Wednesday, April 11, 2012



Back in 1970 I was the author of an anonymous passage in a book written by Bill Moyers on America.  The passage was taken from an article I wrote in the old, mimeograph and paper version of the Oread Daily.  My article somehow was making a comparison between the plight of those of us involved in the REVOLUTION and the plight of the American League (at the time) in the All Star Game.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of the game of baseball.  

Why?  I will tell you why.

Baseball is more than a sport it is poetry.  Baseball is about the only mainstream major league team sport not based on war.  There is no driving up and down the field, hardly any physical combat involved.  

Baseball is a collective team sport where the one on one matchup of a pitcher and a batter is the height of individual athletic drama.  

Baseball is a summer game whose championship these days is sometimes played in the snow.  It is 162 games where individual games seem to mean nothing until they do.  It is a game where balls curve and drop and sometimes form just an illusion of what is going on.  fields are infinite.  The foul lines continue on into infinity.   There is no time keeping in baseball. Its a quantum sport in that way in which time and space are not what they seem.

There is nothing more beautiful then a baseball field on a blue sky clear day.  There is nothing more dramatic then a night game on a summer night.  Baseball is a painting.

But even baseball, gets caught up in politics, in race, in class struggle, in Empire games.  Owners make billions as their teams appreciate in an absurd manner.  Players make millions...but are in some respects treated as if they were owned by the management.  Sometimes there are strikes or lockouts.  Baseball for the good has been globalized and players migrate to the American major leagues from everywhere.  Baseball for the bad has been globalized where players all over the world, and most especially in South and Central America and the Caribbean are exploited from an early age in the endless search for the one talent.

Baseball is sometimes Venezuela,  a hotbed of the game.

Baseball is sometimes Cuba,  a hotbed of the game.

Baseball is sometimes Ozzie Guillen, Hugo Chavez, and sometimes it is even Fidel Castro.

And sometimes baseball is those  feisty Cuban exiles down in Miami, growing old, but not going into the night quietly.

PS: Someone, and I will be the one, needs to tell these anti-Castro Cubans that however much they despise Fidel (and that is their right, and I  understand where their hatred comes from), he did not systematically exterminate six million of them.  I find YOUR freakin' comparison of CASTRO to Hitler OFFENSIVE.  I know what Hitler did to my people (Jews), to the Roma people, to gay people.  Fidel Castro is not Adolph Hitler.  You owe me and a whole lot of others an apology for those signs you are carrying saying Hitler and Castro are the same.   

I am tired of everyone on the left, right and in-between compaing anyone they don't like to Adolph Hitler.  You all either don't know what you are talking about or you don't care that such comments diminish the pain of others.   

The following is from Edge of Sports.

Big Trouble in Little Havana: The Perilous Politics of Ozzie Guillen

Short of a hurricane or an armed tax-payer revolt, this had to have been Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria's worst nightmare. Loria was opening a new state of the art, tax-funded stadium in Little Havana that will cost the city two billion dollars over the next 40 years.  He also paid out several hundred million dollars in salary for free agents, making his new ballplayers the nation's wealthiest public employees. This was the last, best, chance to sell baseball in South Florida. Loria desperately needed a hot start for his team and some sugary sweet media coverage for his new ballpark. Then his new manager Ozzie Guillen decided to share his views about Cuba and Fidel Castro.  Guillen tends to talk without a filter and in an interview with Time Magazine, he revealed that he happens to not believe that Castro is Satan incarnate. Saying that he "loved" Castro, Guillen explained, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of a b---- is still here."

Casual kind words for Castro in South Florida is akin to looking at a leaky bottle of kerosene and thinking it could use a match. Now, we haven't seen outrage like this in South Florida since butterfly ballots and hanging chads.
The Miami Marlins immediately released a condemnation of Guillen but that couldn't stop a volcanic political explosion. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez called on the organization "to take decisive steps" against Guillen in the name of "freedom loving people." Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez demanded Guillen's resignation. Cuban-American State Senator and Hispanic caucus chair Rene Garcia - in record time! - sent an open letter published in the Miami Herald calling Guillen's comments "appalling" and said he was "looking forward to further actions taken against him for his deplorable comments." Garcia also stuck Loria in the ribs by including, "What I also consider disturbing is the fact that the Miami Marlins received tax dollars from this community, including Cuban-American exiles, to fund the construction of the new stadium." Suffice it to say, many a sports commentator also want Guillen fired or suspended.In their frothy anger, they have a common demand with the Cuban hardline exile group Vigilia Mambisa. An organization that has never shied from street violence and intimidationVigilia Mambisa has called for protests in front of the stadium until the Miami Marlins manager is fired.

As for Guillen, he has crumbled under the weight of all this, saying that he is now flying back to Florida to apologize in person to every animal, vegetable, and mineral he might have offended.  "I want them to know I'm against everything [in Cuba] 100 percent-I repeat it again-the way [Castro has been] treating people for the last 60 years."

Let's leave aside the rather glaring irony that the politicians, sports commentators, and Cuban exiles want to show their love of freedom by taking Guillen's job for the crime of exercising free speech. The fact is that when looking for political consistency and clarity, Ozzie Guillen is not the best place to start. The Venezuela-born Guillen's comments on Castro are not very different from what he has always said about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He has made comments very favorable about Chavez and very negative. He said, "Viva Chavez" after his Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series. He has also been one of Chavez's most high profile critics.

Trying to make sense of Guillen based on public utterances is a fool's errand. As someone who knows people that talk to Guillen when the cameras are off, I will try to explain his actual politics on Venezuela and Cuba. Guillen is big on a collective Latin American pride and will not abide anti-immigrant and anti-Latino words or deeds. He has a great deal of respect for the way Castro and Chavez stand up to the United States. He opposes efforts by the US to impose their will on these countries and wishes the rest of Latin America would show similar mettle. It's not a question of the relative good or bad of Cuba's internal politics. It's a question of independence. He's also as gung ho for the United States as any manager in baseball, going as far as to fine players for not showing proper respect for the National Anthem, a practice I criticized in 2005. I know that people love portraying Ozzie Guillen as an out-there, crazy kind of guy, and that's in part because he is an out-there crazy kind of guy. But what's crazier? Guillen's views on Cuba or the fact that an aging coterie of people who mourn for the strong hand of Fulgencio Batista control the political debate in South Florida?

But this issue is bigger than Guillen and it's bigger than Cuban exiles who dream of returning to a smoldering "free Havana", with Castro's head on a pike. It's bigger than the petty hypocrisies of those who stand for freedom by denying it for others. It's now about whether the ire produced by Guillen's words will be directed against Loria, his grab of public funds, and  the entire Miami baseball operation. If that happens, this issue won't die, but the Marlins might.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I doubt that there would have been any protest from the fascist-dominated Cuban exile community had Guillen praised any of the numerous U.S.-backed mass murderers that have plagued America Latina for the last century, from Batista to Trujillo to Rios Montt to Pinochet to Videla and Galtieri. to 'Blowtorch Bob' d'Aubuisson to ... you name it! What these folks hate about Fidel Castro is not that he carried out repression, but that the repression was primarily directed against their class, rather than against uppity peasants and workers.

Shame on Guillen for debasing himself before these scum. I sincerely hope that the entire Marlins enterprise goes bust.

- Red Snapper