Tampa Tribune Review of Bucs vs Boys

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Date: Mar 28, 2000
Source: The Tampa Tribune
Submitted By: Gina

Mar 27, 2000 - 02:16 AM

Written by JENNIFER BARRS of The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - On Sunday, Backstreet Boys Nick Carter and Brian Littrell proved they can do more than carry a tune. A lot more.

Playing before a packed house of screaming fans at the University of South Florida Sun Dome, a celebrity basketball team that included the charismatic crooners out-hustled their opponents 108-104.

They also helped raise an estimated $80,000 to $90,000 for the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation, whose corporate umbrella covers facilities such as Tampa Children's Hospital and St. Joseph's Women's Hospital.

And just who did they beat up on to win the game? None other than a relaxed but raucous team crowded with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose high scorers included wide receiver Reidel Anthony and safety Damien Robinson, an accomplished schoolboy basketball star who averaged 17.5 points a game at his Dallas high school.

``Hey, I wasn't surprised we won, but it was sure a good game,'' said blond Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, as he signed poster after poster following the game. ``Brian and I play basketball as much as we possibly can. And we did this because it's fun, it's for a good cause and, frankly, Tampa deserves it.''

The fans certainly thought so. The Bucs vs. The Boys was the first time since 1984 that the USF Sun Dome had sold out for a basketball game, as thousands were crammed into the arena, many of them young women swaddled in Backstreet Boys paraphernalia. Among these was 10-year-old Sara Connell of Dunedin, who was one of 20 patients from St. Joseph's Children's Hospital attending the game. Her name was chosen at random just before tip-off, allowing her to meet and talk with the Boys in the locker room.

Also on hand: Diane Chabalik and her daughter Diane and their friend Kelly Miller. For them, the event resonated on several levels.

First, Chabalik's 10-year-old son, Joseph Pohe, suffers from a birth defect similar to the one experienced by singer Littrell, who she said had surgery several years ago to correct a heart problem. Consequently, Chabalik said, the cause struck a serious and sentimental chord.

For the younger Diane and her girlfriend Kelly, both seniors at Clearwater Central Catholic, the event was another chance to get a good look at members of their favorite group. Thursday they will join three other girls to lip-sync the Backstreet Boys' tune, ``Larger Than Life,'' during a campuswide competition called ``Air Bands.''

Though there wasn't any singing Sunday, there were plenty of laughs and a heckuva lot of hustle. The event was organized by Brandon Ford and Tampa radio station WFLZ, 93.3 FM, which streamed the video live on its Web site during the game. Disc jockeys from the radio station helped round out the bench for the two teams.

What the audience saw was a game the Boys took pretty seriously, as members of their team, coached by wrestler Hulk Hogan, panted and grimaced and threw themselves across the court. This all came despite daunting physical matchups such as the one between 6-foot-2, 303-pound defensive tackle Warren Sapp and a much lighter, much shorter Littrell.

The Bucs led at the end of the first quarter 33-28, but seldom afterward. The Boys went in the locker room with a 65-59 lead at halftime, and despite a game-ending run in the last two minutes, the Bucs couldn't outlast the buzzer.

The Bucs bench included Shaun King, Brad Culpepper, Martin Gramatica and Mark Royals, but it was Robinson and Anthony who managed several high, soaring three-pointers. Charlie Bradley, the all-time leading basketball scorer for the University of South Florida Bulls, made an impressive showing for the Boys.

But ultimately, it was the Boys themselves, Carter and Littrell, who stole the show.

In fact, a significant portion of the money raised Sunday was donated by Carter, who wrote a check to the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation for $20,000 out of his Nick Carter Foundation account.

A silent auction of Boys and Bucs jerseys also upped the ante. By day's end, a bid of $4,500 had been made for Littrell's signed jersey, while Carter's went for $3,670. Of the Buccaneer jerseys, King's went for the most money, $1,000, while Sapp was a close second at $800.

``I've got to tell you, I'm totally surprised,'' said Tampa Children's Hospital administrator Michael Aubin after the game. ``When Nick Carter came to me with the idea, I was thinking they were going to play, you know, in a gym someplace. I just never expected this. Carter is a fine, good example of young people in their 20s who, when they are able to give back, really do it in a big way.''

Earlier this year, Carter and WFLZ helped raise approximately $13,000 for the hospital foundation in a silent auction conducted in conjunction with their spring concert here.

Jennifer Barrs can be reached at jbarrs@tampatrib.com

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