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Understanding Change - Handling Stress, Mistakes, and Escapism in Sim Leagues

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Understanding Change

Handling Stress, Mistakes, and Escapism in Sim Leagues


After a real-life year of uncertainty filled with a pandemic, political happenings, explosions, murder hornets, and the loss of beloved athletes, entertainers, and political figures, many have desperately clung to any sense of stability. In real life, it’s manifested as a desire to keep things the way they were in a world that’s forever changing; and in spaces to which our free time is dedicated, some have found solace in those that offer their time and empathy.


But one of the hardships in hobbies – especially ones as intricate and ever-evolving as sim leagues – is even they are subject to rapid change. We’ve seen incredible free agency signings like @OscarTheSwagDude ‘s massive haul just a couple of seasons after becoming a GM and @Wheaties reuniting the Gunner sisters by signing Amina last season. And while these changes to the in-sim landscape have been significant, the past week (and change) has been one driven by frustration, surprise, and anxiety around the future. While some teams may have a new lease on life, the league finds itself with legends stepping down, preferring the life of quality players with individual agency to one filled with tough management decisions. Really, I can’t blame them – I think most GMs have similar thoughts from time to time.


Oftentimes I’m tempted to use a few titles to help segment my articles, as there are frequently discrete ideas that I want to address. With many of this season’s interconnected whirlwind of changes oriented around users stepping down from high-up positions and a mistake requiring a re-sim in a pivotal playoff game, this is a bit more difficult; I’ll write in a ‘stream of consciousness’ as a result, and if some headers come up along the way, nice! If not, you’ll have to wade through a sea of confusing, probably disjointed thoughts. I don't have any cute or funny pictures for you in this article, as I worry they may detract from its purpose. Sorry in advance.


A Mistake

Death Valley vs. Hades Creek – a matchup of veritable titans, teams who have scarcely known single-digit win seasons since the expansion and rebranding of the EFL NCAA to the ECFA. It was a hotly-contested matchup between what were ostensibly two top-three teams in the regular season. Offenses driven by running backs Danny Fenton @fishy and a two-headed monster in Xavier Holloway @Symmetrik and Demetric Kazemir @ngine4 – a Hades Creek special – led offenses that would have bulldozed some of the best NCAA teams of yore. It was a contest that Death Valley initially won 31-21, and it was entirely believable provided the strength of the two rosters and the unpredictability of DDPSF.


It hardly ever happens in the EFL, but even with a utility as clean as SBAO/EFLO mistakes can happen. A deep dive into the index following a pivotal Death Valley vs. Hades Creek game in the Legends Conference Semifinals revealed an error with a couple of Hades Creek players playing at base TPE. Cue a swelling movement pushing for a re-sim, as well as generalized dissatisfaction and some probable heated behind-the-scenes discussions about the legitimacy of the game. Indeed, fiery athletic directors who leverage their finely curated franchise history and passion in pitches as part of their job might not take a mistake like this lightly. For the first time in as long as I can remember, the EFL would need a do-over. Cue a thoughtful, deliberate, and conscientious post by Turner that announced both the need for a re-sim, as well as his own retirement to the surprise of the entire league.


An Administrative Monolith Retires

The end result for the most recent chapter in Death Valley vs. Hades Creek would be the same: Death Valley won a close 16-10 nail-biter, and the Phalanx would go home with playoff hopes crushed a second time. Whether bittersweet or just bitter, those involved in the Legends Conference heavyweight boxing match would at least know their outcome was legitimate.


And in just a few days’ retrospect, I think it’s fair to say that Turner handled this situation with a measured hand and grace that masked frustration with the events of the real and sim league worlds. The most he could offer at this point in time was his apologies; he accepted responsibility for his mistake in its entirety and offered an explanation for how it could have occurred; and was empathetic to the members to whom he had served as administrator for so long. Personally, I think it would have been very easy to dismiss the outrage of others and just keep the results of the game, especially with political events raging and the shadow of heated arguments in the real life channel in the not-so-distant past. Everyone has a personal limit – both with regard to handling short term conflicts and fatigue from weathering the ‘smaller’ confrontations spaced out over years. When users argue over sports or politics, Turner keeps a steady hand in moderating while allowing others to express their emotions. When users oppose a slate of changes to the league, Turner hears the disquieted user base and acknowledges or even adjusts to the suggestions put forth by others.


It should be obvious to most that Turner is forced to play the role of necessarily impartial arbiter, a role that is oft thankless despite needing to be the ‘face’ of the league. In addition to running – or at the very least publishing – the official and logistical aspects of the league like schedules and new hires, there is a demand that he mediates interpersonal conflicts and finds a way forward for the league. As the league expanded from eight to twelve teams in both tiers of the league – first with the ECFA, then with the EFL – it was obvious that we were headed in a direction that would bring more users. With more users naturally bringing along more conflicts, concerns, and questions, the stress of his position necessarily increased.


Think to yourself about how stressful, frustrating, and uncertain the last year has been for you. What I’d written in my first paragraph – “pandemic, political happenings, explosions, murder hornets, and the loss of beloved athletes, entertainers, and political figures” – is only a small sampling of the larger national or worldwide stressors. These don’t even include the damaging effects of necessary social isolation or lost loved ones – hell, even arguments with coworkers or bosses don’t crack that list, to say nothing of more traumatic personal events.


Why Do You Do Sim Leagues?

I’ve written on this topic a little before. For many of us, sim leagues offer a chance for an escape; they’re a way to have some fun in our free time, especially in a world where an awful lot seems to be going wrong. There’s a vanishingly small chance any single person gets to be a professional athlete, and places like the VHL, SBA, and EFL give us an opportunity to live that out to the fullest. Some do it so they can look at their stats and say “hey, there’s nobody better than me at this,” a chance for recognition in a meaningful way in a community they care about.


I can’t claim to know what everyone’s greater motivation for sim leagues was, is, or will be. But in general, I’d like to think most of us spend our free time doing activities that make us happier or give us some kind of meaning in a fast-paced world. We have access to an astonishing amount of information at our fingertips, and while I’m not going to muse poetic on psychology or anthropology, we either gravitate to or are forcefully fed information intended to grab our attention. With social media, imposter syndrome runs rampant across communities (even among experts and those with ample experience) as people are forced to compare themselves to unachievably perfect snapshots of others’ lives, and I suspect there are relatively few of us who have a net-positive happiness level from the news cycle of the last year.


I’ve told many members of both the EFL and VHL community that I will stop doing sim leagues when they don’t make me happy anymore – when I feel the bad outweighs the good, as I have no interest in spending my free time in a relationship that makes me dread interacting in it. I’ve been very lucky to this point to have a positive history with sim leagues, even with the hardships and comparatively small frustrations of the last few seasons; and I hope that it will remain that way until I am forced to stop sim leagues by other life events on the horizon.


I have not chosen to wax poetic on ‘why sim leagues?’ without purpose, however. Think about your personal reasons for joining this community, and the ‘clusters’ of users that give you support and a reason to continue on with this website and the Discord. Then imagine being the people that have been tasked with keeping those communities together and finding ways to make them even better. Turner’s job wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be easy; it’s nobody’s ‘fault’ for his stepping down, per se, but I would ask you to spend a moment in his shoes and understand the  burden he has taken on for what is, for most of the rest of us, a fun avenue for escapism.


Thanks for reading.

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I really appreciate some of the feedback I've gotten from users in the EFL so far. No doubt it addresses some concerns and misses others - but I think getting what's been on some peoples' mind out there at all is better than holding it back.


Claim #2 of 3, week ending 1/16/21

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