Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Triumph of Socialist Sport

The face of the controllers of American sport

With the headlines today reading that 32 old rich white men finally decided to socialize "America's" game football (revenue sharing), that Cuba won and USA lost (to Canada) in the WBC and that Barry Bond's steroid use is no longer a serious question, I thought it was not a bad day for the topic of sports and socialism.

People can say what they want about Socialism, but they can't take away it's record on sports (or education or housing or health care). Eastern Europe rose to sports prominence under Communism. Since the revolution, Cuba has won more than 40 gold medals, one of the best per capita in the world (along with my peeps - Norway). Before that, in total, Cuba had won 2.

But forget the medal count, let's think. What is the meaning and purpose of sport? Of course, it is for fun, it is for well-being, to push one further and for the thrill of competition. That means sports should be for everyone, not limited by where you live or income. The state has a role in expanding sport. We love sports because we love rooting for the home team. Shouldn't we encourage players from an area to play for that city, and to discourage constant trading? Sports is NOT about money, nor unnatural enhancement, nor team owners, nor trades, nor most money wins, now luxury boxes, nor rampant commercialism...

Check out this quote from Cuba's star infielder Yulieski Gourriel:

"I think (MLB players) play with other objectives in mind than we do," he said. "They rent themselves. We play for the love of the name across our jerseys and our cities. There they play for the money"

Or this one from the Cuban Coach : "Our players, when they play, don't think, I'm going to break my hand," Higinio Velez, the manager, said. "Because the player that has money sometimes thinks, What happens if I break my hand?" The inference was obvious. The references to playing for the love of the game, not for the money, to playing for the team, not for the individual, flowed freely from the typically cautious Cubans.

Here is an excerpt from my earlier reply to a particularly nasty attack on Cuba by Roberto González Echevarría, which argued they should be excluded from the World Baseball Classic, because they are "s team of slaves:"

"A team of slaves?" Just because the Cubans have set out to retain the purity of the game of baseball does not slaves make. The game is for the people in Cuba, tickets cost les than 5 cents. Does Echeveria prefer that tickets rise in order to pay for hefy salaries brokered by greedy agents? Does he really think there is something evil with players playing for the region they are from (as US players do until college) rather than the lack of loyalty we have here? Does he really think US players a "free" to speak about their own managers and owners? Does he have any evidence of Cuban players harmed for their views? Doesn't he know that Cuban players are now allowed to play abroad for good pay - 2 are currently in Japan? Or is he just lying?

Cuban players are offered briefcases full of dollars, fancy cars and blond women to defect when they play abroad - from unscrupulous US scouts like Joe Cuba. Shouldn't this practice stop before we condemn laws that aim to protect its national pastime from the US? Should every country turn into the Dominican Republic - a minor leauges for the US where the people can't even enjoy their country's talent and thousands of would-be players end up on the streets having been bribed by MLB teams to quit school?

Anyone baseball fan who has studied Cuba's game knows it is an amazingly beautiful, pure expression of sport. That is why they have won just about every amatuer and youth championship since the Revolution. Any attempt to turn it into a US inspired copy - or worse - will ruin what is special about it. Cuban players are intensely proud and baseball considers themselves "slaves." What an insult. Politics has no place in a World Baseball Championship. Thank god everyday Americans, the baseball federations and other countries realize that - and won't let this travesty stand. We should be embarressed.


Blogger pmork said...

People can say what they want about Socialism, but they can't take away its record on sports (or education or housing or health care).

One quick note on this comment. Health care may be free... but there is no medicine for the average person (walking through customs in Havana you’ll see suitcases full of over-the-counter medicine like Advil being brought in by Cubans living abroad for their family members… In Havana medicine is almost non-existent for the average Joe). Housing is in shambles for many. And while Cubans are educated free by the state, if they use that education to criticize the government they live under they are forcibly silenced.

As for sports, sure it looks great from the outside, everyone is part of this big, idealistic, happy team. Of course, to maintain that ideal individuals do in fact need to be slaves of the state (that is why Fidel prohibits Joel Casamayor’s brother from traveling with the nation baseball team abroad. Like his brother he might defect).

Shouldn’t these players be free to choose, as individuals, if they want to play in the MLB or back in Cuba?

(For the record I think the arguments made by the right that Cuban players should not have been able to travel to the U.S. are ridicules, as is the U.S. embargo against Cuba)

1:50 AM  
Blogger Mark D. Glesne said...

Speaking of socialism and sports ...

2:58 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Re: "no medicinces for the average person." While some American made drugs are hard to find of course, due to the embargo, this comment is just exile propoganda. If they have no medicine, how do they live longer and survive birth more than those in American cities?

Some 2-400 year old housing in Centro Havana is of course in bad shape (though you see much rehab happening), the majority of Cuban housing is fine. A third of all units were built after the revolution - and there are no more mud floored units, or units without water or electricity. 80% own their own homes now - and there is no evictions, no rent increases, no gentrification. All neighborhoods are mixed...

In education, Cuban children score nearly 2x the Latin average. The UN (UNESCO) had to re-test because they did not believe the results. If you think Cubans are afraid to express themselves, you are simply buying more propganda. Cubans are nothing if not complainers. Those 100-300 in jail for what the US calls political crimes are there for taking resources from the US Government, not speech.

Funny you mention Cassamayor, it appears his career is about over in Phoenix (he says he is "still fighting to make a life for himself and his mom." What will he do when he can't fight any more and has no health insurance and no job prospects at 35? What makes you think his brother deserves to be on the baseball team?

Mark - yeah that sign episode was pretty disgusting. Some guy switches seats to be on TV - and then gets his message around the world becasue the PR authorities choose to detain the Cuban sports ministry deputy - and not the seat switcher. Apparently PR had promised no political shenanigans, then this.

3:11 PM  

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