Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Herschel Walker, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Sarah Silverman, Jason Alexander, Cedric the Entertainer, Brad Garret, Montel Williams and Nelly…this is just a partial list of celebrities and athletes who joined Ante Up For Africa tournament founders Don Cheadle, Annie Duke and Norman Epstein for their 2009 Ante Up For Africa poker tournament…(if you’re able to read this posting in time, ESPN will broadcast the entire tournament tonight)
Participant Sarah Silverman reminds us what its all about: “You learn about the holocaust in school and you’re like, well that can never happen today because we would never let that happen today,” she said from the red-carpet, “But it’s happening. There’s a genocide happening.”
From the ENOUGH PROJECT: The dire crisis in Darfur is entering its sixth year. The conflict has killed 400,000 people and forced more than 3 million Darfuris to flee their homes. The recent expulsion of key international humanitarian groups by the government of Sudan in response to the International Criminal Court’s issuance of an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir has placed hundreds of thousands of the most needy at even greater risk and without access to medical care or reliable food supplies. President Bashir continues to utilize starvation as a weapon of war to silence his opponents and to distract the world from the key issues in Darfur. Now more than ever, there needs to be a dynamic international effort to move beyond simply treating the symptoms of Sudan’s crisis and focuses on ENDING it by forging a lasting and equitable peace for all of Sudan.
Ante Up For Africa has established itself as the premiere event to help end the crisis in Darfur, raising over $2 million since its inception in 2006 to help build a brighter future for the people of Sudan. “The greatest thing that you can do is educate the population about the problem,” said Annie Duke, “Because when some of those people who are then exposed to an issue that they might not have otherwise been exposed to find some passion in it, then they speak and our representatives listen and that’s really what creates the lasting change.”
Ante Up For Africa benefits two amazing organizations…‘The Enough Project’ and ‘Refugee International’s Sudan’ advocacy efforts…and they still need your help with another situation…our insatiable demand for electronics products such as cell phones and laptops is helping fuel a major conflict in Eastern Congo. This is the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or girl, and the sexual violence there is often fueled by militias warring over conflict minerals, the ores that produce tin, tungsten, and tantalum—the 3 Ts— that end up being used in our electronic devices.
Check out the Enough Projects YouTube channel to view video posted by contestants who are raising awareness about the link between our cell phones and the violence in Congo. Oscar-nominated actor Ryan Gosling, actress Sonya Walger from ABC’s “Lost,” and Oscar-nominated director Wim Wenders selected the best three videos and are asking us to vote for winner. Voting ends September 8…so check it out soon.
The next Ante Up for Africa event will be October 29 at the San Manuel Casino. For more info, visit Ante Up for Africa.
SIR CHARLES BARKLEY AND BUDDIES TEE OFF FOR CHARITY
Charles Barkley, Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Strahan, Ozzie Smith, George Brett, Clyde Drexler, Jason Kidd, George Gervin, Kenny Smith, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Grant Fuhr, Pierre Larouche…all of ‘em in one place for the entire weekend? Indeed. The Pro Sports Team Challenge issued a call to all the above named hotties to take part in a charity golf-event to determine which sport has the best golfers. After watching ‘em tee off, take bunker shots, and hit outta the rough for three days, I’ve got a pretty good idea of who I’d want to be on my team…but mums the word on which team came out victorious- you’ll have to watch the broadcast on Fox Sports Net June 28 and 29 unless an unscrupulous member of the media decides to leek the info…
The players were competing for a total purse of $250,000 for charity. The USO was earmarked by Team Basketball in efforts to help comfort our hard working military. Team Football didn’t stop smiling all weekend as they hoped to make a hefty donation to Operation Kids. Team Hockey, led by cancer survivor Mario Lemieux, chose Hockey Fights Cancer as their beneficiary, and finally, Team Baseball was swinging away for the Baseball Assistance Team in efforts to help the families of players who have fallen on tough times.
The desert heat was brutal, but you would never know it by watching these guys. Dressed sharp, in Team shirts clearly marked with their charity-choice logo across the front, the hotties didn’t seem remotely phased by the sun as they smiled, chatted with each other, signed autographs for fans, and focused on winning big bucks for their chosen charities.
Commissioner Charles Barkley was having a blast, despite the fact that the event was held at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino- yes, at a casino. But the big guy was quick to address the issue during the VIP party: “It flat out sucks to be in a casino and not gamble” he said, “I thought I was going to break out in a rash last night. I can’t gamble for four years so its really gonna suck the next four years of my life. I guess there’s going to be a lot of money for my family to fight over when I keel over one day.” I should mention at this point that Martin Short was the ‘entertainment’ for the night…but general consensus was that Sir Charles stole the show from Short-who’s jokes fell a bit short (pun intended) and Barkley gave a deliciously wicked speech to the poolside crowd…More than one great quote crept outta his mouth, but perhaps the most memorable? “Please be careful as you drink and drive ’cause that’s a very dangerous thing. You know they got a bunch of old people up here (in Palm Springs) so you have to factor that in when you’re drinking and driving.”
Several more memorable quotes are locked in the vault-as they came during a sound check while Fox Sports was preparing to interview him. I do believe that the reporter’s face will give you an indication of what Sir Charles was up to… The VIP party was awesome, to say the least. Massive shout out to MP for taking great care of this girl and working his ass off to ensure that rouge PR people and paparazzi-type photogs were properly yanked and spanked…he did a phenomenal job and should be commended for it…so, back to the party…the first stop for me, of course, was the bar. Standing next to me was ‘Hercules’ himself, Mr. Kevin Sorbo. Admittedly, I don’t know Hercules from a hole in the ground, but I do know Sorbo has been at almost every charity event I’ve attended (and I do believe that he finally remembers my name)…but the reason I mention him is because he is kicking-butt in the charity world and couldn’t have been more sincere in his efforts. Sorbo’s charity is World Fit for Kids and he’s just earned a major nod from the Governator for his Foundations work. Sorbo didn’t hesitate to give me an interview for Look to the Stars, so a big thank you to him for taking the time to speak with me and for all his hard work at helping thousands of kids in Los Angeles. (The interview will be posted this week and I will most definitely let ya know when it is)…
Also at the VIP Party was Dennis Haysbert, aka Snake Doc from one of my all time favorite shows, the ‘Unit.’ As usual, I had to give him a massive hug. “I adore you” seeped outta my mouth before I could duct tape it shut. “Bless you,” he said after taking the time to indulge in my photo request. Seriously, my list of ‘must-squeeze celebrities’ has dwindled to almost nothing. Thank you Dennis Haysbert from your number one Betty Blue in So-Cal.
For all ya hockey fans out there, try this on for size…the after party…Team Hockey is there…keep in mind that I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to knowing most of the athletes I meet. I know names, what sport they play and their charities…I’d like to blame the Vodka for my blurred thinking, but I cant because I say stupid things even when I’m sans Vodka…no ones perfect right? Anyway, either I forgot or didn’t know that Mario Lemieux played with the Penguins for 11 years before he bought the team in 1999. So what did I do? I asked him which team he wanted to win the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins or the Red Wings…yeah, I did. Thankfully, everyone laughed as hard as I did. Pretty sure Mario won’t forget me anytime soon…I did ask Lemieux how he felt about Tiger Woods’ ‘not caring about hockey’ comments, and he gracefully replied: “I think Tiger was just caught off guard and I didn’t take any offense to it.” All in all, he couldn’t have nicer- the same goes for the entire Team Hockey-especially Grant Fuhr who is not only adorable but signed just about every autograph the fans hit him up for. Fuhr also saved me from heat stroke…a shortage of golf carts led to long walks around the greens, but Fuhr and his buddy politely picked up this red headed hitchhiker and whisked her into the shade.
Gotta give some love to homeboy LaDainian Tomlinson as well. I think he’s finally warming up to me and I couldn’t have been more proud of the Charger babe who graciously stopped for all the young LT fans sporting his jersey and chasing him with Sharpies. Ain’t nothing gives me the warm-fuzzies like watching athletes make some kids day. Well done LT.
More love going to the super-smooth and always cool Clyde Drexler, who I’m awarding with the ‘Best Smelling Athlete” prize. His fresh cologne was lingering in the air each time I spoke with him and I couldn’t resist giving him a Delinda-squeeze. Second place for best smelling? LaDainian, who exited the elevator prior to me getting in…don’t know what cologne he had on, but I’ve never inhaled as deeply as I did in that empty elevator in hopes that D2 could smell it all the way in No-Cal…Im also gonna give out a ‘Never Stopped Smiling’ award to John Elway. Seriously, for three days he had a grin plastered across his face- if his ball landed in the sand, he was smiling…if ten kids rushed him for an autograph, he was smiling…if other players tried to shake his concentration, he was smiling…wish I could have snapped a photo of he and his wife in the pool, floating around with a beer in one hand, smiling. But hey- I got ethics and wouldn’t have dared gone pool-side paparazzi on Elway, Jason Kidd, Kenny Smith or any others who were chillen by the pool trying to cool off after a long day on the greens.
Aside from this being a massive endorsement for the charities, four lucky people won a sweepstakes, which awarded them an all-expense paid trip to the event, including a spot in the Pro-Am. Two of the winners, Matt Lesage and Brandon Akey, sat down and spoke to us about their experience. Both these guys won by playing on-line poker. Lesage was inspired Team Hockey, as he is a big hockey fan. “I played with Pierre Larouche in the Pro-Am,” he told me, “Mario Lemieux, Pierre, Grant, all those guys were so nice. Pierre is a great guy and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him’” he said, “At first though, I was a bit skeptical on how the athletes were going to act towards someone like me, not being a big golfer, but they were all class acts and they couldn’t have been nicer. Really top notch guys, all of ‘em.” While Lesage was hyped to play golf, he was also keen on the fact that this was for charity. “I heard Team Hockey talking about Hockey Fights Cancer, and a lot of people in my family had cancer so it made me really happy to be part of it. I just had a blast, couldn’t have had a better time. All these guys inspire me.” The other winner, 20 year-old Brandon Akey, came all the way from Ohio to play with the big boys. His story made me proud to be part of this event. “I’m only 20 years old and this is only the second time I’ve been out of Ohio, the last time I took a trip was to Florida when I was a kid and suddenly I’m here playing golf with these guys.” Brandon played in the Pro-Am with basketball legend, George Gervin. “He was such a good guy. Whenever we hit bad shots he was really cool and supportive, he said ‘that’s all right, we’re a team, its like basketball.’”
Another participant, who perhaps best captures the spirit of the event by making her own tax-rebate-check donation to the USO, will be interviewed for the article on Look to the Stars. It’s an amazing story of generosity and kindness and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
Four more shout outs here…first, Jay Flemma from the Golfspace for falling in the water, walking the entire course for four days in the heat, and keeping most of us engaged with his linguistic skills…Tony Korologos, perhaps one of the best (golf) bloggers alive, spent most of his time blogging live on his Hooked on Golf Blog…and provided us with this fantastic video…check out their stuff for detailed coverage of the action on the greens. And also Debbie Dahmer of Big Break III was awesome and spends more time than I do chasing hot golfers and covering their charity events.
It’s not too late to donate to the charities involved, visit the Team Challenge website, sign up as a ProCoach and $1.00 goes to the charity of your choice. If I can get even one of you to donate, my weekend was well worth it.
All photos from the event are linked up. Please go to the ‘Event Photos’ link at the top of the page.
THE PRO TEAM CAPTAINS SPEAK
Four teams, four Captains. You’ve got, of course Sir Charles in charge of Team Basketball, Drew Brees leading Team Football; Ozzie Smith taking the reins of Team Baseball, and hockey great Mario Lemieux keeping his Team Hockey in check…what am I talking about? The Pro Team Sports Challenge. On April 18, I wrote about the Pro Sports Team Challenge, and today, I’m going to reiterate how cool this event is going to be. Lead by Team Challenge Commissioner, Charles Barkley, the two-day golf event will pit some of the best athletes from four sports (baseball, basketball, hockey and football) against each other on the greens. They are all playing for charity but perhaps the most unique aspect of the event is fan interaction.
During the course of the event, fan interaction will influence the outcome of the game, think ‘American Idol’ on a golf course. Do you think Team Hockey has a more competitive edge with their roster of established pros? Then get online, vote, blog, debate and trash talk with those who think Team Football has better golfers. You could actually win a spot on the greens and walk with your favorite Team inside the ropes as a ProCoach…but you gotta register before May 19 in order to cast your votes and decide which players are playing better or worse than their stated handicaps.
Participating in a press-call this morning, team captains Drew Brees, Ozzie Smith and Mario Lemieux spoke about the event and what we should expect. All three were equally as pumped up about earning bragging rights, as they were to be playing for charity.
Drew Brees: “This is one of the most unique events I’ve ever played in. To find four guys from major sports and bring them together in a fun atmosphere, it’s incredible, I’m gonna have a chance to meet and play with guys I’ve watched growing up, Hall of Famers, world champions.” And when Drew Brees spoke about playing for charity, I knew he was for real. “Our charity is Operation Kids,” he said. “Its an international charity whose mission is to care for the total well being of the child, they focus on education and healthcare for kids, and they’ve done some phenomenal things.”
Baseball team Captain Ozzie Smith was equally as enthusiastic about participating and raising money at the same time: “To have all these guys at the same place at the same time makes it a great event. My charity is Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), they assist families and players that have fallen on hard times, older players who didn’t reap the benefits of long contracts.” Ozzie Smith was reluctant to reveal any coaching strategies: “We’ll put our heads together and figure out how best to approach it,” he said, “Its going to be interesting to see how they (fans) match us up.” When asked who he feels the best player on his Team Baseball is, Ozzie wasn’t promoting himself. “George Brett and Vince Coleman are probably the best on the team. I certainly think I’d be the weakest.”
Hockey Team Captain, Mario Lemieux on his participation: “Just having the fans involved at the same time and most importantly, to raise money for some great charities.” His charity? Hockey Fights Cancer, “Its been going on for a few years, and helps those who‘ve had cancer, I’m one of them, in 1993 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, so it’s very dear to my heart.”
Who’s the best coach and best player on thier teams?
Drew Brees: “I don’t know if I’ve ever done much coaching on a golf course, but John Elway is the best member on my team. I’ve got a good team and I think we all know our own strengths and weakness.”
Mario Lemieux: “Bret Hull is the best player on my team.”
Because of the fan interaction, I was curious about which fan-base would produce the most-trash-talking interaction. Brees: “Well, we got LaDainian Tomlinson, and (John) Elway covering the Rocky Mountain area, myself in the south, and (Michael) Strahan holding down the east, so we’re hopefully going to grab fans from everywhere and it can get very interesting.”
And Ozzie was just as excited, “Our fan base will be very diverse and I think that this tournement, with the guys chosen, have great fan appeal and will make it very interesting as well.”
Commissioner Barkley, who’s charity is the USO, was not available for the press-call, and Drew Brees opined as to why: “I’m sure he’s strategizing as we speak.” Brees’ strategy? “I just grip it and rip it!” he said.
For those of us who follow the off-court/field wardrobes of the players, Brees was quick to remind us that Ballers got it going on. “Basketball is gonna be the most stylish, those guys- their style far exceeds anything we’d be wearing.”
When asked the hypothetical question- what theme song would you play while teeing off…Mario chimed in first with ‘We Are The Champions’…followed by Ozzie who laughed, ‘Off To See the Wizard,’ while Brees said he would pick something similar to a “dramatic theme song used in NFL films”.
For the sake of my own curiosity, I had to ask which ranked celebrity golfer they’d most like to play with: Samuel L Jackson, Bill Murray, Cheech Marin, or George Lopez. Ozzie and Brees both said Samuel L Jackson, while Lemieux went Caddyshack on us and chose Bill Murray.
The Pro Team Sports Challenge will be held on June 7-8th in Palm Springs California. I highly recommend you keep an eye on this event and its unique fan-interaction aspect. Aside from raising money for charity, it just may be a sign of bigger things to come- like Reality Sports. Don’t like the way Jason Kidd is swinging for Team Basketball- text in your vote. If you think Team Hockey is swinging better than Team Baseball, cast your vote for Team Hockey…all the details are available on Team Challenge, with more updates to be released soon.
BARKLEY’S NEW TEAM
I just finished an article for Look to the Stars about Charles Barkley and his generous donations to fire victims in the Lake Tahoe area…and today, I’ve got more good-hearted fun coming from the former NBA beast. On June 7-8 in Palm Springs (CA), Barkley will act as Tournement Commissioner for the Pro Sports Teams Challenge. Sixteen legendary athlebrities (four each from football, baseball, basketball and hockey) will tee off at Eagle Falls Golf Course and compete against each other- not just for bragging rights- but also a charity prize of $100,000. “Athletes from each sport think that they are the best golfers. It’s high time we found out who really is: baseball, football, basketball or hockey,” said Team Challenge spokesman, Mike Paul.
The hotties already committed to participate include (*team captains): Baseball: *Ozzie Smith, George Brett, Vince Coleman; Basketball: *Charles Barkley (L), Jason Kidd (C), Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving; Football: *Drew Brees (R), LaDainian Tomlinson, John Elway, Michael Strahan; Hockey: *Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Grant Fuhr, Peirre Larouche. “The playful smack talk regarding which sport and athlete are the best started months ago,” said Tom Belton, founder and managing partner of Team Challenge, LLC. “These sports legends look forward to the challenge and to raising significant money for charity. Nothing makes them happier than playing sports to raise money to help others in need. Moreover, this competition might also depend on who has the most loyal and knowledgeable fans.” YES! This isnt just a spectator event-you get to participate. The Team Challenge will for the first time ever give fans the platform to be ‘Pro Coaches” by using the internet or mobile text messaging to make real strategy decisions in this competition- this will have an actual impact on the scoring. Blogs and chat rooms will be available for fans to strategize together on real choices, bringing the fan inside the locker room in a sports competition…it’s hot, so don’t be left out of the game…check out Team Challenge for all the juicy details.
NBA ENTERTAINMENT LEAGUE CHAMPS
It’s been around for eleven seasons and admittedly I don’t cover it enough…but big ups to the Nuggets who won the NBA Entertainment League Championship 71-63 over the Cavaliers on Saturday, April 12. The Nuggets team included actor Morris Chestnut and singer Drew Lachey…while the Cav’s roster included Will Ferrell, Scrubs actor Donald Faison and ‘Las Vegas’ actor James Lesure. After the game, the league’s wrap party attracted celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Brody Jenner, Stacy Kiebler, Terry Crews, and Jaleel White among others. Check out the complete NBAE League and full rosters here.
The NBA Playoffs begin Saturday with the Celtics the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Lakers the top seed in the Western Conference…and just about everyone is praying for a Celtics-Lakers Final…one reason why could be that the two teams haven’t faced each other in the Finals in about what…20 years? Celtics first gotta win the best of seven against the Atlanta Hawks and the Lakers gotta do the same against the Nuggets…first round Sunday.
Boxing bad boys Joe Calzaghe of Wales and Bernard Hopkins of USA are set for their fight in Vegas this weekend, making it Calzaghe’s first fight on “US soil.” This girl hopes the Welshman can finally get Hopkins to shut up…and yes, I will in fact be in Vegas looking for a posse to invite me to their after-party.
As always, thanks for reading. delinda@athlebrities.