(photos courtesy Josh Lewis, SeattleRefined.com)
Bobby Wagner was in the middle of coaching one of the top youth basketball teams in the Pacific Northwest this past Saturday, but at halftime, the Seattle Rotary Style (Blue) 3rd grade squad looked far from what Wagner knew they were capable of.
"The first half they were playing decent, but they weren't playing like the way they could be playing," Wagner said of this past weekend's 'Battle of the Best in the Pacific Northwest' fundraising event held at Cleveland High School that saw Seattle Rotary face off against MVP Basketball Club of Portland. "They weren't playing like they were the No. 1 team in Seattle."
So Wagner, who was serving as a celebrity coach for the event along with fellow Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, a guest coach for the Portland side, resorted to a bit of bribery in an effort to get his team to play up to par. The crowd on hand at Cleveland High had just been treated to a Chick-Fil-A giveaway that had the kids on the court wondering, "Do we get Chick-Fil-A, too?"
"Probably the funniest moment of the event," Wagner recalled. "... I was like, 'Well, if y'all play how y'all supposed to be playing and have some energy, I'll give y'all some Chick-Fil-A.' So they started playing way better for the chicken. They ended up blowing the team out.
"I forgot that's all it takes as a kid, bribe them with some chicken, or a video game, and they'll do whatever."
Wagner, who played AAU hoops growing up, has done work with Seattle Rotary Boys and Girls Club in the past, having surprised 30-plus members with a shopping spree last holiday season. Saturday's fundraising effort aimed at earning the Seattle Rotary Style 3rd grade basketball team trips to two upcoming AAU national tournaments, one in Anaheim June 17-19 and the other in Las Vegas July 20-24.
"They made it to the tournaments but they didn't have enough money to get out there to make the trip," Wagner said. "So I found that out, found out how much money they were trying to raise, and just tried to do what I could to help."
Wagner said the 'Battle of the Best in the Pacific Northwest' ultimately fell short of its fundraising goal, but much to the delight of the young - and hungry - athletes on site, the Seahawks linebacker had a surprise up his sleeve.
"They had a set number in mind that they wanted to reach and they didn't know this at the point, but whether they reached that goal or didn't I was going to cover the rest," Wagner said. "So they didn't quite get the whole amount and I'm covering the rest. ... I told them after the game. They were excited. They didn't think I was serious.
"But like I said, they were excited about that, but still were like, 'So, we still get the chicken, right?' So I could have offered them a trillion dollars, but they're still more excited about the chicken. So I've got to make sure they get their Chick-Fil-A."