NFL Network host Rich Eisen kicked off the "Cocktails with the Arians" virtual happy event on Friday night talking about firsts.
"We've got a fun, two hour program to get you all already reminiscing about one of the greatest Super Bowl runs that we have seen in recent memory," began Eisen. "And that would be obviously the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning Super Bowl 55, becoming the first team to ever win the Super Bowl in their own home stadium, and then celebrate in their own town, and then celebrate with boats, and then celebrate with one quarterback throwing the trophy from one boat to another boat. So, there's been a lot of firsts."
The virtual event with special guests was also a first for the Arians Family Foundation. Usually, the event consists of a full gala and dinner. With COVID-19 concerns, the Foundation pivoted and put on a wonderful evening that donors could attend from the comfort of their own homes.
Eisen was joined by "Bruce Arians," who really turned out to be comedian Frank Caliendo before the man himself got on the call. Caliendo did his now-infamous Arians impression to the delight of the real Arians and Eisen alike. Then it was defensive tackle Vita Vea and inside linebacker Devin White who joined their coach, followed by country music superstar Blake Shelton – who not only gave a special performance but reminisced about his friendship with Arians over the years. Shelton told the story of Arians and Arizona General Manager Steve Keim coming to "The Voice" set in Los Angeles with him that was one for the books. The presentation ended in a family affair as Eisen talked to Arians, his wife Christine and their son, Jake, who is the president of the foundation.
The money raised goes to help underprivileged children that are in the foster care system and in need of representation as they go through the court systems. That's where CASAs come in – Court Appointed Special Advocates – who learn all about each child and their circumstances, then help make the best decisions for them. The Arians Family Foundation provides resources and support to various CASA programs across the country, in places that not-so-coincidentally reflect major stops in Coach Arians' career, like two programs here in the Tampa Bay area, Maricopa County in Arizona, Kids' Voice in Indiana and Allegheny County CASA in Pittsburgh.
"You know, I always have felt like, I've done more good in the world doing that than anything else I've done," said Christine, who practiced family law after going through law school with two kids as a coach's wife early in the couple's marriage (she took and passed the bar in five different states as the family moved around). "I can't save every child, but I can make every child's life better. You can make sure that home is a home where they can thrive and be happy. And it's hard, hard work. [But] it's so rewarding. It's just hard to express how rewarding it is."
"I always said, baby, what you're doing is way more important than football," said Arians of his wife's efforts with CASA. "I mean, it doesn't come close. Winning a Super Bowl is nice, but to change 10 children's lives is way bigger, and to be able to just do what we're doing and affect children in a very positive way – it's so special."
Through the Foundation, the family has now helped thousands of children in all those aforementioned cities. But you don't have to be a family lawyer licensed in five different states to become a CASA. Volunteers are trained through the CASA program and it only takes a few hours per month. If you can donate or if you want to volunteer yourself, more information is available at AriansFamilyFoundation.org.
Of course, happy hour with Arians and his infamous glass of Crown Royal, would not be complete without some football talk – of which, there was plenty.
"It took so long to sink in," Arians said of the Bucs' incredible (and dominating) win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. "You know the after party was great. But I've been to a lot of parties and we're coming down the river, and the parade. I'm holding Lombardi Trophy. And, for whatever reason, I looked at Jason Licht, and just, man, had a moment like holy sh-- we did this, and I've got the Lombardi Trophy – I didn't throw it to another boat thank God, but I looked at Jason and I sat back, I had tears in my eyes and swelled up a little bit and said, 'Wow, this is real. This isn't a dream,' and that's when it really hit me."
View photos from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl LV championship parade from February 10, 2021.