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Gastelum: Magic fits in perfectly as new Dodgers owner (Mar. 29)

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Five months ago, I proclaimed the Wicked Witch of the West was dead. Who would have known that it would take this long for him to melt away as if it were Magic?

No more “Who’s your owner?” chants, no more ESPYs jokes and no more fan boycotts. Just say the Magic word.

What the Dodgers needed was a return to their roots, that laid-back, yet competitive fire stoked by the O’Malley family back in the day before we let corporate America control the biggest team in the country’s second biggest market. And if you ask anyone about the figure who epitomizes Los Angeles sports, that answer is Magic Johnson.

Don’t say baseball teams are businesses. Ask any owner in the game today where his/her intentions are and the response will be to win. Some are just louder than others. And ask them what made them buy a franchise, and they will say it was for the challenge.

These guys have made money their entire life, probably to the point where it starts to get boring doing the same thing.

And if you look at those who possibly tried to make it a business – Frank McCourt, Fred Wilpon, Tom Hicks – everything turned on them.

Don’t say baseball teams are entertainment, either. Don’t lump sports in general with movies, music or shows. Who goes to a three-hour long, nine-inning baseball game to be entertained? In fact, the common complaint about baseball is that it is too long or too boring. Doesn’t sound like entertainment to me.

So if it’s not for making money and it’s not just for having fun, why did his group invest an astounding $2 billion? Magic did this to win, the desire that has driven him in everything that he has done. He wanted to blow away his competition for the title of owner, and bring this team a championship – thus going down in history as the greatest Angeleno ever.

Critics and economists blast the world-record $2 billon price tag, but this is not about business. And if you argue that Magic’s group made a bad business decision, look at the potential $3-5 billion television deal on the table from FOX or Time Warner.

But to put this deal in perspective, the last break-the-bank sale in baseball was the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million. That shows two billion reasons how much this team means to Magic’s group. At that point, it’s like a seven-footer in basketball. After 6-foot-5, everything is just plain tall. Likewise, after one billion dollars, it is just a ton of money. The price of winning becomes priceless, as it should be.

And since we are talking in basketball terms, Magic’s best assists have yet to come.

Magic has way too much at stake to make this a business decision. As Wale puts it, he’s just trying to be legendary, and his reputation in L.A. stretches from Inglewood to L.A. Live and now to Chavez Ravine.

And the best part is he knows that if he messes this up, L.A. turns from the city that made him a star to the one that runs him out of town.

But let’s not forget he did this with help.

Mark Walter and Guggenheim Partners (a $100-billion financial services firm) will provide the financial backing, but Walter has made it clear that he wants to win a championship above all else.

Meanwhile, Stan Kasten remains the underdog of the whole situation. Thrown to the background while Magic takes the spotlight and Walter pulls out the checkbook, Kasten built the Braves dynasty of the 1990s with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones. Atlanta won more in his tenure than any team in baseball and now he has Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and unofficial 2011 MVP Matt Kemp to build a winner.

People who know me well know two concrete things: I can’t carry a conversation too far if it is not about sports and I love my city. The Dodgers hit each spot and always have for me and millions of others.

LA is sunshine, beaches and a laid-back attitude. And now you can finally throw the Dodgers back into that definition.

Poof, just like Magic.

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.