For one, that’s good for society. For the other, not so much.
You have to wonder at the mental faculties of Mr. Sterling. By now, you’re no doubt aware that the National Basketball Association has banned him from the game for life because he strongly suggested to a close female acquaintance she should not be seen bringing black people to the arena where the Clippers play.
Perhaps Mr. Sterling, who has owned the team for about 20 years, was unaware that the majority of the members of his franchise — the people he’s been paying handsomely all that time — are not Eurasian Caucasians. One would think that might have been obvious, but maybe he was too busy counting the number of hot dogs bought or souvenirs purchased to notice. Also, he apparently missed the fact that there are a lot of NBA fans whose ancestry mirrors that of the players.
It does need to be pointed out that the remarks made by Mr. Sterling were done in private, recorded, I believe, without his knowing and then released to the press. That obviously doesn’t make up for sheer stupidity or lack of moral decency, but does allow him a scintilla of wiggle room should he ever decide to apologize and tell the world what a swell fella he undoubtedly thinks he really is.
The grapefruit, on the other hand, has no need to defend its predicament. Yet it may be worse off than Mr. Sterling. Apparently, the production of this delectable fruit has been in steady decline for the past decade or so. One report said a harvest of 41 million boxes of grapefruit ten years ago was down to 16 million this year. That would certainly account for the heightened price in the produce department but doesn’t explain the demise.
Donald Sterling’s tongue got him in trouble. But there are a number of factors most recently contributing to diminishing grapefruit returns. It seems there was a canker (fungal disease), a couple of hurricanes, problematic effects of the fruit on certain medicines, continuous urban development and, most recently, something called citrus greening (bacterial disease).
It’s entirely plausible to agree that Mr. Sterling should reap what he sows, but not even the lowest hanging grapefruits on a tree deserve the treatment they’re getting. They did nothing but try to exist where they’ve thrived for probably hundreds of years. The fungus and bacteria problems were all caused by mankind, having been brought into the country from Asia, not on purpose, but at least by unthinking travelers. Of course, the clamor for more homes and strip malls is also directly attributable to humans. The hurricanes? They just basically blew all the nasty disease elements all over the growing area.
Oh, and there is one more thing. One grower pointed out that grapefruits aren’t convenient these days. Apples and bananas and such can be picked up as you head right out the door. But grapefruits can be a little messy. You don’t want to be eating the skin. And you have to have a napkin handy. They are juicy little suckers.
Alas, Donald Sterling is a billionaire with probably enough money to survive in his own bubble and really not pay attention to his critics. Although, he may soon be losing a few bucks. I did see something about Clippers’ sponsors bailing out on him and the team. And if the NBA can legally force him to sell the franchise it may not go for a premium price. Of course, he no longer has to worry about the cost of attending basketball games, so there is that savings.
I’ve been thinking, though. Since Mr. Sterling is in such hot water and perhaps just may want to improve his public personage, there may be a way to help the grapefruit industry make its plight known while humbling the foot-in-mouth financier at the same time.
How about this: Remember the infamous scene in the classic movie “The Public Enemy” when Jimmy Cagney’s character gets fed up with the complaints of his girlfriend Kitty and squishes the juicy fruit right in the middle of her face? Maybe Charles Barkley would like to have breakfast with Donald Sterling.
Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.