There are thirty teams competing in Major League Baseball, but only one has just inaugurated a state-of-the-art, taxpayer-funded ballpark in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. There are thirty Major League managers leading those thirty teams, but only one was dumb enough to recently offer fawning praise of Fidel Castro to a Time reporter. If I told you that the man who said such things has to field a team for 81 home games in front of an audience of escapees from Fidel’s Caribbean gulag and their children, you probably wouldn’t believe anyone could possibly be that dumb. And yet it happened.
In Ball Four, his groundbreaking memoir about life in the big leagues, Jim Bouton explains what it’s like to be a thinking man in a sport that has a dearth of them. And that explains Ozzie Guillen, the Miami Marlins manager, and why he’s now public enemy number one among many Cuban Americans: he’s old school dumb.
The furor began when Time magazine quoted Guillen as claiming to “love” and “respect” Fidel Castro because of his longevity, in spite of the fact that there are many who wish him dead. The piece in Time was about Ozzie’s outlandish personality, and I’m sure that he got carried away trying to live up to his well-earned reputation, except that this time it was really, really dumb.
In the same piece, Ozzie asserts that he gets drunk after every game, win or lose. It’s probably not true and it’s kind of a dumb thing to say, but praising a brutal dictator who has repressed, imprisoned, tortured, and exiled more than a million of your neighbors breaks the dumb-o-meter.
No doubt that many who hear about this episode will wonder what the big deal is. But as ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, the son of Cuban exiles himself, said, Guillen could not have said anything worse given the fan base of the Marlins, because “he’s our Hitler. … Just understand that. Let that marinate for a second. For Cuban Americans, Fidel Castro is our Hitler.”
Most people know little or nothing about the dictatorship that is just 90 miles from our shores. And that’s not Ozzie Guillen’s fault. For that we can thank a biased and, yes, dumb media that has made a Faustian bargain with the Castro regime. Cuban-Americans are patriotic, hard working, and — for the most part — politically conservative, which naturally makes them the only ethnic minority the American left feels comfortable ridiculing; Cuban-Americans’ feelings on such matters are routinely discounted by those in the media and those on the left.