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Thursday, December 10, 2009
Updated: December 11, 1:33 PM ET
Snoop charms from studio and sideline

By Mary Buckheit
ESPN.com

• Check out our photo gallery for more about Snoop Dogg's football team

POMONA, Calif. -- On a night in November, when you'd expect Snoop Dogg to be up to his ice in the details of the December release of his 10th studio album, Mr. D-O-double-G is not sitting in a green room surrounded by his crew, or swimming in VIP bottle service at the club. Not yet, anyway.

Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg directs his Pee Wee Division youth league team during practice last month. Click here for more about Coach Snoop and the Pomona Steelers.

Right now -- like most every Thursday night for the past five years -- Snoop is standing in an open grass field beside a middle school in Los Angeles County. Under the glow of lights through the cold autumn air, he looks out on a group of 11- and 12-year-old boys assembled reverently before him, each on one knee. Tonight he is not puzzling over hit singles or presale promotions, but rather, the standout practice performance of his Pee Wee division Pomona Steelers.

"That's the intensity we've got to keep the whole season," says the iconic 38-year-old rapper with stirring coach's conviction. The battalion of boys obliges in sharp unison, "Sir yes sir!"

Snoop continues: "Everybody's light is on right now. Everybody! So get y'all some rest, go to school, don't do nothing stupid, no skateboard, no kickball. … I can't hear y'all coming back telling me, 'I hurt my knee at lunchtime playing tetherball with Denisha.'"

He delivers this commandment with deadpan sincerity for the young sponges to absorb and then adds, "Yeah, Denisha. You didn't know I knew her too, huh?" Beside him on each side, a line of stern-faced coaches breaks up in laughter. As soon as he knows his disciplined delivery has paid off, Snoop's eyes narrow and the trademark Snoop Dogg grin takes over his face as he falls back a step laughing and then launches into a full tetherball-on-the-playground performance.

This snapshot of Snoop's serious side that flanks his magnetic charm is exactly why so many people have loved Snoop Dogg so much for so long. Since our first collective introduction to Calvin Broadus in 1992 via Dr. Dre's epic album "The Chronic," to his breakout solo album "Doggystyle" that debuted at No. 1 in 1993, and straight through his subsequent hit parade, the Dogg Father has captured a far-reaching fan base, branched out beyond record labels, poured out of Cadillac stereos and thumped through suburban dorm rooms with ease. The persona of his art has the enduring power to balance a strange absurdity with a cute playfulness that keeps him above the fold.

No matter how far we've seen him push into eccentric margins, he always seems to bring it back with the ability to recalibrate his relativity by releasing another platinum album, baking a cake for his little girl on the family's reality show, renewing marriage vows with his high school sweetheart, or funding a youth football league in urban L.A. entirely out of his own pocket.

The charm never ceases to exude from Snoop's slim, familiar frame, and still no one ever questions his legendary cred. Maybe it's his easy smile or startlingly smart speech. Maybe it's his childlike excitability, unyielding work ethic, laid-back cool, or the sincere compassion for the kids he hopes to steer from street violence to shoulder pads. Whatever it is that keeps Snoop on top, it's been around forever, and somehow, it's still here making the ladies and fellas sing.

C'mon, hit it with me.

Snoop Doggy, Do-oww-ohhhh-ogg.

Mary Buckheit is an ESPN.com Page 2 columnist. She can be reached at marybuckheit@hotmail.com.