Thursday, December 11, 2008

PCB Field Trip: Hangin' With the Clippers 

Posted by Sasha at 1:03 AM ET

Back: Harmony, Whitney, Nikki, Brittany, Chelsea, Ashley, Nicole, Shannon, Lauren
Front: Teresa, Melissa, Lynae

Clippers games are fun. Big Fun.In my opinion, this is primarily due to the game day entertainment. The last Clippers game I went to was chock full ‘o Halloweeny goodness. (If you missed that report, check it out here.)

You know how it is, you can’t have just one M&M, and so it is for professional sports. As soon as that game was over, I began plotting to attend another. Thankfully Clippers Spirit/Fan Patrol/Jr. Jam Director Audrea Harris was crazy…er…nice enough to invite me back to watch the Clippers beat the Heat. Yep, that’s right, the Clippers won. Bonus!

Sidebar: Before I get too far into this, amigos, you have a choice to make. You can hang in there with me, or you can cut to the chase and go straight to the photo gallery.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to another game besides the pure entertainment value, was to see what goes on during a regular non-holiday home game. I also wanted to catch up with a few of the dance team members I’d missed the last time around. Both the Spirit and the Fan Patrol rotate game days, so the only way to see everyone is to go to more than one game. Last time around, I was able to catch up with all of the Spirit girls except for Harmony, Shannon, and Chelsea, so I wanted to be sure to track those three down. Plus, I’d get to hang with a few more Fan Patrolers, and see the Jr. Jam perform. I’d not seen the Jr. Jam since auditions last summer, so I was excited to watch the kids tear it up on the dance floor.

Another reason I wanted to go was to check out the new costumes. There are some new Spirit costumes this year, and I wanted to see what was doing. I don’t recall if I mentioned it before, but one of this year’s new costumes was designed by Stacie from Zonas Designs, and it was inspired by the outfit Stacie created for Harmony to wear to auditions last summer. In my opinion, this was an excellent advertising strategy. (Just between you and me, you can’t do much better for a walking billboard than Harmony. Harmony is more than a person. She is an Experience. One little girl, upon catching sight of Harmony, pointed and asked her mom “is she a fairy princess?”)

What was I talking about? Costumes. Right. So yeah. The ladies came in an hour early so I could photograph all of the different costumes. Well, not ALL of them. Given all the variations, that would talk hours. But I’d get to see the really cute ones.

When I got there, everyone was just about ready. My big concern was where to shoot the photos. The lighting is a bit of a challenge, and I’ve only been doing the photography thing since May, so I’m still figuring things out. I dragged Shannon around various places to find a spot where I could take the photos without everyone’s skin showing up a weird shade of yellow or green. It’s a good thing Shannon is a good sport, because I now have whole collection of yellow-face Shannon photos. Sek-see!

Sidebar: Honest to Pete, I just love these people. I’m digging on the entire Clippers family. They’re all so welcoming – and I don’t think it’s just because I have a camera and the ability to take some hilarious yet horrifically embarrassing photos of every one of them. Sure, it’s partly because of that, but not totally. (Ha!)

Right, so they all lined up in the hallway for the photos, and here are the results:

This is Brittany in the signature Clippers Spirit costume.
Cute, right?

This is Harmony in the “White Hot” costume.
No kidding, that’s what they call it.
(This is the one from Zonas Designs.)

This is Whitney in the “Red Hot” costume.

I don't care what anyone says, no matter how cute you are, this takes bravery. It’s no different that what you’d wear to a dance class, but I bet it feels a lot smaller when everyone around you is wearing pants and long sleeves!

This is Melissa in the new blue dress. That’s what it’s called.
The “Blue Dress.” Not even “Blue Hot,” or "Blue Steel."
If you ask me, that’s kind of unfair.

Then you have Lynae in this outfit, and what are you supposed to call this one, I ask you?
White Hot is already taken. Silver Hot? Icy Hot?
Going forward, I will refer to this as "the Silver Surfer."
No reason. I just think it sounds cool.

Next up, Lauren in the Red Dress.
At this point, they’ve completely run out of cool names.
Cute dress, though.

Nicole in the classic blue two-piece.
Before the new costumes, this was one of my favorites.

Shannon in the fringe-y red wrap around ensemble

Chelsea does hip-hop in black

Nikki does hip hop in red

Ashley does some mix ‘n match

Teresa mixes and matches too.
Note the belt change. Talk about attention to detail!

(I did mention there are a bunch of photos here, right? Just checking)

FYI - I was informed that these boots are for sitting and standing only. There is no dancing in these boots. I was all “thank goodness, because someone around here is going to break her neck.”

And then I found out that the heels those suckers are tame compared to the other footwear in the room. It started with Ashley’s shoes. Check these out:

I am awed by these shoes. Those heels are a good 5 inches. You ever see shoes like this and wonder who wears ‘em? Ashley does. Mystery solved.

(Just between you and me, I turned them over and inspected the soles. She actually does wear them. She’s not just saying that.)

Meanwhile, neener neener to those of you who live in cold weather and don’t get to wear sandals all year round.

After that, it was time for everyone to change into their warm-ups and get ready for the pre-game rehearsal. They didn’t get as much time for on-court rehearsal this time because there was an LA Kings game that afternoon, and it takes time to convert the hockey rink into a basketball court.

Back: Lynae, Brittany, Ashley, Chelsea and Shannon
Front: Lauren, Harmony, Whitney, Nicole, Teresa, Nikki, and Melissa

Eventually, they did get out there for a few run-throughs. This is where it started to get complicated. In addition to the dance team, the Fan Patrol and Jr. Jam were also rehearsing – all at the same time. In that situation, it’s hard to know which way to look because there’s something going on in every direction.

Ashley and Harmony

Lauren and Teresa

Shannon, Melissa, Ashley, and Brittany


Chelsea, Brittany, and Nicole

Nicole, Melissa, and Whitney


(I did mention there are a bunch of photos here, right? Just checking)

At each home game, you’ve got 12 of the 16 dancers and 5 or 6 of the 20 Fan Patrolers. The Jr. Jam don’t perform at every game, but when they do perform, it’s all of them.

Did I also mention that while this was going on, the National Anthem singer was doing sound check and the guys from both basketball teams were warming up?


Jr. Jam takes over

Ryan, Katie, Tami, and Brian

Jacquelyn flies with David and Alex

Katie and Tami

(I did mention there are a bunch of photos here, right? Just checking)

After that, it was back to the dressing room to get ready for the game.

Here is where I discovered something that I’d overlooked on previous occasions. In previous writings, I referred to a thing I call The Scramble. This is when the team splits up, the members head to four corners of the Earth, and I run around behind them like a headless chicken.

But this time was different. This time I discovered the high-tech system for ensuring that all the dancers are in the right place at the right time. The system consists of a printout scotch-taped inside the door, explaining who has to be where and when and what they need to be doing. Duh, Sasha.

So now that I had the decoder ring, I knew who was assigned to greet fans before the game, who was filming a promo spot, who was going up to the DJ booth. who was handing out those inflatable whatchamacallits, who was demonstrating the half court shot, who was doing Deal or No Deal, and of course, what dances happened at what time and – most importantly – which way they were facing for each dance. This was critical information as - left to my own devices - I tend to wind up behind the team with my camera. (Insert Charger Girl flashback)

According to the schedule, I had time to hunt down the Fan Patrol. They have a smaller dressing room since there aren’t as many of them, they don’t need the rehearsal space, and with only 4 chicks, there wasn’t nearly as much girly stuff all over the place.

Back: Alex, Ryan, Joey, and Brian
Middle: Summer, Jacquelyn, Katie, and Tami
Front: David

Fan Patrol Guys: Alex, Ryan, Joey, David, and Brian

Fan Patrol Gals: Summer, Jacquelyn, Tami, and Katie

There was a much more relaxed vibe in the Fan Patrol dressing room, so we had a bit of a chat. I also found out that Katie is from Maryland and used to be on the stunt team for the Ravens.

Please, like I’m not going to dig out the photographic proof when I get home.

(Here ‘tis: If you ask me, she looks way cuter in her Clippers photos.)

Get this: Katie is from Maryland. Ashley (Clippers Spirit) is from Maryland. I’m from Maryland. OMG, we’re like, practically related!

Here’s the thing with the Fan Patrol: these are some muscly people. Not Hans and Franz muscly, but still pretty muscly. Obviously, the guys have to be able to haul the girls around with relative ease. You need pretty significant upper body strength for that. But the girls are pretty buff too. They are tiny – and I do mean teeny weeny – but they’ve got abs for days and I bet they could throw down if they had to. Think I'm lying? Check out their photos.

Now, obviously the Fan Patrol can only rehearse in open areas where there is a high ceiling. There are some suitable areas under the Staples Center, but it still makes me nervous that someone might go headfirst into the concrete ceiling. I’m not sure if they volunteered or if I talked them into it, but somehow I got Tami, David, and Brian out of the dressing room to do a few tricks for me. (Tami tried to explain how they do that thing where David throws her up in the air and she does that flippy somersaulty thing and winds up way up in the air, but I’m not sure I buy it.)

There was a high school marching band in the tunnels and when David, Brian, and Tami started doing their thing, all the kids rushed over to watch. They made me nervous, and I wasn’t even doing anything! We were about ready to head back to the dressing room when David had an idea for stunt he wanted to try. Brian and Tami were all “sure, ok.”

I don’t know about you, but if you want me to try something that involves me being thrown in the air without a net, I expect more than an “idea.” I expect a concrete strategy, complete with diagrams and a contingency plan.

Here’s David’s idea. See if you can follow this. The idea is David lifts Tami over his head with her feet balanced on the palms of his hands. (I’m sure there’s a name for this, but heck if I know.) Then somehow, David lets go of Tami and steps to the side while Brian takes his place. Tami, meanwhile, is supposed to be magically suspended in midair while the two guys change places. When it’s done – and it only takes a second – Brian has Tami balanced overhead on his palms, and David is chillin like a villain to one side. Um. ok, sure.

The first time they tried, it didn’t go so well, but dang if they didn’t get it the second time. David told me later that they’d never tried that stunt before. I’m glad I didn’t know that ahead of time. I like Tami. I don’t want to see her go SPLAT.

The hand-off

After that, I went back to the Spirit dressing room, where the ladies were changing into their Silver Surfer outfits and conversing on a wide range of topics, including the following:Then it was time for The Scramble and everything merged into one big blur…

Chelsea and Melissa were on greeting duty.

You should’ve seen the face on this little kid when he got a load of Melissa and Chelsea.

He was maybe 3 years old. There he was, minding his own business, when his dad dragged him over to a couple pair of shiny white boots. He looked up and up (and in Chelsea’s case way up) to see those two sparkly glamazons smiling and waving down at him. I reckon he’d never seen anything like that in his short time on this planet.

It was a clear case of sensory overload - kind of like your first time in a Vegas. It takes time to acclimate, you know? The poor kid looked like he wanted to bolt in the worst way. Dad had a solid grip on him though, so the boy did the next best thing: he hid. Chelsea and Melissa bent down and gave him their very best “we’re friendly, don’t be scared” smiles, but the kid was having none of it.

Meanwhile, down on the court, Shannon was filming a promo for a contest with Arena Host Brad J. Shannon was coming off of a bad cold and was croaking like frog, but managed to soundly pretty normal on-camera. Very poised, that girl Shannon.

You can’t fool me. You’ve done this before, haven’t you?

Next thing I knew, everyone was lined up in the tunnel, ready to get the show on the road.

(I did mention there are a bunch of photos here, right? Just checking)

It's game time. Are you guys ready?
Let's do this.

First things first: it's time for the National Anthem

Melissa, Nicole, Brittany, Harmony, and Chelsea

Nikki, Lynae, Lauren, and Whitney



Then it was time to get everyone cheering and start the game.


Tami and Brian




The first performance of the night was during a Q1 time out.
The Spirit danced to ZZ Top's "Le Grange." Work it out, girls!

Whitney, Nikki, Lauren, and Nicole

Lauren, Melissa, Nicole, Shannon, Chelsea, Ashley, Harmony, and Brittany

Nikki, Whitney, and Melissa

Lauren, Melissa, and Nicole

Chelsea and Shannon


Whitney, Melissa, Nikki, Nicole, Teresa, and Chelsea

After that first performance, a handful of the girls had to whip out the
little black dresses and grab their briefcases for "Deal or No Deal."

Nobody knows what's in those briefcases until they are opened during the game.

Harmony, Whitney, Lynae, Ashley, Shannon, and Nicole

A fan was selected from the audience to win up to $1,000




(Where'd that guy come from? Grrr)


I don't know if you're aware of this, but there is a certain technique to opening those briefcases. You can't just fumble around and whip 'em open. The ladies received briefcase training before the game.

Shannon had the winning briefcase!

After that, they zoomed back to the dressing room, for a quick wardrobe change before the second quarter.

Chelsea, Teresa, Lauren, and Harmony

...Then it was back to the tunnel for a quick pre-performance run-through

Harmony, Whitney, and Teresa


The Fan Patrol held down the four corners of the court.

Tami and Brian

Alex and Jacquelyn

David, Ryan, and Katie

During the time out, the dance team ran out on court and
rocked out with "When I Grow Up" by the Pussycat Dolls

Nikki, Nicole, Brittany, Chelsea, Ashley, and Shannon

Harmony, Brittany, Teresa, Chelsea, Melissa, and Nicole

Harmony, Chelsea, Melissa, Lauren, Shannon, Lynae, and Ashley

The big finish

Harmony, Melissa, Shannon, Lauren, Nicole, Ashley, and Lynae

Back to the dressing room to get ready for halftime.

Like the dance team, the Fan Patrolers also had to do a quick change into team colors.

Jacquelyn and Alex



During halftime, a fan from the audience has a chance to sink the ball and win a prize. Ashley was on deck to take a shot first and show the guy how it's done.

The other girls had plenty of advice

Ashley lines up to shoot the ball over her head

Ok, she missed.
Moving on...

Meanwhile, Nikki, Nicole, Melissa, and Nicole went up into the stands to hand out those
inflatable whats-its that the crowd bangs together when they want to get EXTRA LOUD. Bangers? Thunder Sticks? I don't know what you call them.


Back on the court, the Fan Patrol and a few of the dancers
cheered on the fan competing in the 3 point shot contest.

Katie tells everyone what to do.

Tami and Katie
(Does this make anyone else feel dizzy? No? Just me, huh?)

Tami and Katie




(I did mention there are a bunch of photos here, right? Just checking)

The Jr. Jam took the floor during a 3rd quarter time out.

During the 4th quarter, the dance team performed again. This time, the music was "Devil With the Blue Dress."

Shannon, Ashley, Teresa, Lynae, Chelsea, and Brittany

Nicole, Lauren, Melissa, Nikki, Ashley, Shannon, and Lynae
(Did I already mention that I'm totally digging the blue dresses? Well I am.)

Nicole, Lauren, and Melissa

Lauren, Melissa, Nikki, and Harmony

After their performance, the dance team sat at either end of
the court to join the fans in cheering the Clippers on.

Teresa and Harmony

Shannon and Lauren

I did mention there are a bunch of photos here, right?

It was a really close game during that last quarter, so MUCH cheering was needed. Less than a minute before the clock ran out, a time out was called. The Clippers brought out the big guns. The Spirit, the Fan Patrol, the Jr. Jam, and everybody's mama ran out on the court to get the fans on their feet and making some noise.


Chelsea and Teresa


Fan Patrol


I don't know how I always wind up on the wrong side of the Fan Patrol,
but this was a pretty cool stunt, even from the back.

I can't imagine diving headfirst toward the floor like that. Summer is one brave, brave, brave chica.

Fan Patrolers Ryan and Katie in the back. Dancers Whitney and Brittany in the front.

The Clippers WON!!!!

Then there's the post-game let-down. You go from all the craziness and chaos on the court, to the relative quiet of the dressing room. Everyone makes short work of changing into their street clothes. (Traffic is heinous around the Staples Center after a game, so you have to git while the gittin's good.)

Melissa is about to jet

Harmony, Teresa, and Lauren on their way out.

You'd think that after running around and dancing for I don't know how many hours,
these women would throw on sweats and some comfy shoes.

(on both counts.)

Labels: , ,