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Inside ESPN's private party with the X Ambassadors in Tampa's Kress building



ESPN rolled out a blue carpet for a group of athletes, celebrities and ESPN broadcasters on a cold, windy Saturday night in downtown Tampa for its Party at the Playoff in the Kress building. 

Among those walking the carpet were Cedric the Entertainer, Tim Tebow, C.J. Spiller and ESPN personalities Jemele HIll, Rece Davis, Anthony "Booger" McFarland and Cari Champion, among about a half dozen others from the cable network. Also there were the X Ambassadors, who later played their first set of the new year at the private party inside the historic building.

"I played a little bit of football, a little bit of lacrosse," said lead singer Sam Harris when asked who the most athletic member of the band is, but he was far from bragging about his athleticism. When asked what his greatest sports achievment was he said, "When I fumbled the snap in like seventh grade. That was my first and only appearance at quarterback."

Harris declined to predict a winning team in the upcoming national championship game between Alabama and Clemson Monday at Raymond James Stadium, but his bandmate Adam Levin didn't hesitate to pick Clemson.

"I just think they're gonna do it this year after losing last year," Fedshuh said. "I think it gives them the motivation."

Cedric the Entertainer on the other hand is going with Alabama. 

"Roll Tide. I'm an Alabama fan. They're gonna do it," he said.

The comedian was scheduled to appear in Clearwater Beach the following day for an event that included a celebrity flag football game.

"I'm just coaching. I can't run anymore," he said. "Junior high school, that was as far as I went. I played a little bit of football. My crowning achievement was nothing; nothing happened. I didn't even finish the season."

Nearby, the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy sat on a platform on the sidewalk along Franklin Street as partiers posed for photos with it, while inside the S.H. Kress & Co. building the long-dormant space had been transformed into the atmosphere of a nightclub with the help of curtains, giant monitors, luxurious couches, sleek bars and red light that bathed every wall inside the 88-year-old building. 

Hundreds of people mingled inside the building, some of them recognizable as former football players or ESPN reporters. As the X Ambassadors opened their set with a rollicking performance of their hit Jungle that included Harris wailing on the saxophone, Tebow stood with his back to the bar as a semicircle of people surrounded him. 

The X Ambassadors performance, which saw them take the stage without guitarist Noah Feldshuh, also included Loveless from their 2015 album VHS.


[Last modified: Sunday, January 8, 2017 4:16pm]


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