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RECOMMENDED: "COACH SNOOP" ON NETFLIX
The 8-part reality series "Coach Snoop" - which originally streamed on AOL and has recently come to Netflix - functions almost identically to HBO's classic "Hard Knocks." We view a season of football from the perspectives of the players and coaches, spending time on the hard-hitting on-the-field action while getting a glimpse into everyone's occasionally turbulent life at home. The only difference is, Snoop's team is populated by a bunch of 13-year-olds.
You see, since 2005, Snoop Dogg has organized the Snoop Youth Football League, a non-profit after school program designed to teach disadvantaged kids about teamwork, good sportsmanship and discipline. He also serves as the head coach for one of the teams, "Snoop's Steelers." It's the sort of thing a lot of celebrities might do just for the public relations, but Snoop seems extraordinarily genuine about his passion for pee-wee football and his devotion to these kids (though he does sometimes arrive to games late from the recording studio).
Programs like these weren't around to keep him away from selling drugs and gang life as a kid, Snoop frequently explains. He opens each episode with a personal memory about feeling lost and adrift as a young person, and reflects on how much youth football could've helped him out. It's clearly a gimmick designed to tug at the heartstrings... but there's a reason reality shows are so popular. This stuff works.
Thankfully, Snoop doesn't consistently force himself to the center stage, and we're given many opportunities to spend time with the players, parents and coaches, many of whom are colorful personalities in their own right. Assistant Coach K-Mac, another former rapper of some note, clearly cares deeply for the kids, but also insists on barking and swearing at them constantly, and is generally prone to fits of rage. (In an early episode, he gets the entire team kicked off of a flight after getting into a verbal altercation with a flight attendant.) At 6'4", Maximus Gibbs is the biggest player on the team, but also among the most shy and introverted, and much of the season is concerned with bringing him out of his shell (and reuniting him with his absent father).
These stories are worth 10 of Snoop's monologues about bringing hope and purpose to kids who feel like they lack options. They overcome the repetitiveness and sort of baked-in artificiality of the reality show format; "Coach Snoop" becomes genuinely emotionally affecting by its conclusion, and I'll admit, I kept watching long after I had to in order to complete this review. I'm still not 100% clear on how "national championships" work in Snoop's league... He has Snoop League teams throughout California, but who do they play when they go to Houston? I'm not sure... but I still wanted them to WIN.
Title: "Coach Snoop"
Where to Watch: Netflix
Episodes: 8 (1 season)
Running time: About 30 minutes each