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Volume 25 No. 107
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Weekend Plans With American Flag Football League Founder Jeff Lewis

Lewis, a longtime sports fan, believes flag football will only grow in popularity down the line
Photo: JEFF LEWIS

American Flag Football League Founder & CEO JEFF LEWIS has been hard at work this week in the organization's N.Y. offices helping prepare for the league's second season, and this weekend he'll take some time to not only roam the sidelines for his own son's game, but also study the NFL product in an effort to increase the AFFL's popularity in the coming years. Lewis, who before taking the reins of the league spent a decade at Guggenheim Partners, took THE DAILY through the league office's immediate points of emphasis, what he takes away from the NFL model and whether he gives the referees the business in his son's games. Lewis: "This job's great because now when I’m watching the NFL on Sundays I can tell my wife I’m actually working. How many people can use that excuse?" 

INSIDE THE AFFL: We’re putting things into place for our second season, which is going to be a little different than the first. We're a sports league that doesn’t yet look exactly like a traditional one. If you buy an MLS team, you have to build a stadium. That’s part of the drill. But once you build that, your problem is finding other people to use your stadium when you’re not. As we’re tenants rather than owners, we constantly have to find good facilities for our games. So that’s been a big thing in our offices this week, finding the right venues and making sure we can set them up properly in the right parts of the country. We’re also about to start the process of signing up our teams again. The way we operate is we have a tournament that features 128 teams from all over the country. We’re setting up where those preliminary games will take place and how those teams will be selected. We’ve also been working on introducing our first four teams that will be based in cities. They’ll participate in the tournament this year and then next year they’ll play a full 10-game schedule and we’ll start to resemble a more traditional league. We’ve been working with our advisers on that and shortly we’ll have a pocket of people who’ll hopefully want to own those teams.

WEEKEND DOCKET: Usually, at the end of a week Friday isn’t a real big night for me. Our kids are in 8th and 9th grade, and in New York we’re right in the middle of bar mitzvah season. The next three Saturdays I’m at either a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, which will be a service in the morning then party at night. We have our son playing in a flag football game of his own on Saturday, which I'll coach, then Sunday I’m watching football. Our games are on the NFL Network, where we’ve been working together to try to create an interesting way to present our league. I look at everything differently now. How they’re being presented, the issues with referees and roughing-the-passer, keeping the flow of the game moving. I’m always thinking about how these things effect what we’re doing. 

SUPPORTING THE BIG BLUE: I’m a Giants fan, even though it’s not easy. I just believe fundamentally you can’t take a running back second overall in the draft considering the longevity of their careers and the random walks of where some of the greats have come from. So many were undrafted or late picks. SAQUON BARKLEY is clearly one of the most talented backs in the NFL, the guy's amazing. But we’re 1-4. If you look at what drives success in the league, I always come back to offensive line play.

COACH'S CORNER: Having coached my son's team over the years, I’ve had to rein myself in a little bit on the sidelines. There’s no question I’ve had some moments of which I’m not proud. It’s funny, the one thing for which I won’t apologize is there have been times where I’ve felt games got really physical. Then the other coach was encouraging his team to play that way, which really wasn’t appropriate. I don’t really care if the ref makes an honest mistake, but I’ll get a little hot under the collar about that sort of thing. 

Know of someone you'd like to see featured in Weekend Plans? Shoot an email to tleary@sportsbusinessdaily.com.