Urban: Impressions of Philly


Urban: Impressions of Philly

Oct. 17, 2010
Mychael Urban

PHILADELPHIA -- Im not in the habit of arriving at the ballpark five-plus hours before the first pitch, I swear. In the playoffs its particularly silly; the clubhouses, open 3 12 hours before a regular-season game, arent open at all before postseason games. Today is an exception, though, because were in Philly, and the Eagles are playing, and the Eagles play across the street from the Phillies, and traffic and blah and blah and blah. You dont care about my sad little reporter story, do you?Dude, youre covering the Giants -- the team that fostered your love for baseball as a child -- in the National League Championship Series. Im at home in Morgan Hill, battling my 3.5 kids for the remote on NFL Sunday and trying to tune out my nagging spouse, who swears taking the recycling bins to the curb is of the utmost importance at this very moment. Quitcherbitchin.Fair enough, but Im not complaining. Seriously. I understand that Im a lucky man, and that point was hammered home last night at 2:22 a.m., Philly time.Philly is a 2 a.m. town; last call is at 1:40 or so. Thats a problem for many of us in the media when were covering a game that starts late, goes three hours, and requires your presence on multiple postgame platforms before youre set free for the night.Heres something you need to know: Winding down is an essential part of being a sportswriter, and thats what I am at the core. Your brain is on fire from the moment the game starts until two to three hours after it ends, and its hard to douse the flame. But you must -- and theres no better way to douse a flame than with liquids, ifyouknowwhatImeanandIthinkyoudo. Anyway, we got out of Citizens Bank Park at 1 a.m. last night (this morning), and thanks to our Philly-raised producer, whom youd think would have a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of downtowns one-way streets, we spent more time idling in traffic than moving while winding our way back to our hotel, and we didnt get back until 1:50 a.m.But thanks to our Philly-raised producer, who redeemed himself the way Bob Brenly did in that crazy game at the Stick way back when, I was treated to one of the most surreal, cool, and plain freaky nights of my career.Theres an after-hours place in downtown Philly, two blocks from our hotel, called the Pen & Pencil. Its a members-only club, and all you need to be a member-for-a-night, our producer told us, is some sort of proof that you make your living with -- duh -- a pen or a pencil.So we walked the two blocks and found the nondescript door. I could have been the entrance to an alley, to a run-down apartment, to an hourly-rate motel, to an untimely death. But it wasnt. It was the door to heaven.It opened, we walked in. And there stood another door. You half-expected a shaft to open at eye level, with some Marty Feldman type asking for the password. Instead, a burly, only-in-Philly badass opened the door and quizzically eyes the obvious out-of-town rubes.Who you here with?I didnt have an answer. But I had my NLCS credential, and that meant I was in. We all were in. And as soon as we got in, we saw and exchanged can-you-believe-this greeting with a bunch of other media types from the Bay Area. And we all had an absolute blast. Not all of us had the boiled-in-a-crock-pot hot dogs that the producer told us about, though. He tends to tell us that all things Philly are the best (insert noun here) ever! But homeboy dogged me -- pun half-intended -- and ate the last one, removing him from consideration for best host ever. But thats beside the point. The point, at this point, should be clear. The Pen & Pencil is the best late-night spot wait for it EVER!

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

LOS ANGELES – On the scale of NBA regular-season epic, Warriors-Clippers on Wednesday night rates a solid 8 for the Warriors. It’s circled on the desk calendars in pencil, a game they want for development and vanity.

For the Clippers, though, it’s a 9.5. Might be a 10. It’s stamped on the calendars embedded in their minds.

They need this game, psychologically, to prove they can stand up to the team that has spent the past two seasons winning a championship and setting a record for regular-season wins, simultaneously suppressing the notion of the Clippers being legitimately elite.

Los Angeles also needs to win the clash at Staples Center if these Western Conference titans are to reignite what once was the hottest rivalry in the NBA.

“We get to see what they do; they get to see what we do,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says.

“It’s a new four-game journey against this team,” guard Stephen Curry says. “We have history that, when you play in the division, year after year, we’re fighting for the same goal of not only winning the division but playoff seeding and coming out of the west. It’s been a nice little back and forth.”

It has been mostly forward for the Warriors, generally backward for the Clippers.

A rivalry is defined somewhat by geography but mostly by hostilities over both the regular season and the postseason. In the very best rivalries, the teams are hunting the same bounty and end up exchanging feelings of ecstasy and heartbreak.

That has been missing the past two seasons, with the Warriors winning seven of the eight games and the last six in a row. It has been Curry over Chris Paul, Draymond Green over Blake Griffin, Klay Thompson over J.J. Redick and Kerr over Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

The contempt that began percolating back in 2012, reaching its apex in 2014 during a spellbinding seven-game playoff series won by LA, has been submerged by this wave of Warriors success.

The “rivalry” has declined considerably, leaving nothing but memories of the days when the teams were striving to reach the same level.

“We were a team trying to break through and make the playoffs,” Klay Thompson says. “They were trying to do the same thing, as far as trying to make noise in the playoffs. We both had an edge to ourselves and we haven’t lost it. They’re still hungry to get to that championship level. You can see that. And so are we.”

Curry traces the origin of the rivalry to Paul’s arrival in December 2011. The decorated point guard brought instant credibility to a franchise that had been every bit as much of a laughingstock as had the Warriors.

“When CP got there and the organization took a different turn, for the better obviously,” Curry recalls. “It was probably that first year we both made the playoffs (2012-13) because the records were a lot better than they usually were and there was a little more excitement around the new and up-and-coming teams.”

Games have featured ejections, multiple technical fouls – once in a preseason game – with an overdose of grabbing and posturing. One beef went postgame, nearly becoming physical in a hallway near the locker rooms.

There has been verbal warfare, sarcasm and slights and insults, though most of it lately has come from LA.

With the Warriors at 18-3 and the Clippers at 16-6, this may be the last season to reignite the conflict, and the first of four meetings will provide a sense of placement. The Warriors are 18-3, having won 14 of their last 15. The Clippers are 16-6, having lost four of their last six.

“It’ll be fun to see how it plays out,” Kerr says.

The Clippers, however, showed up for this season with a sense of urgency. Paul and Griffin both have opt-out clauses and will be free agents in July. The perennial All-Stars have been teammates for five-plus seasons, but this may be the last.

“Their continuity is really key; it’s one of the things that has helped us the last couple years,” Kerr says. “When you have basically the same team for a while, and you’re already a good team, you tend to get better. You tend to grow more and more comfortable with what you’re already doing and then, maybe even have the ability to add on some things.”

So maybe it’ll be different this season. Maybe we’ll have actual back-and-forth.

“They could be a team down the road that we need to get through to get where we want to go, and they probably see us the same way,” Curry says.

Oh, there is no doubt about that, certainly not among the Clippers.

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith


A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s officials at the winter meetings carried heavy hearts Tuesday following the death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith.

Smith died unexpectedly Monday in Arizona at the age of 41. No cause of death was known, a team spokesperson said, and the A’s traveling contingent at the meetings were still processing the news Tuesday night.

“We’re still sort of absorbing this whole thing. As you can imagine this came as a shock to everybody,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “He had such a commitment to the organization and was such a diligent worker. He’s a tremendous loss. Everybody thought the world of him as an employee, a person. It’s shocking.”

Smith worked for the A’s for eight years and was instrumental in creating the team’s minor league video department in 2009. Manager Bob Melvin, who crossed paths with Smith every spring at the team’s minor league training complex, said Smith went above and beyond the expectations of his job to help everyone in the organization.

“He was the first guy you saw,” Melvin said. “Just a great guy that everybody felt close to. He couldn’t do enough to help wherever he could. … He’d send me video during the year of guys he thought I might see at some point, and I never even asked for them. Just a hard-working guy who was very aware of what each guy he was working with was looking for and needed.”

Funeral services are pending.