Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dodgers Can Believe in Magic Touch

The national Mega Millions lottery jackpot is worth $363 million, and Southern California is a state in the drawing, including former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Frank McCourt, who hit his own jackpot Tuesday. He had announced an agreement to sell the team for $2 billion to a group that includes legend Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

He's the son of the city, the fruitful businessman who built T.G.I Friday's restaurants, who has served Starbucks coffee as residents order Grande-size cups, who built theaters to bring cinemas into poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Now, as one of the well-respected inner-city developers, Johnson has invested into a baseball franchise, buying and lifting the Dodgers out of financial troubles. A seemingly perfect fit to restore a once storied franchise, erasing all the nightmares that dismantled the ballclub, is the Magic touch and, in truth, he ended the horror and gave long-awaited Dodgers fans something proudly to cheer.

There is no questioning that he has wealthy pockets and credibility to operate a franchise, the arriving owner whose dream eventually was to own a sports team. When he called it a career in the league, Johnson knew he had the gumption and will to make a big difference in the lives of generations to come. Only he knew he had a plan after basketball, a largely ideal plan to enhance the growth of employment and change the landscape of a city by becoming a likable paragon and businessman since he retired.

And that was fine, even if he only founded non-profit charity organizations to pander to kids and teens. The word for years, after he sold his interest in the Lakers a few years ago, was that he had expressed interest in pursuing a sports team, and now Johnson can admittedly say he owns a franchise as an admirable businessman with a mind of his own. There's been a month-long guess of who'd buy the team to end the turbulence that ruined a franchise while McCourt settled a wrenching divorce from ex-wife Jamie McCourt, with too much tumult, too much belligerence, too much hullabaloo.

It was too much to deal with for one fan base, one ballclub, one city -- and now here comes a group headed by Johnson to stabilize a sense of belief and hope for the Dodgers. After two years of hell, it's now fine to THINK BLUE again, pull out the Dodgers cap from the closet where it has collected dust, buy tickets to see a few ballgames at the Chavez Ravine and gulp down Dodger Dogs and eat ice cream in cone. It seemed, all along, as if he had an ambition to change from his purple and gold attire to wear Dodger Blue.

He's not a playmaker, he's now a negotiator, an entrepreneur. He's now throwing the fastball, seemingly turning away from the swooshed shots and dunks, leaving behind the Showtime Era trying to build a championship on the baseball field. So there -- absolutely -- is life in Los Angeles, a time to cheer on the Magic touch. Ever since he arrived to L.A. years ago, Johnson has enriched the community in the glow of his proudest achievements in the sports and business world for the well-being of kids and unmoneyed families in a diverse environment.

This is Johnson's chance of resurrecting the Dodgers' image, similar to what he had delivered while he was wearing a Lakers' uniform, beating the Celtics and now hoping to outdo the Yankees. The most loathed, greediest owner in Los Angeles ever sold the team not only to a coveted billionaire but the pillar of one of the largest communities in Southern California. The man had no choice but to sell the team. So as of now, we should thank him for one thing, and one thing only: We must praise him, applaud him for making the smartest move as an evanescent wheeler-dealer. Thank him for selling the team to one of the most hallowed sports stars this town has ever seen.

That's just about the only good thing McCourt has done for this city. He cared only about profiting and never really built a winning product or assembled the right pieces to make a run at the pennant. The real challenge for Johnson, as one of the most highly adorable businessman, is finding a way to revitalize the elusive ballclub. The Magic number was indeed $2 billion, the largest bid ever paid for a sports franchise. There were already whispers that Magic's group would be favorites and, sure enough, they won the bid in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Looking back a few weeks, it almost figured that billionaires Steve Cohen and Patrick Soon-Shiong -- including St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kronke were all probable winners for the ownership.

The morning before the announcement, with all the swirling rumors heard throughout L.A., there were good vibes Magic's group would win the bid. Much of the money is coming from Mark Walter, the CEO of financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, in which he will be the controlling owner. Meanwhile, Stan Kasten, former president and GM of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and Washington Nationals will possibly run the baseball operations. It's weird the group agreed to create a joint venture with McCourt for the land around the stadium, but nonetheless, he's not in control of the club and finally is on his way out the door.

It's almost April, and the calendar reads that baseball is upon us with the Dodgers under new management, which is a way to shake off all the misfortune and unhappiness. The perception of this ownership is fittingly perfect for a man who led the Lakers to five NBA championships during the Showtime days, before the stunning announcement that he had HIV, which forced him to retire in 1991.

With all the publicity four years ago, he contemplated a possible run for mayor, staying active and serviceable in the community. The culture wasn't very good, and documents manifested that most of the money earned was spent by the McCourts on a troubled marriage with financial issues becoming so horrendous Major League Baseball had to move in and seized control of the franchise.

This is a significant feel-good story for baseball and, as an African-American owner who broke the color barrier, he can change the dynamics of the sport by reaching out to the community and inspiring more blacks to immerse into baseball. Perhaps the most amazing thing he's ever done for the city Magic is engaged, overjoyed and grateful, with an idea in mind to repair the Dodgers brand that has been demolished under previous ownership -- thanks to McCorrupted.

There will now be Magic. And if you believe, the grisly destruction could dematerialize quickly. The long-suffering is over, and now with Magic, it's safe to believe in blue.