I moved out to Los Angeles from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, ten years ago, but it wasn’t until I attended game five of the Clippers-Warriors NBA playoffs that I felt any sort of pride for the City of Los Angeles. I’m a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan but adopted the Clippers as my second team during the Chris Kaman years and always enjoyed rooting for the red-headed stepchild of Staples Center. Over the past few years they added Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and coach Doc Rivers, assembling an exciting championship-caliber team. It seemed like they were building a bandwagon that had plenty of room for new and old fans alike.
I went to the game for a variety of reasons: to support the players on the Clippers, to cheer on the $100 bet I had on them to win the Western Conference, and to witness one of the more poignant games in recent sports. I understood the people who called for a protest, and being a white guy, I would never know the true sting of owner Donald Sterling’s words, but it just felt like the guys on the Clippers could use more people in their corner. One of the more disappointing aspects of Donald Sterling’s comments was that the sports world had become a divisive element in race relations, when historically it has been such a foundation for growth.
Growing up in mostly white neighborhoods, I didn’t have a ton of friends that were black. The vast majority of black and Latino friends I did have were teammates first. It’s one thing to be taught about racial equality in the classroom, and it’s another to feel racial equality out on the field. That’s the great thing about sports: By creating a shared enemy, you quickly look past any differences and see the commonalities that make up humanity. I may be an Irish kid from the north side of town, and you may be a Puerto Rican from the south side of town, but we can both agree that the teenagers from the neighboring town need to be destroyed next Friday night.
A common enemy seemed to be the theme Tuesday night. Asian women, black guys, white chicks, and even Ron Artest came to Staples Center to send a pretty clear message: Fuck you, Donald Sterling. Did Sterling make some money from the game Tuesday night? Sure, but he’s a billionaire who makes money continuously, and the receipts from Tuesday night’s game are a drop in the bucket. But he felt it where it counted: his pride. The pathetic truth is that even at the advanced age of 81, Sterling still wanted to be popular. He was concerned about what people thought of him and desperately wanted to be cool. Can you imagine being 81 and getting upset about a 20-year-old’s Instagram?
Selflessness is the first thing you learn in sports—and ironically a glaring character flaw in Sterling. It was always about him. How much money does he make? How young is his girlfriend? How cool are his reading glasses? Except, Tuesday night at Staples Center, you looked around and realized it wasn’t about him. It was about us.
Observing the diverse crowd, I felt a strange sense of pride knowing that I was part of this merry band of misfits that came together to collectively tell this guy to kiss our ass. I felt pride in knowing that when shit really hits the fan and that common enemy rears his ugly, jowly head, we can rally as a community, as a team, and send a message about what we value. Because whether you’re a migrant worker looking for a new life in a new world or a Midwest meathead looking for a new life on the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, Los Angles is a place you can call home.
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