Two youths, with lampshades from a looted store, run down a street, in the Watts section of Los Angeles on August, 13, 1965. The six days of violence left 34 dead and resulted in $40 million of property damage.
Can we be Frank here?
“Looting” is a lot to live up to. Especially in Los Angeles.
It’s the phrase Major League Baseball’s lawyers apparently have resorted to in summarizing the process by which current Dodgers ownership has redistributed more than $189 million gained through the donations made by loyal fans of the team.
It’s also the foundation of an argument they’ll use in bankruptcy court starting next week when commission Bud Selig’s team tries to snatch control of the property back from last man standing Frank McCourt.
“Looting” needlessly reopens a lot of wounds around here.
You flash back to the flash points of where some of our unsavory citizenry were involved in riotous acts, whether it’s a reaction to a police beating in Watts decades ago, or sparked by a controversial court verdict or a Lakers’ victory parade.
You really want to play that card around here?
“Looting” comes from the Latin word “latronis,” which means to steal.
On its own, it’s a nasty, ugly, unsympathetic allegation.
In L.A., it’s the real “L Word.”
On one level, those who loot, plunder or pillage the system are the targets of the Occupy Wall Street movement, being held up to accountability and restitution.
In baseball’s case, Selig has been sending troops into occupy McCourt’s Dodger Stadium offices, holding him accountable for sending fans away in pavilions this past season, in the aftermath of a two-year public divorce proceeding that revealed personal financial behavior more butchered than a Farmer John meat-packing plant.
Yet, of all the instigating words Selig could have picked from a Google search, he’s going with “looting,” repeated in headlines throughout every story published Tuesday, based on the original report from Los Angeles Times.
He couldn’t use something else like, say, funneling. That’s done at the Corner Bakery.
Or syphoning. That’s done by the Auto Club tow-truck guy.
Or pocketing. That’s a specialty in the Garment District.
Or misallocating. That’s done by a City Hall subcommittee.
Or embezzling. That’s done by Lenny Dykstra.
Not even personal redistributing. That’s done at a McCourt divorce hearing.
MLB is appalled how McCourt used $116 million in team revenue to pay off personal debt and then spend the rest as he pleased. He also nabbed another $73 million from a parking lot slush fund company set up as a shelter apart from the team financial structure.
In all, MLB holds McCourt accountable for breaking 10 of its rules. Call ’em Selig’s 10 commandments of ownership behavior.
If only McCourt was as up on literature as his “Angela’s Ashes” namesake. He could have used his powers for the good of L.A. instead of the detriment of the game.
Instead of acting like one of the boys in the ‘hood, he could have “looted” like Robin Hood.
Instead of claiming that all security was in place for Opening Day, 2011, and Bryan Stow’s attack was an aberration, McCourt could have quickly and sympathetically agreed to pay for all the Giants’ fans medical issues.
Instead of passively watching Clayton Kershaw pitch his way to a probable Cy Young Award on a $500,000 salary – of which $24,800 he donated to a project called Arise Africa – McCourt could have given him the instant reward of a long-term contract at fair-market value. Before he’s arbitration eligible in 2012. And before Eugenio Velez, who pulled in $416,000, catches him in the payroll hierarchy.
Instead of piecing together free shuttle rides from Union Station to Dodger Stadium, McCourt could have included an all-you-can-eat detour to Philippe’s.
Instead of dragging Vin Scully’s name through public bankruptcy documents, McCourt could have given fans free headphones to listen to the Hall of Famer’s description of the game at the park.
Instead of watching the Dodgers’ bullpen melt down and deteriorate, he could have sprung for regular therapy sessions for Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo.
Instead of watching the visiting team’s bullpen get pumped up and dominate, he could have cut the phone lines and put up a screen over the gate. Giving Tony LaRussa another excuse in explaining away a loss.
Instead of watching Andre Either grumble and mumble through nagging injuries, he could have hired him a consulting firm that taught him better media etiquette, as well as establish an open line of communication with manager Don Mattingly.
A photo of the old Cool-A-Coo company headquarters sign in Whitter, taken in 2010.
Instead of selling frozen yogurt at concession stands that turned to soup by the time the paying customer returned to his seat, he could have funded the research and production leading to the return of the Cool-A-Coo.
By our calculations, he could have done all that and more with a lot less than $189 million. Even before he announced reduced prices for a bunch of seat locations for 2012.
Instead, caught up in his own greed, Frank McCourt turned rotten.
He “looted.” A lot. So they say.
Granted, McCourt may have plundered and blundered, but we’re not going to loot the thesaurus for another way to say “looting.”
If Selig is successful in wrestling the franchise away from McCourt’s grubby grasps at these upcoming bankruptcy hearings, there might even be some kind of contained celebration in L.A.
But nothing where police set up barricades or wear riot gear.
This city has already learned the lessons about what “looting” really means.
It’s not really a term we want to see used in L.A. ever again.
Because, Frankly, we’re done with it.
Looters escape with merchandise from a shoe store in Watts during rioting after the 1992 Rodney King verdict.