Between The Lines With David Handler

It feels like it’s been a lifetime since I started here at Fan Controlled Sports and Entertainment, but at the same time, it’s gone by in the blink of an eye.

Like a lot of guys, working in sports has always been a goal of mine, and football has always been my sport of choice. I was a quarterback in college at Savannah State, and the passion I have for the game didn’t die whenever I hung up my cleats for the last time. 

I transferred over to Georgia State where I was a graduate assistant helping out the events and game day staff for the football team. I was also the President of the Student Athlete Advisory where I would help out our football players, and any other athletes with their needs from an academic or athletic standpoint. I knew during this time that I wanted a future in sports, and began looking for opportunities beyond what I was doing to launch my professional career.

I value the respect everyone has for each other in this organization, and without it, we could not run this operation like we have the past couple of years.

David handler, operations specialist

One of my good friends and even better mentor, Greg Moore, told me about a position opening with a brand new sports league called Fan Controlled Football. Initially, like most people, I thought it was a form of fantasy football or a video game concept, but after reading a couple of articles he sent me including interviews with Quavo and Johnny Manziel, I quickly realized this had potential to be something really cool to be a part of. 

I had an interview with our Chief of Operations, and just like that, I was jumping in on the ground floor of a brand new league with just under 2 months to get ready. I was confident that I could bring value to the league from an operations perspective, but nothing can truly prepare for the environment I was about to walk into.

Credit: Getty Images

Season v1.0

Just 4 days after FCF decided to bring me on as an Operations Specialist, I was down in Atlanta, Georgia helping out with one of our first tryouts. Talk about learning on the fly. I was getting exactly what I wanted; an opportunity to get involved in something at the bottom level and help make an impact from the get go.

Little did I know how much impact I would get the opportunity to have living in the FCF bubble. I started right at the end of 2020, and as an organization, FCF decided that any full-time football operations staff and players would need to live in a bubble environment for the duration of the season. I was both hesitant and excited to see what all this would entail and be around my new co-workers 24/7. I moved out of my apartment and into the team hotel that would be our home for the next 84 days. If I wasn’t already all the way in at this point, moving into the bubble solidified just how bought into this job, and this league, I was.

Leading up to the beginning of Season v1.0 was a whirlwind as we met with vendors, the venue, hotel staff, and caterers to ensure that we would be able to pull off what the rest of the company was expecting from us. To say it was a grind is an understatement. The first month was pretty tough as we prepared for 90 players to enter the bubble with the rest of the staff. I was confident in what we could do, and having leadership like we did, there was never a doubt from the operations side of the league that we were going to be all systems go for the first snap of the first game.

Pictured – Left: GM Jerry Kurz, Center: David Handler, Right: Head Coach Shawn Liotta (Getty Images)

Now, I wouldn’t say there was an exact moment where I thought that FCF had “made it” during our first season, but on the first offensive snap for the Zappers, when Johnny Manziel took off for a 38 yard scramble, I think it legitimized what we were doing and what we were building. Even being a part of something where a former Heisman winner and star-studded NFL wideout in Josh Gordon were competing in a startup football league was exhilarating, and we all rode that high throughout the short 6 week season.

People were starting to pay attention to the unique brand of football we were creating, and all those days and nights at the team hotel serving meals, getting COVID tested, overseeing practice and being at Infinite Energy Arena during Season v1.0 were absolutely worth it.

Season v2.0

After a long off-season, Season v2.0 was finally in the horizon.

I had quickly gained much more responsibility within the operations team coming off of Season v1.0. FCF Tryouts were being hosted all across the nation as we scoured for top talent to bring to our 50-yard field. I even had the honor of hosting our Los Angeles tryout at my former high school. It was such a cool full circle moment for me as I was able to coordinate with some of my former coaches and administrators along the way to make it the successful tryout that it was.

Season v2.0 was a whole different beast than it was in back in v1.0. More teams meant more players, more meals, more vans, but luckily, it also meant more freedom. We were no longer in a bubble which definitely helped with team morale and allowed us staff members and players to be more free to move around the city.

I was in charge of a lot of transportation to off-site practices including two-a-days, and anything held at Pullman, including draft and game days. I managed the daily schedule for all the players each day including practice times, meals, and anything happening at the team hotel (shoutout to Marriott Buckhead). This may not come to surprise many of you, but essentially anything the players do, the operations staff does as well. I mentioned it before, but it was a GRIND throughout the whole process, but to be in this position, you have to love what you do or you aren’t going to make it.

There was a lot of hype going in to Season v2.0 with the new venue and new teams, but as soon as I saw Pullman Yards for the first time where all the renderings I had seen had come to fruition, I thought ‘it doesn’t get much cooler than this’. It was a surreal feeling to see everything that we had talked about suddenly become real life.

I was ready for the season to start because game days are why I do what I do. Not only do you get to see the fruit of your work, but I’ve been able to meet a bunch of cool people including some of our owners, Quavo and Steve Aoki, and even play as the all-time center during Huncho Day in Week 4 for all sorts of celebrity athletes and entertainers.

I’ve often thought, I could be doing this in one of the bigger leagues in the U.S like the NFL or NBA, but I would not be this involved, meet this many cool people, or have the opportunities I’ve had being with FCF. It’s such a unique organization where I think I have found my fit.

Season v3.0 and Beyond

This upcoming season, we will have a chance to yet again but our mark on the football world. We’re all getting antsy and anxious to get back to the hustle and bustle that is in-season football. I’m excited to see who all we will be able to recruit from our tryouts, and see which teams will show out and how we tackle another season down in Atlanta.

I am in this for the long haul, and I truly couldn’t see myself doing anything else besides what I’m doing now. We are all excited to showcase what we have been building, and it’s going to be my pleasure to work hard to give the fans the best experience from my area of expertise as possible. That’s why we all do it anyways, right?

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1 Comment

  1. Vics Vibes December 9, 2022

    Such a great read, extremely proud of the impact you’ve made up to this point & even more excited to see what’s to come!!

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