Written By Josh Farnsworth
Images By Frank ‘The Franchise’ Wade
Sim-ply home: An SFL origin story
That was the beatdown I took to end my season – another soul-sucking loss at the hands of a text-based football algorithm. It ended the same way so many others did: at the hands of opponents whose deeper expense accounts on the game outdid the hours I sunk into building something. Unfortunately, my carefully constructed up tempo offense was no match for the additional credit card swipes of the coach on the other sideline. Still worse, I visited the forum pages section to see if the two questions I asked a month ago – and re-asked two weeks ago – had any answers. Crickets yet again…
Log off forever.
Deep in the summer of 2020, with a pandemic silo-ing off much of the world from itself, and the sports world still plotting how to reconfigure itself under unique conditions, I was somewhat desperate. Desperate for sports. Desperate for community. Desperate for a hobby…a sliver of interesting humanity…anything.
I love my family, but escapism is essential and my escapist destinations were limited and stale. At this point, I had two great escapist hobbies: writing (hence, this new column. Shameless plug: More to come, so stay tuned.) and simulated sports. Simulating sports was something I did before it was cool. (We are officially cool, right? I’ll take your nodding to this column as a yes.) As someone who originally went to school for sports broadcasting, I used to practice calling games by putting my video games on “simulate” and commentating into a tape recorder. Yes, I was essentially talking to myself. I also simulated video game seasons for fun – taking notes the entire time. I’d do this on Friday nights in my 20s, when as a broke newspaper editor, staying in was a way to save what little money I had. While many of my peers lived the club scene, I was busy building my own sports scene. It was a small world, but it was mine. The issue has always been the community. I played games that were fun, but they were solo endeavours, and for someone as outgoing as myself (yes, despite not being the dude that went to the club often, I am extrinsic), a lack of community always seemed to be the fatal flaw for every sim I joined. It was fun in the short-term, but joyless to do on my own for any length of time.
In essence, years had passed, and I was still talking to myself. I waited a few hours to decompress from the drudgery of ’56-6′ and used a search engine with the words “football simulation” and hit enter. A few options emerged, but one popped. One had a spectacular presentation attached to a recent draft. One had an immediately embraceable community. One had history, but was clearly building towards something special. The SFL, you say? Sold.
I was assigned to the Birmingham Fuel SFLm squad (may the black-and-gray squad RIP) and became fast friends with teammates and other members of the SFL community. I asked a question in the general chat and it was answered. Immediately – with friendliness and genuine concern for my growth in the league. Multiple times.
I was home.
About six months later, I found myself at my dining room table dressed in a sports jacket. The nice sports jacket, at that. I thought it would be funny to replicate that other televised football league’s draft and pretend to have something embroidered on the inside of my jacket. Since I had no idea how to embroider anything, a piece of paper that crudely spelled out my SFLm team name had to do. Draft night #1 for the Class of 16. I waited on the edge of my seat until I got the call with the Vancouver Legion on the clock. It was Andy Hamilton and he was alerting me that I had found my SFL home. I adjusted the camera on my laptop and heard my name read by the commissioner. On the camera came my face. I pulled open my jacket to show off my…eh hem…embroidery job. No matter. I arrived.
56-6? In the rear view mirror. Moreover, I found a group – my new sports world. The SFL…
…And a year later, it still feels like my simulated home.