The Clippers and Karma

It's come up from time to time over the years that the ClipperWidow is a yoga practitioner (as are Baron Davis and CitizenZhiv among others).  She's not only an avid adherent to the physical aspects (the stretches and poses we generally think of as 'yoga') but also well-versed in the accompanying philosophy.  It's a complex realm - decidedly spiritual, but not exactly a religion, a pre-cursor to many Eastern religions and philosophies.  As such, she is well acquainted with the concept of karma, and very open to the possibility that it is a real force in the universe.
 
I myself am more of a skeptic / realist / pragmatist / curmudgeon.  You may recall that a little over a year ago, at her urging, I took an intensive yoga philosophy class myself.  Ultimately I would have to say that I didn't get it.  It was fine - the stretchy stuff was pretty good for me physically being that I'm a middle-aged man who is tending away from general flexibility.  But the daily practice of chanting and breathing didn't really do anything for me.  The others in class would talk about how calm and focused it made them.  I was plenty calm and focused before, thank you very much.

So I now leave the yoga to her.  I'll break off a sun salute from time to time just to prove I still got it, but I'm not actively attending yoga classes and haven't been for awhile.

And while I don't believe in karma I don't exactly not believe in it either.  There's clearly a lot about the universe that no one understands, so it's tough to be too adamant one way or the other on these spiritual questions, it seems to me.  Besides, I like My Name is Earl.  That's a funny show.
 
But back to the ClipperWidow.  We've established her Eastward leanings from a spiritual/philosophical standpoint.  What you should also know is that she harbors an extreme dislike of Donald Sterling. That may in part be due to the fact that his basketball team takes an inordinant amount of my time, not to mention the good TV many nights - she's not called the ClipperWidow for nothing, after all.  Over and above that, I have over the years told her many stories of Sterling's alleged misdeeds.  The "I-never-admitted-guilt" housing discrimination case is bad enough - but the worst in her mind is the self-promotion; in particular his Homeless Shelter that never was.  And of course I don't think I could be accused of being a Sterling apologist.  She's right - he's a bad man.

Given her overall world view and her feelings about Donald Sterling, Clipper misfortunes have never held much mystery for the ClipperWidow.  From Shaun Livingston to Elton Brand and now to Blake Griffin, she's always attributed the bad things that happen to the franchise to karmic retribution being visited on Donald Sterling.  To her it's pretty straightforward - bad things happen to the Clippers because their owner is a bad man.

This is not a particularly new concept.  It has however gotten a lot more play recently than ever before.  Prior to the Lakers-Clippers game last Friday, Phil Jackson made direct references to the Clippers owner and karma, and since then there has been a lot written about it.

I'm more than a little surprised myself that so little has been written about the coach of one NBA franchise discussing the alleged transgressions of the owner of another NBA franchise (Bill Plaschke made a brief reference to it in his column on the subject).  As a hypothetical, suppose that any other NBA coach had disparaged any other NBA owner in a similar manner - would the media be writing about the owner, or calling out the coach for stepping over a line?  It's not much of a stretch to imagine that David Stern might have stepped in with a reprimand or a fine had it been any combination other than PJ and DTS.  But because Jackson is NBA royalty and Sterling is a pariah, no one seemed to notice how inappropriate it all was.

And don't get me started about the hypocrisy of PJ raising questions of karma stemming from settled allegations of discrimination while hitching his own wagon to a star who has settled allegations of rape.  Put another way, if PJ really, truly believed that karma trumps basketball, would Ron Artest be a Laker? 

I've been pretty tight-lipped on the question of curses.  Frankly, there's just not a lot to say about it.  If you don't believe in them then why waste your time talking about them?  If you do believe in them, then the whole exercise in rooting for a cursed franchise seems self-defeating.  But in a recent interview with Dime Magazine, they asked me directly if I believed in the curse, so I went ahead and answered.

Dime: Do you believe in the Clippers curse?

SP: No. Nor do I believe in ghosts or angels. I do believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Here's the real question regarding a curse. Has anyone actually done a statistical analysis of any of these things that are supposed to demonstrate this curse? Injuries are the obvious thing, and of course I can reel off dozens of major Clipper injuries over the last 25 years, as any Clipper fan can. Marques Johnson, Norm Nixon, Derek Smith, Danny Manning, Ron Harper, Shaun Livingston, Elton Brand, Blake Griffin. Or I could make a similar list for any other franchise over the last 25 years. Would the Clippers' list be measurably longer, in a statistically significant way? I don't know, but I doubt it. Some team has to have the most injuries over that time, and maybe it's the Clippers, or maybe it's not. Are the Blazers cursed this year? Are the Wizards cursed? Is Michael Redd cursed? Injuries happen.


At least in the case of the Sterling-karma argument, there's a reason given - something more than, "It's the Clippers".  It seems to me however that there's a major flaw in the logic (even if Phil's tongue was firmly in his cheek when he raised the question).  If karma exists and has this sort of power, why would she take her revenge on Blake Griffin (or Shaun Livingston or Danny Manning for that matter)?  If Sterling is the one accumulating a karmic debt, why are 20 year old basketball players the ones who are paying the tab?  Does an injury to Blake Griffin hurt Donald Sterling?  Well, sure, at some level.  But it hurts Blake Griffin a lot more directly.  Is it just just collateral damage?  Maybe karma just has bad aim.  Maybe all these karmic thunderbolts over the years have been aimed at Sterling, but have hit Marques Johnson and Norm Nixon and Derek Smith and now Blake Griffin. 

If karma wanted to hurt Donald Sterling then you would think that the Clippers franchise would be losing money.  But even as their player's continue to drop, the Clippers continue to be one of a dwindling number of NBA franchises that actually make money, clearing $10M last season while winning 19 games, according to Forbes Magazine.

Which leads me to believe that if karma is real and Blake Griffin is out for the season because Donald Sterling is a racist, then karma is really bad at her job.
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