Watching Ozzie Guillen’s apologetic press conference today, I was not filled with anger, rage or a sense of justice being done—the most overwhelming feeling I had was sympathy.
Sympathy for a silly man whose greatest gift is also his greatest weakness: the man has no filter.
You often hear about someone who has no filter, but usually it’s hyperbole or exaggeration, like “Oh, you know Jim in accounting has no filter.” But Jim probably just says some outrageous things now and again, yet still has enough of a filter to prevent him from admitting he’d like to smack his supervisor upside the head on a daily basis.
Ozzie is that very rare person who really doesn’t seem to have a filter of any kind.
If you follow his very amusing Twitter feed, as I do, you’ll be assailed by nonsensical ramblings in broken English and, quizzically, broken Spanish (at least one of those should come out correctly for him, right?).
He is like the male equivalent of Rosie Perez, the little motor-mouthed Latina hothead who was so famous in the mid-90s. Some of you youngsters may not understand the reference, so just Google “Rosie Perez White Men Can’t Jump” and you should get it pretty quick.
When a celebrity holds a press conference just to say they’re sorry, the first question the public usually has is: “Do I believe them?” Many times, the answer is no. We’re more likely to believe what the celebrity is really sorry about is the fact they’ve lost sponsors or gotten bad publicity, and they’re apologizing to save face.
But I believed Ozzie today.
He looked like a man who was truly sorry for what he had done, and didn’t realize the harm that he caused with his words. If he’s guilty of anything, it’s ignorance; I doubt Ozzie really understood the evil that Fidel Castro was capable of.
For most of us, what we know about Castro comes from the few references he’s had in media the last couple of decades: a parody on The Simpsons, that hilarious video of him falling down, the constant questions about his health.
We haven’t heard much about the atrocities Castro has been guilty of, because the ancient dictator has grown so old that he even had to relinquish the power he cherished so much. To be honest, before this whole fiasco, I’d forgotten Castro was even alive anymore—I thought he had died a few years ago.
Is it so hard to believe that maybe, just maybe, Ozzie had no idea how bad of a man Castro really was?
Think about it this way: A warlord in Africa had been enlisting children to fight in his bloody war for years, but had you ever heard of Joseph Kony before somebody decided to make a YouTube video about him? If not for the #Knoy2012 hashtag, would you even be aware of an atrocity that’s been happening during the present, in plain sight?
Regardless of whether Ozzie really knew the extent of Castro’s evil, it seems pretty clear he didn’t understand how damning his words were, and if there is one thing Ozzie isn’t, it’s malicious.
He’s more of a jester, a goofy clown who likes to mess around but doesn’t harbor much ill will. I seriously doubt he’d ever want to legitimately hurt any Cubans or even any Latino—and that came across in his press conference today.
The only other time Ozzie has been in any serious trouble was for calling former columnist Jay Mariotti a gay slur, and while that was wrong, he would have been correct if he simply called Mariotti a dirtbag instead (which is what he was trying to accomplish with his poor choice of words).
Because as it turns out, Mariotti is quite the dirtbag, and Ozzie was simply trying to call him out, but didn’t understand his word choice would offend a lot of people.
Is this instance really that different?
Ozzie really seemed to be trying to make a joke about “respecting” Castro for his resilience, despite the fact so many people want him dead. Was it OK? Well no, his apology today makes it clear that the comment was still wrong. But it was just the musings of a buffoon, and Ozzie has made it clear that it’s no one’s fault but his own and he’ll take his punishment of a five-game suspension without objection.
If you don’t like Ozzie because he’s a loudmouth, that’s fine, but don’t consider him a bigot or a jerk. The truth is, when you pop off at the mouth so often, sometimes you’re going to say the wrong thing.
It’s just Ozzie being Ozzie, and now that he’s had the obligatory press conference and been punished, it’s time to move on. As a Latino, I forgive Ozzie for this indiscretion, and I’ll bet you one thing: You won’t ever hear him say a nice word about Fidel Castro ever again.
For more foolish analysis, along with the occasional witty comment, Follow @FernandoRGallo