There’s been a big hullabaloo surrounding the comments made by Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen in a recent Time Magazine piece . The article begins with a direct quote from Guillen. “I love Fidel.” The maelstrom of reaction that followed was to be expected.
In a market where political passion and hatred of Castro rages greater than a category 5 hurricane, Ozzie’s comments were incredibly careless and irresponsible. Add to that the fact Ozzie is a public sports figure who works in an environment of 24-hour news cycles and public relations management, his quote was downright stupid. Never mind the fact the Time Magazine article went on to explain how Guillen pondered his comment and amended it to, “I respect Fidel” (in the context of him still being alive after all these years), it was, in the end, the mother of all brain farts.
There is one aspect of me that applauds Ozzie for being – as he always has been – brutally honest. There was no malice intended with his comment. There was no hidden agenda or point to prove. He was asked a question about a topic and he answered it. That being said, Ozzie’s honesty pales in comparison to the sheer stupidity he displayed. Whereas most people in Miami want to file this under “Ozzie is a communist sympathizer” and want him gone as Marlins Manager, I think it more properly belongs in the category of “Ozzie is a moron who knows better.”
Of all the things to say and of all the markets in which to say it, that you love – or respect or admire or ANY other positive comment – Castro is categorically and undeniably the wrong thing to say. And given Ozzie’s contrite and public apology, one that was visibly different from other sports apologies we’ve become accustomed to seeing, it’s clear he understands how stupid he was, too.
In 2009, Bob Griese, of ABC Sports and Miami Dolphins fame, got into trouble for making a tongue-in-cheek comment about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya. I said then as I say now; it was not a racist comment but rather a stupid comment. Ozzie Guillen’s faux pas falls under the same category. The difference, however, is that his verbal diarrhea has been amplified by a million because of his current role as Miami Marlins manager. The fan base of the Marlins is mostly Hispanic, and of those Hispanic fans, the largest percentage is Cuban or of Cuban decent. The stadium in which the Marlins play is situated in a part of Miami known as Little Havana, so the fact Ozzie didn’t catch himself as he was shedding praise to Fidel Castro is what I find truly shocking. To me, what makes me shake my head at all this is not the words he said, but the lack of filter he applied when saying them.
And that is what separates me from others, including family members of mine, who’ve been vocal during this fiasco. I respect their strong position against Ozzie and his comments. I don’t agree with some of their subsequent views as a result of this incident (Ozzie supports communist leaders, Ozzie’s apology was cowardly, Ozzie should be fired), but I understand why they feel that way. My uncle was incarcerated for non-violently protesting the Castro regime. My grandparents did not join the rest of their children in fleeing Cuba in the early 60’s so as to stay behind and wait for the release of my uncle. That pain and anger is still very real and very current to my family, and anything that even remotely smacks of support for the murderer that is Fidel Castro is unacceptable. I get that.
Yet at the end of the day, what made Ozzie Guillen qualified to be manager of the Marlins when he was hired last winter still makes him qualified to be their manager today. And at the end of the day, Ozzie Guillen being an employee of the Marlins – or not – will do nothing to change the fact Fidel and Rafael Castro are still in power in Cuba.
I am not of the mindset that public figures should lose their jobs for brain fart comments. People make mistakes and I think the punishment of public shame and ridicule should suffice when the idiot in all of us decides to make an appearance.
I like Ozzie. I think he’s a dynamic character that brings attention to both the Marlins and Major League Baseball in much the same way Earl Weaver did with the Orioles, Tommy Lasorda did with the Dodgers, and Lou Pinella did with the Yankees/Cubs/Devil Rays. He deserves the suspension he received from the Marlins as well as the pounding he’s taken (and will continue to take) from the media and fans. Still, I look forward to watching him manage this season, and as a fan, I am excited about having him as skipper of the new-look Marlins.
What he said was stupid, but when looked at through a prism of non-Miami cultural bias, what he said is really not that big of a deal.