Context and Perspective
The furor of the first few days of reaction to Ozzie Guillen’s quote in a Time magazine article is settling down. We’ve all seen the Professionally Outraged camped out at Marlins Park, waving their placards and issuing the ultimata that news crews find so terribly hard to resist putting forth as representative of majority opinion and settled fact. As presented, this is the biggest scandal in baseball, rivaling the Black Sox and the steroid scandal. One option is to accept the media’s take on this and continue to howl for Ozzie’s head to be put on a pike. Instead, let’s walk back a bit and look at the story without the benefit of the hyperbole and mountain-making in a molehill world.
One thing we know is that Sean Gregory interviewed Ozzie Guillen in early March. We can probably assume that the text inside the quotation marks are the unaltered sequence of words that Ozzie spoke at one point or another during the course of the interview.
Gregory, as is so often the case with the media these days, chose to lead with a quote that he knew had the best chance to create controversy. Right after that, he launched into a paragraph and a half of anecdotal quotes designed to be the distracting hand of the magician. He listed three examples of Ozzieisms, never missing an opportunity to highlight Ozzie’s use of colorful language. He pulled quotes from all over the conversational map, from bullfighting to perfume. Finally, in the third paragraph, he allows the reader to see that after an entire second of reflection, retrospective analysis, and soul-searching, Ozzie walked the statement back, saying that a more accurate representation of his opinion of Castro would be to say that he respects the man’s ability to hold onto power for sixty years. A little research from Mr. Gregory would have uncovered this 2008 quote in Men’s Journal, in response to a question that asked who is the toughest man he knows:
“Fidel Castro. He’s a bulls— 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.”
However, a baseball manager’s opinion about tough guys doesn’t generate nearly so many ad views as do the tweaked, incomplete comments from the guy tapped to run a team in a city with a huge Cuban exile population. Furthermore, Gregory’s editors made a decision to bury Ozzie’s walk back and clarification (from one entire second after the initial quote) behind the paywall, thus ensuring that the story would get maximum dramatic impact with the minimum number of views of the rephrasing.
With a hat tip to SCWS at Marlins Daily, here is a re-edit of Gregory’s Ozzie quote, with the misleading filler, specious opinion, and the paywall filtered out:
“I love Fidel Castro,” Blurts Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the Miami Marlins, in his Jupiter, Fla., spring-training office before an early-March team workout. After a second of reflection, “I respect Fidel Castro,” says Guillen, “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother—— is still here.”
Not willing to let Mr. Gregory claim sole title to those precious page views, the rest of the slavering mob that makes up our modern Fourth Estate took the theme and ran with it, with no one questioning Gregory’s manufactured assertion that Guillen is a rabid Castroite, and probably has Che Guevara T-shirts in his dresser to boot.
Without a doubt, Ozzie Guillen stuck his tongue on the third rail of Miami politics. He should have spent some time in front of his mirror, practicing how not to say “Cuba,” even in his sleep. I also think the Marlins were not too far out of line to sit him down for five days. It will give Ozzie some quiet time with his mirror.
I will also persist in the forlorn hope that Mr. Gregory will spend some time in front of his mirror, teaching himself how to avoid being the little boy who always cries “wolf.”