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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Ozzie: Colorful or Too Much?

by
Guy Bacci

The last subject Sox fans want to rehash is the Guillen/Mariotti fiasco. And the last thing I want to do is write about it. Lucky for me, Kenny Williams went on SportsCenter and expressed my feelings to perfection. So now all I have to do is quote the man:

“What I get concerned with more than anything is that my friend, my brother, is going down a path that does not necessarily lend itself to longevity,” Williams said. “The simple fact is, we have seen this move before … Maybe one day I’ll have to walk into the office and deliver some bad news … It will be one of the most unfortunate sports happenings in a long time, because we need people like Ozzie out there to give a little bit of color and a little bit of flavor to the game.”

I’ll take it a step further: We need people like Ozzie to give a little color and a little flavor to life. This isn’t just about baseball, which is why this story has crept into the national consciousness, albeit on a small level. When the White Sox are a subject on The O’Reilly Factor, you can bet the story is no longer about baseball.

Two schools of thought seem to have surfaced: There’s the group that’s dismayed at Ozzie’s mouth, and has been for some time. They wish he’d shut up. They wish he’d change his personality. They wish he’d just be a baseball manager and not a public persona. This group likely includes those who wanted Cito Gaston hired over Ozzie two years ago; it likely includes those who doubted Ozzie would ever succeed.

Then there’s the group that loves Ozzie’s insanity. They admire how outspoken he is. They’re jealous at how liberated he is as a human. Stop and think about the people you’d like to tell off. Admit it, there are a few. But you’re probably too polite to do so. We’re all envious that Ozzie does it so freely.

That’s why Ozzie’s choice of words was so disappointing. By crossing the line, he risks being censored entirely, and when that happens, everybody loses. Kenny Williams is exactly right: We need people like Ozzie. Seriously, Sox fans, do you want another round of Gene Lamont’s and Jerry Manual’s?

What cracks me up more than anything are the folks who think Ozzie needs to show class because he’s the manager of a winning ball club. Sports is about entertainment. It’s about characters. Like any team in life, you’re going to have some incredibly classy individuals—Paul Konerko, Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Mike Singletary—and you’re going to have some clowns—Ozzie Guillen, Dennis Rodman, Mike Ditka, Jim McMahon.

Nobody’s going to accuse Rodman or McMahon of being “classy” individuals. But does that change your feelings regarding the ’96 Bulls or the ’85 Bears? Of course not. In some ways, the presence of those characters enhances the memories. That’s what sports is all about. That’s what life is all about.

Yet, this does not condone what Guillen said. There’s a way to be colorful and liberating without being insulting or insensitive, which is why those of us in Ozzie’s corner hope he figures it out sooner rather than later. Otherwise, Williams’ foreshadowing will become a reality.

Call me a sucker, but I believe that Guillen’s discomfort with the English language affects how he expresses himself, especially when he’s on a tirade. He’s obviously well-versed in the curse words. Maybe someone needs to give him a thesaurus. Nonetheless, he’s been in this country long enough to know which words are out-of-bounds.

And now that Guillen is on top, everyone is going to be trying to take him down—which is just another why reason he’s got to get smarter. The hubbub over the Sean Tracy incident was ridiculous. There are clearly media members who envy Guillen’s success and would love to watch him fall. By wasting his words on a worthless columnist, Guillen is only setting himself up for disaster. Fifty years from now, Ozzie will be a legend and Mariotti will be forgotten. The Sox won a World Series; they can let the trophy speak for itself. They no longer need to fight for public opinion.

But Ozzie still needs to be Ozzie, because his passion helps drive the team. The irony of Williams slapping Ozzie on the wrist is that Williams has the same fire. How many times has Williams said embarrassing things? His infamous “idiot” quote regarding Frank Thomas still gets airtime. But the same zeal that causes these men to say outlandish things is what makes them victories in a competitive environment.

Therefore, Ozzie must continue to be himself, but in a more selective vein. Rant about umpires. Rant about players. Rant about Bud Selig or that “Venezuelan bleep” Magglio Ordonez or crybaby Dave Duncan.

Just don’t cross the line, and you’ll be here a long, long time. Step over it a few more times, and we’ll all have to suffer the return of Gandhi Ball. And trust me, Sox fans will never forgive you for that.


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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