Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A lesson about winners and losers

So here comes Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times ranting about his disparaging at the hands, or voice, of Ozzie Guillen. The manager took issue with Mariotti criticizing the way Guillen runs his team-- and not just any team, but the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox.

Mariotti shows up on CNBC tonight to whine to a sympathetic Donny Deutsch about being called a “fag”-- actually, a “fucking fag”-- by Guillen last week and the lack of substantive repercussion from the basball commissioner. Ozzie, for his part, apologized for using the homophobic epithet and (reluctantly) agreed to go through Selig-mandated “sensitivity training.” Of course, first Ozzie harumphed at the idea of “sensitivity training” and instead offered to spend a couple hours with his third-base coach and long-time friend, Joey Cora, because “he’s a sensitive guy, you know.”

Mariotti spews on about Ozzie's lack of sincerity at the the prospect of attending sensitivity training. Correct me if my reasoning is flawed, but if Ozzie were sensitive enough to know that he needs sensitivity training, then he wouldn't need the training in the first place, would he? I am not about to make excuses or explanations for Ozzie’s verbiage. His word choice was, shall we say, suboptimal; but he’s a baseball manager not the Secretary of State, let’s get real.

So what’s the big deal? Ozzie said something he should not have said, according to the unwritten rules of propriety, and he apologized and agreed to participate in some “training.” Everybody hugs, Sox win another pennant, and we’re all happy, no? No. Mariotti is incensed that more isn’t “being done.” He apparently thinks that Guillen should be flown to Eastern Europe, water-boarded and interrogated and then warehoused in Gitmo for the duration of Mariotti’s lame career.

Since Mariotti is presumably a sports reporter (although he has alienated himself within baseball to the degree that he is unable to actually report from the field and clubhouse) he must understand a few things about sports in general, and Chicago sports in specific. Here’s my open letter:

Dear Mr. Mariotti:

1. Professional sports is the last bastion of meritocracy in western civilization. Nobody cares what language an athlete speaks, much less if it's laced with colorful epithets. Athletes that win make more money regardless of how many f-bombs they drop in the clubhouse. No affirmative action, no politics, no nepotism. Baseball serves as one of the few remaining outlets devoid of haranguing about political correctness, and serious fans prefer to keep it that way. The elegant simplicity of the sport is not consistent with the parsing of language and micromanagement of every behavior. Leave it alone, Mr. Mariotti.

2. Ozzie is a winner. Therefore, there will always be a place for him in his chosen sport, baseball. He’s no wordsmith like yourself. He grew up in the barrios of Venezuela without a formal education and has learned his way around a competitive industry in a competitive market that regularly flushes 99.99% of those who attempt to succeed. He earned Rookie of the Year and three All-Star selections in his career, and now he has a World Series ring. You make your living with a word processor; Ozzie does it with his baseball acumen. Sure, you can write columns and intellectually bully around athletes with fancy syntax and deductive reasoning, but sports are not about argument, they are about competition. Just as I wouldn’t expect Secretariat to make my breakfast, I don’t expect Ozzie Guillen to debate a college educated writer on the propriety of language.

3. Chicago sports fans love Ozzie. Next time you wander into Sox Park, go behind home plate on the 100-level concourse and look into the display case and you’ll see the entire reason that your whining will never resonate with White Sox fans. You’ll see the World Series trophy, something that I have never seen before Ozzie brought it to my home town. He was paid to do a job, and he did it. Does he have flaws? You bet. Ozzie is a work in progress and Kenny Williams has his hands full. But fairness dictates that the punishment must fit the crime, and for Guillen, that punishment is sensitivity training.

So, Mr. Mariotti, tomorrow morning when you get up early to tweeze your eyebrows for your next TV appearance, look in the mirror closely, and you’ll see a loser. A reporter who is not allowed to report; a hack "journalist" who has become the story instead of the reporter of the story. Keep picking on Ozzie and his fresh World Series trophy and you’ll see yourself further marginalized as a sports commentator and as a Chicagoan. Perhaps some loser-bait Cubs fans will still buy the Sun-Times to read your drivel, but credible self-respecting sports fans will recognize that you are just a grandstanding media whore who intends to ride this “controversy” for all the print and TV exposure you can.

If you really care about the plight of Chicago baseball, look no further than your Northside team of losers who are nothing less than a disgrace to professional sports franchises everywhere. Try writing a column or two about a real problem and leave the White Sox alone.

XOXO, Grodge.