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Acts of kindness are ushered in

March 11, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

The e-mail arrived a little after 3:30 a.m. Tuesday: "Sorry to ruin your morning. Nancy passed away in my arms last night at 10:45. She was at peace. Best to you, Rick."

It's been less than a year since meeting Rick & Nancy Colton, the twosome suffering, but reaching out to thank Dodgers usher Vickie Gutierrez for her kindness.

Nancy was suffering from breast cancer, had been away from Dodger Stadium for some time for treatment, and when she returned Gutierrez took notice and informed customer relations.

A few minutes later, the Dodgers were welcoming Nancy back with a hat and jersey.

For all the Dodgers do wrong, more often than not resulting in a public spanking, this would have gone unnoticed had the Coltons not thought so highly of Gutierrez.

Gutierrez lost her husband a few years back and had her own battle with cancer, but for the last 25 years she has not missed a Dodgers game while working as an usher.

It's as if she knows everyone in her section, her section shifting at times for reasons that haven't always made sense, but in some cases -- like the Coltons' -- her friends coming to find her.

"They always seemed to be there," Gutierrez says.

Taking Gutierrez's lead, the Dodgers asked Nancy to throw out the first pitch on Mother's Day last year, her 9-year-old son, Andy, walking to first base to start the game and asking James Loney to hit a home run for his mother.

First time up, Loney hits a home run.

"She was a fighter like you wouldn't believe," says Gutierrez. "She would always tell me: 'The one thing I want to see is Andy graduate from high school.' Unfortunately, she didn't make it, but what a special lady, what a great person. There just wasn't anyone nicer."

Last week was Nancy Colton's 50th birthday.

ONCE AGAIN, and blowing a 19-point lead to lose has nothing to do with it, it's become clear the only reason for the Clippers' existence is to give fans in L.A. an additional opportunity to watch great players such as LeBron James.

There is no other reason to be a Clippers fan given 25 years of torture and continued incompetence.

Tuesday was the last Clippers home game of the season, although the schedule indicates they will be here eight more times. But who wants to watch the likes of New Jersey, Washington and Oklahoma City playing the Clippers, especially with "Dancing With the Stars" just beginning?

The Clippers remain an embarrassment, solidifying their position as the all-time worst sports franchise in this country, 25 years in Los Angeles now, and if they won all 82 games for the next seven years, they still wouldn't be .500 as an organization.

Everything about the Clippers is the worst in sports. The owner gets sued all the time, and it's a wonder the paying customers haven't filed suit claiming fraud given the team's preseason gung-ho advertisements.

Donald Sterling has tried so hard the last few years to do things better, spending more money, signing free agents, yelling at his players in the locker room, and yet the Clippers are as big a mess as ever.

As for the GM, he's put together a collection of losers, many of them rejects elsewhere.

"Ricky Davis will be out tonight," says GM Mike Dunleavy.

"Another drug suspension?" I ask.

"An injury," Dunleavy says, about the only victory the Clippers can enjoy these days.

As for the coach, he insists things be done his way or it's the highway, which is odd, because he has more losses on his resume than wins.

"The fans come up to me every place I go talking about Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby and our young guys," Coach Mike Dunleavy says.

"No one mentions Baron Davis?" I ask, knowing how popular dogs can be.

"They want him to get healthy," Dunleavy says, which is his way of saying fans never mention Davis, an indication of just how far he's dropped off the NBA map.

Rookie Eric Gordon has been terrific, and three or four years from now he will be gone. You can look it up; it almost always happens around here.

The Clippers had a 19-point lead against the Cavaliers, everyone in the building knowing how this one would end, the Cavs winning by two with six seconds remaining. The Clippers' final shot to take the lead -- an airball, and the Cavs go on to win by four.

On occasion, though, and with 15 wins there aren't many, the Clippers have been known to do things correctly. They lost to the Lakers and beat the Celtics to aid the Lakers' quest for home-court advantage in the Finals.

For Clippers fans, the Finals consist of seven more games played after your heroes have already been playing golf for months.

Same old Clippers, all right, 35 1/2 games behind the Lakers and long ago eliminated from the playoffs with a quarter of the season to be played. Why should anyone, after 25 years of this, think things will ever be different?

"What would Manny [Ramirez] say?" says Dunleavy, the comic, as if Manny has ever heard of the Clippers.

Ralph Lawler is standing in Dunleavy's office, and based on the only constants around here, it's either Sterling or Lawler responsible for this long-running disaster.

"What do you tell the fans?" I ask Lawler.

"Not my news conference," he says, which explains his technique for survival.

"It can be," says Dunleavy, obviously auditioning now to be a stand-up comedian, a good idea given the Clippers' record.

"We'll talk to the fans after the game," says Lawler, always the optimist, believing the Clippers do have fans.

If so, some people really do need to get a life.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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