Dodgers fans get last laugh

LOS ANGELES -- For seven-and-a-half years, Frank McCourt took whatever he could from the Dodgers and the city that loves them. More than his share. More than he ever deserved.

Now he will pay it all back, with interest.

Because in taking from the team and this city, McCourt actually gave something back that will far outlast his reign or his legacy.

Something too many fans take for granted until it is gone. The feeling a boy comes to naturally on his first steps inside a stadium and an old man spends his autumn afternoons trying to recreate. A love and a connection to a game and a team.

This city wasn't destroyed by Frank McCourt's reign, it was awakened.

This franchise wasn't diminished by Frank McCourt's ownership, it was renewed.

The Dodgers meant more to Los Angeles once McCourt cast them into purgatory. Every new indignity he inflicted on the team, every sacred law he broke, made these proud fans realize all they had lost.

The Dodgers aren't just a team on the field and a franchise to be purchased, they are a part of this city and its story.

This summer, in a stunning show of civic pride, Dodgers fans spoke the loudest when they said nothing at all.

They stayed away, so McCourt would go away.

Attendance fell a staggering 18 percent. Most days the park appeared half-full. There was no organizer or leader behind the movement. Somehow, millions of people all came to the same place, and spoke with the same voice. The message was clear.

A city wanted its team back.

It feels strange to be in this place, finally. This is a day that seemed like it would always come, but would never come soon enough.

Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the Dodgers after a long, bitter fight. He pulled up a bit short of where it seemed he would fire his last shot. Before a judge in Delaware made him lay down his arms and baseball commissioner Bud Selig could have a last laugh.

There was a bit of dignity in his final statement. It was short and to the point. No blame was assigned.

"The Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball announced that they have agreed today to a court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designed to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner, Frank McCourt," the joint statement read. "The Blackstone Group LP will manage the sale process."

McCourt neither apologized nor expressed remorse for what he had done and how it all ended. He simply left and walked away.

Though he will never be forgotten in these parts, all these awful memories will fade quickly. The pain of these last two years and all the courtroom drama was always going to be temporary.

The Dodgers were in purgatory, not hell.

As soon as McCourt moved on, Los Angeles would, too.

Soon enough, another man will be entrusted with this franchise. He will buy the team with money he's earned over a lifetime.

But he will have that opportunity because of the actions of many. Because Los Angeles came together to save its team, speaking with one voice, so loud, with a passion that could not be ignored.

Over the last few years, the Dodgers ran a marketing campaign inspired by the country song, "This is my town." Players, coaches, local celebrities and politicians would tape spots wearing a Dodgers jersey, jam along with the music, and try to fire up the crowd during games. Billboards were put up all over Los Angeles.

It was conceived in happier times. Before the divorce, before McCourt's ugly fall.

In the end, it might have been the truest thing the McCourts ever gave this city.

The Dodgers have always belonged to this town. It's time to put the jersey back on.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.