Urban: My First (And Surely Only) Standing Ovation


Urban: My First (And Surely Only) Standing Ovation

Sept. 22, 2010

CHICAGO -- Ever wonder what it feels like to have a stadium full of people going nuts as you walk off a baseball field?I got to experience it Tuesday night.Granted, the wild cheering from the fans at Wrigley Field as I climbed the steps of the Giants dugout and stepped onto the field wasnt exactly directed at me. In fact, it wasnt directed at me at all. But that didnt stop me from turning it into one of the more amusing moments of my 20-year career in sports journalism.It all happened because the game was delayed by rain, so CSN Bay Area had some time to fill on the air back home. They called me in the press box and asked me to head down to the dugout for a quick live hit with the SportsNet Central anchors. I have to admit it was a little awkward at first; about 20 Giants were in the extremely narrow visitors dugout at Wrigley, and I had to do the hit from the end of the dugout. Its one thing to be in the clubhouse a couple hours before the game, quite another to be in the dugout potentially minutes before one.The guys were cool about it, though. They understood I was just doing my job. And as soon as I was done doing my job, I rewarded their tolerance with a little impromptu comedy.You see, while I was doing my thing in the dugout, the rain stopped, and by the time I was finished and ready to bounce out of the dugout, out bounced the Cubs grounds crew to remove the tarp.Thats when the crowd went nuts -- right when my left foot hit the dirt in front of the dugout. The timing of it was too perfect to ignore, so I did what any self-respecting class clown would do under such circumstances.I pimped it. Big-time.As I walked in front of the Giants dugout, past all of the players and toward the swinging gate that leads to the lower-bowl stairs you have to climb on your way to the press box, I raised both arms in acknowledgment of the roar. I nodded emphatically, a non-verbal, Damn right, Im all that!I even pointed to the upper deck down the left-field line, then did a 180 and pointed to the upper deck down the right-field line.A good number of the players saw it, knew exactly what I was doing and howled in delight. A couple good-naturedly heckled me: Thats not for you!Of course it wasnt. But I sold that bad boy like you wouldnt believe, and some of the many Giants fans whod scored seats in the lower bowl helped me sell it when I worked my way up the steps by meeting me in the aisle with high-fives.By the time I got to the top row of the lower bowl, I could feel the eyes of every Cubs fans in the vicinity squarely on me, likely thinking one of two things: (1) Who the hell is that? (2) What a jackass!You think I cared? I laughed the whole way to the press box.What's on your mind? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

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.