Memo to Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sign up Doug Flutie. Sign Jeff Blake. Sign Steve Young - again. They played quarterback really well in Saturday afternoon's Super Bowl XLIII-related flag football games on the sand in Pinellas County.
Sign up Sierra Minott, too. Miss Florida 2008 said she'd rather have been playing flag football with the pros and a handful of celebrities than simply watching the games.
"It looks like a lot of fun," Minott said while Young, who played two seasons with the Bucs before launching a Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49rs, passed his team down the sand placed over the baseball field at Progress Energy Park.
"I might not be that athletic but it would be fun to try," said Minott, who is from Fort Myers.
A couple thousand people attended the Celebrity Flag Football Challenge presented by Intel and Samsung at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach, where the Gulf of Mexico served as a backdrop, and an overflow crowd of 6,000 in St. Petersburg at DirectTVs third annual Celebrity Beach Bowl.
About 1,500 people were unable to get inside the former Tampa Bay Rays spring training ballpark, where LL Cool J performed a post-game live set.
A barefoot Flutie and Blake drilled tight spirals in the beach game whose only non-football celebrity was Tae Bo Master Billy Blanks. The scrambling quarterbacks and wideouts like Cincinnati Bengals Chad Ocho Cinco left no doubt they are far more athletic, quick and competitive than most spectators might have expected.
Flutie managed to impersonate Doug Flutie circa 1985 in a first half that ran 35 minutes long before performing a halftime drum set with his brother's rock band.
"These games start out friendly enough, then after a taste of competition that seems to be contagious they can really step it up," said Nelson Marino, a snowbird from Boston who winters with his wife in St. Petersburg.
Marino, who knows some of the Flutie family from his school days in Massachusetts, was headed to Channelside in Tampa for some more glimpses of celebrities after seeing former Bucs and Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy among others on Friday.
The array of local Super Bowl activities, something like a mini-Summer Olympics whose events are spread out across a city or region, afford fans like Marino a chance to taste the glitzy Super Bowl ambiance, even without a ticket to the game.
John Phillips of Cleveland, Ohio, was traveling with a group of 40 Nestle employees who did have tickets to today's Super Bowl.
Did they come by corporate jet? "Greyhound," Phillips said with a laugh before acknowledging the group had booked a commercial flight.
"It's been fantastic," Phillips said, waving his hand across the beach scene at the Trade Winds. Despite being from Cleveland, Phillips predicted the Browns' arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers would win today's game.