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Kansas City Blues

Ozzie: Honest or Immature?

by
Guy Bacci

We’re about to find out—sooner rather than later—if Ozzie Guillen is more mature than a 20-year-old snowboarder with a three-second lead just 50 yards from the finish line. Two critical flaws, youth and immaturity, transformed Lindsey Jacobellis from a historic icon into a historic blunder. Jacobellis did something American athletes are all too known for and it cost her dearly. In the women’s snowboard cross finals on Friday, she used her commanding lead as an opportunity to showboat, attempting a “method grab” on the final jump of the race. As a result, she wiped out, allowing a Swedish competitor to zip past and steal the gold medal.

Typical of the cocky athletic culture in our country, Jacobellis said she “didn’t regret anything” and that she was “having fun.” Such an attitude is especially prevalent in the extreme-sports universe—a genre born in the vein of anti-establishment sentiment. It’s all about “freewill” and “expressing yourself” and, as Jacobellis said, “having fun.” Which is fine and dandy, as long as it’s balanced with more classic disciplines like self-control, responsibility and humility. Now that snowboarders are in the Olympics, and their poster-child suffered a world-wide embarrassment, maybe they’ll start to realize they represent more than free-spirited individualism. They represent their families, their coaches, and their country.

Likewise, Ozzie Guillen now represents a lot more than he bargained for. He’s the face of the White Sox, and fast becoming a face of Chicago. Lucky for him, he already managed to cross the finish line. He’s got the gold and didn’t have to settle for silver. But that makes him an even bigger target, which is why it’s not surprising to see the media pounce on every little move he makes.

Listening to Mike North of WSCR rant endlessly to Jerry Reinsdorf about Guillen’s expected absence at the White House was excruciating. North was convinced a PR nightmare was on the horizon, using the rationale that plenty of Sox fans are Republicans. Clearly, North is spending way too much time locked in his studio, giving credence to the wackos who call his show. The vast majority of sane humans aren’t going to let the team’s attendance at the White House stop them from enjoying their world champs this summer. Anyone who thinks differently has lost touch with reality.

But there’s no question it was a shame to see such a low turnout in Washington. Unfortunately, the bad weather on the East Coast prevented several players from attending, especially those from below the equator. Glancing at the photo with President Bush, it’s surprisingly heartwarming to see the boys dressed up and honored for their world title. Yet it’s also discouraging to see the faces of Joe Borchard, Brian Anderson and Brandon McCarthy—kids who had little to do with the championship—while the likes of Guillen, Big Hurt and Juan Uribe are notably missing.

Uribe was a victim of weather. Frank Thomas’ absence is complicated fodder for an entire article in itself. But Guillen should have been there. Yes, he had a busy summer. Yes, he spent hours signing autographs at SoxFest. Yes, he’s entitled to a vacation with his family. But his face means so much to so many now, he’s got to be prepared to shoulder a bigger burden.

Part of that burden involves stifling his self-expression from time to time. There’s a charm in Guillen’s honesty, but he’s constantly at risk of crossing the line, and the fear is that one of these days, he’s going to cross that line and not be able to jump back.

He clearly crossed it when he called Alex Rodriguez a hypocrite for considering playing for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Ironically, Rodriguez has dual citizenship in the U.S. and the Dominican. The same can’t be said for Mike Piazza, who will be playing for Italy (which only begins to explain the silliness of the WBC). So why didn’t Guillen point a finger at Piazza?

Kenny Williams was on the ball again, immediately playing good cop, spinning Guillen around quickly. Guillen’s apology came the next day, when he said, “I learned a lesson. I never took a first shot at anybody in my life and now I feel like I took the first shot. I feel embarrassed, I feel guilty.” At least Guillen is man enough to admit embarrassment and guilt. The same thing can’t be said for the young Olympic snowboarder, who was immediately sheltered by those around her. If Kenny Williams were her coach, think she’d be satisfied with silver?

For as loose a cannon as Ozzie is, his ballclub is the antithesis of self-absorbed. His players are relaxed but disciplined. They’re selfless on the field. They keep their eye on the prize and never on individual accolades. When the White Sox had a Jacobellis-like lead in the Central last August, Guillen showed signs of cracking, but never let his team self-destruct.

Keep in mind, the Sox also had the luxury of staying under the radar in 2005. There will be no such ploy this season. They are exposed, they are targets, and they face the difficult task of defending a title. Is their skipper mature enough to defend it with them?

We’ll find out, soon enough.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back. He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player. His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay). Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

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