Cameron Irvine is a 22 year old sports editor and the commissioner of the Simulation Football League (SFL). He has been running simulation football leagues since 2011. You can find him on twitch.tv, providing compelling play-by-play commentary for the league’s games simulated on All Pro Football 2K8. It is the only play-by-play commentary of simulation football in the world. Fans all across the United States and several fans from Europe regularly tune in to the broadcasts.
Several months ago, members of the Casual Adult Gamers (CAG) forum joined the SFL as owner, coordinators, scouts, voice talent for videos and even players on the field! The Baltimore Crab’s inaugural season has been a great success. Thomas Paterniti (tpaterniti at CAG) is recognized in the forums for his many talents and accomplishments (university professor, missions trips to Africa, football coach and teaches Latin just to name a few). Paterniti runs the Baltimore Crabs on the field in addition to detailing player contracts and options and general manager (GM) duties.
CAG has some questions for Irvine and Paterniti during this round table discussion. The article also provides some quotes from CAG members about their experience watching SFL games.
CAG: Cameron, you do three live football play-by-play broadcasts per week. That’s approximately seven hours on the air per week, not including countless hours maintaining the SFL website, detailed statistics, twitter and YouTube channels, etc. Obviously, you must love doing this. Why do you do this?
Cameron: My responsibility to put out a quality product gives me a non-paying part time job. Most days, however, it’s not a job. It’s always been a passion of mine to create, innovate and use many skills to make sports unique. I never would have imagined those desires as a little kid would lead me to where I am today and I am hoping that the league can take my sports journalism career to bigger and better heights in the future. At the same time, my girlfriend, my family and I enjoy our down time and I enjoy missing the games in the off-season. It keeps the fire going year after year.
CAG: Thomas, this is your first experience with the SFL and by your interest level and involvement with the league, it is obvious it has been an enjoyable experience for you. What is so great about the SFL?
Thomas: Cameron Irvine and the SFL have done a great job of providing an experience that is both multifaceted, and yet of the highest quality throughout. The first thing you notice when you come to the league is the experience of the games. Cam’s announcing really makes them special, just like watching a real life football game. I find myself looking forward to the weekend of games the same way I would to a weekend of college or pro football. But then once you dig deeper, the experience grows even more. If you get a team owner to name a player after you, then it becomes your avatar that you can follow and root for each week. As a coordinator, you have a direct impact on what happens on the field by choosing the plays. You also get to work with your owner to build your roster, game plan for your opponents, and plan for seasons to come. By the time game day arrives, you are heavily invested on many levels. The experience of the game continues in the chat room, where you get to watch the game and react to it with your friends online, something you don’t even get to do in real life games! Tim (tjspeaks) has also been very generous running cash prize giveaways where you guess a number of a relevant stat that will be recorded during the contest, and that adds even more excitement and interest to the game.
Beyond just the games, in time you learn about the owners and come to see their personalities and quirks in the teams they have constructed. You come to understand the history of the teams and of the league, and this adds a dimension of meaning to the experience as well. Finally, you start to learn about the players, where they have come from, who has struggled in the past, who is struggling more now, which ones have seemingly turned their careers around, and you get yet another layer of meaning and interest. I know that one direction the league is going this offseason is towards more developed stories and information for all the players.
As a fan and a coach, you don’t always think about all of these things. Some rise to the surface while others remain in the background, but the overall effect is a great league that has meaning for me, where I want to succeed and where I am excited to see all of the teams play, not just the Crabs!
“I haven’t been that emotionally invested in the outcome of a football game since the Patriots last played. Wow! It was fun to feel the adrenaline pump again.” -vertigho
CAG: Cameron, this is a live broadcast that everyone is watching. It gets recorded and is posted indefinitely on YouTube and twitch. How much prep time goes into a broadcast? Do you ever get nervous?
Cameron: Each game, there’s 30-45 minutes of prep work. It takes 10-12 minutes building each team. I have perfected creating each player in roughly 60 seconds, 5-10 minutes implementing owner playbook changes, 10-15 minutes updating scoreboard graphics and 5-8 minutes updating the website and reaching out on social media that we’ve got a game going on! I only get nervous when I’m running behind. I hold myself to a high standard but life happens and with so many dynamics involved in the prep work things can get behind easily. I don’t want to lose potential viewers for that reason. Once we’re on the air and kicked off, there’s never any nerves, other than excitement for what’s about to happen – since I don’t know either! I want to clarify that none of our broadcasts are pre-recorded. I am watching along with everyone else.
“What a great game… I was sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time. Amazing. Cameron was great as well. I can’t wait for the next game.” -OzzyOsborne34
CAG: Thomas, Cameron Irvine invests countless hours each week setting up the teams for the games, doing play-by-play commentary, managing the website and various social outlets, etc. What comments do you have about Cameron as far as his invested time and the all-around SFL product?
Thomas: I have the utmost respect and admiration for Cam and his effort running the league. As someone who has run leagues before; it is not easy to always be the one putting in hours upon hours to provide free content to others. You typically receive no reward besides the happiness and enjoyment of those recipients, and so it is a task that requires a great spirit of charity and benevolence to perform. Finding anyone who is consistent and reliable in nearly any walk of life is challenging, so to have someone like Cam who is rock-solid week in and week out, and who is so willing to give of himself for the benefit of others is almost unheard of. You won’t find many people like Cameron Irvine. When I think of all the requisite skills for running the league: the announcing skills to do the play-by- play, the tech savvy to run the broadcasts on twitch, the different skills required to run the website and update it constantly, the social media savvy to run a YouTube channel, to post on facebook and twitter, the 2K savvy to build teams, import uniforms, construct playbooks from owner instructions, then most importantly the wisdom and experience to be able to run a league, to make it fair, enjoyable, excellent in every aspect, to manage all of the personalities of the leagues owners and members – when I think of all of these requirements, I am inclined to change my assessment and say that there is no way you will ever find another Cameron Irvine! They broke the mold when they made him. I think it is worth it for everyone who enjoys the content and enjoyment that the SFL provides to take time to reflect on the level of skill, effort, consistency and sacrifice it takes from Cam to make the league a reality. I am surely not as appreciative of it as I should be.
“My goodness…I’m finally starting to calm down! Great fun!” -dazzo47
CAG: Cameron, what is the best part of your experience running the SFL and doing the broadcasts?
Cameron: The best part of the SFL and the broadcasts is seeing people latch on to the product and to see people coming back. Along with that, it’s All-Pro’s dynamics that make every game interesting and the developing storylines within the league are incredible. Pick any player, I can tell you all about him. For example, Joseph Redfeather. He’s the league’s all-time passer, largely due to his MVP season in the Summer of 2013 when he led the New York Knights to their first championship. Redfeather was New York Knight’s owner Erik Barkley’s quarterback when Barkley ran the Queen City Corsairs of the WAFL – our old sim league. The rub on Redfeather has always been that he can’t take care off the ball, that when given too much leash, he throws too many interceptions. But Redfeather has never had a reliable running game, whether that be in Queen City, New York or now in San Francisco, the spotlight has always been on him and for most of his career, he’s handled that spotlight poorly. When Barkley decided to move his team back to Buffalo, he decided not to bring Redfeather along with him, trading him to San Francisco and parting ways with his signal caller that had been in his organization since 2011 (when the WAFL first began). Every single player in our league has a story and it’s neat to have an encyclopedia of knowledge and creativity most people only wish they had.
“The commentary is brilliant. Every now and then Cam throws out a quote that really catches your attention. The exciting back and forth game play kept me on edge. Having all the CAG guys there was definitely entertaining.” -Eddie Gauge Cephas
CAG: Thomas, you have found great success running the team on the field. How much time did you invest trying to implement a playbook that maximizes the talent of your personnel? How much time do you invest on average each week preparing for the next game?
Thomas: I have spent a great deal of time this season trying to better myself as an offensive and defensive coach. I have a unique background as a real football assistant head coach with WR, DB and O-line as my position specialties and opponent scouting and game planning as one of my primary responsibilities. I have also played another online simulation game, goallineblitz (GLB), which is somewhat similar to the SFL for six and a half years, and I have been playing All Pro Football since the game released, and of course I played 2K football before that, since 2003. When I came on as coach, tj, vertigho and I tried to pool our ideas to pick the roster setup that we thought would do as well as possible. We had no experience in simulation football style of play so we looked to other teams currently in the league to see what had worked for them.
Now in response to your question about tailoring the offense and defense to our team’s abilities, for defense I spent a bit of time initially then less as the season began. Defense in the league is at the moment not too complicated so I’d say we took about a week running tests against simulated teams and figuring out what setup we thought would work best. Of course we try new things every week and tweak the plays a little to suit our opponent. Sometimes the changes work well, at other times they are a total disaster so we have definitely put plays in then taken them right back out the following week!
The offense is much more complicated and difficult to get right, so I have spent a lot more time on it, on average between 6-8 hours a week since June. My approach was to first throw out everything I knew from gaming player vs. player and start running tests. Sometimes we ran tests against teams in the game, sometimes against our best guess of actual opponents’ teams. By now I have honed in on a nice procedure that will give me standardized results on which plays work and which don’t. In my experience, you just have to test the plays to see if they work. Sometimes very similar plays in very similar formations will produce quite different results. For example, why would a stretch play work better in one formation with the TE off the line but not so well in a similar formation with him on the line? Who knows? Maybe you could come up with an answer to that question, but practically you just test and see which ones work. So that is what I spend most of my time doing, especially lately. I have tested hundreds of plays and I keep copious notes of the results in spreadsheets and word files so I can return to them later and so that I don’t waste time repeating a test I already performed.
A gameday week now takes a pretty set form, which is a routine I suppose I fell into based on my real life coaching experience. I watch the games on the weekend. On Saturday and Sunday I am typically testing offensive plays, deciding which ones I want to add and remove. The defense is a little less scientific. I make mental notes during games of what I liked and didn’t then decide which plays to change afterward. By Monday or Tuesday I have a pretty well-formed game plan. Then, typically I will have already watched 3 or 4 games of our opponent and created their roster, uniforms and a pretty close replica of their playbook based on those games. I typically do this on the weekend also. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I run full-length sims under actual game conditions of our team with the game plan against my replica of our opponent. Typically I run 4-6 of these full-length sims during those days. I watch for general trends, how much we pass, how much we run, how well we defend, but I also look for specific things, like on what plays did we throw an INT, or to which of our opponent’s plays were we particularly susceptible. Usually these tests only lead to minor changes. I may change about 10-20% of the plays I was planning to use, or less if everything goes well, but I typically always adjust something midweek. Fridays for me are too busy with real life to do SFL planning, so I try to have my SFL game plan done by Thursday. I then submit it to Tim and he sends it to Cam. Then I show up for the game and root for the Crabs – simple!
I will say that I view this time spent as largely an investment because it is our first season. We will still try to improve as long as we exist as a franchise, but I expect that the job will require less time next season since I will have a year of experience and knowledge gained from the work I have put in this inaugural season.
I want to add that CAG members have also been very generous with their time. AllenJD is our scout, he watches games and sends me various scouting information. Whatever I ask him to do, he does it cheerfully and in a timely fashion, and I am very grateful to have him working with me. Tim and I talk daily about various things related to the league, which definitely includes strategy, Tim is a great football gamer, an even better person, and he really, really knows football inside and out, so he is an invaluable resource and I would be a fool not to seek his advice often. Don’t let the simple T-shirt selling owner routine fool you! I will also add that over the summer when I was out of the country and had no access to a console or the game, Tim did a great job coordinating with other CAG members to help me do scouting and play testing by proxy, and I would attribute several wins earlier in the season to contributions from HeavyHitter55, vertigho, Joe Lynn, Eddie Gauge, and dazzo0007 in addition to those from Tim and AllenJD, of course.
“I saw it live as Don_teked. It was interesting and fun, the commentary was deffo cool. I found it an enjoyable experience.” –MrTanelorn (CAG note: Don lives in Norway and is a frequent viewer of lives games)
CAG: Cameron, the CAG forum entered the SFL as an expansion team (Baltimore Crabs) this year. At last count, the SFL thread in the CAG forum was nearing 11,000 views and has over 400 posts. In addition to the team being very popular here, the team has fared well on the field. How has the expansion project worked out for the league? Are you surprised by the on the field success of the team that had zero cpu vs cpu experience and was two seasons behind as far as playbook implementation?
Cameron: Baltimore has been exactly what this league needed to take it to the next level and I couldn’t be happier with the owners’ decision to accept Baltimore into the league as the newest franchise. We want all of our franchises to take after Baltimore and model their franchise with the passion and dedication that they possess. I’m not surprised by their success. I’m surprised by the record, but not the success. CAG has put time and energy into the product and just like anything in life; you’re going to get out what you put in. Every offense and defense is different. Remove one piece from the puzzle and the whole dynamic falls apart. Baltimore wasn’t really behind, they just had to get their feet under them, which happened more quickly than most expected.
“Dang what a game!” -AllenJD
CAG: Thomas, do you believe the Baltimore Crabs can win the Championship? Who do you believe are the two teams that could stand in the way?
Thomas: Do I believe the Crabs can win it all? Of course! WILL we win it all? That is very far from a given. Despite our current undefeated record, many of our games have been very close, with us only pulling away at the end. Looking at the standings today, I also see that 3 of our 5 toughest games this season, against the Renegades, the Rollers and the Knights, are yet to be played. Furthermore, you never know what will happen once those lights come on during the game. Sometimes your players play out of their minds, sometimes they stink up the joint. So it is not at all inconceivable that another team besides the Crabs could win it all, but at the same time I would not be surprised if we won it all.
Honestly, the two teams I see standing in our way are the Knights and the Intimidators. The Knights are a very scary team. They have a ton of weapons on offense, in fact over 60% of their talent is allocated to offense, and their defensive players were chosen in the most strategic positions. They have two great safeties with excellent range who take away anything cheap and everything deep downfield in the passing game. On offense they are incredibly dangerous, with the overarching offensive philosophy of dominating time of possession. They accomplish this by grinding you down with the run, taking occasional deep shots, and using short and intermediate passes to convert 3rd downs when necessary. Park HeeChul is small, but he is the fastest, most dangerous HB in the league. You hold your breath every time he gets a carry because if he finds even a crack or a seam in the blocking, he will take it 70 yards to the house. The WRs Jake Legacy and Donald Miller are sure-handed and make big catches to move the chains all game long. QB Wes St. Clair will set a record for passer efficiency this year and probably for fewest INTs and highest completion percentage as well. HB HeeChul is somehow just as dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield as he is running the ball, and if (big IF) you can contain all of these weapons, you still have superstar TE Brock Studwell to deal with, a player who has a matchup advantage over almost any defender on your team and who is one of, if not the, most talented weapons they have. How do you beat a team like this? Put in the best plays you can and hope for the best. Not many teams have beaten them and our one win against them was an improbable come-from-behind victory in OT. That was in our stadium. This week we have to go play them on their home turf.
Orlando is another very well designed team. I won’t break them down in detail, but they won the championship last season behind a dominant passing attack. Owner Kyle Walsh really knows his stuff and after weathering some hiccoughs early in the season, the Intimidators seem to be living up to their name again and climbing back up the standings. I don’t think anyone would feel comfortable meeting them in the post season.
The Rollers and Renegades are very good teams as well, but I think they will struggle with roster limitations on offense. The Rollers I feel have top tier talent at QB, RB and TE, but not enough weapons beyond this, and it is a challenge to get a TE involved in the passing game and use him to his full potential the way you can with a WR. The Renegades have plenty of weapons, but I feel that their QB is limited, which could hold them back. Still, though, two very good teams.
“That was a lot of fun! It’s great so many CAG guys were there. Loved it!” -Pcat Magoo
CAG: Cameron, the SFL twitch channel has gained 50 new followers in just a few months. That’s phenomenal growth. What does that mean to you personally and what does that mean for the league?
Cameron: The twitch growth has been faster than I ever thought possible. We are reaching our audience and by gaining followers, people are proving that they are gravitating to the product. We don’t have set goals in terms of social media followers and subscribers but as long as we continue to see growth, it’s a success. We hope that the 2k company gravitates toward the project more in the future.
“I, too, am emotionally invested in the outcome just like watching my Bears. If Cameron scours these forums, I hope he knows that the energy he brings to the game really sucks you in and makes it feel like it’s a real game. I can’t wait to watch the next one come Monday!” -dazzo0007
CAG: Thomas, what Baltimore Crab’s player has surprised you the most? What player has disappointed you the most?
Thomas: The most surprising player has been Demetrious Outdat, our X receiver. We invested fewer resources in him than in Nick T. Quick, and no doubt Nick has been great, but Outdat has also been great, and has singlehandedly won us some close games with his big performances. When teams focus on Nick and on Snider, our great HB, Outdat makes them pay. Simply put, it’s exactly what you need your number 3 weapon on offense to do, and there aren’t many players in the league who do it better than him. I have not been really disappointed with any players, but I will say that QB Mike Dazzo has not played the way I expected. If I could say that I am disappointed in him at all, it is in his consistency, but then when I reflect further, he is actually quite consistent in terms of his stats. He has never had a game with a QB rating lower than 90, for example. I think it is just the emotion and the ups and downs during a game that make me sometimes puzzled at his performance. I will watch him play and he doesn’t wow me for stretches, but somehow he always manages to get the job done. Maybe he will throw a pick in the first half, even two, but then by the end of the game he has 275 yards, 2 TDs and a 95 QB rating. Probably this is just the result of me being the offensive coordinator and watching the game through those eyes. When things go well, I expected it; when they go badly, something has gone wrong and that stands out for me. So I tend to focus on the negative a little too much with him.
“The SFL is such an awesome and unique product. Cameron is gifted. The game day experience is a blast.” -tjspeaks
CAG: Cameron, what is your vision for the league?
Cameron: The vision is to provide a professional broadcast experience across the board. We want there to be the NFL and the SFL. Period. If you like football, you should be able to enjoy our product and latch on. We want to be the greatest sim product ever invented and when it’s all said and done we want to be looked at as one of the most unique ideas to ever hit the internet. I could go on and on about upcoming plans but the biggest plan is just to provide a better experience each game. For the rest of the big plans, you’ll just have to keep watching. 🙂
“”Wow, I’m a little upset that I didn’t join for the first game – this was an amazing experience, being able to see the action unfold before my eyes. Getting to share football talk with other football loving people was great – great camaraderie. Getting to hear Cameron Irvine live is absolutely amazing – his energy is like none other and you can tell that he truly enjoys providing commentary. He’s a great professional – will definitely be back next game.” -HeavyHitter55
CAG: Thomas, any closing comments?
Thomas: I think that connecting CAG to the SFL has been a perfect match and it is a real testament to both Cam and Greylock. They have both assembled a network of gamers who are older, more mature, family oriented and people who value relationships, fair play and sportsmanship above all else. Finding such like-minded and awesome people who share your interests is a great blessing and I am very thankful for it. I truly believe that these shared values between members of the SFL and members of CasualAdultGamers.com has greatly contributed to the success of their pairing and I am excited to continue being a part of both and to watching both grow in coming years.
CAG: Thomas, thank you for your time and thank you for your countless hours invested that have made the Baltimore Crabs inaugural season a success. Your time, effort and talent has made season one very enjoyable for many here at CAG.
CAG: Cameron, any closing comments?
Cameron: I’d like to thank CAG for the time. One way or another, we all have fun. It’s about having fun. It’s about having a vision – a vision to be better. Please visit our always-growing website daily for league updates at www.simulationfl.com, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube and Twitch Channels and mark our recently announced postseason dates on your calendar – you won’t want to miss the epic action! #thedramaisreal #unitedwesim #longlive2Kfootball
CAG: Thanks Cameron for your time and thank you for all the work you do for the SFL. It’s been a unique and wonderful experience for many of us here at CAG.
CAG: CAG invites all of you to follow the league’s channel on twitch. After you follow the channel, you will receive an email whenever a game is live and you can tune in to see what the buzz is all about!