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By Ray Bentley

Eleven seasons have been notched into the history books for the Simulation Football League, spanning back to its introduction to the world at large as the WAFL all the way up through Alaska’s undefeated defense of their championship win. To the naked eye, eleven seasons mean there have been eleven champions; this article is not here to argue the validity of that statement. Each SFL Championship winner deserves their place in the Pantheon of Victory and all the accolades that come with their accomplishment. However, what if the title wasn’t just a one-and-done deal; suppose that it transferred much like a boxing title, so that when the current title-holder falls, it becomes the property of the person (or, in the case of the SFL, the team) that beat them? This is the basis for the Unofficial SFL Championship Title, which as you will see, has a storied and rocky existence.

After extensive research, the current holder of the original Unofficial SFL Championship Title is Thomas Paterniti’s Minneapolis Maulers. The Maulers won it from the Louisville Wolfpack in the Season 7 Championship game, but both teams subsequently folded over the offseason. As they were not transferred or sold, and going by the rules laid out above that the Unofficial Title is won by the team and not a person, that means the original title itself ceased to transfer when the Maulers team decided to not return for Season 8. Therefore, even though the Baltimore Vultures have Mr. Paterniti as co-owner, as they were not originally the Maulers, the current title is based off of Season 8’s champions, the Queen City Corsairs. It has been affectionately named the Thomas Paterniti Unofficial Championship Title and, at time of press, is currently held by the Denver Nightwings. This is their first time ever holding the title, having won it for the first time over the Dallas Lobos in the Semi-Final matchup last weekend.

Season One, being the inaugural season of the Simulation Football League, did not have an Unofficial Champion. At the end of the eight-week first season, the New York Knights won the championship, defeating the Oklahoma City Renegades in a tightly fought game in front of a then-record 32 viewers. The Knights, as the first SFL Champions, were unwittingly now a target for teams seeking to become the first Unofficial Champions. As Season 2 began, they learned the hard way that while the championship was set in stone, the Unofficial Title was a much more slippery beast indeed.

In the first week of the second season, the Renegades earned their revenge and their title, becoming the first-ever Unofficial SFL Champions, by defeating the title-holding New York Knights, 17-10. Their victory would be fleeting, however, as the San Francisco Bulldogs (no relation to the Sharks) would take it from them the very next week, 3-10. Not to be outdone, the Orlando Intimidators were next to assume the mantle of Unofficial Champions, defeating the Bulldogs 14-40 at home in Week 3. The very next week, Orlando would put up 41 points, but it wouldn’t be enough to hold onto the title, as the Dallas Stars exceeded them with a score of 45 to become the fourth Unofficial Champions in a row. Unfortunately for Dallas, they would see the other side of the coin in Week 5, falling to the Grand Rapids Rollers 40-45. This is the first, and so far, only time that five individual teams took the title for the first time in a season; with Dallas’ win over the Sharks, the remaining teams who could possibly become Regular Season Unofficial Champions for Season 12 have all held the title before.

Week Six saw the Rollers get embarrassingly shut out by the Intimidators 0-41, which began a path to the championship that no one could stop. After defeating the Kailua Wyverns 7-51 in the final regular season game, thereby becoming the first Regular Season Unofficial Champions, Orlando continued its trend of dominance, rolling past the Dallas Stars 17-56 in the semifinals and handily taking out the Oklahoma City Renegades in the championship game 24-42. Season 2 was in the books, with the Orlando Intimidators as the Champions, Regular Season Unofficial Champions, and Grand Unofficial Champions, as they were able to defend their regular season title in the postseason. The official breakdown of Season 2’s Unofficial Championship Title is as such (red text denotes a team has won the Unofficial Title for the first time. Please note as well each “title game,” as it were, are linked):

 

Week Season 2
1 Oklahoma City Renegades
2 San Francisco Bulldogs
3 Orlando Intimidators
4 Dallas Stars
5 Grand Rapids Rollers
6 Orlando Intimidators
7 Orlando Intimidators
8 Orlando Intimidators
END OF REGULAR SEASON Orlando Intimidators
Semi-Finals Orlando Intimidators
Championship Orlando Intimidators
Season Champion Orlando Intimidators
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Orlando Intimidators
Grand Champion Orlando Intimidators

The Intimidators lived up to their name, defending the Unofficial Title all the way through to the end of the second season. That offseason, the league added their first ever expansion team with the arrival of the Baltimore Crabs, who would quickly prove to be fierce competition for the Unofficial Title. Orlando held fast in the first week of the third season, defeating the Kailua Wyverns 7-33, having now kept the Unofficial Championship for 6 weeks in a row. They must have underestimated their competition in week two, unfortunately, as traveling to Old Bay Stadium in Baltimore had them feeling naked with their first loss in almost an entire season’s worth of games.The Intimidators fell to the Crabs 33-43, losing the Unofficial Championship Title to a team that was unstoppable in the regular season, going undefeated and coasting to the playoffs. Sadly for Baltimore, that was the extent of their success, as they were taken out of the playoffs by the San Francisco Bulldogs, who would then relinquish the Unofficial Title to the originators of it themselves, the New York Knights 20-22 in Season 3’s Championship Game. Due to the fact that the Baltimore Crabs, the Regular Season Unofficial Champion, did not win the Simulation Football League Championship, this season did not have a Grand Champion.

 

Week Season 3
1 Orlando Intimidators
2 Baltimore Crabs
3 Baltimore Crabs
4 Baltimore Crabs
5 Baltimore Crabs
6 Baltimore Crabs
7 Baltimore Crabs
8 Baltimore Crabs
END OF REGULAR SEASON Baltimore Crabs
Semi-Finals San Francisco Bulldogs
Championship New York Knights
Season Champion New York Knights
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Baltimore Crabs
Total Season Unofficial Champion New York Knights
Grand Champion N/A

New York originated the Unofficial Title, but it wasn’t until the Season Three Championship Game that they were able themselves to win it for the first time. That offseason saw many changes in the league. The Dallas Stars packed up and moved to Cleveland, rebranding as the Vipers, while the Grand Rapids Rollers also transferred in both location and ownership to become Thomas Paterniti’s Minneapolis Maulers. In the fourth season, the Simulation Football League remained an eight-team entity, but much like season three, it was a mostly one-team show. Week One saw Baltimore take back the title they had fought so hard to claim in the previous season, felling the New York Knights 38-34. The second week, however, saw Baltimore lose the title to the Maulers, who had found an almost-unstoppable playbook that would take them all the way to the Championship and into the SFL Hall of Fame as the first undefeated team to win it all. Therefore, as Season Four’s Regular Season Unofficial Champion, as well as Champion, the Minneapolis Maulers are the second team to take on the title of Grand Champion.

 

Week Season 4
1 Baltimore Crabs
2 Minneapolis Maulers
3 Minneapolis Maulers
4 Minneapolis Maulers
5 Minneapolis Maulers
6 Minneapolis Maulers
7 Minneapolis Maulers
8 Minneapolis Maulers
END OF REGULAR SEASON Minneapolis Maulers
Semi-Finals Minneapolis Maulers
Championship Minneapolis Maulers
Season Champion Minneapolis Maulers
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Minneapolis Maulers
Grand Champion Minneapolis Maulers

In many ways, Season Five was a repeat of Season Three; aside from the fact that the league now had twelve teams, with the D.C. Dragons, Louisville Wolfpack, Santa Fe Gorillas and Tallahassee Pride joining the fray, conferences, analysts covering some broadcasts, and a title game between two of the expansion teams that is frequently cited as the greatest game played in the league, the Unofficial Championship’s path was a repeat. Once again, it would fall into the hands of a team that, in Week 2, would take it down the home stretch and into the postseason. After grabbing the title from the reigning Grand Champions in Week One, the San Francisco Bulldogs would fall the next week. This season, it would be the Louisville Wolfpack who would hold the title from the second week onwards, receiving honors as Regular Season Unofficial Champion, but they too would falter like Season Three’s Crabs before them, losing the title to the eventual championship-winning D.C. Dragons in the Semi-Finals.

 

Week Season 5
1 San Francisco Bulldogs
2 Louisville Wolfpack
3 Louisville Wolfpack
4 Louisville Wolfpack
5 Louisville Wolfpack
6 Louisville Wolfpack
7 Louisville Wolfpack
8 Louisville Wolfpack
END OF REGULAR SEASON Louisville Wolfpack
Semi-Finals D.C. Dragons
Championship D.C. Dragons
Season Champion D.C. Dragons
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Louisville Wolfpack
Total Season Unofficial Grand Champion D.C. Dragons
Grand Champion N/A

Four more teams would join the SFL in the offseason, bringing the amount of teams up to 16. The expansion teams included the Dallas Law, Sioux Falls Sparrows, Houston Hyenas, and New York City Sailors. Meanwhile, the New York Knights had rebranded as the Queen City Corsairs, and the Honolulu Legends moved to the opposite end of the map of the US, setting up shop in Carolina as the Skyhawks. In addition to the league itself expanding, the amount of games played itself rose from 8 to 12, allowing more precise playoff seeding with so many teams. Week One saw perennial Unofficial Titleholder the Baltimore Crabs take the title from D.C., and for the first time in the history of the league itself, became the first team to hold the title through Week 2. Week Three had other plans, however, as the Sioux Falls Sparrows were able to briefly capture the title before losing it the next week to the previous season’s champions, the D.C. Dragons. After Week Four, the title transferred from the Dragons back to Baltimore in Week 7, before Minneapolis took it forcefully in Week 11. The Maulers were unable to defend the title in the final week of the Regular Season, allowing the Queen City Corsairs, nee the New York Knights, to become the SFL’s Regular Season Unofficial Champion for the first time, Season Champion for the third time, and first-time Grand Champions as well.

 

Week Season 6
1 Baltimore Crabs
2 Baltimore Crabs
3 Sioux Falls Sparrows
4 D.C. Dragons
5 D.C. Dragons
6 D.C. Dragons
7 Baltimore Crabs
8 Baltimore Crabs
9 Baltimore Crabs
10 Minneapolis Maulers
11 Minneapolis Maulers
12 Queen City Corsairs
END OF REGULAR SEASON Queen City Corsairs
Conference Semi-Finals Queen City Corsairs
Conference Championship Queen City Corsairs
SFL Championship Queen City Corsairs
Season Champion Queen City Corsairs
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Queen City Corsairs
Total Season Unofficial Champion Queen City Corsairs
Grand Champion Queen City Corsairs

Erik Barkley’s team was riding high, having just obtained their first Grand Champion title in six seasons playing in the SFL. They were able to defend their title in the first week of the seventh season, but the Curse of Week Two reared its head, and like that, the Baltimore Crabs had picked it up for the 14th and final time as a team. Baltimore’s run as champion was short-lived, however, as the Maulers and the Wolfpack would trade the title between each other for the remainder of the season, with the Maulers capturing it in Week 3, the Wolfpack claiming it in Week 6, and the Maulers re-taking it in the Season 7 Championship Game.

 

Week Season 7
1 Queen City Corsairs
2 Baltimore Crabs
3 Minneapolis Maulers
4 Minneapolis Maulers
5 Minneapolis Maulers
6 Louisville Wolfpack
7 Louisville Wolfpack
8 Louisville Wolfpack
9 Louisville Wolfpack
10 Louisville Wolfpack
11 Louisville Wolfpack
12 Louisville Wolfpack
END OF REGULAR SEASON Louisville Wolfpack
Conference Semi-Finals Louisville Wolfpack
Conference Championships Louisville Wolfpack
SFL Championship Minneapolis Maulers
Season Champion Minneapolis Maulers
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Louisville Wolfpack
Total Season Unofficial Champion Minneapolis Maulers
Grand Champion N/A

Something interesting happened in the offseason from Seasons 7 to 8: neither the Regular Season Unofficial Champion (the Louisville Wolfpack) nor the holder of the Unofficial Championship Title (the Minneapolis Maulers, as Total Season Unofficial Champion) returned to the league. With the original title held by the Minneapolis Maulers, Season 8 therefore would be a repeat of the first season in terms of which team would set the standard for the Unofficial Championship. Much like Season One, it was Queen City who came out on top in the Championship Game, once again putting a target on their back and beckoning to the other teams in the now-burgeoning league: Come at us.

The ninth season saw the Simulation Football League once again reach new heights, as the 9th Championship Game was broadcast on the front page of Twitch.tv, between the Chicago Wildcats and the Mexico City Aztecs. For those watching, it was a blistering fight between two football powerhouses; unbeknownst to those at the time, the Unofficial Championship Title was not on the line. It had been won in the final week of the Regular Season by the St. Louis Gladiators, who became the first non-playoff team in league history to become the Unofficial Season Champion. Therefore, while the season itself was replete with stories of the Altered Beast, the Unofficial Championship took an Altered Path, missing out on the postseason entirely. With four new teams winning the Unofficial Championship for the first time, Season 9 is tied with Season 12 for the second most amount of first-timers taking the title.

 

Week Season 9
1 Queen City Corsairs
2 Tallahassee Pride
3 Tallahassee Pride
4 Tallahassee Pride
5 Atlanta Swarm
6 Atlanta Swarm
7 Chicago Wildcats
8 Chicago Wildcats
9 Chicago Wildcats
10 Chicago Wildcats
11 Chicago Wildcats
12 St. Louis Gladiators
END OF REGULAR SEASON St. Louis Gladiators
Conference Semi-Finals St. Louis Gladiators
Conference Championships St. Louis Gladiators
SFL Championship St. Louis Gladiators
Season Champion Mexico City Aztecs
Regular Season Unofficial Champion St. Louis Gladiators
Total Season Unofficial Champion St. Louis Gladiators
Grand Champion N/A

Therefore, Season 9 is the first time the Unofficial Championship did not make its way into the postseason, so while Queen City was able to humble the Season 9 champion Mexico City in the opening week of the tenth season, the Unofficial Title itself remained in the capable hands of the Gladiators until the second week. Season Ten marked a clear change with how the title transferred; neither teams that made the championship game (Alaska Storm at Tallahassee Pride) obtained the title once during the regular season, nor did the previous Season Champion winning Aztecs take it. Instead, its newest owners during the tenth season were the Indianapolis Red Devils (currently the Indianapolis Spitfire) and the Tulsa Desperados, who, much like the Gladiators before them, were able to take the title right before the postseason to become Regular Season Unofficial Champions.

 

Week Season 10
1 St. Louis Gladiators
2 Indianapolis Red Devils
3 Tulsa Desperados
4 Tulsa Desperados
5 Tulsa Desperados
6 Tulsa Desperados
7 Tulsa Desperados
8 Tulsa Desperados
9 Sioux Falls Sparrows
10 Sioux Falls Sparrows
11 Indianapolis Red Devils
12 Tulsa Desperados
END OF REGULAR SEASON Tulsa Desperados
Wildcard Wednesday Tulsa Desperados (on Bye)
Conference Semi-Finals Houston Hyenas
Conference Championships Tallahassee Pride
SFL Championship Alaska Storm
Season Champion Alaska Storm
Unofficial Season Champion Tulsa Desperados
Total Season Unofficial Champion Alaska Storm
Grand Champion N/A

If the Maulers showed the league how an undefeated title run was done, Alaska did them one better. For the eleventh season of the SFL, Alaska not only was able to defend their Unofficial Championship from the first week to the last, they were subsequently able to take it all the way back to the Championship Game, becoming the first Grand Champion of the second Unofficial Championship run, as well as the first ever Ultimate Grand Champion, holding and defending the Unofficial Championship Title for every single week in the regular season. If and when the second Unofficial Championship Title is retired, its successor will be named the Max Paul Unofficial Championship Title.

 

Week Season 11
1 Alaska Storm
2 Alaska Storm
3 Alaska Storm
4 Alaska Storm
5 Alaska Storm
6 Alaska Storm
7 Alaska Storm
8 Alaska Storm
9 Alaska Storm
10 Alaska Storm
11 Alaska Storm
12 Alaska Storm
13 Alaska Storm (on Bye)
END OF REGULAR SEASON Alaska Storm
Wildcard Wednesday Alaska Storm (on Bye)
Quarter-Finals Alaska Storm
Semi-Finals Alaska Storm
SFL Championship Alaska Storm
Season Champion Alaska Storm
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Alaska Storm
Grand Champion Alaska Storm

We are now all but caught up to the present. The Simulation Football League is just wrapping up the 12th season, and through the trials and tribulations, a Season Two record-tying five new first-time title-holders have emerged, including the former Championship winning Aztecs. The current holders, the Denver Nightwings, are also holding it for the first time in their team history as the vie for the championship title against the Storm, as their former existence as the San Antonio Vaqueros yielded no titles. However, as they defeated Regular Season Unofficial Champion Dallas Lobos in the Semi-Finals, the title of Grand Champion will sit vacant this season, waiting for another to defend it through the SFL’s 13th postseason.

 

Week Season 12
1 Baltimore Vultures
2 Las Vegas Fury
3 N/A (Fury on Bye)
4 Tallahassee Pride
5 Tallahassee Pride
6 Tallahassee Pride
7 Mexico City Aztecs
8 Dallas Lobos
9 Dallas Lobos
10 Dallas Lobos
11 Dallas Lobos
12 Dallas Lobos (on Bye)
13 Dallas Lobos
END OF REGULAR SEASON Dallas Lobos
Wildcard Wednesday Dallas Lobos (on Bye)
Conference Semi-Finals Dallas Lobos
Conference Championships Denver Nightwings
SFL Championship Nightwings at Storm
Season Champion TBD
Regular Season Unofficial Champion Dallas Lobos
Total Season Unofficial Champion TBD
Grand Champion N/A

Will the Nightwings defend their improbable underdog run to the championship, as well as the Paterniti Unofficial Championship Title? Perhaps it will return to its original owner at the beginning of the season, the Alaska Storm? Whatever the outcome this year, one thing remains certain, at least as far as the Paterniti Unofficial Championship Title is concerned. There will always be more legends to load and fresh contenders seeking their spot among the victorious. May the best team (unofficially, at least) take home the title!

APPENDIX: RECORDS AND WHATNOT


Most Amount of Weeks Title Held (Total): 18 Weeks, Alaska Storm

Longest Time Spent as Reigning Unofficial Champion: 18 Weeks, Alaska Storm

Always The Bridesmaid (Won Regular Season, Has Not Won Championship): TIED – Baltimore Crabs, Tulsa Desperados, St. Louis Gladiators, Dallas Lobos

Season(s) With The Most First-Time Winners: Season 2 / Season 12 (five teams each)

APPENDIX: PER-TEAM UNOFFICIAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Team Name Weeks Held
Alaska Storm 18
Grand Rapids Rollers / Minneapolis Maulers**¹² 16
Louisville Wolfpack¹¹ 16
Baltimore Crabs¹ 14
Tulsa Desperados¹ 8
Dallas Lobos¹ 8
New York Knights / Queen City Corsairs****¹² 7
Tallahassee Pride 6
Orlando Intimidators*¹² 6
D.C. Dragons* 5
Chicago Wildcats 5
San Francisco Bulldogs 3
Sioux Falls Sparrows 3
St. Louis Gladiators¹ 2
Indianapolis Red Devils / Spitfire 2
Las Vegas Fury 2
Atlanta Swarm 2
Oklahoma City Renegades 1
Dallas Stars 1
Houston Hyenas 1
Baltimore Vultures 1
Mexico City Aztecs* 1
Denver Nightwings 1

¹ won a Regular Season Unofficial Champion title

² won a Grand Championship
³ won an Ultimate Grand Championship (defended the Unofficial Title for the entire regular season and postseason)
* won the SFL Championship

 

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