Ozzie Guillén, former Chicago White Sox shortstop & manager, and current most-hated man in Miami, has been saying dumb things for a long time. Being from Chicago where Ozzie managed from 2004 to 2011, we saw his shenanigans nine months of the year.
But despite plenty of ridiculous, barely intelligible soundbites, there was an obvious appeal to Ozzie. In an era of extreme political correctness, he said what was on his mind. In an era of pampering millionaire athletes, he made his players accountable – quite publicly. In an era of Bill Belichick post-game interviews, he had a sense of humor and was generally fun to be around.
In Chicago amidst 191 consecutive seasons of unblemished, championship-free baseball…. he managed the White Sox to a world championship in 2005. And with a Championship victory parade… he arrived at the hallowed grounds reserved for those who are not held accountable for their words.
The mantra was simply, “That’s Ozzie being Ozzie.”
Pitching a gay slur at a local columnist? “That’s Ozzie being Ozzie.”
Taking a verbal dump on Wrigley Field? “That’s Ozzie being Ozzie.”
Insulting your boss on national television? “That’s Ozzie being Ozzie.”
As in other locales, this treatment isn’t new in Chicago. We went through this phase with Mike Ditka. Same issue with Dennis Rodman during the Bulls second 3-peat. It’s how we Chicagoans explain away Michael Jordan’s absolutely painful-to-watch, incredibly self-absorbed Hall of Fame speech.
It’s a collective admission that we understood what we were getting ourselves into. Unfortunate, but unsurprising.
The Marlins did too. The knew what they were getting when they hired Ozzie.
What they didn’t know was that Guillén, a native-Venezuelan who has supported Castro-wannabe Hugo Chávez, would openly show deep admiration for the man most widely despised by boatloads of Miami residents, who just happen to be the team’s paying customers. The Marlins, a Capitalist enterprise, are less than thrilled with the Communist support.
Guillén told Time magazine he loves and respects Castro, mainly for sitting on the Havana throne for so long. A few years ago Guillén made the news for saying similar things in a Men’s Journal interview. Guillén was asked to name the toughest man he knows.
“Fidel Castro. He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and 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.”
Dan LeBatard, a Cuban-American sports guru in Miami, put the Ozzie situation into context this way, “For Cuban-Americans, he [Fidel Castro] is our Hitler.”
“Without getting into a comparison shopping on atrocities, just understand that… let that marinate for a second… for Cuban-Americans, Fidel Castro is our Hitler.”
“There are very loud and influential and emotional Cubans who have had their childhoods stolen, who have had relatives in prison, who have had family members on firing squads… that disapprove of Fidel Castro.”
My father-in-law Fernando, to put it lightly, disapproves of Fidel Castro. Here is some context as to where his disapproval of Castro came from….
Fernando Meana was born in Cuba in 1944. On New Year’s Eve 1959, Fidel Castro seized power. Fernando was 14 years old – an eighth grader.
In the ensuing years, Castro meandered from Humanism to Socialism before ultimately reaching the end-goal: Communism. The arrival of Cuban Communism was met with the exit of Fernando’s family business. After 45 years of managing a clothing retailer, Fernando’s father was informed his business was now the property of the Cuban government.
Fernando left Cuba in 1961 at the age of 16. He spent a month in Miami before being shipped to a welfare camp in South Florida. A month later he was dropped off in Marquette, Michigan – effectively an orphan.
No jacket, no English skills, no first-hand experience with snow.
Fernando never saw his father again. His father died of diabetes. More specifically, he died of a lack of insulin. You see, in Cuba 1962, you needed to get Communism to get insulin. No Communism… no insulin.
But the torment of Fernando’s father didn’t end with death. A year after being laid to his “final” resting place within a mausoleum in Artemisa, his remains were thrown loose onto the cemetery grounds to make space for Castro soldiers killed in action. Fernando was not around to witness this, but his mother was.
Fernando’s mother battled through the new Cuba Experience until 1965, when she obtained a permit to travel to Spain. She stayed there for over a year until she could start a new life in Chicago.
Sadly, stories like these are not unique among Cuban-Americans.
This is the reason for the fury in Miami. This is the reason Marlin ownership can’t simply “Ozzie being Ozzie” their way out of it.
Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry.
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