Why, Ozzie? Why?Written by Ryan Adam Smith
Written by: Ryan Adam Smith and Taylor Hood
Cuba has some of the most beautiful women in the world. They’re curvaceous with almond eyes, auburn hair thicker than rope, and tawny skin. I’ve seen pictures of them dancing in the street, their hips moving to the beats of salsa drums and flamenco guitars. And don’t get me started about the Cuban beaches. The emerald water rolling over the tiny white sand granules looks immaculate. And you know what I really wish I had in my lonely American living room? Cuban cigars. I smoked several during a vacation in Mexico and they were primo. I felt superior in a way I hadn’t felt since losing my virginity. Puffing on the dark brown leaves rolled in perfect tobacco, I felt like an insider with all the right connections, a big shot with my own private beach and mansion, something Hemingway would have enjoyed with Pillar (his boat). Being a writer, I have a romance with Cuba that doesn’t exist with any other destination in the world. It’s the same romance I had at fourteen years-old with a certain 1994 centerfold I’d never met.
Cuba’s an unobtainable land I only know from pictures and Hemingway novels.But I can close my eyes and imagine myself drinking Mojitos in a local bar and watching a rich orange sunset drip over the turquoise water. I can imagine all my windows open, the ocean breeze cooling droplets of sweat on my forehead, and my fingers punching a keyboard with the sounds of 1950’s Chevy’s howling through the streets.
Cuba has so many desirable things, so many romantic topics that people are willing to discuss. Just mention Cuban cigars and almost everyone in the world will nod their head and say, “I’ve heard their good, some of the best.” Mention Hemingway’s bar—the one that has the copper statue still in his seat—and most people will smile. With all these topics related to Cuba why would someone in the USA—a prominent figure in Miami—choose to discuss the single most polarizing Cuban subject with the media? Why would Ozzie Guillen, manager of the “New-Look Marlins” talk about the Communist dictator that ruled the country for nearly 40 years, or mention Communism at all? Remember Tom Hank’s line from A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Well, there’s no talking about Fidel in Miami. It’s a conversation you are destined to lose. So you stay as far away from the topic of Communism or Fidel as possible.
If you look across the water and miss the beautiful women, or the glistening beaches, or the amazing food, and all that you see is Fidel Castro, then please, don’t talk about Cuba at all! Like, for instance, try talking about the new, young, sleek look of the Miami Marlins. “Step right up folks! They aren’t your same old forgettable Florida Marlins!” Oh wait, now they are the new, improved, Commie Marlins.
Thanks for ruining yet another potential symbol of Cuban culture, Fidel!I blame him completely. Ok…Maybe Ozzie should have shut up. He was slapped several times in Chicago for this same sort of issue (Does anybody remember his infamous Tweets from the clubhouse making disparaging comments about an umpire who had just ejected him from a midseason game?) Ozzie, you could have been a fiery Latin beacon in the white washed Marlins clubhouse, but instead you are being burned in effigy in the brand new, billion dollar stadium parking lot.
Now I’m a huge proponent for free speech. I think Ozzie Guillen should be able to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants. And something about outlandish statements from bold men burns a fire in my heart. But it’s idiotic to alienate the fan base you’ve been hired to assemble. Why didn’t he just go to Tampa Bay? People don’t care about baseball there and he could have said whatever he wanted. But people in Miami remember McCarthyism. People in Miami remember the Mariel Boatlift. People in Miami have seen Scarface (and actually recall the refuge ghettos not the mounds of blow Al Pacino was sniffing).In the 1950s Ozzie would have been thrown in jail, made a political prisoner with no release date. Now, he has to eat his words in front of a room full of cameras and watch protestor’s boycott the revamped Marlins. Now, he has to go to Marlins stadium, wave his hat, and manage a new baseball team through controversy and boos (this is only the beginning).
So why did he do it? Maybe it was because he was brought in by Miami management (white management) to be the Latin face of the new Miami Marlins. The plan was to reach out to the largest Cuban American population in the world. Maybe that is why Ozzie thought he had license to make such an off-color JOKE. When I heard the comments, I couldn’t help but think of that white guy who thinks he can use the “n-word” around his black friends. The problem is that Ozzie isn’t Cuban and that white guy will never have that right. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. Yes, the reaction in Miami was excessive, but victims of atrocities don’t really need to be rational, do they? They earn at least the right to be overly sensitive. Dan Le Batard, prominent Miami sports wirter and one of the pillars of the Miami Latin community said in a Sportscenter interview, “Fidel Castro is our Hitler. You know, without getting into a comparison shopper of human atrocities…Let that just sink in for a second. Let it marinate. For Cuban Americans, Fidel Castro is our Hitler.” If you apply that to a “what-if scenario” with Yankees Coach Joe Girardi and the Jewish community in New York, the situation comes into stark relief. Maybe Castro’s torture isn’t as shockingly overt or catastrophic as Adolf Hitler’s but make no mistake, Cuba and her people have suffered a slow cultural Chinese Water Torture over the last half century.
I’m not mad at Ozzie for exercising his right to free speech or for loving someone many people in his city hate. Hell, I’ve been known to love a douche bag or two in my life (my love is usually restricted to rock ‘n’ roll assholes, not world dictators...though I do love Stalin’s hair). But would a person of mild intelligence mention their stance on abortion while waiting in line at Planned Parenthood? Would Ozzie have stood at a Civil Rights rally and uttered anything about the KKK? Most outlandish statements have a time and place. Some should just be kept in the dark confines of your mind for no one to ever hear. If you’re Ozzie Guillen, you exercise the latter in regards to Fidel.
And that is the nightmare playing out in Miami right now, for the fans, for the Cuban community and for Ozzie Guillen. The once strong and powerful symbol of Latin machismo has been reduced to a fumbling, sleep deprived, mess of a man dizzily struggling to explain himself to a rage filled audience that should be his greatest ally. Part of me screams, “Dammit, Marlins! You knew this would happen!” Was there any doubt that the loud mouthed former White Sox manager would get himself into trouble down there? Who is he going to offend in Chicago? Canadians? Miami is a powder keg of controversy, especially when it comes to its sports stars. But, in the end, a far louder part of me screams, “Why Ozzie? Why?”