Draft
June 2nd – Rookie Draft Round 2 (If needed)
June 16th – Roster Lock
June 27th – Preseason Begins
June 30th – Preaseason Ends, Week 1 playbooks due

 

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