Since I launched this blog several months ago, I purposely have steered clear of political matters, mainly because I have observed that in these days of division and polarization, little often is accomplished by airing one's political opinions on such a public forum, other than preaching to the choir and/or bruising fragile egos. This self-imposed embargo, however, does have room for exceptions, and this entry is one of them.
I go into this potentially sensitive area because the issue at hand deals not just with politics, but also one of my big loves, baseball. Some of you may be aware that Major League Baseball, in its continuing mission to garner positive public opinion from the masses, as well as promoting the world's greatest sport to the world itself and acknowledging the growing international presence in the U.S. leagues, will stage the inaugural World Baseball Classic this coming spring. Sixteen nations are scheduled to be represented, including Canada, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, and a myriad of squads from Latin America, where baseball has never been more popular. One of the countries in the region that has been invited to take part in baseball's equivalent of the World Cup is Cuba - a natural choice, considering the powerhouse Cuban teams that have been sent to the Olympics and other international tournaments. The prospect of a U.S.-Cuban matchup at some point during the WBC surely had baseball fans salivating at seeing Cuba's best players take on the likes of Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens.
Well, those fans had better towel off, because as of now Cuba is out of the tournament. This is the decree of our friends in the U.S. government - specifically, the Treasury Department, and even more specifically, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which has denied the Cuban team a permit to play in the WBC, citing the embargo status the U.S. has against Cuba's Communist government.
This is crap. The whole idea of international athletics is to keep the politics at home in the name of sports, competition, and peace and harmony. And while the previous statements turns out to be bunk more often than not, that doesn't mean it's time to stop living up to it. It's extremely disappointing that the U.S. government, which currently is run by a self-described baseball fanatic, has seen fit to put the kibosh on what was designed to be a glowing example of how a game can bring people and nations together. Major League Baseball and the players' union already have pledged to try to get a reversal of this decision, and I expect politicians on both sides of the Cuba issue to have their two cents' worth before all is over, but considering the stubborn streak in the current administration, all that huffing and puffing may not be enough to convince the powers that be to chance their minds. If that doesn't happen, maybe the organizers of the WBC should consider playing the games based in the U.S. - and the potential millions of revenue the tournament may earn - to a more hospitable location. I hear Havana's lovely in the springtime.
Click on the subject line for an article about the situation - that is, if you haven't stopped reading out of patriotic disgust or something.