Michael Phelps’ Final Lap for Charity, Right to Play at Olympics, And an Inspiring Baseball Book for Kids
Yesterday, five members of Students for a Free Tibet lit up the skies near the National Stadium and spelled out ‘Free Tibet’ with blue LED lights in English and Mandarin. It took the police just 20-seconds to intervene…three other protestors were detained as they attempted to use lasers to spell out ‘Free Tibet’ on a Beijing landmark. Students for a Free Tibet Exec Dir Lhadon Tethong said “more actions were planned” in Beijing in the coming days…(NY Times).
PHELPS TAKES LAP FOR CHARITY
While protestors were busy raising awareness for Tibet, Michael Phelps enjoyed meeting some of our NBA’s hotties before taking his final lap-number 6,250- of the ‘Hilton Swim to Beijing Relay.’ The charitable event contributed $100,000 to the USA Swimming Foundation to fund swim education programs across the U.S. Hilton Hotels is one of Phelps’ sponsors, and in celebration of the Olympics, they partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation with each of the 6,250 laps symbolizing one of the miles between Los Angeles, the relay’s starting point, and Beijing.
“After representing my country and competing in the Olympics, Hilton gave me another great reason to get back in the pool,” said Phelps. “By being a part of this campaign I’m able to help support swim education programs across the nation and give young people the chance to experience the power of the sport. Swimming is much more than a fun activity and great form of exercise. It teaches self-discipline and dedication—two important qualities that one can draw on to succeed both in and out of the pool.”
More love came from the Olympians yesterday as more than a dozen current and former athletes hit up the corporate hospitality pavilion to support the Right to Play. The humanitarian organization landed heavily on the map after the 06 Turin Games when speed skater Joey Cheek donated his bonus money to them. This time, its different though- thanks to IOC sponsor Johnson & Johnson, donations are being made on behalf of the athletes. J&J is donating $20,000 per gold medal, $15,000 per silver and $10,000 per bronze won by those who have signed up to be Right to Play athlete ambassadors. “There has been a lot of criticism for having the Olympic games here,” said U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin, “but it has made a wider audience aware of issues that they otherwise might not have known about.” (Coughlin with her six medals won here, is responsible for $80,000 for the organization.) Any athlete can become an ambassador, yet only about 40 Olympians representing 13 countries and 25 sports have signed up, notably absent as an ambassador for Right to Play? Michael Phelps.
Coughlin said she spoke to Phelps about it last week in the Olympic Village, “He wants to do it,” Coughlin said. “He’s going to do it. I have mentioned to him that his eight gold medals would mean 52,000 children would be enrolled in the program and 1,600 coaches would be able to get involved.” If Phelps does indeed become an ambassador, it would bring a whopping $160,000 donation from J&J to Right to Play.
FOR THE KIDS
Ya’ all know I don’t cover many baseball related events, but there is a little book coming out that I gotta give props to. The book, ‘A Glove of Their Own’ has already got some endorsement love from several players: Craig Biggio, Sean Casey and Jack Hannahan have all stepped up to support the children’s book aimed at teaching kids the value of sharing what you have with those in need. Charity partners include Good Sports, Sports Gift, Pitch In For Baseball, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Cheerful Givers, and the Sunshine Foundation. From the back cover: “Few things in life are ever as good as the smell of your own glove, the crack of the wood. Or being with friends at that one special spot and sharing what you have… with those who have not.” The picture book personifies the “paying it forward” mentality via a group of underprivileged boys’ childhood experience, and how their love of the game is not defined by the equipment they don’t have but rather the passion and dreams that they do have. The book was inspired by a birthday party held for one of the writers’ kids- in place of gifts, guests were asked to donate baseball equipment for children who normally do without. A Glove of Their Own comes out in October, and those wishing to get their hands on a copy need to reserve now! Go to the website to reserve your copy.
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Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo Interview on ESPN
Another writer who is fed up with reading crap stories by major media outlets who continually ignore the humanitarian efforts of celebrities and athletes tipped me off to this piece…The article was penned by Ric Bucher on www.sports.espn.go.com. Clearly, Yao Ming and Dikembe are schooling the rest of the boys on what it is to be “real men.” Real men have big hearts, souls, smiles and pa-lenty of love for those who need it most. They inspire us and make us forget about those who make it rain, steal from friends, assault women, drag race and create unnecessary controversy that contributes nothing to this world except grief.
In part, Bucher wrote: Mutombo is as well known for his humanitarian efforts throughout Africa—capped by the completion of a $29 million, 300-bed hospital in Kinshasa last fall—as he is for his NBA exploits, which include four Defensive Player of the Year awards. Yao has followed his lead and has been a one-man Red Cross in China, where he organized last summer’s charity game in Beijing between NBA and Chinese stars and has started a relief foundation for victims of Western China’s earthquake last spring. Still, Yao could always use some advice. So Mutombo flew down, and The Mag tagged along…
- My favorite paragraph from the entire piece comes from Yao Ming, who says:
“ What inspires me are the stories that have come out. There is a picture on a website of a teacher who, when the earthquake was happening, put four kids under a table and put his body on top of the table. When the school wall came down, the teacher died but the kids were saved. You can’t stay away when you hear stories like that. When my foundation raises the money to rebuild those schools, we’re going to name the schools after those teachers.”
Once again, if that doesn’t give you goose bumps or a lump in your throat, I would venture to guess you have no soul?
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NFL GOOD GUYS
On Tuesday, 4-year old Jayonna Black waited patiently to have her football signed by Washington Redskins players…she, along with other patients at the Children’s Hospital, were invited by tight-end Chris Cooley to the Redskins training camp in Ashburn, Va. Don’t it just make your heart melt?
RON-RON IS GOOD
Everyone is talking about Ron Artest joining the Rockets as the team hoops it up in China. Yao Ming doesn’t seem phased but I’m sure he’s stoked to have another balling humanitarian on his team. In case any of you out there still haven’t heard, Ron Artest is NOT the bad-boy you all think he is. Sure, he’s a bit scattered on the court, but off the court, he’s one of the best guys out there. Period. The boys at the Starting Five just posted an incredible interview with Former NBA player Kermit Washington. In the interview, he details his first trip to Africa in 1994 to help after the genocide in Rwanda. After his journey, he founded Project Contact Africa and explains how Ron Artest helped ‘jump start’ the project. “Ron Artest was probably one of the most wonderful people we have brought over.” He says, “All of them are wonderful, but Ron just went out of his way. Not only did he pay for a lab in our clinic, he paid for a doctor to go over this summer. He paid for two weeks, paid for food, paid for a place to stay. Ron Artest–wonderful guy.” Please take a few minutes to read the full interview…if it doesn’t touch you in some way then I don’t think you have a soul.
BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER WARMS ME UP
Players from German FC Bayern Munich met with Japanese school children prior to a kicking the ball around with them. The tournament, hosted by Adidas, was held at Saitama stadium on July 30…and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger earns a mighty-mighty-fine-man shout-out for his interaction with the kids…
MAN-U vs PORTSMOUTH FANS
Fans got a bit unruly at a ‘friendly’ soccer match in Nigeria last weekend when Manchester United took on Portsmouth FC…inside the stadium, Man-U won the match 2-1, but outside paramilitary personal tackled a crowd of angry fans who were protesting the hike in gate fees before the start of the game. Considering that the military guy is carrying his ‘injured coworker’ out of the crowd, I would say the conflict ended in a victory for the protestors.
RAFAEL NADAL BITE ME PE-LEEZE
“I win on every surface, no? I win on grass, on hard, on indoor, and on clay, too,” Nadal said. “So if I am playing my best tennis I can win on every surface, no?” Yes, yes, and yes my precious little tapa. Our yummy Spanish treat beat Nicolas Kiefer 6-3, 6-2 Sunday while I was shaking off my Vegas hangover. Ain’t nothing better than catching up on my favorites beast after a weekend of debauchery and discovering that this was his fifth straight tournament and 29th consecutive match win. Someone pa-leeze give me a piece of bread, some dipping sauce and a few olives so I can give Nadal a new surface to play on, no?
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As always, thanks for reading. Delinda Lombardo
C-WEBB AND GUESTS TAKE OVER PLANET HOLLYWOOD FOR ANNUAL BADA BLING
It was another sensational weekend in Las Vegas as Chris Webber hosted his third annual Celebrity Bada Bling Weekend at Planet Hollywood. The usual cast of characters joined Webber, and a few new faces, who flocked to his event with nothing but love for the former NBA star.
The weekend activities kicked-off with the Celebrity Poker Tournement where C-Webb thanked everyone for coming out and refused to divulge what that band-aid was doing on his neck. The tables were packed with celebrities including Finesse Mitchell, Scott Pollard-who busted out early on-Ricky Davis, and Shawn Marion (above) who landed a rare straight flush during Texas Hold ‘Em but wasn’t able to capitalize on his win and busted out soon after. Eventually the event was won a woman for the second time in three years! Way to represent ladies…next year let’s hope Debbie (aka D2) can hang at the tables a bit longer and win us the coveted prize of a first-class private resort vacation package in Cabo San Lucas for four peeps.
That night, the madness continued when Webb hosted a lil get together at Prive. Now, I love me some Webber, but I can’t give much love to host hotel Planet Hollywood. The customer service sucks, they pumped hot air into the hotel-don’t know why-and they overbooked Prive causing tons of Webb’s invited guest to be turned away from the club. Thankfully, we were able to gain admission because we walked in with Webber…but otherwise we saw more than one invited A-list baller get turned away. Not good Planet Hollywood, not good. Once inside, the place seemed to be packed beyond capacity, as Webb had to share the venue with Shannon Elizabeth and yes-even the general public. The incompetent staff didn’t damper anyone’s spirit though, even with Webb’s VIP section jammed packed like a tin of sardines. The bubbly was flowing, the ladies were dancing and the men were looking super fine as we all enjoyed a killer performance from Too Short who rocked the crowd.
Saturday night was the Soiree, hosted by Webb and MC’ed by Mark Curry and Finesse Mitchell. Love Curry but gotta give mad, mad love to Finesse for his fresh dose of humor and irresistible charm. I say its time for Curry to pass the torch to Finesse for next years event…several highlights from the Soiree included a unbelievable performance from 7-time Grammy Award winning goddess and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gladys Knight. Sister killed it up there and even came out for her encore wearing fuzzy slippers while inviting guests to dance on stage as she took that ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ (I still get goose bumps thinking about it)….
In addition to the live music and auction (which raised mad amounts of cash for Webbs foundation) they also brought in a celebrity hypnotist. After pulling volunteers from the audience, the wanna-be-hypnotized group was led into a private room to see if they were susceptible to being ‘hypno’ed’. One of my spies in the room told me that when Matt Barnes ‘went under’ he was asked to shoot hoops-apparently he did while screaming “Golden State Warriors in the playoffs!”…The visual gave us a great laugh and although Matty wouldn’t confirm or deny that this actually happened-he did chuckle when I inquired. When the group came back into the ballroom, Barnes had already been kicked out of the bunch, so we didn’t get to see him on stage, but the people who did participate had us rolling on the floor as they were hypnotized and told to act like Spice Girls, professional ballet dancers, pianists, James Brown…one woman stole the show when she was told to sing Aretha Franklins ‘Respect’ and sang so well we wanted her to remain hypnotized all night and keep singing. After the Soiree, Webber went all out and rented Koi for all of us to get crazy. Open bar, scandalous behavior and hot, sweaty fun was had by all- as we danced on tabletops and sofas until the wee hours of the morning.
While the event was off-the-hook, we can’t forget what the weekend was really about. Chris Webber and his big heart. Everyone, and I mean everyone I spoke to had nothing but love for Webb. And trust me, they weren’t blowing smoke up the media ass-they were sincere and it was incredibly heart-warming to speak to all of Webbers supporters.
One of the first to arrive on the red carpet was Boston Celtic’s babe Scot Pollard. Pollard was at the first Bada Bling and missed last years due to the birth of his baby. I asked him what brings him out to Webbers event every year.
“I’m being totally serious here, people know me for joking” he said, “But seriously, Chris is quite a giver, he’s a gentlemen, he’s a wonderful humanitarian, he’s a wonderful person to be around, he asked me to come out here three years in a row and it’s an honor to be involved with this event.”
And I had to ask the big guy about his own foundation.
“My own foundation is the Pollard Family Foundation” he said, “Have you ever heard of it?”
I replied yes because dah-that’s what I do, but I really hadn’t heard of it. “Who or what causes are the beneficiaries?” I asked.
“My family” he said with that smooth-half-smile, “The Pollard family. They ask me for money and I give it to them.”
Next up on my radar was the adorable Finesse Mitchell. Finesse has also been at Webbers event every year, along with his fiancée Jessica. We bonded the first year and obviously, he had good reason to come back again. I asked the standard ‘What brings you out here every year’ question.
“Well, I lost my shades one year and I hoped this really kind lady would return them to me and she did, so I wanted to fly back out here to personally thank her.” (You are very welcome Finesse)
The ex-SNL star is a big giver in the charity world so I had to ask about which other events he supports.
“It depends on what city I’m in,” he said with that adorable smile, “Some favorites-depends on what city, you know if I’m in New York and Donald Trump has something I’ll go, and anything Lorne Michaels askes me to be at, West Coast, let’s see, anything to do with a casino-I’ll be there. Chris and I have been good friends for four years now and he’s one of my favorites.”
Someone who recently showed up on my charity radar is actor/comedian Terry Crews and his wife Rebecca. I’ve seen them at more than one event and had to get the scoop.
“First of all I’m from Michigan so Chris and I go back away” he told me, “I met him at a BET event and he said I should come check it out-I’m more into supporting people that I know are good, that stand for something and I’m gonna lend my name out and help Chris in anyway I can, Chris is one of the best. He’s just the greatest guy. Whatever I can do.”
In terms of his own charitable efforts, and that of his wife, Crews told me: “We give big time in our church, Faith Community Church in West Covina (?), we’re really supportive of what they’re doing” he said, “I feel right now in my career, where I’m at, it’s the best thing to do.”
When I asked if he felt celebrities have a responsibility to give back he blew me away with his honesty. “We’ve been blessed, and people do look up to us (celebrities) it’s actually more blessed to give than receive, you just feel better giving, and when you have a lot its always great to make someone feel better, give them what they need.”
And then I understood why Terry has been married to Rebecca for 14 years. She pulled me aside to add to her husbands quote.
“I think everybody is called to give,” she told me as I got goose bumps, “It doesn’t matter what income level you are at, when you can help someone-its beautiful.”
And most of us in attendance gave her the “Best Dressed ‘Award’ for the night, as well as the classiest lady in the room.
Someone else not be ignored for their humanitarian efforts is Dallas Maverick Juwan Howard.
“Webs like a brother to me,” he said softly as I resisted the urge to lay one on him, “He’s got a popular event like this where he’s trying to reach out and help less fortunate families, ask me to come here no problem, I actually asked to be here, I was here the first year but missed last year because I was in Africa to support Dikembe Mutombo’s Foundation.”
Did someone say Dikembe?
“I tell you,” he said, “It was breathtaking, a great experience, an eye opening one, and not only that- I would say it humbled me. I really, really encourage everyone to take time out and schedule a trip if the finances are there, take a trip to Africa and see it because its very humbling.”
Howard started his own foundation about 14 years ago.
“I used to have events all the time,” he said, “but it’s a lot of work so now I passed the torch to Webb, he’s does it right.”
And what makes Juwan Howard’s heart go pitter-patter?
“Education” he said, “That’s really important to me, its really close to my heart, so I’m heavily involved with the educational component, inspiring kids to learn more, read more, to achieve their goals because as we all know education lasts a lifetime.” Indeed
Philadelphia 76ers blonde blushing beast, Shavlik Randolph explains why he keeps coming back to Bada Bling every year.
“Chris Webber, plain and simple. Just trying to support his cause and what he’s trying to do, trying to be here for him,” he said.
And again, gotta ask about his own foundation?
“I don’t have a foundation but I have a lot of charity stuff I do back home in North Carolina” he said with dimples, “ Obviously not on the same scale as Chris Webber, but I’m trying to do my part and I really admire what Chris is doing, he gives us young guys something to strive for.”
And Shavlik gives us young girls something to strive for, no?
“I have a Shavlik Randolph camp” he explained, “All the money goes to various charities of my choice, it’s a way for me to give back to the community and to see the way that Webber is doing it- he’s just such an amazing person I could not say enough good things. He’s for real.”
Finally, WNBA legend Ruthie Bolton had all eyes on her as she strutted through the event looking like a ballin-babe. I had to talk to her about the recent infamous bench-clearing brawl between the Detroit Shock and LA Sparks.
“This is actually the first time I’ve actually took a stance about it,” she said, “I think it’s unfortunate it happened, will it make or break the league, no, I think that sometimes players, you know, a coach can catch you off guard or something.”
And what about the suspension?
“The suspension,” she paused, “What bothers me the most is that the player from Detroit got hurt and is out for the rest of the season, that’s the thing that bothers me. I hope this could be a learning experience for a lot of players. I think the WNBA has great players and some of the- obviously- best players in the league were involved in that but I think it’s just something that happened,” said Bolton. “I think a lot of time in sports there’s a little bit of heated stuff early on in the game, maybe that’s what was going on here, coaches need to recognize that early in the game, sometimes they have to cut it off early.”
In terms if being role models?
“You know what, they’re good players, we wanna really represent women in a positive way for the kids, to be good role models.” She said, “I know some guys they loved it, they said ‘oh it was great women fighting’, but you know what, we connect with the community, imagine if you see if I was involved in it and I go to a school to talk about sportsmanship, of course it ain’t gonna have the same impact.”
And about Rick Mahorn? Would the “Lisa Leslie push” been such a big deal if he were a woman?
“No” she said quickly, “It wouldn’t, because he’s male. And looking at it, you know, I don’t know if he actually push-pushed, but I think because he is male, I think that’s why they made a big deal out of it. But I’m glad she’s (Leslie) okay and I actually texted Leslie afterwards and said ‘hey you know I saw what happened’ and I think hopefully this can move forward and maybe some people will start watching the WNBA games, any publicity is good. But we want kids to look up to us, I talk about being role models, I talk about the WNBA and about women being role models, so it’s about learning from your mistakes and moving on.”
Thank you Chris Webber for being a fantastic role model for all of us. Thank you for opening your heart, helping others, and doing it all while throwing one hell of a fundraiser. Your humanitarian efforts and love for the kids makes you one of the best guys out there regardless of what happens at 1:30 AM. See ya next year my friend…
Also in attendance were Rip Hamilton, Baron Davis, Moses Malone, Ricky Davis, Brian Shaw, and Joakim Noah, among many, many others.
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As always, thanks for reading. Delinda Lombardo
RONALDINHO TRANSFERS TO AC MILAN
Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta shook hands with AC Milan sports director Adriano Galliani in the offices of Barcelona FC, on July 15, 2008… And just like that, AC Milan adds Barcelona’s Brazilian star Ronaldinho to their roster of sensational players. (Ronaldinho is the third Brazilian on Milan’s roster, along with Kaka and Alexandre Pato). The 2-time FIFA World Player of the Year has been actively seeking new employment after being publicity ripped by new coach Pep Guardiola, who said: “(If) he can get back to being the player he was, perhaps we could have a rethink,” Guardiola said last month. (Sweet justice would be a Milan v Barca match, no?) Ronaldinho also helped Barca land a spot in both the 2005 and 2006 Spanish league titles and the Champions League trophy in 2006.
“AC Milan and FC Barcelona have reached an agreement for the transfer of Ronaldinho,” said a Milan statement released on the club’s official website. Ronaldinho transferred to AC Milan late Tuesday…Ronaldinho is expected to arrive in Milan on Wednesday for his medical and to sign a contract through June 30, 2011.
Some of you may be shaking your heads at my newfound love for Ronaldinho, but its important to remember I’m not judging our babies on looks alone anymore-there’s gotta be something exceptional, humane, sincere, or just downright good about the hotties who land on my pages.
So why do we love Ronaldinho? Because Ronaldinho is transferring to AC Milan for reasons other than money. Milan’s coughing up $33.4M and another $6.3M if they land a place in next season’s Champions League…on the other hand, Manchester City had offered a considerable amount more-$50.7M-to Ronaldinho. Name me one other player who has said ‘no’ to $10M? Aside from his passion for the game, I also adore Ronaldinho because even though he desperately needs veneers, he dedicates a ton of time giving love to his fans and his recent tour of Asia made me one step closer to adoring him.
Now we only one more player to transfer to Milan for my ‘dream team’ to be completed…please Drogba, get over your Jose-crush and VENGO QUI already!
As always, thanks for reading. Delinda Lombardo
PHIL IVEY BUDS BIG
One of the most talented and recognized poker players in the world, Phil Ivey, popped his Foundation-cherry at the Annual World Series of Barbeque last week and raised a total of $260,000 for the Budding Ivey Foundation and others. The Golden Nugget hosted the party and poker tournament while guests enjoyed the Tank, Golden Nugget’s famous pool with an actual shark tank in the middle of it, an air guitar competition, a hula-hoop contest, even a game or two of Chutes & Ladders.
“This is unbelievable. I never expected so many people to come in support,” said Ivey. “I’ve never done anything like this before.” Ivey is a big-donator in the charity world, and usually does so ‘under the radar’…Props to Phil Ivey for giving some love ‘above the radar’ in efforts to promote the Budding Ivey Foundation which was founded by Ivey and his mother. “The main purpose is to provide scholarships for underprivileged kids and give them an educational opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise receive,” said Ivey. “My grandfather passed away about a year ago, and he was the most influential man in my life. My mother decided to keep his memory alive.” Other charities that benefited from the first annual Budding Ivey Foundation World Series of BBQ included the Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club, the Springs Preserve, and Empowered 2 Excel.
One day after Phil Ivey was busy giving love to the kids, a host of celebrities gave their support to actor Don Cheadle and his Second Annual Ante Up for Africa Tournement…the event raised more than $400,00 for Not on Our Watch, a charity founded by Matt Damon, Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney. Cheadle said the the poker tournament has already made a positive impact in Darfur. In reference to a UN Security Council vote authorizing a peacekeeping force in the area, Cheadle said: “It wouldn’t have taken place [without us].” Other celebrities who kicked in the $5k for a spot at the felt included: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Alexander, Jennifer Tilley, Shannon Elizabeth, Adam Sandler, Ray Romano, Casey Affleck, and poker pro Phil Helmuth. Affleck, who made it all the way to the final table, remains optimistic about the Sudan, “I do think that [Sudan’s leaders] are afraid of the next administration being tougher, and are probably a little bit more willing to be more cooperative,” Affleck said. “But I’m optimistic about what’s going to happen.”
Spanish national soccer team treasure, Iker Casillas is busy making the rounds…hot stuff visited the Inca citadell of Macchu Picchu on July 04 with a group of orphaned kids who are members of an NGO which Casillas supports…he then played a soccer match with the kids before taking off to another two towns in Cusco, Peru….now, I gotta administer a major slap-in-the-face to Yahoo- their caption from one of the photos: “Spanish national soccer team captain…blah, blah…in Cusco, Peru…blah, blah…Casillas supports an educational program of an international NGO in this place.” IN THIS PLACE. That’s a quote…yes, that place, for the record, is Cusco (also spelled Cuzco), a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubama Valley (Sacred Valley) of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cusco Province. The city has a population of about 300,000 and is located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cusco, its altitude is around 3,300 m (10,800 ft). Cusco is the historic capital of the Inca Empire…(For the Yahoo’s out there-it’s called Wikipedia, ya might wanna use it sometime.)
As always, thanks for rading. Delinda Lombardo