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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mavs owner Cuban uses blog to show inflammatory e-mails about Howard

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says forward Josh Howard realizes his comments about the national anthem were wrong and the player has apologized.

Josh Howard


In his online blog, Cuban also responded to e-mails he has received commenting on the player's remarks by saying Howard "will work with us" and "beyond that, it's a private issue."

Cuban posted a number of the inflammatory replies on his blog Thursday night, with the apparent e-mail addresses of the senders.

But by Friday night, Cuban's remarks slugged "Thanks for the advice on Josh" had been removed from the blog and replaced with a posting saying "I made my point."

Howard's comments, in a video posted on the Web site YouTube, show him on a football field at a charity flag football game. As the national anthem plays in the background, Howard approaches a camera and says: "'The Star-Spangled Banner' is going on right now. I don't even celebrate that [expletive]. I'm black."

Some e-mails said that Cuban posted made blatant racist remarks about Howard. Others suggested Howard should move to another country, be fined or fired.

Cuban's updated response said his original posting was "the right thing to do," but he says it left him with an upset stomach all day Friday.

"I thought it was important to point out the hatred and ignorance of so many who quickly judge people they have never met, based purely on soundbites and headlines," Cuban wrote late Friday. "I wanted to point out the irony of them experiencing the onslaught of attention from suddenly and unexpectedly being placed in the media spotlight from a throwaway comment."

Cuban said he knew those e-mailers would be receiving "the same level of hate, ignorance and judgment as Josh had and that's what bothered me all day."

Cuban ended by saying: "Hopefully something good came from it being posted."

Cuban did not immediately respond Friday night to an e-mail from The Associated Press.

Cubs clinch 2nd straight NL Central title

The Cubbies are in. Now, how far can they go? The Chicago Cubs clinched their second straight NL Central title Saturday, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 behind Ted Lilly's seven innings at rocking Wrigley Field.

The 41,597 fans jammed into the old neighborhood ballpark were ready to party as they watched the Cubs earn back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since they participated in three straight World Series from 1906-08.

And no one can forget 1908. That's the last time the Cubs won the World Series, a 100-year championship drought they've been hearing about since they were swept out of the playoffs in the first round a year ago by Arizona.

As usual, nothing comes easy for the Cubs. And it didn't Saturday, either.

Lilly was sailing along with a 5-0 lead when the Cardinals scored four runs with two out in the sixth, including a three-run homer by Troy Glaus. St. Louis began the day with faint hopes for the NL wild card, 5 1/2 games out.

Lilly, who earned his career-best 16th win, regrouped in the seventh and relievers Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood held off the Cardinals. Wood gave up a leadoff walk to Glaus in the ninth before finishing for his 32nd save in 39 chances.

Aaron Miles' game-ending flyout set off a celebration on the mound as Wood's teammates stormed from the dugout and bullpen.

Manager Lou Piniella went to the grass between the third-base line and mound and hugged his players as they came of the field. Some players waved to the fans as they headed into the dugout — Chicago clinched on the road last season.

And the Cubs wanted to make sure they shared it with their loyal, championship-starved fans. After they'd sprayed one another with champagne and jumped up and down in a circle in the clubhouse, many of the players returned to the field.

After spraying the fans right behind the dugout with some of the bubbly, they sprinted to the outfield and let those sitting in the bleachers have it, too, as the fans cheered and sang the team's fight song.

"We're enjoying it. We're celebrating this, kinda of giving back to the fans," Lilly said. "No question they are a big reason why we are here."

And so is the attitude of the team, he said.

"We all want the same thing. You don't have guys who are looking to do anything other than win a championship," Lilly added. "So it's a pretty special thing to be a part of."

The Cubs got a couple of breaks from the Cardinals' shaky fielding to build the five-run cushion, and Lilly (16-9) added a squeeze bunt for an RBI.

Chicago loaded the bases in the second on two walks and former Cardinals star Jim Edmonds' double. Alfonso Soriano singled in a pair with two outs and a third run scored when the ball got by left fielder Brian Barton.

Chicago added two in the fourth off Joel Pineiro (6-7), taking advantage of third baseman Glaus' error.

Now, Piniella can give his team some rest while prepping for the playoffs.

After losing three straight to the Diamondbacks a year ago, the Cubs were active in the offseason and stayed busy during the year. They signed Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who has slumped in the second half, to a $48 million, four-year contract. They picked up castoffs Jim Edmonds and Reed Johnson, and they've formed a solid platoon in center field. And they brought in hard-throwing Rich Harden in a July trade with Oakland to bolster an already strong rotation.

There was also a pivotal change in the pitching staff.

Ryan Dempster, now a 16-game winner, went from closer to starter. And one-time ace Wood, whose career has been sidetracked by injuries, made the transition to closer with a fastball still registering in the mid 90s as it did when he was NL Rookie of the Year a decade ago.

Catcher Geovany Soto emerged as a handler of pitchers and one of the team's most potent bats.

Add in the 65-year-old Piniella's wisdom, his humor, occasional angry outburst and his ability to use all his players and the Cubs have another division winner. Last year they overcame a slow start to overtake Milwaukee. This year they've been in first or tied for it since May 11.

Notes:@ Leo Hildebrand, 104-year-old Cubs fan who lives in nearby Bensenville, threw out the first pitch. "What a wonderful day," he said. "Let's make it even more wonderful by winning." Hildebrand, who has been a Cubs fan since he moved to Chicago in 1923, said he was too young to remember the Cubs last championship in 1908. Hildebrand added that he was at Wrigley Field to see Babe Ruth hit his famous called shot. Ruth is said to have pointed to center-field bleachers and hit a home run there during the 1932 World Series. ... Pineiro had flown home Thursday to Florida to be with his wife as delivered twins and then made it back to Chicago on Friday evening. ... With one regular-season home game left Sunday, The Cubs have now drawn a single-season attendance record of 3,259,649.