The Sports Hangover: Donald Sterling's 80th Birthday Present a Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Sports Hangover: Donald Sterling's 80th Birthday Present a Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Sports Hangover tries to recover from a wild weekend. Thank goodness the hangover proves not as painful as Donald Sterling’s.  

What Do You Do For an Encore after Three Decades of NBA Futility?

Is it safe to say that Donald Sterling’s favorite player on the Clippers is J.J. Redick?

Donald Sterling turned eighty this Saturday. His girlfriend gave him, and everyone else, a this-is-your-life recording to remember the occasion.

Mr. Sterling revealed a gross prejudice against African Americans in the audio. Strangely, despite all his vitriol about his girlfriend appearing online or courtside with African Americans, Sterling minds neither that he dates a multiracial woman nor the prospect of his paramour sleeping with the same African Americans with whom he objects to her posing for pictures or sitting courtside. These confusing inconsistencies may be consistent with a confused elderly mind, a spliced up recording, the meanderings in logic prevalent among the ignorant, or all three.

The NBA, as you may have noticed, employs a few African Americans. Those players, coaches, and executives, and a sizable portion of the league’s fan base, likely find Mr. Sterling’s words appalling to think boycott. Why doesn’t the NBA solve their problem and Mr. Sterling’s in haste? Offer him a Milwaukee Bucks price for the Los Angeles Clippers. If he doesn’t sell, perhaps the league should strongly encourage him to transfer ownership to his wife or some other family member. The Los Angeles Clippers have had enough problems attracting fans, players, and coaches over their troubled existence. Now that they’ve been finally able to attract all of the above, Sterling tosses this stinkbomb into the Staples Center. If he doesn’t go, everybody else will.

The NBA’s punishment thus far consists of persuading Mr. Sterling not to travel for Sunday’s game against Golden State in Oakland. That’s punishment or protection?

The tape tells us much about Mr. Sterling. What does it tell us about Ms. Stiviano? She allegedly surreptitiously recorded–she makes a bizarre claim that Sterling requested she tape their conversations–the talk between her and her beau. It’s peculiar that one who plays a one-woman Stasi on another’s private conversation lives so secretive a life. The tabloids report her name as “V. Stiviano.” Whose first name is “V”? She wants the world to know an old jerk’s racial tics. She doesn’t want anyone to know her identity. And that’s not all that inquiring minds want to know. What’s a twentysomething woman dating an eighty-year-old man with a losing personality? The public doesn’t need TMZ to tell them the answer to that.

Alas, anyone close to as loathsome a figure as Donald Sterling likely keeps some skeletons of their own in the closet. Sterling’s wife reportedly filed an embezzlement suit against Ms. Stiviano. Perhaps the recordings come as revenge or a way of derailing that suit. Perhaps they serve as Stiviano’s way of upping the ante on the alleged embezzlement. The octogenarian owner’s Sunday call to Stiviano asking, “How can we make this go away?,” suggests that that’s how he understands the recordings.

The Los Angeles Clippers owner’s primary widely-known fault to this point has been to put an inferior product on the court. The Clippers lay claim to seven of the fifty worst seasons in NBA history. They are first at being worst. Significantly, the Clippers’ substantial share of the NBA’s fifty lowest winning percentages–their fellow Los Angelinos who share the Staples Center don’t appear on the list–all came during Donald Sterling’s reign of error. It’s characteristic of his tenure that once the Clippers stood poised to become a winner their loser owner finds a way to remind the world that the Clippers are still the Clippers and not the new Lakers. Distracted, demeaned, and deflated, his players dropped one at Golden State Sunday afternoon.

Ownership matters. 


Making Lemonade from Lemons

The Barcelona soccer star Dani Alves endured racism of a more in-your-face manner over the weekend. Readying for a corner kick, Alves had a banana thrown his way. He dealt with the ridiculous fan through–what else?–ridicule. He paused, peeled the banana, and ate it. Then Barcelona proceeded to win the game. And here I always thought sliced oranges were the preferred snack of soccer players.

“If you do not take it like this can you can suffer,”  Alves told a Spanish-language website. “I have been 11 years in Spain, and 11 years suffering the same thing. In the end I took it as a joke. We are not going to change this, unhappily, but I think if you do not give importance to it, then they will not achieve their objective. So you must take it like that.”

There’s always an ignoramus in every crowd. When he’s sitting in the owner’s box, it’s more embarrassing.  


Oh, Canada

The Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens matchup plays as a hockey fan’s dream. Aside from the original six implications and the longstanding rivalry aspect apparent to most observers, the fact that Montreal remains as the final Canadian team in the playoffs inflates interest. If Hockey Night in Canada wishes to showcase a team from the homeland, this literally plays as the only game in town.


The Baddest Man on a Not-So-Bad Planet  

Wladimir Klitschko endured ten punches over five rounds in destroying Alex Leapai on Saturday in Germany. Like his brother Vitali, Wladimir appears as a victim of his own success. When you destroy everyone, you don’t leave the public with memorable fights. Evander Holyfield fought Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, and Lennox Lewis multiple times. Who have the Klitchkos beaten? Although both have dropped fights in which they were favored–and Vitali lost in strange circumstances to then champion Lennox Lewis–neither brother has really excited boxing fans, who clamor for a fight, not a slaughter. Blame their handlers for protecting them from across the ocean early in their career. Blame the brothers for making short work of everyone during the latter part of their careers. There’s a twenty-first-century Muhammad Ali who could beat the brothers. Unfortunately, he’s on the hardwood or the gridiron.  


MMA’s Klitschko

In contrast to Klitschko, Jon Jones has fought his way through a murderer’s row of a light-heavyweight division in the UFC. He won every round of his scrap with Glover Teixiera Saturday night. Rua, Machida, Evans, Jackson, Belfort, and Gustafsson are a few of the other notable notches on Jones’s championship belt. As bad as it may be for the top talent to be fighting under one promotion, it’s good for fans. They get the fights they want to see because the UFC makes the fights that will protect their bottom line rather than their talent’s records. And as a result, losses don’t automatically diminish the luster of top fighters. Almost alone among them, Jon Jones remains free from a legitimate loss (sorry, Matt Hamill), which makes his run all the more impressive. Boxing could also learn something from the UFC in how to make an undercard matter. Saturday night, Anthony Johnson dominated favorite Phil Davis. This immediately puts his name in the hat of future Jones opponents. Who was on Klitschko’s undercard? The same type of fighter that he’ll continue to face: nobodies.