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Grip on sports: Two billion dollars for the Clippers, Donald Sterling!?

Former NBA stars Bill Russell, right, and “Downtown” Freddie Brown, second from right, joke around with Steve Ballmer, left, who has agreement to buy the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion. (Associated Press)
Former NBA stars Bill Russell, right, and “Downtown” Freddie Brown, second from right, joke around with Steve Ballmer, left, who has agreement to buy the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion. (Associated Press)

Friday: It’s a number that’s hard to comprehend. Two billion dollars. It sounds almost like a laugh-line in a new Austin Powers movie. Two billlllion dollars. But it isn’t a joke. Not really. It’s the amount of money former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has available to spend for a sports franchise. Something about that just doesn’t seem right.

When the news leaked concerning Donald Sterling’s racist tendencies some, I don’t know, 15 years ago, no one cared. Then an audio tape was plastered all over the airwaves, and federal lawsuits and housing discrimination be damned, it was time for the old guy to get the hell out of the NBA. Get out now. And while you are leaving, will you take this nice parting gift? More money than most people in the state of California will see in their lifetime, combined?

When the news started to emerge that Ballmer, one of the bigwigs behind the aborted attempt by some Seattle folks to buy the Sacramento Kings last year, was willing to shell out $1.6, then $1.8, then $2 billion, it just seemed odd. 

Think how much money that is. Stack 2 billion $1 bills on top of each other and there wouldn’t be any trees left in Washington. Put them end-to-end and they would stretch from here to eternity.

Two billion dollars for a sports franchise?  Are we getting silly or what? It’s a business, sure, but it’s a business that’s never going to make the return needed to make a $2 billion bid profitable.

Yes, I know, Steve Ballmer has the money. He’s worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 billion, which might be even more than his former boss, Bill Gates has these days. Maybe it’s because Gates keeps giving away his money to help fight hunger and illiteracy and the like.

Now I’m no Subaru-driving liberal – just using the word “liberal” in context with me around some of my friends and former co-workers would entice a laugh or two – but it sure seems to me Gates has the brighter idea. Helping your fellow man build a better life seems a wiser use of all that money than buying Donald Sterling’s chick-magnet franchise.

A lot of people in Seattle are outraged Ballmer isn’t holding on to his money,  waiting for the day he can buy a team with Chris Hansen and move it to a new multi-million dollar arena south of town. I admit, such a thought has made me happy in the past as well. But now  Ballmer has decided to move south and become another immigrant to Los Angeles.

And as I began to examine the money involved here, and even the money involved with Hansen’s plans for Seattle, it began to hit me. We can’t keep our bridges from falling down. Most of us know kids who can’t afford to go to college.

People are struggling to feed their children. And a donkey like Donald Sterling is going to be walking around with a few hundred million dollars in his pocket? All because he owned a professional sports team that he operated somewhat like an 1840s cotton plantation? A badly run 1840s cotton plantation?

Somewhere our priorities got out of whack.

• The  Pac-12 announced a whole bunch of  football starting times Thursday and, as can be expected, the number of  late-night kickoffs elicited outrage. But think about this. If you are a Rutgers fan living in New Jersey, the 7 p.m. kickoff in Seattle on Thursday night, Aug. 28, is actually a 10 p.m. kickoff for you.

Now 7 p.m. doesn’t look all that bad, does it?

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