I am not much of a fan of big money sports as anyone who has read my writings on taxpayer funded sports stadiums and their accoutrements may have intuited. The one sports event I do enjoy is the Kentucky Derby and that’s due mostly to a combination of sentiment and the fact that it’s over in less than three minutes.
One of the things that really bother me is the corporatization of sports, not that sports hasn’t been a business since the turn of the previous Century, but the standardization and micromanagement of player like the dress code for NBA players, just seems to sit the wrong way with me. It seems to symbolize the creeping influence corporations and business are exercising over people employed by them from random suspicionless drug testing to intrusive insurance practices that are creeping into the personal lives of individuals and seeking to use a stick to modify and control them.
That’s why I’ve always liked Ozzie Guillen. In a world of button down sports, he is delightfully unfiltered.
Ozzie pretty much dropped off my radar after he flamed out in Chicago, if you will excuse the pun, after leading the White Sox to their first World Series championship in 88 years; my husband being a White Sox fan. And a Pittsburg Pirate fan, but he zoomed back onto the national scene last week because in a rambling interview with Time magazine, he said, “I love Castro,” before amending the statement to say, “I respect Fidel Castro,” because, “you know why? A lot of people wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that motherfucker is still here.”
It wasn’t the first time Ozzie has expressed admiration for Fidel Castro. In a 2008 interview with Men’s Journal when in response to the question “Who’s the toughest man you know?” Guillen responded, Fidel Castro. He may be a bullshit dictator and everybody’s against him but he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him. Everywhere he goes they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy. I admire him.”
The remarks didn’t make a ripple in 2008 when Ozzie was still with the White Sox, in fact, similar remarks that the Venezuelan born naturalized U.S. Citizen Guillen made to that he respected and liked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez even though he disagrees with his politics. In an answer to an interview question posed by ESPN in 2009 Guillen replied that if he had a radio show the three people he would most like to interview would be Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama because, “I love politics and I love baseball and I think those three guys would be interesting.” Guillen went on to say that he would ask them about, “the philosophy they have and why they have that philosophy. Their different philosophies and the different ways to look at the world.”
But that was then and this was now and now Ozzie Guillen is not with the Chicago White Sox but with the Miami Marlins leading a team with a substantial Cuban-American fan base in their new stadium right in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. The Marlins, owned by art dealer Jeffrey Loria, suspended Guillen without pay for five games as punishment for his remarks.
When my husband and I were first married we made it a habit to but these cheap, second-hand copies of paperback books but out in 1960s by the John Birch Society. To us, at a time when we still held hope that we were entering into an Age of Aquarius instead of standing at the Eve of Destruction and these books seemed like cultural artifacts, a touchstone to a time now past.
Many of these books were about Communism and quite a few were about Fidel Castro. I remember one in particular that claimed Fidel was winning the hearts and minds of the next generation of Cubans by showing up at local elementary schools and serving ice cream to school children.
For those of us born after the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro represented Revolution and revolution was very popular back in the ‘60s as people of all stripes were throwing off the shackles of imperialism and colonialism and seeking to forge a new destiny. The man Castro replaced, Fulgencio Baptista, was a U.S. backed monster who seized power through a military coup and held onto it by cultivating close relationships with both organized crime and more legitimate business in the United States. In 1958, after years of fighting Fidel Castro and his forces, the United States informed Baptista that we could no longer support him and rejected his request to be allowed to come live in his home in Daytona Beach. On New Year’s Eve, 1958, Fulgencio Baptista and his entourage fled Cuba, taking as much as $700 million in cash, jewelry and fine art with them and leaving as many as 20,000 Cubans, many of them tortured to death by the Baptista regime, in their wake.
Over the years, Fidel Castro has become something of the Wyle E. Coyote of international politics. Assassination attempts against him, often to the discredit of our own government, have taken on mythic proportions from exploding cigars to exploding mollusks, to date, all attempts have failed; all 638 of them.
As decades passed, in a mirror of what happened with former President Richard M. Nixon, Fidel Castro took on the aura of the Loveable Leftist. After bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war, Castro seemed to settle down. He didn’t massacre his own people like so many of the dictators we supported while condemning Castro. He seemed sincere in making Cuba a better place for Cubans. Healthcare is nationalized and their life expectancy rates are higher than the U.S. while their infant mortality rates are much lower. Their cars are colorful and quaint. Elian Gonzalez seems fine. As Communism fell in the former Soviet Union and Communist China became Best Buddies with the U.S.A. is seemed more and more hypocritical to maintain the punishing embargo against Cuba. Add with that with the USA’s harboring of Cuban terrorist and former CIA Agent Luis Posada Carriles and in recent years it seems as if Cuba has been more sinned against than sinned.
The Constitution protects us only from Government sponsored suppression of free speech and as a businessman, Jeffery Loria has every right to decide to fire Ozzie Guillen for his admiration of Fidel Castro as not in keeping with the core beliefs of his organization and to pay Ozzie whatever is required to break his contract with the Marlins but it seems positively Un-American to punish Ozzie Guillen from engaging in political speech without firing him. It seems when businesses become this intrusive into the fundamental personal liberties and basic human rights of the people in their employ then it is time for the Government to step in and do what the individual cannot do and check the unrestrained power of the corporation but their the government will not do which may, one day, lead to a Worker’s Revolution of our own.
Like the way Ozzie Guillen feels about Castro and Chavez, and bullfighting, by the way, I feel toward Ozzie Guillen and I can’t help but think what a better world it would be if Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Barak Obama could sit on a panel and calmly and rationally discuss their political philosophies and what experiences along the way brought them to see the world in the differing ways that they do. And baseball.