Donald Sterling scandal merits an over-the-top reaction

What would be a suitable punishment for the Clippers owner? A fine or suspension wouldn't be enough. How about letting all his players become free agents?

The opinion that Donald Sterling can no longer be an owner is incorrect. He would make an excellent plantation owner.

What a story. Just when you think you have seen it all . . .

The late Bill Thomas, as fine an editor as the Los Angeles Times ever had, preached a doctrine of reacting quickly to major news stories, but also finding a quiet place amid the uproar to really digest it. His point was that news-media noise often is more for the sake of other news media than a real measure of the story.

Full coverage: The Donald Sterling controversy

The noise these days, of course, is a brass band compared with the flutes and violins of yesteryear. Journalism is drowning under the volume of reactive rants. The old saying that whoever dies with the most toys wins has now been replaced by whoever shouts the loudest.

That being said, every bit of media noise and public anger — every statement of dismay and distrust made by anyone with a keyboard or a microphone, every written and broadcast rant — is justified in this one.

You want to take Sterling by the lapels and scream at him: “What were you thinking?” But of course, he wasn't. Nor would you even want to hear more of his thoughts, because what has come out is probably only the tip of the iceberg.

This was even worse than Calvin Griffith in Waseca, Minn., in 1978, saying he was happy to have his Twins there because there were more white people in the state. Worse than Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder in 1988, suggesting black athletes are better because they were bred for it from the days of slavery. Worse than Al Campanis in 1987, wrestling with “lack of necessities.”

Assuming these recordings are authentic, this was a full-blown, spill-your-guts, this-is-really-who-I-am-and-how-I-think expose. Campanis said that blacks had no buoyancy and couldn't swim. That was stupid and racist but, if you knew Campanis, also more misguided than heartfelt.

Sterling, in essence, is purported to have said that blacks were not on the same level of humanity as whites. That is horrifying.

If the title hasn't already been taken, you could write a book about this and call it the Perfect Storm.

A man, rich like a Rockefeller, has a wife of 50 years and a parade of female acquaintances less than half his age. One of the young women, who may have had an ax to grind and a plan in mind, engages Sterling in a conversation that is recorded. The recording somehow gets to TMZ, which breaks the story.

Whether Sterling was taped legally isn't clear, but in this case score one for the new journalism of getting the story out there first and thinking about it later.

The Perfect Storm continues when the recording becomes public just as Sterling's Clippers are taking a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 of an NBA playoff series against a hard-to-beat Golden State Warriors team.

Then there is the perfect timing. The news breaks on Sterling's 80th birthday. Happy birthday, Donald.

Before Game 4, the Clippers make some team gestures of protest, but have had enough heart taken out of them to lack the competitive fire needed at this level and time of year. They are routed by the Warriors.

It may mark the first time that a sports owner has thrown his entire team under the bus during the most important time in its history.

This affects more than the players. Andy Roeser, the team president, releases a feeble statement expressing uncertainty that it was Sterling on the tape, thereby allowing himself to be turned into a pathetic lackey.

This brings us to Tuesday night, Game 5 of the playoff series. At Staples Center. A packed house. People paying lots of money to watch a team they love, owned by a man they now hate.

Could this be any stranger? Could there be any bigger challenge to focusing on basketball? Clippers star Chris Paul was asked about coming home Tuesday night and all that might bring. He said, “I can't say I won't be a little nervous.”