The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is receiving an unofficial after-party of epic proportions. We’re talking Rajon Rondo playing one-on-two Connect Four proportions — at least that’s what has Luke Bonner’s interest piqued.
On Saturday, March 1, Church of Boston will be hosting The Nightcap, an event celebrating some of what makes Boston a world-class city: sports, academics, music, comedy, art, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. The latter influence will be on display this weekend, with proceeds supporting the Rock on Foundation, a nonprofit founded by former UMass basketball player Luke Bonner and his brother Matt, a forward-center for the San Antonio Spurs.
The duo, passionate about sports and the arts, threw their first charity event in their hometown of Concord, N.H. in early 2013. They put together an NBA Three-Point Contest viewing party, and donated all the money to the Boys & Girls Club of America. Within a year, they were already hosting their first “Alt-Star Party” in New Orleans during NBA All-Star Weekend, a concert featuring the likes of Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Tomson, who showed up to DJ.
With each Rock on Foundation event, the goal is to motivate the host community. “We redistribute funds to community nonprofit programs that operate youth programs to inspire the next generation,” Luke Bonner explained. “It’s been quite a rewarding process.”
Funds raised have, so far, helped renovate public basketball courts; provide financial aid for underprivileged youth interested in art and music; assist with the development of new community art programs; fund a Police Activities youth basketball league; and that’s just the beginning.
As schools continue cutting back programming, they’ve started relying more on external relations — as have communities, who are now turning to nonprofits supporting the arts and athletics to educate their children.
“When I think of my childhood, I viewed arts and athletics as two very different scenes,” Bonner said. “But we believe they go hand in hand.”
To Bonner, each are a positive outlet — an escape — that teach self-discipline and how to overcome adversity. “You learn how to deal with failing and trying again,” Bonner explained, adding that the arts and athletics help foster a work ethic in today’s youth. “Whether you’re training to be a musician or a track athlete, a lot of the values and skills you learn are very similar.”
The overlap is what Bonner also finds so appealing about the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, as it brings together those who work in sports that aren’t athletes with people playing the game, whatever that game may be. Bronner lauded “the crossover between all of these side jobs you can have in sports without necessarily being LeBron James.”
Following the conference, attendees will be given front-row seats to a Train Gum-sponsored Connect Four tournament, featuring local celebrity competitors: TJ Connelly, co-founder of onthebar, host of The Night Shift on the Boston Globe’s RadioBDC and DJ for the Boston Red Sox; Graham Wright, founder and host of Opus Affair; James DiSabatino, founder and CEO of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese; and a “Mystery Mei,” one of the sibling founders behind Mei Mei.
When the tournament ends, Brooklyn-based comedian Hari Kondabolu will take the stage, and be followed up by Gregg Gethard and Aaron Hertzog of the Holding Court Podcast. After all the laughs, the volume will be turned up for music by DJ Vid Kid and hip hop band Big Digits.
If that’s not enough, a pop-up “souvenir shop” will be at Church of Boston and will feature Grillos Pickles, as well as affordable pieces of work from local artists, including: Aaron Dana, Andrew Lorge, and Jennifer Carland and Regina Valluzzi of Turning Art.
The Nightcap is open to the public, and kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here.
“I think just having a room filled with all these like-minded individuals will create a dynamic atmosphere that’s going to be a lot of fun,” Bonner said. “There should be very stimulating conversation.”