Monday, May 19, 2014

Week of 05/19/2014

Sterling: Time To Be Quiet
In the Tim Burton superhero movie “Batman”, edgy reporter Alexander Knox made this observation about reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne: “The rich… you know why they’re so odd?  Because they can afford to be.”
That seems to be the case when it comes to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who is certainly not living up to his last name these past few weeks.
As a general rule, owners of professional sports teams should be treated a little like children in that they should be rarely seen and almost never heard.  They should be competent and candid when it comes to the trading of one of their players. They should certainly be proud, even boastful, when it comes to accepting the big trophy during championship games.  And they should be compassionate and paternal when it comes to a tragedy involving the team.
But other than those things, they should be only seen in their luxury skyboxes, peering down on the great unwashed like the Olympian deities they see themselves to be, watching their regular routine Iliad recreation play out in their overpriced taxpayer-supported theaters.  It’s supposed to be all about “the game” and the players in “the game”.  It’s not supposed to be about the people behind the scenes, never mind being about the self-appointed “gods” that supposedly make “the game” happen.
And sports owners should certainly not have their personal dirty laundry aired out on TMZ and then rehashed on the nightly news and debated by the armchair quarterbacks of the cable news channels.  Never mind have prolonged debates as to whether or not said owners should continue to have their place on their own little Olympus.
But apparently Sterling did not get that memo.  Or, maybe he did and he’s just too senile to remember that part.
So Donald Sterling had some choice personal words about the people that his mistress hangs around with.  Words that are usually uttered by “good ol’ boys” here in the South, preferably when they’re not at the local Wal-Mart.  Words that are more reminiscent of the 1950’s than the 2010’s.
Of course Sterling thought that these words would never be recorded, never mind repeated for the whole world to hear.  But that became moot once it did.  He hasn’t denied saying them, and he is already banned from all NBA activities for the rest of his life because of them.
And he supposedly doesn’t even have his mistress anymore… which is good because ever since the media found out who she was, she’s hid herself behind an ugly visor like she was the third member of Daft Punk.
But now the debate is about whether or not Sterling – and his wife – should be forced to give up his coveted Olympian seat… a.k.a. ownership of the Clippers… which he can no longer sit in anyway because of that lifetime ban.
I know the cons and neo-cons are throwing fits over this idea.  They’re screaming bloody murder and proclaiming that no one-percenter should ever be forced to give up something they own because of the demands of other people.  They pull out their little pocket Ayn Rand scripts and scream about “Communism” and “Socialism” and “Obama-ism” and say it’s just not right for a one-percenter to be forced to give up their personal property.
Which… if you really put some thought into it… sound a lot like they’re defending a passive form of slavery.
Okay, let’s put a bullet into the head of the Rand-like script and put that argument out of our collective misery.
If… and I say “If”… Donald Sterling and his wife were the sole owners of the LA Clippers, as a separate private professional organization operating in their own stadium that they paid for entirely with their money, then I would agree with the cons and neo-cons in that they shouldn’t be forced by others to sell their team.
But the LA Clippers is not a standalone team operating in their own standalone private stadium.  They are part of the National Basketball Association.  It is an association that has rules and contractual obligations that are not limited to just the activities of the players or the game officials, but also to the owners.  And if those contractual obligations include an agreement that the owners give up their ownership if told to by the majority of the other owners, then the cons and neo-cons really have no grounds to complain about it.
I mean, really, cons and neo-cons, you are the ones that claim to champion the sanctity of free markets and private organizations to be able to do as they please.
Plus, the Sterlings don’t own the venue that the team plays in.  They are tenants of the Staples Center, which is another private contractual obligation with their own terms of operation.  And if, as with the case of many other professional venues across the country, the Staples Center takes in any kind of taxpayer money, then it’s really not a “private” organization anymore, is it?
So, conservatives and neo-conservatives, give it a rest.  You have no real skin in this game when you pretend to channel John Locke.  Go back to mad-hating Barack Obama, because that seems to be the only thing that you’re competent in doing.
Anyway, back to the Sterlings, and especially Donald.
The elder Sterling has been trying to explain away his statements in a desperate attempt to convince his fellow owners to let him keep his little fiefdom.  He’s been trying to tell people that he’s not a racist, that he was trying to get some nookie from his visor-wearing mistress, oh, and his team “loves” him and everyone knows it… except the media, of course.  And then trash-talking Magic Johnson for pretty much no reason.
I’m sure Mister Sterling is not going to listen to what I have to say, but I think it should be said anyway.
Mister Sterling, do yourself a favor and shut up.
Seriously, you need to stop talking!
Granted, there was a time for you to defend yourself over the recordings of what you said.  But let’s get brutally honest here… that time has come and gone.  You said nothing when the recordings were first made public.  You admitted to the NBA Commissioner what you said, you allowed the NBA to then deliver the punishment, and you pretty much squandered your opportunity to minimize the damage when it could have made a difference.
Not only that, Mister Sterling, but you’re not doing yourself any favors now by running your mouth.  If anything, you are demonstrating to the world that you really are too incompetent to be a team owner.
Now is not the time to be talking, Mister Sterling.  Now is the time to shut up in front of the media.  If you’re sorry you said those words, then say you’re sorry and then that’s it.  Get away from the cameras.  Stay as far away from ESPN and CNN and any other media outlet as you can.  And tell your wife or soon-to-be-ex-wife to do the same thing if she wants to keep her part of the team.  Talk to the owners privately, one on one.  Convince them away from the cameras that what you did was embarrassing and that you’re sorry and that there’s no need for any talk about selling the team.  They probably don’t want to be in the public spotlight on this subject any more than you do.
Keep it away from the cameras, and hopefully the talk about forcing you to sell your team will go away.  Because the rage that is behind the effort to further punish you is fueled by the media.  Every time you or your wife get in front of the cameras, it only adds more fuel to the fire.  Let it burn itself out.
If you can’t do that, if your ego is such that you simply cannot let this go away by being quiet, then maybe you should consider selling the team.  And better yet, doing it before you’re forced to.
Remember, team owners are supposed to be rarely seen and almost never heard.  Leave the drama and the clown acts to the players in the game.  That’s why they’re getting paid the big bucks and all the endorsement deals.  They’re supposed to be the entertainers and the entertainment.
To borrow from Shakespeare… let the “play” be the thing, not the unconscionable acts of its sporting king.

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