Wednesday, April 30, 2014

You Reap What You Sow

After I got home from work last night, I turned on my TV set to watch a rerun of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell (with Lawrence on vacation, it was actually The Last Word with Ari Melber instead)...and I couldn't believe what I heard.

I saw a clip of (Men's) NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressing his first major crisis since he replaced David Stern this past February:

"Donald Sterling...has been banned...for life."

The Los Angeles Clippers (the team Sterling bought in 1981, when the club still lived in San Diego) will have to find a new soon as possible.

You know what I say about that?

I say: "RIGHT ON!!!" 

It's more than that hour-long conversation this 80-year-old billionaire had with his 29-year-old girlfriend, V. Stiviano. You know, where the real-estate magnate let the cat out of the bag...and demonstrated that he thought of his West Coast basketball team as a Southern plantation.

Sterling's desire that African Americans stay away from the Staples Center when the Clips are the home team (meaning keeping Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, among others, out of the building) was the icing on the cake.

Here's the rest of the cake: 

Until just the last couple of seasons, the Clippers had been a laughingstock...courtesy of The West Coast Donald.

Today, the NBA is thirty teams strong. But in time for the 1970-71 season, the team owners okayed a triple expansion- to seventeen squads. (This at a time when we still had the ABA- at that time, a league with eleven clubs, four of which were six years away from joining the NBA in a partial merger.)

In time for that campaign, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers debuted.

So did the Los Angeles Clippers.

But at first, they lived in Buffalo and were nicknamed the Braves.  

*To make a long story short, the Blazers have made it to the league playoffs 30 times since entering the circuit. Portland became the first of the NBA's 1970-71 newcomers to win it all; under Jack Ramsay (a Basketball Hall of Famer who just passed away recently), the Trail Blazers- led by HOF'er Bill Walton- knocked down a heavily-favored Philadelphia 76ers squad, four games to two, in 1976-77...the year the partial merger took effect.

Rip City got to the league finals in 1989-90 (only to lose to the Detroit Pistons) and 1991-92 (when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls stopped the Blazers), too.

*The Cavaliers got to the playoffs 18 times in club history...none of them since LeBron James left Cleveland. In fact, the Cavs finally got to the (Men's) NBA championship series in 2006-07...only the San Antonio Spurs- one of those former ABA contingents- proved to be too much for King James and Co. 

*The Clippers are still looking for their first contact with the NBA finals.  

Portland's got four division titles to its credit. Cleveland has topped its division three times.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers are two-time division champs.

The 2012-13 and 2013-14 Pacific Division titles are the first ones for this franchise that Donald Sterling purchased 33 years ago. What's more, the Clips' 57-25 mark for this past regular season (one-time Boston Celtics head man Doc Rivers' first as the Clips' head coach) was the best in team history.

But even with Rivers' and predecessor Vinny Del Negro's efforts these last three seasons (and those of players like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, and J.J. Redick), the team did better in Buffalo (259-397 from 1970-71 to 1977-78). Still, the Clips' two division titles enabled the club's Los Angeles history (915-1,497 since 1984-85, the team's first campaign in Tinseltown) to finally top its San Diego tenure (186-306 from 1978-79 to 1983-84).  

In terms of winning percentage, that means .395 in Buffalo, .378 in Ess Dee, and .379 in El Lay. 

Speaking of Buffalo...Ramsay was the first head coach to guide the franchise to postseason action (1973-74 to 1975-76). The bottom had dropped out for the club by the late 1970s, and its then owner, KFC magnate John Y. Brown, swapped clubs with the then owner of the Celtics, Irv Levin. 

Levin moved the Braves to San Diego in time for the 1978-79 season...the team's first under the Clippers name. 

That first season in California, the team went 43-39...and missed a playoff spot. The team's record got worse and worse with each passing season...until a disastrous 1981-82, when the Clippers limped home 17-65.  

By then, Levin had sold the team to Sterling...who was itching to move the Clippers up Interstate 5.

I wasn't too impressed with Sterling's rationale for bringing his club to America's second largest city: "I always thought there should be a team in the Los Angeles Sports Arena." (The Los Angeles Lakers used the Sports Arena from 1960-61- their first campaign since leaving Minneapolis- to 1966-67. Then they switched to a facility in Englewood, the Staples Center predecessor called the Great Western Forum.) 

While the Lakers became Showtime (thanks to a cast headed up by Johnson and fellow HOF'er Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the Clippers couldn't draw flies, let alone people. 

The Lakers (under Jerry Buss) became the textbook example of how to run an NBA franchise...and Sterling's questionable decisions (like running the team like a plantation) kept many of the Sports Arena's seats empty. And things stayed the same when both teams moved into the Staples Center at the start of the 1999-2000 campaign. 

It wasn't enough that Sterling's antics killed men's pro basketball in San Diego. 

The wasted draft choices, the questionable choices for head coaches (with a few exceptions- like Larry Brown), other questionable decisions (like the canning of Brown after the 1992-93 season, a rare playoff campaign for the Clippers), and so on and so forth...all of that made Sterling's club the NBA's laughingstock.

It's only since Paul left the Big Easy and came to the Big Orange that the Clippers have been able to fill up after game, season after season.

This is the best this once-lowly franchise has been able to do. Ever.

And Donald Sterling's racist rants had put excrement in the punch bowl. 

I'm so glad that Silver and the players in the league got together to throw out that punch bowl and get a new well as a new punch recipe.

If you're going to buy a franchise in one of the most diverse sports leagues in the world, only to treat your team like a plantation, and you have plenty of contempt for not only your players and coaches, but your team's fans as well (and all of this at a time when your team's playing the best ball in the club's history)'re barking up the wrong tree.

Here's hoping the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers will be able to help the team get up to the next level...namely, the top of the NBA. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sussex 235

This record debuted on Billboard's Pop chart and R&B chart next week in 1972 (its R&B chart debut was 4-29-1972).

It spent 19 weeks on this country's Billboard Pop chart and left the magazine's Rhythm & Blues chart (then known as "Hot Soul Singles") after spending 17 weeks on it.  

On 6-24-1972, the song displaced Bobby Womack's "Woman's Gotta Have It" at the top of this country's R&B chart, staying that chart's leader for an entire week...and did even better as a pop song, making it to Number One on said survey on 7-8-1972, the day it kicked Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue" out of the Hot 100's driver's seat (and enjoyed a three-week run as the most popular single on Billboard's Pop list).  

This song proved so durable that the 1980s dance/disco group Club Nouveau put its own spin on it (Warner Bros. 28430)...and in early 1987, Club Nouveau made it a smash all over again- bringing the number to the top spot on the Pop chart and to Number Two on the Billboard R&B survey.

It's been a staple at contemporary worship services ever since at churches everywhere.

It's the song its composer (Bill Withers, the man who had the original recording, on Sussex Records) is most associated with.  

The ditty's message is timeless and universal.  

And until very recently, I've had so many doubts about whether that timeless message has ever had any REAL meaning for me.  

You see, at the time "Lean on Me" came out, I was still in my teenage years and fighting to survive life with an alcoholic mother...the exact same fight my younger brother was engaged in.

One thing about it, after being told by Mom that "I WISH YOU'D NEVER BEEN BORN!" I just couldn't count on coming to her for any sort of support for any reason.

I didn't dare seek support from any adult relative. (A cousin telling me I'd have to learn to cope with this or that situation was the closest I could come to receiving any support from kin at the time.) 

Had better luck at school...but even then, I had to be very, very careful about who to tell my troubles to. 

Lately, however, I've been giving "Lean on Me" another chance in my life...and fighting the temptation to go back to saying: "I don't need anybody!"

Way down inside, we DO need each other.