Posts Tagged ‘Ozzie Guillen’

Chris Strikes Out

Monday, April 9th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

I’ve been sacked out on the couch for the past week, trying to recover from a nasty chest cold. As a result, I’ve been watching entirely too much cable television.

By last night, I was already dazed and confused by cough medicine and feeling downright irritable, when I happened upon Chris Matthews going all “Cold War” on a Cuban-American guest during a “Hardball” discussion of Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen’s recent remarks about Fidel Castro. Guillen has been widely reviled in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood in recent days for telling Time magazine that he “loved” Castro [Time’s translation] and adding, “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.”

Guillen is not Cuban-American, although why he would utter such a careless and incendiary remark in a hypersensitive region like Little Havana remains hard to explain. Ironically, Guillen was hired in large part because of his reckless charm; as a genuine character and a fellow Latino, Guillen was expected to bolster the Marlins’ flagging image, especially among the Cuban-American population. The team built an expensive new stadium, hired star Dominican shortstop Jose Reyes, and brought in Guillen only months ago to manage the team.

In 2005, Guillen (who managed the Chicago White Sox for eight years) was lauded as the first Latino manager in major league history to win a World Series. Looking back on his career, however, the Marlins’ owners might have observed a penchant for blustery talk and coarse language. The team’s owners wanted a Latino coach, but they got a little more than they bargained for by hiring this cheeky Venezuelan who has described himself as “the Charlie Sheen of baseball minus the drugs and the prostitutes” and was quoted as saying, “When you have success, you can talk all the [crap] you want.”

Guillen’s career has been tarnished by previous political controversy. In 2006, he was fined and ordered to undergo sensitivity training for referring to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti with a homophobic slur. Guillen, an inveterate loudmouth, apologized to gays in general yet refused to express any remorse to Mariotti. When the White Sox won the Series, Guillen declined to participate in the traditional team visit to the White House, then occupied by George W. Bush. While he was criticized for holding up a Venezuelan flag during the trophy ceremony , Guillen became an American citizen a year later and has denied rumors  that he is politically supportive of pugnacious President Hugo Chávez. Now, the largely conservative Cuban-American expatriate community in Miami has erupted, calling for Guillen’s job and comparing him to baseball outcasts Al Campanis, John Rocker, and Marge Schott, all of whom were sanctioned for making racist remarks. Guillen – whom everyone acknowledges said nothing about race or ethnicity – has apologized and accepted his five-game suspension, but he insists that he was mistranslated and claims he was only expressing a sort of grudging respect for Castro because he has somehow managed to avoid assassination for the past five decades. A boycott is underway in Miami, and many sportswriters and pundits have predicted Guillen’s tenure in Miami will prove short-lived.

Chris Matthews waded into the controversy by inviting Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez to appear on his MSNBC show. After Suarez condemned Guillen’s remarks, Matthews, always ready to suck up to conservative guests to prove he doesn’t harbor any “liberal media bias,” jumped right in with: “Well, my view is that this guy bought the wrong ticket in the Cold War, and if the other side had won, if the Communists had won, that guy would have been standing in Central Park watching the execution of anybody with any political talent in this country. So I’m with you guys on this one. Castro was no good.”

Now I am no fan of Tweety, as progressive bloggers have long called Matthews because of the conspicuous shade of canary yellow he dyes his hair. The man has a well-documented propensity for a hale-fellow-well-met kind of “male bonding” with controversial conservative figureheads – among them, disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom Delay; Family Research Council President Tony Perkins; former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, and paleoconservative political analyst Pat Buchanan. During his interview with Suarez, Matthews bluntly remarked, “It’s not a capital offense; I mean, you’re not gonna torture the guy.” This offhand and absurd pander to his Republican guest is quintessential Tweety. It’s a stance he takes when he’s angling to be viewed as going mano a mano with an adversary, when he “likes the cut of the guy’s jib,” as he is fond of saying. How convenient for him that his guest this time was a conservative Cuban-American politician with whom Chris could presume to act macho and chummy over “commies.”

Neither Suarez nor Guillen was even a twinkle in his father’s eye when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. Matthews himself was a newborn in 1945. Still, nothing seems to prevent him from masquerading as an unparalleled expert on the era.

But perhaps Chris Matthews is right. Maybe the Red Scare really is on its way back. This week, notorious Tea Party Rep. Allen West announced that he’s “heard” that up to 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party.

This is how it starts – with a whisper campaign. When a Palm Beach Post reporter asked him to back up his assertion, West refused to “name names” – but a Fox News staffer later tweeted that West’s flack told him the congressman was referring to members of the House’s Progressive Caucus.

Chris Matthews will probably try to convince us that he had a sneaking suspicion about those Netroots types all along.

Emily Theroux, the newest member of  Zest of Orange, is a former magazine editor at The Times Herald-Record and writes occasional political commentary on social media sites.