Some of the major sports stories over the past few weeks have had a California connection.
First, there was Sterling — Donald, that is. Then, there was Chrome — California, that is. Now, there is Salas — Lizette, that is. No sterling or chrome in her story, but it is a golden one.
Each of these stories is different. But, they share one thing in common and that is they are the stuff of dreams.
Donald Sterling’s story is one of a dream that turned into a nightmare. This billionaire real estate developer bought the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball franchise for $12.5 million in 1981. The team is now estimated to be worth around $600 million.
That’s the sunny side of the dream. The dark side came on April 25 when a secret recording was released that revealed Donald Sterling making racist remarks and his dream changed forever.
Almost immediately after that, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced his decision regarding Sterling’s comments. In this case, the combination of sterling and silver was not a good one.
Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him from the NBA for life. He also asked the league’s owners to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. They are now scheduled to vote on that on June 3. It’s not certain, but it is highly likely that Sterling’s story will end ingloriously with his being kicked out of the league.
California Chrome’s story is one of a small chestnut colt that could and his owners who believed that he and they could, as well.
The owners — Perry and Denise Martin and Steve and Carolyn Coburn — paid $8,000 for the mare that they bred with a $2,500 stallion to foal California Chrome. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the first two legs of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, Chrome is now worth millions.
So, in a way, California Chrome’s owners are like Sterling in that they will be getting a great return on their initial investment. But, that’s where the similarity ends.
Thoroughbred racing is known as the sport of kings. Or, put another way, it is normally the elite province of the wealthy, or the 1 percent. The Coburns and Martins are part of the 99 percent.
We don’t know exactly where they fall in that 99 percent. But we got an indication from Colburn, who after Chrome won the Preakness, declared, “In my opinion, this horse, what he’s doing for two guys who work their butts off every day just to put beans and bacon on the table, gives everybody else the incentive to say, ‘We can do it, too.'”
According to Coburn, his dream for what California Chrome could accomplish was not late in coming. He asserts, “I saw this baby when he was a day old, I told my wife, ‘Carolyn, this horse is going to be something big, I don’t know what it is, but we’re going to stay in the game to make sure this colt gets to be the best that he can be.'”
And, it appears that the best he can be might be a Triple Crown winner. In horse racing it doesn’t get any better than that.
Again, we can’t be certain how Chrome’s story will end. We do know, however, that whether California Chrome wins the Belmont — the final leg of the Triple Crown — it will end gloriously. That’s because Chrome and his owners have already proven they are winners by prevailing against very long odds and capturing the hearts of millions of Americans.
Lizette Salas’s story is also one of beating long odds to become a champion. The 24-year-old Salas won her first LPGA professional golf tournament in Kingsmill, VA on May 18.
Her victory was impressive. But even more impressive is what she and her parents did to get her to this point.
Ms. Salas is the youngest daughter of immigrants from Mexico. Her father, who is a golf course mechanic at the Azusa Greens public golf course in Southern California, is the one who got her interested in golf at the age of seven. He bartered his talents as a mechanic to get her initial golf lessons.
Lizette attended and graduated from Southern California University with a degree in sociology in 2011. She was the first member of her immediate family to graduate from college.
While at USC, she was a four-time All-American and Pac -10 player of the year twice. Salas joined the LPGA tour in 2011. At the end of 2013, she was ranked 20th in the world. This year she has earned almost a half million in tour events and nearly $1.5 million in earnings since becoming a pro.
Lizette is living her dream and she has earned it through her own hard work and with the help of her parents. She acknowledged their contributions during her interview on the golf channel after her Kingsmill victory.
As Lizette states on her website when she first started playing as a junior golfer, “At first, it was really intimidating because I was the only Latina. My parents helped me through that. They encouraged me to do my best. I got used to the fact that there aren’t too many Latinos out there.”
For Salas, it is not just about golf, however. She understands the concepts of rights and responsibilities. She explains, “I’m from a city that’s predominantly Hispanic. I want to be a positive role model for the girls in my community and change the stereotypes placed on Hispanics.”
As with each of these stories, we don’t know how Ms. Salas’s story will end. We are confident, however, that it will not conclude when her professional playing career does.
Given her positive attitude and commitment to making a difference, we think that will be the beginning of a new stage in her life rather than an ending. One dream fades another emerges.
California dreams are not always the same. But, in some — maybe many — of them, there are seeds of aspiration and inspiration.
We need those seeds to sustain us in tough times. As the Mamas and Papas, would say it, when, “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.” We need “California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.”
We need dreaming. As importantly, we need dreamers who dare and do.
We need them from California and from across this country to make America work for Americans again.