I spent most of Sunday mourning the end of my team’s — the Clippers’ — basketball season.
An extremist sports fan for my most beloved players and teams, I, like many fanatical sports junkies, experience emotions that rise and fall when my teams win and lose. If you aren’t “that into” sports and find it incomprehensible that a person’s moods and emotions can be adversely affected by their team’s successes and failures, then just think about how you feel when well-liked characters are killed off your favorite TV show or how you felt when Mufasa died. Or how you felt when someone in third grade pooped on your Santa Claus-party and told you he wasn’t real (if you still believe in Santa, disregard that last part).
Bottom line is, it hurts. Badly.
Granted, the Clippers are halfway through a best-of-7 series with NorCal-nemeses Golden State Warriors, are tied at 2 games a piece and have (at least) 2 more chances to advance to Western Conference semis, the inflammatory, hateful and discriminatory remarks about Blacks made by infamous Clippers owner Donald Sterling have brought so much shame and pain to Clippers players and supporters, it’s hard not to mourn.
From the multimillionaire, professional athlete who makes baskets so he can afford his $20,000-a-month mortgage to the hourly-wage janitor who cleans the bathrooms at Staples Center so he can support his family from one check to the next, every human wants to feel valued for their hard work. Cliche’ as it sounds, people want to be judged on the “content of their character” and on how their efforts contribute to the overall growth of their communities, not on the color of their skin.
You don’t want to party with me or have me work for your company or even invite me to be a spectator at one of your sporting events? Awesome. Totally your prerogative, but I hope your unwillingness to associate with me is because I party too hard or because my work ethic is questionable or because my heckling of players embarrasses you and not because I’m an ethnic minority. (For the record, I’m a one-drink date, so I never party too hard, and I have an impeccable work ethic, but I have been known to go in on opposing teams at sporting events, soooo…)
Playoffs create dramatic atmospheres where folks Facebook-fight and unfortunately, at times, physically fight. Egos are swallowed, bets are lost, alliances are forged, stars are born, and champions are made. A sacred time that culminates in one team hoisting a trophy and in others quipping, “well, we got ya next year,” is the playoffs. But never is playoffs a time when you expect for an owner’s bigoted comments and prejudiced sentiments against players he employs and against an entire race of people to make more headlines than Vince Carter’s buzzer-beater against the top-seeded Spurs.
The painful reality is that, no matter how reprehensibly ignorant, some people’s hatred is so deeply ingrained and will never waver. Conversely, the beautiful truth is that, when Donald Sterling-type moments occur during times when people are on one accord celebrating something as culturally significant as NBA Playoffs, our attentions are grabbed and inevitably, we are forced into candid discussions about how to eradicate perpetual cycles of racism and of discrimination. While Donald Sterling is not the first, last or only influential business owner possessing these views, openly debating the affect these ideologies have on our society sparks discourse necessary to heal from past wounds while growing into a more brilliant future.
You, I and the person in the next cubicle all want to feed our families, live as worry-free as humanly possible, and accomplish our goals. And we want to be respected and we want to be loved. Those values transcend all ethnic boundaries. Just a friendly reminder if ever you find yourself feeling a little Donald Sterling-ish.
Maybe it’s not the actual end of my Clippers’ season I’m mourning but the loss of a spirited Clipper Nation whose most paramount concerns were getting more points in the paint and committing fewer turnovers, not boycott or not. Regardless of how many more wins my team gets this postseason, the course that sports fans and supporters of equality, alike, take to rise from these ashes is going to one day make for one heck of a story.