x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Clippers twinned with Manchester City

Man City and the NBA outfit LA Clippers have similarities and they do not stem from both having spent ample time rummaging around the dregs.

Manchester City's players pose with the trophy.
Manchester City's players pose with the trophy.

With each fresh landmark wrung from their Abu Dhabi infusion, Manchester City accomplish just a bit more than the hard art of self-redefinition. They also extract themselves from a strange kinship with an obscure basketball club eight time zones to their west.

Through the European Champions League qualification of the bygone week, through the treating of their hardy fans to the FA Cup yesterday at Wembley Stadium, Manchester City merrily rid their peculiar similarities to an outfit called the Los Angeles Clippers.

In recent and barren decades, anyone deranged enough to pay attention might have noticed City's several resemblances to the Clippers, an NBA team who have spent much of their 40-year existence providing few reminders that they do exist.

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Their sameness does not stem from both having spent ample time rummaging around the dregs. It does not come from City having suffered relegations and spent that 1998/99 season in English football's third tier while the Clippers would have suffered voluminous relegations if only relegation existed in the NBA.

No, it derives from both dwelling in the strange and trying existence of sharing a city with a gaudy and glamorous and decorated club that makes a maddening shadow.

In both cases, people within their countries knew of this reality but people outside knew little. At times some of us have helped edify fellow humans with riveting trivia by explaining the existence of the Clippers to people in England, explaining the existence of City to people in the United States and explaining both to people elsewhere.

In the case of City, of course, the mastodon across town would be Manchester United, so world famous that seemingly every country has a law requiring certain citizens to wear their shirts. United, of course, play at Old Trafford, which people often yearn to visit. Heydays frequent Old Trafford. Fans have grown accustomed to fete.

In the case of the Clippers, the mastodon across town has been the Los Angeles Lakers - that is, until "across town" changed to same building - and just try to imagine, say, Sir Alex Ferguson having an office just down the hallway from where Manchester City dress before matches.

The Lakers have won 11 championships in the past four decades. They often have epitomised style and art.

Their home games have doubled as must-be-seen-here places, the lower rows chockablock with movie and television stars, making Lakers games that rare and eccentric place suitable for the study of both basketball and plastic surgery.

Sometimes, just by contagion, you might wind up unwittingly infused with Botox.

City spent the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s winning zero major trophies while their statuesque neighbours hoarded them. The Clippers, having moved north from San Diego in 1984, spent the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s winning zero trophies while their statuesque neighbours hoarded them.

Were there a Moribund Avenue, the Clippers would reside upon it. They had one season of 12-70, one of 15-67, three of 17-65 and one of 19-63.

Younger than City by 80 years, their history in their guidebook can read like dark humour, with passages brazenly stating such facts as (for 1994/95) "lost 43 games by 10 or more points and led the league in fouls with 2,152".

When a whiz named Larry Brown coached them to the play-offs for two straight years in 1992 and 1993, they won zero play-off series but, still, it should stand as a stunning managerial achievement akin to great feats of maths and science, if only anybody really paid attention to the Clippers.

Somewhere within that fan vein, the clubs do begin to diverge. For those in England or those studying England, City fans gained renown and respect for their steely devotion even at times leanest. In some ways, of course, they came to tether themselves to the misery as a badge of devotion. They spoke of having to adjust their souls to the Abu Dhabi Era, as if some noble chunk of themselves died with success.

Clippers fans have never really had such identity or mystique. Nobody has known much about them. The team did improve to 32-50 this past season and does have a fetching new star in Blake Griffin, a mountain of a young man whose thunderous dunks thrill cavemen aplenty. Still, most chatter coalesces - and booms, and dominates - around the suddenly soap-operatic Lakers, and here we merge back into similarity.

For even on the bountiful yesterday, somehow City took the Wembley pitch just 23 minutes after Manchester United clinched their record 19th league title, proving that even amid landmarks, fate reserves the right to behave viciously.

 

cculpepper@thenational.ae