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I'm not thrilled with the idea of someone being suspended from their job because of some stupid-ass thing they said. People should be able to freely express their opinions.
That's why the five-game suspension of Ozzie Guillen rubs me the wrong way. Better his bosses should have suggested to him that now might be a good time to make a donation to the cause of freedom and find other ways to patch things up with the expat crowd in South Florida. Getting docked a week's pay and forced to sit home accomplishes nothing.
Some members of the media, on the other hand, could stand to take some time off and reflect upon how they do their jobs. Particularly a contingent of Chicago sports journos who imbued Guillen with a sense of privilege during his years here by laughing right along with his (to put it politely) off-color patter instead of reporting it. Who wants to be the skunk at the garden party?
Unfortunately, that's often our job.
"Blame Guillen for getting carried away, but hold the Chicago media, present company included, partly responsible," David Haugh writes in the Tribune. "We enabled Guillen to leave town thinking he could say whatever he wanted because he had baseball credibility. Too often we laughed at his off-color, off-the-record humor. We pretended not to overhear homophobic comments or over-the-top, sophomoric jokes. We happily filled notebooks or newscasts and made deadline while Guillen, indefatigably and often inappropriately, kept making noise."
Haugh's admonition was seconded, thirded and fourthed by the boys on The Score this week. And those who did report on Ozzie's wayward mouth were ignored.
"Let me take you back to September 2008," Rick Telander wrote in the Sun-Times this week.
I interviewed Ozzie, then the White Sox' manager, for a back-page Q & A in the national magazine Men's Journal.
I asked him questions such as "What's the best advice you ever received?'' ("Be youself.'') and "What's your nickname?'' ("Paio.'') and "Do you ever wish you were somebody else?'' ("Yes, Ron Jeremy. No, no - a bullfighter, Morenito de Maracay.''
And I asked him this: "Who's the toughest man you know?''
His response, which took me by surprise: "Fidel Castro.''
"He's a bullshit dictator and everybody's against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him,'' Ozzie replied. "Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don't admire his philosophy; I admire him.''
"Did anybody notice any of it?" Telander writes. "No."
The conventional wisdom is that Ozzie's crime was saying what he did in Miami. I think his crime was simply saying what he did, regardless of where. It marks him as an idiot no matter what team he's managing. In Miami, it endangers business, that much is true. But what if the Chicago media had put his remarks front-and-center? Do you think the Cuban community here might have been upset?
"Profanity, half-crazy threats, defiance, gutter-level humor - it gushed from Ozzie's mouth like a leak from a sewer truck," Telander tells us now. "And he got away with it because he won a Chicago World Series in 2005 and because - face it - something about Guillen always seemed naive and innocent and playful and just daffy enough to be shrugged or laughed off."
But it wasn't funny to everyone.
"[H]e would not quit," Telander writes. "Not ever. Won't you just ratchet down the profanity? I asked him. We asked him. No, he said. I have to be who I am."
And reporters have to be who they are. As I said, Ozzie is welcome to his opinions. But he's not welcome to having them shielded by a fawning press corps.
We did our part. In 2006 we launched The Dusty & Ozzie Show (Tagline: One's a bullshit artist; the other just spews bullshit). Here was the first entry:
"I'm more Venezuelan than Chavez is because I represent Venezuela."
"But a part of me doesn't know if I will ever get respect. When Bobby says something, it's 'Mr. Bobby Cox.' When Ozzie says something, it's 'Oh, crazy Ozzie.' Tony says worse things than me, but it's 'Tony LaRussa.' I can say the same thing the same way that Tony or Bobby says something but because it comes out of their mouth, it's cool. Out of my mouth, 'This guy is nuts.'"
Ozzie Guillen is a 48-year-old man. Unfortunately, while he was here, the Chicago media enabled his adolescence instead of nurturing his maturity.
If there was one Ozzie handmaiden in town above all the others, it was Joe Cowley of the Sun-Times, according to the guys at The Score.
I'm not an expert on Sox coverage - I follow the Cubs - but I take their word for it having listened to their mockery of Cowley for at least a year.
In fact, The Score even has a theme song about it that plays before Cowley's frequent appearances on the station; my favorite lyric is the one about Cowley washing Ozzie's car.
After the Marlins signed Ozzie, the on-air joke was about Cowley getting a job at the Miami Herald so he could go with him.
I always heard Cowley going along with the joke - and not denying that he was Ozzie's man.
That's how the Sox saw it too.
"Everything Joe Cowley wrote is a bunch of lies, which makes him a liar," pitching coach Don Cooper said last October.
"Joe Cowley, is just simply, if I'm being honest, a liar," general manager Kenny Williams added.
Now, in my experience, when reporters are called liars it's usually because they are doing their jobs. But when you're known for being in someone's pocket, or at least being their confidante, you expose yourself to such charges.
Cowley's tweeted responses to Haugh's column are instructive.
I was waiting to see which Chicago columnist would write the biggest bitch-ass holier than thou piece, and had money on one guy.....— cst_Cowley (@cst_Cowley) April 11, 2012
Vanilla said blame Ozzie on the Chicago media for allowing him to be like that... well big boy, easy to say now. ....— cst_Cowley (@cst_Cowley) April 11, 2012
...why weren't you the big, bad watchdog while Guillen was here?— cst_Cowley (@cst_Cowley) April 11, 2012
I guess the Chicago media also turned a blind eye to Michael Jordan, his treatment of his teammates and "night life.'' Damn Chicago media.— cst_Cowley (@cst_Cowley) April 11, 2012
(Um, yes they did, thus allowing him to make millions on an image constructed out of lies and sold to kids. And for what, the chance to stand at his locker and get the same quotes everyone else got?)
I'm not a David Haugh fan. His columns often make me want to scratch my eyes out. But Cowley never denies that he and his media brethren let Ozzie get away with homophobic and otherwise offensive rants because . . . they liked him? It was entertaining? They wanted access?
The Tribune's Phil Rogers does own up.
"A Time magazine reporter simply didn't do Guillen the favor that so many of us have done on an almost daily basis, letting his stream-of-consciousness ramblings go in one ear and out the other," Rogers writes.
Instead, he tried to help.
"He was ordered into sensitivity training after calling former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a name that's offensive to the gay community. He turned that punishment into a running joke, claiming at times that he didn't actually attend the classes.
"I'm not in the business of stifling free speech, but I can remember trying to help Guillen understand the need to tone down his pointless rhetoric way back in 2004 and '05. But it was like talking to the wall. He just didn't get it."
Maybe the reporters around him didn't get it either.
Not that Ozzie's rants never made it into print. But when they did, they were generally placed in a harmless context. We tried to highlight the most egregious statements found in a variety of sources - local and not - from him and then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker in our The Dusty & Ozzie Show feature (including the 2008 edition). From the vault:
"I hate it when people blame [steroid use] on players when some kids somewhere is doing steroids. It's not the players' fault. It's the goddamn parents' and coaches' fault.
"And I hate former players talking shit about this. When I see Wally Joyner, Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco talk about it, they make me puke. They're full of shit. You know why? Whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. I see these former players talking shit about this game, and it's not right. Whatever you do is your own business. You've going to leave the game and then come back and say stuff in the papers or write stuff? I don't have respect for those guys."
"If I wrote a book, it would be a nice book that tells the truth in the right way."
"That was my best friend. He'll say, 'What's up, you child molester?' and I'll say, 'What's up, you fag?' That's how I've said Hi to him since 1985. Where I come from we don't judge by black or white or religion."
"In Venezuela, we don't care. We take care of shit by hitting people."
"People who say [Thome signed with Philadelphia] because of the money, well, no shit! This is how we feed our families. It's just like a lawyer or doctor. You go where they pay you the most money. You can't feed your family with a championship ring. You can't take your kid to a college, show them your ring and say, 'Can my kid go to this college?' They'll tell you, 'No! Let's see some money.'"
"[Magglio Ordonez] is a piece of shit. He's another Venezuelan [undetermined expletive]. Fuck him. He thinks he's got an enemy? No, he's got a big one. He knows I can fuck him over in a lot of different ways.
"He better shut the fuck up and just play for the Detroit Tigers. Why do I have to go over and even apologize to him? Who the fuck is Magglio Ordonez? What did he ever do for me? He didn't do shit for me."
"What a piece of shit [Jay Mariotti] is. What a fucking fag."
"'I don't have anything against those people. In my country, you call someone something like that and it is not the same as it is in this country.'
"Guillen said that in Venezuela, that word is not a reference to a person's sexuality, but to his courage. He said he was saying that Mariotti is 'not man enough to meet me and talk about [things before writing].'
"He also said that he has gay friends, goes to WNBA games, went to the Madonna concert and plans to attend the Gay Games in Chicago.
"'I called that of this man [Mariotti],' he said. 'I'm not trying to hurt anybody [else].'''
"I should be suspended because I called one guy that? I should have used another word. [MLB] can do whatever they want, but I'm not going to back up. I will apologize to the people I offended because I should have used another word."
Regarding the sensitivity course that baseball commissioner Bud Selig ordered him to attend:
"I don't think I'll be going - I don't think that'll happen. I think the commissioner ordered that in order to calm things down, but obviously, to attend one of those, I'll have to take English lessons first."
"I'll do what I have to do, at least when I have time, but I don't think I'll take those sensitivity lessons.
"What class? What is it? Mr. Selig said I have to do something about this. I don't even know what he is saying . . . if they want me to do it, make sure it's after 12 o'clock. I don't get up until after 12 o'clock."
" . . . like the guy from [ESPNdeportes.com] who said I didn't want to go [to sensitivity training]. I never told him that."
"[Mariano] Duncan, the Dodgers' first-base coach, criticized Guillen three weeks ago for a series of inflammatory comments, saying 'He's embarrassed every Latino player, coach and front-office person.'
"On Tuesday, Guillen said Duncan had called to apologize to him. But Duncan said Wednesday that no such call had taken place.
"'He's a liar,' Duncan said."
"'We're cheating on the mound? Our pitching staff gets beat up once in awhile. [The other managers are] mad. They can't admit that a Latino kicked their ass . . .
"'That's why I don't get along with too many managers. Because they hate my fucking ass, because I don't kiss their ass, and I didn't kiss anyone's ass to get this job. They they have a Mexican win the World Series in two years. And they're saying he doesn't have experience, he never managed in baseball before. Well, too fucking bad.'
"When reminded that he is Venezuelan and not Mexican, Guillen paused.
"'What's the difference?' he said, laughing. 'No one know the difference anyway.'"
"Before Sunday's game, an unnamed player positioned two nude female blow-up dolls in the clubhouse with bats belonging to most of the players fanned out around them, almost resembling a voodoo ritual to get the club going and loosen up a suddenly uptight clubhouse.
"Several Toronto newspapers made it a big deal, and the Sox were feeling the backlash by Monday afternoon. If those offended were expecting an apology from Guillen, however, they must not know him very well.
"One hundred percent of the people in the clubhouse are 18 years old, and that's a private thing,' Ozzie said. 'If the players do it in the dugout where everyone can see or in the hotel lobby - we did it in our clubhouse, and a lot of things happen in the clubhouse. I don't really know why people are making it a big deal. If people got their feelings hurt because of that . . . they don't really know much about baseball.
''I don't think they should make a big deal out of it because that's our clubhouse, and I don't think there's anything illegal there. I'm not going to apologize and not [going to] make the players apologize. It used to [be], whatever was in the clubhouse stayed in the clubhouse, and then all the [bleep] changed. But I don't think we did anything wrong to make people upset.
''Those toys, don't worry, we [still] got our ass kicked. Hopefully we come up with something better. We don't need dolls. We need hits. People get mad, hey.
''I'll take the blame . . . because of who I am. I said early in the season, 'Ozzie has to be Ozzie.' They want to make a big deal about it in Chicago because of me and my team, good for them. At least they have something to talk about.
''When I leave Chicago, they're going to miss me because a lot of people aren't going to make a lot of money off of me. Because they talk a lot of shit about Ozzie. Keep it up. Now they have something to write and talk, big deal. They're going to miss me, but I'm not going to miss them.''
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