A team of the best amateur flag football players in the country squared off against a team of former pros with $1 million on the line … and the results weren’t what you’d expect.
At the American Flag Football League’s inaugural “U.S. Open” in Houston, Fighting Cancer — a team of everyday dudes — actually beat Godspeed, a team comprised of ex-pros from a range of sports. How? Let’s discuss.
Working the rules of flag football
On the amateur side, 128 teams did battle in a bracket format, while four teams of pros joined the traveling show two weeks ago.
A lot of natural physical advantages that pros possess over the rest of us don’t really matter in flag football, since there’s no hitting. Games are seven-on-seven, with a premium placed on speed and hands. And since there are many more fast athletes than pro athletes, the playing field’s a bit more level.
For instance, Darrell “Housh” Doucette both quarterbacked Fighting Cancer and played shutdown cornerback on defense. He threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 88 yards, and in short, looked a whole lot like Michael Vick, who was watching the game from the sidelines. The final score, in case you were wondering: Fighting Cancer 26, Godspeed 6.
Godspeed’s team included Olympian Michael Johnson and longtime NFL mainstay Justin Forsett, as well as familiar names like Seneca Wallace, Jacoby Jones and Jahvid Best. They didn’t have quite the team feel of Fighting Cancer, and in a quick-strike game like this, that kind of bonding is essential.
Flag football’s future
For the moment, flag football is a barnstorming league, traveling from town to town and providing the NFL Network with some much-needed fresh summertime football content. But the AFFL’s founder envisions a full-on league, with teams made up of recognizable football names based all over the country.
“Flag football combines the best of a lot of different sports. There’s a simplicity to it that’s like soccer – you get a ball, you find an open space, and you go,” AFFL CEO Jeff Lewis told Yahoo Sports earlier this month. “We have the guts of the sport that demands your attention more than any other sport, and we’ve added other elements of other sports that are great.”
“If this takes off how it’s supposed to take off, guys aren’t going to want to go play tackle football,” former Detroit Lion Duke Ihenacho said recently. “If the business right, a lot of people are going to say, ‘sign me up for flag.’”
The AFFL doesn’t yet have plans set for next year, but if the pros are any indication, there’s interest from the players’ side. The NFL Network broadcast 11 games over the summer, including Thursday night’s championship. Now it’s just a matter of lining up sponsors and fans.
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