For one night, Lansdowne entertained more high-profile sports celebrities than an ESPN show.
Legendary professional football, basketball and baseball hall-of-famers and sports broadcasters, including icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson, gathered Sept. 27 at Lansdowne Resort to benefit the D.C. College Access Program.
To raise money for the foundation, event co-chairs James Brown, host of “The NFL Today” and Michael Wilbon, co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” had to endure nearly two hours of painstakingly embarrassing stories about themselves and their career snafus.
DC-CAP, a privately funded nonprofit, was established in the fall of 1999 by major Washington-area corporations and foundations as a way to enable D.C. public high school students to enroll and graduate from college. Since its inceptions, the program has helped 18,000 students and awarded $26 million in scholarships. Of those 18,000 students, 3,800 graduated college.
Gathered at the event was a group of star-struck seniors from D.C.‘s Wilson High School.
“This means a lot to me. I have a math quiz tomorrow and I’m not going to get home until about midnight. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Magic Johnson and Micheal Wilbon …. ” said 16-year-old Quentell El-Hamin.
Johnson started the evening off, not by roasting Brown and Wilbon, but offering accolades for the two veteran sports journalists and pledging $50,000 to DC-CAP.
“Tonight really is not about James or Michael but it is about what they do for these incredible kids. They were both once one of them. … The blessing is they have achieved just about everything in life, but at the same time neither one of them have forgotten where they come from. So, I’m not the guy that’s going to roast them. I’m the guy that’s going to uplift them,” Johnson said.
But humor quickly followed as roaster Donnie Simpson, host of “The Donnie Simpson Show” for 17 years on D.C.‘s WPGC-FM, took shots at not only Johnson, but the roastees, specifically playing off of Brown’s reputation for being one of the nicest guys in sports television.
“How do you roast a minister? I was driving here and lighting bolts are flashing. I said ‘this is a sign from God or something. It was like God was telling me ‘don’t you do that, he’s one of mine,’” Simpson said of the night, as rain and thunderstorms engulfed Loudoun County.
Simpson joked about his nervousness following Johnson, especially since the basketball legend pledged so much money and asked the kids who would benefit from the program to come up to the stage.
” … They’ve got me following “Magic” Johnson? He’s got kids up here like Michael Jackson singing “We Are the World,” a check for $50,000. I think I’ve got a $20 on me,” Simpson said as the audience roared with laughter. “I’m supposed to follow that? Really?”
Jon Barry, a 14-year NBA veteran who now provides analysis for a variety of ESPN news and information studio shows took the opportunity to dig into Wilbon’s reputation of being slow.
“He’s so slow I think they told him we were going to start yesterday,” Barry said. “And you haven’t seen slow until you’ve played golf with Wilbon. If you listen very closely you can hear “Chariots of Fire” in the background.”
Morgan Wootten, who was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame and has the record for the most wins as a head coach in the history of basketball, took the opportunity to make fun of himself.
Wootten, who has 16 grandchildren, told the story of how one of his grandsons didn’t realize his grandfather’s legendary status.
The grandson’s teacher, he said, asked the class to write down their favorite sport to which he replied: baseball.
“The teacher asked him why he wrote down baseball. He said ‘well my father is a great baseball player and he’s taught me how to be a baseball player,’” Wootten said.
When the teacher asked his grandson why he didn’t write down basketball, the grandson replied “I don’t know anybody who knows anything about basketball.”
Other roasters included legendary former Georgetown Basketball coach John Thompson, Lesley Vissar, who is considered the most highly acclaimed female sportscaster of all time and Stuart Scott, lead host for the NBA on ESPN and ABC.
To learn more about DC-CAP or to donate money visit http://www.dccap.org .
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