Wait just a minute here. Shelly Sterling is in position to steal all our fun by negotiating a full sale of the Los Angeles Clippers?
Fine. Swell. And just when we’d bought the beer and snacks for the full-scale degrade-o-thon that a long, ugly and protracted legal battle would have provided. Just when we could have gotten the cheap thrill of watching evil in all its cartoonish banality beaten by The Man -- a lazy fairy tale we could tell the kids in five minutes at bedtime.
All of it, potentially gone. This -- this is not fair.
According to TMZ and then comfirmed by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, Donald Sterling, the villain of the first part in legalese, has agreed to allow his wife, the villain of the second part, to negotiate a forced sale of the team. She and he lawyers allegedly have been negotiating with the NBA since her husband was banned for all eternity by his fellow owners through the words of commissioner Adam Silver on April 29.
So far, the league has not indicated that it will accept even this arrangement, although since the commissioner confirmed what we already knew, that it is the league’s duty to find the highest possible bidder for the team, we can only assume that it really doesn’t matter to anyone who sells the team as long as the highest price can be found. A rising septic tank raises all boats, after all.
That is, of course, unless the Sterlings would try to go out in a blaze of Sterlinghood and find a buyer who is even more repellent than they are, a high but not impossible bar to clear. In that case, the league would want to select its own new owner, in an attempt to salt the ground so that no trace of the Sterlings are left behind.
But that has always been the only end game of this sordid bacchanal, as it was with Frank McCourt and the Dodgers. Your partners may despise you, but it is still in their best interests to see to it that you get away with maximum money just in case some day it is their turn in the barrel instead of yours.
The problem with this, of course, is not so much that bad folks profit from their misdeeds -- bad folks profit from their misdeeds at an extraordinarily high rate in this country, which is why people have such a high opinion of the justice system. The problem is, we as entertainment junkies don’t get to see the Sterlings utterly debased in a futile attempt to fight the inevitable.
And let’s be honest, there are times when nothing stirs us as a nation quite like a lopsided fight.
Not that this isn’t a just fight, mind you. The Sterlings are almost captivatingly revolting as public figures, and the only way this could be a perfect ending is if the team were sold for a dollar -- before taxes. Or in the alternative, if the team were sold for full market value but the Sterlings somehow never saw a dime because the money had been given to all the potential tenants they discriminated against back in the day.
But we know better than that. Gravity does not get repealed, and the laws of physics for rich people are simply different. The Sterlings will be greatly enriched, at only the cost of a self-esteem that they never really deserved in the first place. We would in many cases just as soon buy off a problem as solve it.
Thus entering this shameful deal, though, we sort of expect an entertainment giveback -- a festival of debasement that allows us to enjoy the Sterlings’ evisceration as public figures as though that would fix any of the damage they have already wrought both as owners and as landlords. The best we get is that they won’t be inflicting any more damage upon their basketball team, which frankly isn’t nearly the punishment to them and reward for us that it should be.
And now, if TMZ's and Shelburne’s sources have steered her to the correct conclusion, Shelly Sterling is positioning herself to rob us of the vicarious secondary thrill of watching their last twitches.
I’m pretty sure this makes us a little contemptible ourselves, even though we know this is often the only retribution we can exact as long-distance and very indirect customers of the Clipper brand. But we have learned over time to take what we can get at times like this.
We just sort of wish, in our own small-minded ways, there was more getting to be gotten.