One might consider it as three years in the making, or three months, but this past Sunday kicked off the season opener for the Mesivta Football League (MFL, pun intended). The league, a high-school-level interschool flag football competition, is the brainchild of Richard Altabe, principal of Yeshivat Shaare Torah of Flatbush, and Rabbi Yossi Bennett, assistant menahel/assistant principal of Mesivta Ateres Yaakov.
“Together with Rabbi Yaffe, our menahel, I had been working on developing a high-school flag football league for close to three years,” commented Rabbi Bennett. “I had thought to latch on to one of the adult leagues already in existence, but nothing ever panned out. When Mr. Altabe approached us just over two months ago about a starting our own league, I was ecstatic.”
Flag football has become an increasingly popular sport, specifically among yeshivos. In Eretz Yisrael, the Kraft Flag Football League is widely popular, and draws over 60 teams from a wide variety of yeshivos and other post-high-school institutions in two separate divisions. The majority of post-high-school yeshivos, which many local graduates attend, field teams in the Kraft League.
“We thought it was obvious,” commented Mr. Altabe. “If the majority, if not all, of our talmidim will be playing flag football in Eretz Yisrael after they graduate, it was a no-brainer that a high-school league would be popular.”
The goal of this groundbreaking program is to provide a healthy, kosher outlet for high-school boys, while maintaining the competitiveness, intensity, and professionalism of an official league. The league is being established with a Torah hashkafah about sports. With that being the case, it goes without saying that proper sportsmanship and menchlechkeit is a top priority. Head coverings must be worn during games, and no female fans are permitted at the games to ensure the focus on a healthy athletic outlet.
Rabbi Bennett and Mr. Altabe, who are working behind the scenes as the league administrators, hired Eliezer “Zezzy” Fuld, youth director of the White Shul and senior division head at Simcha Day Camp, to serve as the league’s commissioner. Fields have been leased for the length of the season at the Aviator Sports and Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and at the Lawrence Middle School.
“I couldn’t commit quick enough,” commented Zezzy Fuld. “I am incredibly excited for this league to take off. We’ve rented out excellent fields, hired professional referees, and are hoping for a fun, competitive season. It is a fantastic idea that is long overdue.”
Currently, in the first season of the league, there are four pioneering schools: Ateres Yaakov, DRS, Shaare Torah, and Darchei Eretz. Many other schools showed a tremendous interest, but could not field a team this year. It is expected that many more schools will join next year.
Opening day results were DRS 41, MAY 26 and YST 37, YDE 12. Results for the Turkey Bowl game, YST vs. MAU and DRS vs. YDE on Wednesday, November 21, were not available at press time.