This March’s “World Series of Baseball” was supposed to celebrate the explosion of diversity that has forever altered the Major Leagues. Teams from the Dominican Republic, Japan, Puerto Rico, and the little seen but highly regarded Cuban national team were going to play the United States in an unprecedented contest to redefine the slogan “America’s Pastime.”
But then the Bush administration, yearning for more reasons to be internationally despised, decided to destroy it. In a beautiful act of small government at work, the White House Gang, through the Treasury Department, has denied the Cuban team entry into the United States, effectively gutting the harmless exhibition. As one Cuban citizen told The New York Times, “Enough already! It’s unbelievable. This is about sports, not politics. In Cuba, baseball is our culture. Everyone was so anxious to see these games.”
But the White House disagrees. “I think our policy regarding Cuba is pretty well known,” Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said. “We want people in Cuba to participate in freedom.” That is, the freedom to not be a constant source of irritation and embarrassment. The freedom not to criticize neoliberalism. The freedom not to have higher literacy rates and better health care than the United States. Of course, the lack of certain political freedoms in Cuba is very real. But to hear the Bush gang lecture any nation about freedom—given the fact that they are currently engineering two occupations and defending domestic spying—is like hearing Hugh Hefner pontificate about abstinence.
In reality, this is consistent with a U.S. policy toward Cuba that began under Bill Clinton with the passage of the Helms-Burton Act. The U.S. wants Cuba to be a pariah nation, its life choked out by an embargo.
The politicians on the “exploding cigars” fringe of government are lauding the Bush decision. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican with dreams of Havana Casinos, chortled with glee. “There are plenty of free Cuban players and Cuban-Americans here in the Majors who would be proud to represent Cuba, and they should be able to and not a totalitarian regime that would share in any proceeds from this tournament.”
Perhaps Diaz-Balart needs to dust off his copy of the Baseball Almanac. His team of actively playing Major League Cuban
Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to email@example.com.
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