A Night Out: SneakerBall VI

By: Gwendolyn Purdom

What: The sixth annual SneakerBall, a fundraiser for the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, a nonprofit that focuses on civic improvement through sports.

Where: National Building Museum

When: Tuesday, September 15, from 6:30 until around 11, when the sporty set of guests left for the after-party at Public Bar in DC’s Dupont Circle.

Table price: $7,500.

Attire
: Black tie—with sneakers. “It’s always fun to dress up,” said Redskins player Chris Cooley, who was given a Solid Character award. He and his wife, Christy, a former Redskins cheerleader, happily followed the formal/sporty dress code. Though a surprising number of female guests opted out of the comfy break from stilettos, colorful kicks of all kinds (we even spotted a few sequined pairs) were on display on guests and served as the decorative centerpieces in the dining room courtesy of Art Whino.

Who: The National Building Museum was buzzing with big names and big people—hulking professional athletes towered over other prominent guests such as DC mayor Adrian Fenty. Also present was Capitals defender Mike Green and left winger Alex Ovechkin along with several teammates; Redskins including Cooley, Fred Smoot, and Renaldo Wynn as well as former seven-time All-Pro Redskins defensive back Darrell Green and former Redskins Brian Mitchell and Ken Harvey; Washington Mystics owner and BET executive Sheila Johnson; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Troy Smith; DC Council members Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas, and Jack Evans; and players from the Mystics, DC United, the Bayhawks, and the Washington Freedom. Furry mascots from Washington teams hammed it up throughout the night. Sports anchors Steve Buckhantz and Lindsay Czarniak served as emcees, and Jen Corey, Miss District of Columbia, wowed the crowd with her rendition of the national anthem.

The scene: Beneath the museum’s soaring columns and crisscrossing blue spot lights, dolled-up guests spent the first hour drifting among the raffle items and silent-auction tables. Many sipped signature cocktails such as the SneakerBall Pom-a-Rita or the tequila-based World Series. Prizes included weekend getaways, jewelry, a Capitals autographed hockey stick, a run with Mayor Fenty, a training session with Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, and a baseball signed by the White Sox Fan-in-Chief Barack Obama.

Cheerleading squads from both the Redskins and the Wizards showed off their dance routines and impressive high kicks before dinner in the lounge. A live auction—complete with a cowboy-hat-clad auctioneer—included such prizes as a week in Maui, a chance to attend the 2011 US Open and play the course, and a pair of Super Bowl tickets. After dinner, guests hit the twinkling game room, where classics such as foosball, air hockey, arcade basketball, and video games were waiting, accompanied by a fully stocked bar and an elaborate spread of desserts.

Honorees: Members of the Washington sports community were honored during the awards ceremony. For the first time, fans were invited to vote in the weeks preceding the ball. Winners of the evening included Washington Redskins Chief Zee for Best Team Mascot; Capitals vice president and general manager George McPhee for Sports Executive of the Year; Geico for Corporate Sponsor of the Year title; and master of ceremonies Lindsay Czarniak for Best Sports Feature. Alex Ovechkin won Best Sports Play for his playoff goal and DC Sportsperson of the Year, and Cooley received the Solid Character award.

Food: During the cocktail hour, guests snacked on yummy appetizers such as goat-cheese bites and sirloin with Maytag blue cheese and tomato jam. The dinner included grilled jumbo-crab-stuffed shrimp, and mesquite-grilled beef tenderloin with corn timbale and panned Southern greens. Servers talented at keeping wineglasses filled were a lovely bonus. Dessert stations featured passion-fruit torte, chocolate-and-raspberry marquise, brownies, miniature French pastries, chocolate-covered strawberries, sports-themed sugar cookies and cakes, and—our personal favorite—cheesecake lollipops. A definite home run.

Soundtrack: Anything the cheerleaders could do a kickline to—think Beyoncé and Rihanna.

Most tearjerking moment: A moving speech by Frank Stephens, Special Olympics athlete and Global Messenger Speaker, to induct Eunice Kennedy Shriver posthumously into the 2009 Hall of Champions. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Stephens ended his remarks by saying, “Thanks, Mrs. Shriver. You took the one lifetime you were given and gave meaning to millions of lives. You win the gold medal.”

Ratings:
Boldface names: 3 out of 5
Swankiness: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 4 out of 5
Overall exclusivity: 4 out of 5

Total score: 15 out of 20

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