Suspension of Disbelievers

North Korea is launching rockets, Syria is slaughtering its citizens, and the Filipino community is organizing a massive get-out-the-vote campaign for a crucial election (not for something boring and unimportant like a public office but a cause that’s got folks passionately engaged: the American Idol finals). So the astonishingly weird five-game suspension of Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen — for comments emanating from his mouth — came and went with little comment.

Principles like free speech, you see, are “important” according to moldy textbooks, but, really, let’s be honest: it’s hard to care about silly old constitutional precepts like the First Amendment when we’re permitted to express our opinions in the form of Facebook “likes.” Plus, Ozzie offended a whole bunch of people, and there’s got to be some punishment for that, right?

For those who missed the imbroglio, what the baseball skipper said was that he loved Fidel Castro, mainly for his longevity and ability to stay in power while so many wanted him dead and gone. Very admirable, Guillen opined. When he was reminded that many people in the Miami community have suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of the Cuban dictator – as have millions more who couldn’t escape to Florida – Guillen realized he had said something stupid and apologized profusely for his callousness and ignorance, blaming an internal translation problem between his brain (which thinks in Spanish) and his tongue (which communicates in Spanglish or ESL-level English.) “I’ve learned my lesson,” he confessed.

Whatever, Ozzie. You hurt a lot of people with your words, so you’ve got to face the consequences. This being America, land of the free and so forth, the proper thing to do, of course, is to keep your dumb-ass opinions to yourself – and if you’re going to be foolish enough to tell a journalist what you’re thinking, then you ought to be prepared to be suspended from your job. The logic is, um…clear?

Major League Baseball approved the suspension, handed down by the team. People’s feelings had been hurt after all, hurt even more profoundly than when they discovered their beloved home run hitters were drug addicts and liars (and that Major League Baseball permitted the naughtiness). So it was decided: say something inappropriate, get fined. Equilibrium restored.

But what of precedent? How about all those other sports figures who once said something idiotic, disrespectful, or painful? Is it too late to retroactively suspend them?

Johnny Miller, NBC golf analyst: “Let’s face it, the LPGA Tour would be a lot more popular if they had fewer Koreans and more Americans with nice boobs who know how to put on a little makeup.” [Suspension: three broadcasts.]

Sidney Crosby, NHL player: “The reason there aren’t more black people in our league is because most of them live near the Equator, where they don’t have much ice. That’s why they call them African-Americans.” [Suspension: the entire regular season; reinstatement for the playoffs, when NBC might broadcast a few games.]

Sean Payton, NFL coach: “Everyone’s crying about our so-called bounty program. But financial incentives worked for the Stasi in East Germany, so how bad can it be?” [Suspension: one full season.]

Rick Adelman, NBA coach: “Am I the only one who thinks having lesbians officiating pro games is a mistake?” [Suspension: four games.]

Kobe Bryant, NBA player: “I wouldn’t say Wilt Chamberlain is my idol, per se. But maybe you could call him a role model. I mean, he sure did bang a whole bunch of white girls, and never once had a rape charge brought against him. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” [Suspension: all games conducted south of the Mason-Dixon line.]

John Calipari, NCAA basketball coach: “I’m against paying our collegiate players. They get a scholarship and a chance at a fine education. It’s not our fault that they’d rather listen to jungle music instead of learning to read.” [Suspension: banned from recruiting for one academic quarter.]

Alex Rodriguez, MLB player: “Three words for Madonna: vaginal rejuvenation surgery.” [Suspension: one game and a donation to the Susan J. Komen foundation.]

Wayne Rooney, soccer player: “Maggie Thatcher was the best thing that ever happened to England. At least she got the Pakis to take a bath every now and again.” [Suspension: first-half of game versus Arsenal.]

Manny Pacquiao, boxer: “I love Ferdinand Marcos for bringing law and order to the Philippines. Plus, his wife has great fashion style, and that should count for something.” [Suspension: none; ordered to distribute free boxing gloves in the provinces.]

Eli Manning, NFL football player: “If I weren’t playing in the games I’d probably be betting on them. I mean, everyone does, right? At least it makes some of those boring late-season games a little interesting for the fans.” [Suspension: lifetime ban.]

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