Move over Super Bowl: Snoop Bowl VII is first

Tampa, Florida - Move over Super Bowl XVIII, there's another big game in town to be played on Saturday. It's Snoop Bowl VII.
The matchup is between rapper Snoop Dogg's all-star youth football league from Los Angeles and Tampa's all-star team. Snoop Dogg coaches his team and Tampa's players are led by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott.

On Friday, both teams had one final practice at Gaither High School before returning for the big game at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Making the team wasn't easy. An open call for tryouts went out 3 weeks ago. 450 young football players showed up, 30 made the cut, and they represent Tampa Bay's All-Stars. While only a fraction of the players who tried out made the team, Alstott says they were all winners.

"We told these kids even if they didn't make the final 30 you're winners," he says. "You came out here, you tried, gave it your all, gave it your best."

Snoop Dogg's players wear their nicknames on their jerseys. There's Scrappy, Chill, Slim, Lil Red, Crunch man and Iceman. He says the tradition started with him coming up with names for the kids to remember them by and now the kids come up with their own names.

"When they become part of these kids' lives, they become part of yours," says Snoop.

The LA team has won most of the Snoop Bowls and intends to hold on to its title. Alstott's team has other plans. "We need to go out there, have fun, need to go out there and win," says 12-year-old Jordan Griffin, a linebacker with Tampa All-Stars.

Snoop Dogg started the youth football league to give kids an alternative to being on the streets. He put up a million dollars of his own money, pays for the equipment, the insurance and he coaches, too.

"What it did was create a league that's more about the kids, not the money, and about their grades," says Snoop Dogg.

Snoop says he made the game affordable for families and kept them in a central location, so families could participate. He's seen football be a positive influence.

"It's taken crime rate down, education is up high. Fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers not doing anything are part of these kid's lives. It's beautiful to see the bottom tier work, to see how everyone pulls together behind the sport of football."

He says too many people see the physical side of the sport. "It's really educational," he says. "The sport teaches teamwork. It teaches unity. It teaches a lot of things that you don't get to see besides the hitting and contact. It's a great sport and I'm thankful for it."

"I'm a firm believer in what Snoop says. Sports are a bonding period. A learning situation," adds Alstott.

The former Bucs' players say he's a role model. "He's taught us not to give up, to believe in God, and other things that will remain with us through life," says Jordan.

"Never give up. Always try your hardest," adds Nick Mosco, a 10 -year-old linebacker for Tampa All-Stars.

"As coaches, we want to help these kids, dream mentor them, help them be who they want to be," says Alstott.

Snoop says the lessons don't stop on the field for his players. Coaches work with the kids off the field as life counselors.

There's still a game to be played and there are friendly, but fighting, words between both sides.

Tampa All-Stars' Assistant Coach Thadeus Bullard says his team will play Gator style - they'll score high.

"As long as they play hard, do what they're supposed to do," he says. "We'll be happy and Snoop will be happy. But the best talent in the world is here in Florida not California. We are going to give that Gator bait tomorrow afternoon."

Snoop sighs, "We like being in a hostile environment."

The Snoop Bowl is expected to raise about $50,000 for local children's charities. The game is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Gaither High School's football stadium. The address is 16200 N. Dale Mabry Highway. Tickets start at $20.

We've posted the entire press conference with Snoop Dogg, Thadeus Bullard and Mike Alstott.