So if you did not hear this story, Ozzie Guillen – manager of the Miami Marlins was taken from Chicago to Miami, where he was often very controversial – apparently had to a take a sensitivity class because of his constant outspokenness throughout the years, MLB has fined him in the past. So the Marlins take him under their wing in the hopes of becoming a vital part in the outreach towards the Latino community in Miami but people, specifically Cubans, are now outraged as of this morning because of the comments he made about Fidel Castro – the long time Cuban dictator.
To me, there are two things here. First of all, time and place. These comments don’t’ resonate to this degree in Seattle or Minneapolis or South Dakota, but in Miami/South Beach, they absolutely do. I have relatives who live in Tampa – which is a couple of hours drive from Miami across Alligator alley down south at the tip of the state and he is viewed – Castro in Florida, he is viewed as what he is, a tyrant and a dictator, relentless and evil and sentences and words play different in different places. I can do a cocktail/alcohol joke in Madison, Wisconsin and will get big laughs, but won’t get it in Westpoint – an alcohol free campus. Time and place, you can do the “no, there is no bomb” joke at an airport, but you don’t make the Fidel Castro joke anywhere in America per say, but in Miami it’s an absolute no no! Dan Le Batard on the Mike & Mike Show this morning talked about how Fidel Castro is seen as the devil in South Beach “The ocean between Cuba and Miami is filled with dead Cubans who have literally thrown their lives to the winds, who get on tires and rafts made of erratic wood in the hopes of getting away from this man [Castro] and what he represents.”
A couple of people e-mailed me today asking if we were being overly sensitive on Ozzie Guillen. To answer that, let’s think about this for a moment. So the New Orleans Saints have been in the news recently and let’s say that you try to re-name the New Orleans Saints to the New Orleans Hurricanes. That would be seen as incredibly insensitive! Yet we have the Miami Hurricanes in college football and basketball, the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL. But if you tried to re-name the Saints to the New Orleans Hurricanes today, it would be outrageous! It’s just a word though right? It would be just a word if I said your wife or husband was unattractive or that your kids are stupid – those are just words too, words count. Our laws are only words until they’re put into action. The Constitution of Declaration of Independence or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, are all words right?
Words, time and place are very very important and Ozzie Guillen just didn’t understand the room he was playing too. Dan Le Batard, a Cuban-American sportswriter out of Miami, made another point about Fidel Castro and his impact – his negative impact on how any words associated with Fidel Castro and what they could mean in South Beach “Given that Ozzie Guillen was hired to be a latin voice and face for a team that would represent Miami, this is the worst possible thing that Ozzie Guillen could have said, I can’t think of anything else, given the customers, that would’ve been worse because for Cuban-Americans, he’s our Hitler” ‘He’s our Hitler” is what Dan Le Batard is saying of Fidel! A veteran Spanish speaking baseball announcer down in Miami Omar P. Gonzalez, who fled Cuba at age 17 and lived in Miami for several years had this quote this morning “ it’s like going to New York’s Jewish district and saying ‘Hitler wasn’t so bad’ he managed to stay in power for a few years”
So this is what we are dealing with here and Cubans have every right to be sensitive about this. When I last visited my relatives in Tampa it was interesting because Cuban food is a real part of Tampa, the food was absolutely delicious and in Miami you’ve got Cuban coffee shops all over…Miami is just a fun town with a great deal of flavor. Cubans – when I was visiting my relatives in Tampa, I was told this they make great neighbours – very self aware, very decent, hard working…they make great neighbours, they are such a big part of South Beach though and they have so much pride and they are great neighbours, they are just an incredible part of that community. So for somebody reading this in Los Angeles – they may not fully understand the impact of this or somebody living in Toronto or Minneapolis, Seattle or Pittsburgh, but having visited Florida, not South Beach, but the Tampa area you can imagine what the Cuban presence must be like there.
So the Miami Herald did a poll this morning asking if Ozzie should keep his job and it was dangerously close if you’re Ozzie to 50/50 – it was 56% No, he shouldn’t be fired and 44% saying yes. A lot of people in baseball were saying this morning “there is no way Ozzie is getting fired” I think it’s doubtful, but I do believe that the Marlins’ ownership this morning – like any corporation, was watching that press conference very carefully. Now, I don’t think protests will lead to his firing but I think they will watch it [ the drama unfold] because if advertisers pull out, if fans stop showing up to the park, I think Ozzie Guillen – in my opinion, is in a great deal of trouble. You see this often with corporations – where they sit and wait and watch how people react. I’ve said this since I started blogging, the media is so strong and powerful in markets like Philadelphia or New York that sometimes management will plant a story, give it to talk show hosts, they’ll talk about it and ownership and management will watch the circus develop and see how fans react to “Tebow to the Jets” or “Jason Bay to the Mets” stuff gets floated all the time in these powerful media markets by ownership or management to see how the public reacts.
I think the corporation of the Marlins this morning and the ownership are going to be watching and seeing what unfolds in the next 7-10 days. I will go the other way though, I think Ozzie Guillen could be fired – I’m not saying he should be or shouldn’t, I’m just saying that my opinion is “ they have not made a decision yet” and his future I think hangs in the balance over the next 3-6 days, that is my opinion and my opinion only. But I do not believe that he is free and clear on this.