As owner of Newport Rib Company, John Ursini does his best to provide food that is delicious. Yet, Ursini recently produced something that left a bad taste in the mouths of Costa Mesa High supporters. It didn't have anything to do with food. Rather, Ursini's attempt at comedy during a celebration ceremony at Estancia High left many angry and disappointed.
He wrote and read a top 10 list of reasons why Estancia won the All-Sports Cup, for the fourth straight year, on Thursday. The list appeared in a Daily Pilot story about the event that honors the winner of the trophy for the school (Costa Mesa vs. Estancia) that earned the most points from rivalry matchups.
Several people in the community took to social media to chide Ursini and some called the Estancia High alumnus and spoke to him to let him know of their disapproval. There were others who thought the list to be harmless.
Still, Ursini responded with an apology and reached out to the Daily Pilot to have it published online Wednesday.
He wrote: "The list was meant to be light-hearted and a little funny. But I realize that humor is one thing, but when another group feels put down by the humor it's not humor at all. It's cheap and it hurts feelings and that's not worth being funny. My top 10 comments struck some feelings in the Costa Mesa community and I'm sorry."
Ursini showed up to Costa Mesa High Friday for a bit of a peace offering, as he catered hungry football players, cheerleaders and other athletes and boosters after a fundraising event.
After the story with the top 10 list appeared in the Daily Pilot, Mustangs football coach Wally Grant called Ursini.
"What he and I spoke about is between me and him," said Grant, a Costa Mesa alumnus. "Personally I think he was trying to be funny and it didn't come out the right way. I don't think there was any ill will intended, but I don't think he totally thought out the whole deal.
"Now it's a dead issue to me. He wrote his apology and I'm good with that. We have turned the page."
Many in the community are ready to move past the incident. Costa Mesa Principal Phil D'Agostino, the former Estancia principal, declined to comment on the issue, as did Estancia football booster president Steve Mensinger.
Estancia principal Kirk Bauermeister, a Costa Mesa alumnus and former Mustangs athletic director and baseball coach, did not return a phone message.
Oronde Crenshaw, a star linebacker/running back for the Mustangs who will be a senior in the fall, did not want to comment.
Asked if the top 10 list provided motivation, he only said, "We were already plenty motivated."
Grant expressed motivation to turn things around with regard to the Battle for the Bell in football.
"It's not a rivalry. It's a massacre," Grant said in reference to the Eagles beating the Mustangs in his first two years at the helm. "I have to win and we need to make this thing a rivalry. We're going to go win this game [in the fall]. And, if we don't we're going to shake their hands and we'll be fine that they will be enjoying their ribs."
Ursini and Newport Rib Company feed the winners ribs, paid by the Scott family, as tradition for the Battle for the Bell, as well as the winner of the boys' and girls' basketball and baseball series.
Ursini said it is a joy for him to be a part of such a great tradition. He expressed remorse.
In his email he wrote: "I have grown up in this city since 1965 and my love for this city is endless. Our family business has tried very hard to become a positive force in the community and I hope the community will accept my apologies for trying to be funny. Next year I'll leave my top 10 list at home, whether I'm back at Estancia, or in the Costa Mesa gym wishing the Mustangs congratulations."
Katrina Foley, a Newport-Mesa Unified School District school board trustee and a Mustangs booster, showed appreciation for Ursini's appearance at the fundraiser Wednesday night.
"I'm glad that John has taken under consideration the feeling of Costa Mesa coaches, parents and athletes," she said. "I think the Ursinis are wonderful people and John is a wonderful guy. But [the top 10 list] was a little over the top. I think he did the right thing with apologizing and we should all move on."
Said Kori Johnson, the Costa Mesa cheer coach who is affiliated with Costa Mesa United: "We're very proud of what a great year Estancia sports had. They did tremendous. We're very proud of the rivalry and the sportsmanship between the two schools is active. All I can say is watch out for next year because Mesa is on the rise."
Ursini and Costa Mesa United, which supports youth athletics and raises money for sports groups, created the All-Sports Cup. Ursini came up with the idea from his fascination with the UCLA-USC rivalry.
Estancia has won it each of the four years since it was created. The winner retains the trophy and has a Newport Rib Company luncheon for the athletes.
The restaurant remains popular in the community. Its 30th anniversary is approaching in the fall.
However, there were people wanting to cancel catering service orders because of the top 10 list, Ursini said. Someone said they would never eat at the establishment because of Ursini's failed attempt at comedy, Ursini said.
Grant disagreed with that reaction.
"He does a lot of good things for Costa Mesa," Grant said. "It would be a monumental error on our part to shut out John."
Grant offered advice to Ursini from a lesson he said his father taught him that he continues to abide by.
"There's an old saying that goes: be careful with your words and make sure they're soft and sweet because you never know when you'll have to eat them," Grant said.
Ursini's top 10 list of reasons why Estancia won the All-Sports Cup
No. 10. Robert Murtha.
No. 9. Estancia's Rowdy Rooters are much rowdier than the Mustangs.
No. 8. Estancia's principal can beat up Costa Mesa's principal.
No. 7. Estancia's golf teams figured out it's better to have a low score in golf and Mesa still thinks the most strokes win.
No. 6. Estancia's baseball and softball teams know how to sweep the field of Mustang residue. (Estancia swept Costa Mesa in both sports.)
No. 5. Estancia's athletes know what to do with all the nets. Put it over the net in volleyball and tennis and in the net for soccer and basketball.
No. 4. Jim Scott, Jim Scott Jr. and the Scott family are Eagles.
No. 3. Estancia football coach Mike Bargas and his coaching staff teach the right way to win.
No. 2. The Eagles love BBQ more than the Mustangs.
No. 1. The All-Sports Cup thinks Estancia is its permanent nesting place, and who are we to mess with the mighty Eagles of Estancia High School?