NY Sports Day
Peter Schwartz

Schwartz: I Really Missed Arena Football, So Hello New York Streets

With all due respect to the many amazing jobs I currently have in sports (including New York Sports Day), I’ve always maintained that the best job I ever had was the eight year run I enjoyed working in the Arena Football League.  Serving as the radio play by play voice of the NY Dragons led to working for the league as a writer for their website, host of their radio show, and the opportunity to call play by play for the national radio broadcast of three Arena Bowls.

Sure the paychecks were nice, but being involved with the high octane sport, getting a chance to forge so many friendships with players, coaches, and other league employees, the travel to cities that I may never have had the chance to visit, and the opportunity to enjoy a sustained play by play job after XFL’s first and only year (until it returns in 2020) was just an absolute blessing and I’ve missed it so much since the league shut down after the 2008 season.

Many of the relationships that I developed in the AFL are still alive today.

When Matt Nagy became the head coach of the Chicago Bears, I immediately thought of the days when he played for the Dragons and even spent a game in the booth with me when he was hurt.  I also had the chance to call games when he was with Columbus and Georgia as he took both of those teams to the Arena Bowl.  Nagy’s wide receivers coach is Mike Furrey who was a wide receiver for the Dragons before moving on to play for the Rams and Lions in the NFL.   It isn’t a visit to Las Vegas without catching up with former Dragons kicker Ian Howfield.

I enjoyed a great relationship with former AFL Commissioner David Baker who is now the President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I’ve had a chance to catch up with him at a Super Bowl as well as a couple of visits that my family and I have made to Canton.  I’ve stayed in touch with so many former Dragons players, coaches, and staff members as well as people who worked for the league and we’ve always shared so many great stories and memories.  Many people that I worked with in the AFL are still in the New York area and we get a chance to reminisce about those days from time to time.

For some of us, there’s always been a hope that the league would make its way back to New York.  When the Arena Football League returned in 2009, it did so without a New York franchise.  Although there’s been rumors of the AFL adding a team to the NY/NJ area, nothing has happened just yet but there is an Arena Football team in a new league that will begin play in 2019.

Earlier this week, the National Arena league announced the addition of the New York Streets for the 2019 season. 

The new football club will practice in Brooklyn but will play their home games at the Westchester County Center in White Plains although the team is working on playing a few home games at Madison Square Garden.  The NAL kicked off in 2017 and has a few different rules and looks that the AFL (the Arena Football League has a patent on the nets attached to the goalposts that keeps the ball in play on kickoffs along with missed extra points and field goals) but after a ten year absence, the 50 yard indoor war is back in town.

I’ve always felt that Arena Football has been a sport of opportunity for anyone that wants to have a career in football.   For me, it was a chance to do play by play for a great product while for the players and coaches it was an opportunity to continue playing football and for some of them it was part of a road back to the NFL or a first time opportunity at the sport’s highest level because perhaps they had fallen through the cracks after college.

It’s also a sport of opportunity for New York Streets owner Corey Galloway who fell in love with Arena Football when he attended many Dragons games at the Nassau Coliseum and is now the first African-American owner in New York sports history.  In securing a deal to play in Westchester, the Streets could have a unique home field advantage with an intimate seating capacity of about 2,500 to 3,000 and a smaller field than other teams in the league.

Building a strong franchise can be a slow and steady process so if the Streets can pack the house over their first couple of seasons, then maybe they can move to a bigger venue like Nassau Coliseum where the Dragons enjoyed many crowds of over 10,000 fans.  Being a big part of the community is going to be essential and one of the great things about Arena Football is the access that the fans will have to the players.

From a grassroots marketing stand point, giving youth football players a chance to play on the same field as their favorite players has always been a been component of Arena Football and I remember so many teams, including my nephew’s team, playing at the Coliseum before Dragons games. 

Of course the most important element of a football team is the actual team and the Streets are currently at work finding players that will give the team an opportunity to put a quality product on the field.  Arena Football is a great sport playing by some exceptional athletes and now the sport is back on display in the number one market in the country.

To this day, I still wear my Dragons gear and look at some of the photos and souvenirs that I collected along the way over that eight year period.  During my time with the AFL, I met my wife Sheryl and we had a table full of Dragons players and staff at our wedding.    We had our first child Bradley in 2004 and he has some memories of Dragons games and even running around with the players after practice.  Now, my younger son Jared, along with so many other new fans, will have a chance to experience what Arena Football is all about and maybe both of my kids will get a chance to play with their teams on the field. 

And what about this old former AFL broadcaster?  Well I’m excited about the creation of the Streets and I hope they’re a big success.  I haven’t been to an Arena Football game since the Dragons folded and it’s been hard to watch games on television because it’s always hurt to think about what happened and not being able to be involved.

Welcome back Arena Football….I’ve missed you!

 

 

 

 


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