When Ozzie Guillen Loves Fidel Castro, Professional Journalism Dies A Little BitBy
In an article written by Sean Gregory on Time Magazine’s website, Ozzie Guillen professed his love and respect for Fidel Castro. Or something like that. The details never seem to be all that important for anyone trying to hastily scrap together an opinion piece.
Gregory knew this. He knew exactly what he was doing when he opened with, “‘I love Fidel Castro,’ Blurts Ozzie Guillen…” before launching into two full paragraphs of fluff before finally returning to add context to the opening sentence, burying any explanation for Guillen’s strange comment behind a paywall that few would ever bother opening their wallets for. And they shouldn’t have. Outside of the Castro comments, there was exactly nothing in that entire Time piece that would be considered interesting or revelatory. Without manipulating that one quote, Sean Gregory basically wrote nothing, and nothing doesn’t get headlines or mouse clicks.
So, then, it’s understandable that this is how he would write his first three paragraphs:
“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. During a typically stream-of-consciousness Ozzie oratory, he has covered some favorite topics, such as his passion for bullfighting (“You’re giving the animal an opportunity to kill you”), disdain for sports shrinks (“You’re 4 for 4, you don’t need psychology. You’re 0 for 4, you… need a f—ing guy to get you ready to play?”) and the benefits of brutal honesty (“I told my wife, ‘I don’t like the perfume you’re wearing.’ She was mad, but meanwhile, I don’t have to sleep with her every night and smell that s—”).
Now he is riffing on politics. And yes, the new jefe of the Miami baseball team, which will start playing in a sleek new stadium in the Cuban community of Little Havana on April 4, just professed his adoration of the leader reviled by his new neighbors.
After a second of reflection, the most unfiltered figure in baseball, if not sports, wants a do-over. “I respect Fidel Castro,” says Guillen, a Venezuela native who also says he respects Hugo Chvez. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother—— is still here.”
Sure, it’s ultimately the reader who’s charged with understanding what he/she has just read, but after distracting the reader with an overabundance of asides and parenthetical quotes in the first paragraph, Gregory uses the entire second paragraph to hammer home a point that, by the third paragraph, is already proven to be untrue, anyway.
Follow all of that? No? Good, that’s likely what he was hoping for.
Here, this is what Ozzie’s comments on Castro would look like if Sean Gregory hadn’t decorated them in Christmas balls and tinsel:
“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, the most unfiltered figure in baseball, if not sports, wants a do-over. “I respect Fidel Castro,” says Guillen, a Venezuela native who also says he respects Hugo Chvez. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother—— is still here.”
Reads differently, doesn’t it? In this shortened passage, it’s clear that Guillen realizes he used poor word choice, that he doesn’t actually love Castro. He doesn’t even respect Castro, the person. He respects that someone like that can stay alive for so long, which is a far cry from what you’ve been hearing and reading since Gregory’s Time piece came out.
Again, though, Gregory accomplished his goal. Headlines and mouse clicks. Dolla’ dolla’ bill, y’all.
None of this is meant to absolve Ozzie Guillen of blame, either. As the manager of the Miami Marlins, an organization that’s focused their entire rebranding efforts on the city of Miami and its pockets, it should go without saying that you stay far away from any question even remotely associated with Fidel Castro. In that regard, Ozzie screwed up.
Context is important, sure, but going up against these kinds of emotional ties, in this community? Context never stood a chance. Maybe Ozzie should’ve known that.
Sean Gregory did. And he used it as a lightning rod to attract readers. As did columnist after columnist who stood on their soapbox afterward, desperate for those valuable page views. Manipulated quotes, misleading headlines; this story, top to bottom, is everything you should hate about journalism.
Earlier this morning, Ozzie Guillen was Akon, as he stood in front of the world and apologized, not just for what he said, but for how Sean Gregory portrayed his message, how the rest of the media disseminated it, and how we so blindly interpreted it. You can put the blame on him.
In my opinion, the wrong person was standing at that podium today.