I recently had a correspondence with one of the sports blogosphere's best - a guy who does better work than just about any of us. We started the discussion with the Ozzie Guillen flap, but ultimately the conversation became about how being a sports fan demands all kinds of irrational sublimation.
How can a gay ChiSox fan possibly root for Ozzie's success? What about rooting for a collection of known rapists when the most important thing in your life is your five-year-old daughter? Should you give your money to an owner who is a crony of George Bush if you have a truly principled stance against the Administration? Some of these questions we posed directly; others I thought about later.
We agreed that being a sports fan isn't rational - which may explain why the ballpark (April-October) and the arena (November-May) serve as my houses of worship; my fandom is visceral and makes no more sense than, say, someone's belief that there's a big man upstairs calling all the shots who needs our constant reassurance. But when I go to the Clips game and yell, it's affirming. So that's why we keep rooting.
The reason I bring this up is that the Department of Justice yesterday sued Donald T. Sterling for violating the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits landowners from "discrimination on the basis of race, national origin and familial status." This isn't Sterling's first go-around with the DOJ, nor is the Bush administration's Justice Department known for being overly obtrusive in matters of social vigilance.
From the LA Times:
In the seven-page complaint, Justice Department lawyers said Sterling's agents at various times have refused to rent to non-Koreans at their buildings in Koreatown, and have been guilty of "creating, maintaining, and perpetuating an environment that is hostile" to existing non-Korean tenants.
According to the lawsuit, the Sterling companies also have refused to rent to African Americans at properties in Beverly Hills, and have misrepresented the availability of units to blacks and families with children.
Prosecutors are seeking a court order that would bar future acts of discrimination, along with monetary damages for alleged victims, none of whom was identified.
"Here in Los Angeles, where housing is already at a premium, it is imperative that no one be denied housing simply because of their skin color, ethnic background or because they have children," said Debra Wong Yang, U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. "The Justice Department is dedicated to ending all discriminatory housing practices, along with every other type of civil rights violation."
The case is an echo of a private lawsuit filed against the Sterlings in 2003 on behalf of about 20 mostly black and Latino tenants or prospective tenants. According to that suit, filed by the Housing Rights Center, a Los Angeles nonprofit group, Sterling had told members of his staff that he did not like to rent to Latinos or African Americans because "Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building," and "black tenants smell and attract vermin."
The assumption here is that most readers have an easier time than I do parsing their consumer loyalties from their overall worldview. I, on the other hand, have trouble doing that. Do I really want to drop $1,700 per seat into the pocket of a guy who does America the wrong way? Should I just sublimate my guilt and root for the nine black guys in the world that Sterling does like?
Just something to think about while we wait for Elton to fracture his second metatarsal over in China.