Magic Johnson’s group gives Dodgers dignity and hope after Frank McCourt accepts $2.15 billion bid
For the sake of argument, let’s assume Frank McCourt just sold the Los Angeles Dodgers for an ungodly $2.15 billion, that his ex-wife Jamie got fleeced, that the parking lots will be a “joint venture” that isn’t code for something nefarious, that Major League Baseball will approve what presumably is an extremely complicated deal, and that Magic Johnson will stand out in front of it and make it all better.
A friend of Frank’s – FOF – picked up the phone Tuesday night and said, “And you said we wouldn’t get two billion.”
First words out of this person’s mouth. An hour in, they’re gloating.
But, that’s OK.
The folks of L.A., they’ll wear it. The fans of the Dodgers, those who are left, they’ll embrace it. In the little ballpark in the skies above L.A., in the neighborhoods and barrios that worship what the Dodgers once were and the voice of Vin Scully today, Frank McCourt can win.
As long as he leaves.
If McCourt walks away a billionaire, if he strutted in poor and stumbled out rich, they’d gladly hold the door.
And if the draft happened to bring in Magic, too?
The best news is McCourt is gone. The second-best is Magic will one day sit in the field boxes near the third-base dugout, wave those big ol’ arms, smile that big ol’ smile, and sign a stinkin’ left fielder.
Other people will get caught up in what McCourt and his ex did here. What they did to the franchise. How they made people feel here. Other people will wonder what the hell is wrong with a world in which gluttony triumphs and dignity runs down the leg of Major League Baseball.
But, that’s not what’s being toasted in Echo Park, in East L.A., in Van Nuys, in Pasadena, in Hancock Park.
The Dodgers had become an emotional and civic burden. Under Fox and then McCourt, in a time when the Los Angeles Angels thrived and the only thing on television was New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers too often showed up wearing high-water pants and yesterday’s T-shirt.
Today, assuming McCourt navigates a mid-April bankruptcy court ruling and the Guggenheim Baseball Partners’ deal survives a late-April MLB vetting, the Dodgers are dignified again. Or, at least, hold the promise for dignity. They’ve come a long way in a few hours.
They are a bunch of guys with money that no one outside the country club set or film industry has ever heard of. They are Stan Kasten, who helped build and maintain the Atlanta Braves, when the Braves won often. But, first, they are Magic, a man’s man, a champion’s champion, and an L.A. guy who happened to front the largest price tag ever for a professional sports team. First, they are hope.
“I am thrilled,” Johnson said in a statement, “to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles.”
Now, I have no idea what half of that means. McCourt put bad Dodgers teams on the front page because there was no true foundation for baseball, only a wobbly foundation for the McCourts. But, hey, the man just got handed what apparently is a $2 billion business. You don’t crap on that with the first statement.
What you do is be gracious and go get your media rights deal, which will be one of the largest in the industry. You let people believe again. Then you change the locks.
Because, while nothing’s official until Bud Selig says it’s official, this deal is going through. Selig ushered in McCourt, a massive mistake. In the euphoria of Magic and owners of deep pockets, Selig wouldn’t have the heart to turn this into some ticky-tack tug of economic conscience. The sentimental favorite won. The man all of L.A. was rooting for won. The money is there. This thing has to ride. McCourt gets to win.
[ Big League Stew: Magic Johnson’s group breaks record for franchise purchase price ]
Since the day Magic walked off that stage at the Forum, the day he announced he had the HIV virus and would never again lead a fast break for the Los Angeles Lakers, this is perhaps what waited.
Following the regimes of the faceless Fox, the shifty McCourts, there is only joy. The ballpark is inviting again. The future is promising again. The man out in front is, while not perfect, trustworthy again.
It is what Magic represents, and what McCourt never grasped. You must stand for the process, you must respect that the path is more precious than the score, and that the franchise comes somewhere before the seventh home.
That said, Frank McCourt didn’t believe it ever would turn out like this. He thought he would win games, and win over the people, and make the Dodgers whole again.
Turned out, he made them valuable. And he’ll benefit from that.
It’ll be Magic, however, who makes them whole.
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