For a time during 2013, Jorge Vergara took over the title of "worst pro sports owner in LA" from Donald Sterling. Of course, Vergara didn't actually live in LA during any of that time, and it's not like Sterling exactly reformed his ways, but the spotlight that had been firmly pointed at Sterling and the shoddy management of the LA Clippers was turned towards Chivas USA.
The parallels are striking on so many levels. A team, wearing red, white and blue, enters Los Angeles as the second team in the city in their league. Results are sometimes pretty good, usually pretty bad, and at the heart of it all is an owner who runs the organization on the cheap, puts incompetent people in many important positions over the years, has (allegedly) made statements that were at best racially insensitive, and at worst just plain batshit racist, and faced multiple lawsuits concerning said statements and policies.
I have no idea if Vergara and Sterling have ever crossed paths. I'd say it would be fitting, but considering both of their (alleged) beliefs about people outside of their own racial group, they probably wouldn't deign to interact with each other.
But what's happening regarding the latest crisis with the LA Clippers shows a sea change may be on the horizon. Chivas dispensed with their terrible owner by officially buying him out -- a remarkable step, really -- and while I don't expect the NBA to kick Sterling out of the league, at least in the near future, the groundswell of responses to Sterling's (alleged) remarks that have been publicized this weekend shows that if you're rich and subscribe to the most basic rules for keeping a pro sports franchise running, that's not enough to excuse abhorrent behavior. You don't have to break laws for fellow owners to break ranks with you.
Of course, if Chivas or the Clippers were winning titles, who knows if their respective leagues would be working to get rid of them one way or another. But it's probably no coincidence that holding whacked-out beliefs goes hand in hand with treating your own franchise like a little fiefdom, giving it the full hands-off treatment when you like, then barging in and running through the organization with reckless abandon, hiring and firing people at your whims. You're rich! Nobody can touch you, because you are successful, and you deserve the success you have, and people who don't have it do not.
It's really easy to natter on about how awful Vergara and Sterling were/are. What's more thorny is the dilemma for fans of the team, and the players on the team. The fans choose to be fans of the team, and while some are raised to be fans, having two teams in the city means you can choose.
The unfortunate thing, is if you choose the bad team with the terrible owner, other fans hold you in contempt for making such a terrible decision. Believe me, I've felt it over and over again when it comes to Chivas. "Why are you so stupid?!" they seem to ask, without straight out asking you. "You could have picked a winner. Well, you're getting what you deserve."
It's not that simple. I guess falling for the team of choice because you really liked a certain player, or you wanted to watch a team grow over time and become successful, or you simply didn't like the first team in LA are not valid options. You're just a dummy, one whose very morality is questioned, by association. It's absurd.
Of course, it's worth noting that there have been many, many people over the years who have stopped rooting for Chivas USA and the LA Clippers because of their lack of success and poor management/ownership. To say that these teams have not felt a dent because of the bad publicity is laughable. And it's why MLS stepped in with regard to CUSA, and the NBA looks set to suspend Sterling. Simply standing by, letting the rot persist, hurts the team, no question, but it hurts everybody else, at least a little (well, except for the other LA teams, frankly).
Jorge Vergara had been part of Chivas USA from the beginning, but not coincidentally, when he was most involved, the team was at its worst, on and off the field. He dug a huge hole that this club will need years to climb out of.
Luckily for CUSA fans, he's gone and hopefully the next owner can help this club not only survive but thrive. Hopefully, the pressure on the NBA to really hammer Sterling continues as well, and that team can see better days, not only on the court (where they're arguably having their best season in team history) but off it as well.
And if you are a Chivas USA and LA Clippers fan (I know there's a contingent of you)? Hang in there.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!