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Russian Faith Healer Gives Way To 'Showtime' As Magic Johnson Buys LA Dodgers

Ex-NBA great Magic Johnson (left) with U.S. President Barack Obama in November 2011
A group of investors including basketball legend Magic Johnson is paying $2 billion to acquire one of Major League Baseball's most illustrious teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Coming one day ahead of the MLB season opener, it's welcome news for loyal fans, who've suffered through a championship drought of nearly a quarter-century and simply want to forget their current owner.

So what better time to remind them of just how bad it got under current owner Frank McCourt for the once-proud franchise that has won six World Series and broke the color barrier by signing black phenom Jackie Robinson?

And what better way to do it than with one name: Vladimir Shpunt.

He sounds like a figment of someone's imagination, except that the "Los Angeles Times" vouched for Shpunt after news emerged of his sweet deal with the Dodgers. The Russian-trained physicist and aspiring faith healer Shpunt worked five years for the Dodgers and was paid a retainer and a six-figure bonus to "watch them on television in his home more than 3,000 miles from Dodger Stadium, channeling his thoughts toward the team's success." And trying to heal McCourt's wife's wrist and treat the odd multimillion-dollar-salaried player. Oh, and his spirit made a cameo at McCourt's high-profile divorce trial.

There's even a mock Shpunt Twitter page issuing some pretty funny tweets:

But local writers and sports bloggers claim that baseball's again a serious, high-stakes business at Chavez Ravine:

Today is a great day in Dodgers history. McCourt turned one of baseball's most historic clubs into a laughing stock, but he's now being shown the door with an appropriately high-profile ownership group taking control of a high-profile team.

A five-time NBA champion, Earvin "Magic" Johnson was clear about his fellow investors' goal once the sale is completed:

The winning group paid $2 billion for the team -- a record for a sports franchise -- according to an announcement issued jointly with previous owner Frank McCourt.

"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise," Johnson said in the statement, adding the new owners "intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section."

So chin up, Angelinos, the dog-and-pony show might just be giving way to "showtime."

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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