With every turn of this Donald Sterling saga, I feel worse for the guy.
Yes, he's reaping the harvest of his prejudiced ways. And yes, he's being every bit the stubborn, litigious jerk many predicted when the NBA banned him for life and demanded the sale of his Los Angeles Clippers in May.
Still, I can't help pulling out the violin for sports' favorite antagonist. His delusion is epic. His demise inevitable.
Sterling is in the first of what he vows will be an endless string of litigations. Currently, he is trying to nix the $2 billion sale of the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
He won't win. He can't. His Marvin the Martian-esque plans to destroy the NBA are inevitably futile. So thirsty for revenge, so drunk on pride, it's lost on him how pathetic he looks.
He just wants to be relevant. He wants to save face from national embarrassment.
His wife sided with the enemy. His girlfriend exposed him. People he has rubbed shoulders with and lorded over for years can't get away from him fast enough. He can clear out a room faster than a skunk.
He has lived in such a way that he has nothing more to cling to than a courtside seat at a basketball game. And if the doctors that his wife consulted are correct, his cherished memories of reigning in the NBA kingdom are fading fast as his brain turns on him, too.
Sterling is fighting until his knuckles go numb because his position as team owner provided fulfilment he can't find elsewhere.
That is sad. Watching the gradual demise of any human being shouldn't sit well.
But this has to happen. Sterling needs to be ousted. The humanity in me hopes he finds the wherewithal to go on his own. I've tasted the fruits of my own idiocy, and I can guess what he's going through in the wee-watches of the night. I hope he takes his money and finds peace in some shadow.
Maybe his recent meeting with Ballmer was a sign that he's ready to do so. The smart money, though, is on Sterling sticking to his plans of suing the NBA relentlessly -- however fruitless that might be.
Let's say that Sterling somehow wins the probate court trial to stop the sale his wife, Shelly, orchestrated after having him declared mentally unfit. The NBA Board of Governors still has a pending vote to oust him from their ownership group -- an ability etched into the bylaws he approved.
Let's say Sterling then sues the NBA to prevent his ouster as an owner. Well, his wife has indemnified the league against a lawsuit. So Sterling would actually be suing his wife, which is suing his own estate.
Even in the current case, a bit of information has emerged that epitomizes Sterling's struggle, According to Clippers interim CEO Dick Parsons, Ballmer overpaid for the Clippers. The bookkeeping disclosed in trial reportedly shows the Clippers got lucky. So if the sale is blocked, the franchise price could drop. In fact, in a situation like this, a precipitous drop is probable.
This is Sterling's life right now. He loses even when he wins.
There is simply no way he can return as owner. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver can't let that happen. Neither can the other 29 owners. The players won't let that happen. And Sterling's legal leg is nearly as weak as his integrity.
The most Sterling can do is fill his apparent emptiness with the adolescent glee of being an irritant.
How lonely must one be to find comfort by causing discomfort? How desperate must one be to fight and claw for the right to be around people who don't want him around?
Yes, Sterling brought this on himself. But even self-inflicted pain provokes some empathy. Desperation is still hard on the eyes even if the rich ol' fool has chosen it.