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!

Del Rio: Raiders 'have some real diehards,' should keep homefield advantage in Oakland


Del Rio: Raiders 'have some real diehards,' should keep homefield advantage in Oakland

PHOENIX – Jack Del Rio is an East Bay guy. The Castro Valley native and Hayward High product went to Raiders games as a child, and knows too well how loud Oakland Coliseum crowds can be. He helped create that home-field advantage decades ago, and appreciates it now as Raiders head coach.

The Black Hole and surrounding supporters were felt in losing seasons but last year especially, when the Raiders went 12-4 and won several games in dramatic fashion.

While the Raiders are currently sold out of season tickets for 2017, there’s some question about how the fans will react after owners approved relocation to Las Vegas on Monday morning. The Raiders plan to play in Oakland the next two seasons – they have team options on the Oakland Coliseum for 2017 and 2018 -- and would like to play there again in 2019 until a Vegas stadium is completed in 2020.

Will there be a bunch of empty seats? Will there be protests outside the stadium? Or will the opportunity to see a team with championship aspirations keep fans coming?

That remains uncertain, though Del Rio believes Raiders fans will continue supporting their club.

“I can’t answer that definitively, but I would say I doubt it,” Del Rio said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think we have to play well and earn it. That’s where it starts. I’m banking on us doing well. If we do well enough, people will be excited to watch us."

Raiders owner Mark Davis has offered refunds to fans jilted by the move out of town, though those requests weren’t immediately high. There’s also a waiting list to buy season tickets if they become available.

There will be fans turned off after all this, and Raiders brass don’t fault them for it.

“There is that element where a certain number where they’re disappointed to the point they won’t support us anymore. That’s understandable,” Del Rio said. “We’ll have to see what that number is. If it’s a lot, we’ll adjust that line of thinking. But I would be surprised if that’s the case.”

Raiders fans are unique, and have shown a willingness to travel for games regardless of record.

“We have some real diehards,” Del Rio said. “We draw globally. I’m sure there will be some who are angry and can’t get over it; that’s understandable. I think there will be a large contingent who are true Raiders fans, and it really doesn’t matter where they’re playing. They’re there and they’re fired up.”

Del Rio: No handbook for transition to Vegas, 'focus on the here and now'

Del Rio: No handbook for transition to Vegas, 'focus on the here and now'

PHOENIX -- Jack Del Rio’s sat down for his annual media breakfast Tuesday morning surrounded by cameras. The Raiders head coach was the main attraction at this AFC function at the NFL owners meetings, and it wasn’t because his team finished 12-4 last year.

Most of this media throng wasn’t there to ask about Derek Carr’s rehab from fibula surgery or position battles waged during the offseason program.

They wanted to know about Vegas, baby, Vegas.

The Raiders were approved to relocate there Monday and he was asked about how he’ll deal with relocation issues despite the fact Del Rio will coach the Oakland Raiders for as many as three seasons.

That limbo length is unprecedented, leaving Del Rio without a road map for how to ease concerns about the future.

“It’s a little unique,” Del Rio said. “There isn’t a handbook out there. If there is, send it to me. There isn’t one out there. We’ll draw on the experiences we have in the group, and do the best we can to put a plan together and execute it.”

Del Rio said he’ll address relocation with his players once they convene for the offseason program, and try to keep them focused on the present. He recommends discussion with anxious family members as well, and to reiterate that there’s an extended stretch where relocation is only a concept.

“If you go back to this basic principle: It’s a year-to-year league,” Del Rio said. “Heck, it’s a week-to-week league. Don’t get too far ahead of yourselves. There is a story that’s going to be written that’s going to take off.

“We have to focus on the here and now. So much of the team turns over anyway, from the coaching staffs to the roster. Let’s just focus on taking care of business.”

Del Rio brought up a good point, that NFL rosters turnover at roughly 30 percent each year and coaching staffs fluctuate, so it’s possible many may never be a Raider playing in Vegas.

Del Rio anticipates being involved in the construction and amenities of a practice facility in the Las Vegas area at some point, though a location hasn’t been chosen yet. He said the Raiders have had discussions on how to help players and staff with the eventual transition and with player outreach to mitigate issues regarding readily available vices in Sin City.

Del Rio said he would ask Raiders alumni about the move to Los Angeles in the 1980s, and use their experience to help in this upcoming move.

He answered every question on this topic Tuesday morning, but hopes to move on from it when the offseason program begins next month.

“For us, it’s really about getting back to the task of the upcoming season,” Del Rio said. “We know we’re going to have nine games not on our home turf. We have a demanding schedule, and it’s going to be imperative that, as a football team, we focus on the here and now. … We had a good, strong year last year and we’re looking forward to building on that.”

Las Vegas will remain a topic moving forward, and Del Rio will be prepared to deal with the unexpected as he sails uncharted waters.

“(After this), maybe I can write a handbook I can pass out to the next team in this spot,” Del Rio said. “For me, it’s something you have to navigate. You have to appreciate some of the things that are coming, know what they are and address them.”