By Mike Angelina
For major news outlets to pick up the comments a Major League Baseball manager made regarding politics, they must have been terribly offensive or eye-popping. Especially politically related remarks that are not about the upcoming election, for which we are entering the stretch drive.
Hearing the different analysis being thrown around about Ozzie Guillen’s pro-Castro comments, I get the feeling that people are missing why it’s offensive to so many people.
The outspoken manager, who has nearly a quarter million followers on Twitter, was brought into Miami to give the team a strong, voiced leader as the team attempts to launch a new era and capture a fan base. And among that prospective fan base is a strong Hispanic presence–about 65% of Miami’s population has Hispanic origins, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But the people he offended go much beyond that particular group when he said, “I love Fidel Castro.” He offended the entire country, as well as even more people.
Castro of course was the long-time leader of a dictatorship in Cuba. He allied with the USSR during the Cold War and allowed to set up missiles in Cuba to be used to attack the USA, intensify the conflict even more in the Cold War, and maybe cause other countries to participate in a larger-scaled war.
So this is much more than “Ozzie being Ozzie”, to which journalists and his Twitter followers have grown accustomed. It is different from offending homosexuals when he derogatorily referred to Jay Mariotti has one in 2006. It’s not the same as when he pointed out that Asian MLB players are treated better than Latino players.
The reaction is worse because he threw his support around a guy who threatened to destroy all of America, as well as potentially the world. This, in addition to running a dictatorship in Cuba where he was accused of depriving people of their basic human rights, the country from which he was launching his missiles.
To top it off, it was to TIME Magazine of all print publications. This of course is a more credible source, and reaches a broader range as far as audience than his usual controversial lines that are issued to local papers and are only spread out to whomever the words spill.
He threw his support and identified affection towards a person who is hated by nearly the entire world to the world’s largest circulating weekly newspaper.
It spread throughout the baseball world. Let’s remember what group of people significantly populate the fan base of the game: the elderly, both men and women. According to a Gallup poll, in this century nearly 50% of men 65 or older are a fan or follower of the game, while about 35% women of the age are as well.More than most sports, and maybe more than all, both men and women actively attend and follow baseball games. These are the people that lived through the event most associate with Fidel Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis. And they are hearing that someone employed by the game loves the man.
Interestingly, Guillen was not even born during the Cuban Missile Crisis. You have to wonder if he truly is in touch with reality enough to speak about Castro to TIME and to baseball fans. Whether he understands or not is purely speculation, but if that’s the case, the mistake is even larger speaking on something he is ignorant about.
He messed up here. And you can certainly tell by the response he’s been getting both from baseball, his employing ball club, and the public.
What’s worse is the perspective he came off as attempting to have as well as the authority he assumed to have to speak on it. He is a manager, not a historian or political analyst. He also seemingly implied the parallel to his job and Castro’s long tenure of empowerment. You have to wonder if he was implying he would like to be like Castro and remain in power despite being so disliked.
What that means is he put running a ball club on the same level as running a dictatorship, when looking further into his comments. That only adds to the disturbing nature.
Baseball fans have shown numerous times that they will put the game on hold for something bigger. A week of the 2001 schedule was postponed after the 9/11 attacks. Fans broke out in a “U-S-A” chant during a Phillies-Mets game in 2011 upon hearing the news that Osama bin Laden was captured and killed.
Players even stepped away from the game to serve in World War II. And not just players–superstars–like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial, among over 500 more.
Meanwhile, Castro almost set off a third World War, and Guillen expressed his love for him.
So when the media, which loves one-liners, has a chance to run one with someone saying, “I love Fidel Castro”, it won’t be missed. Especially to Time Magazine. They heard love and Fidel Castro together and pounced on it.
It’s one thing to say he admires Castro’s ability to remain in power and leave and retire on his own terms. It’s another thing to say he loves the human being.
He chose to use the word love. He chose to publicly direct that love to a public villain.
His choice was a big mistake.
Mike Angelina is a Producer at 94 WIP-FM / 610 WIP-AM and contributes to CBS Philly on both local and national sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeAngelina