This is now between Ozzie Guillen and the people with whom he lives.
This is between Guillen and his conscience, Guillen and his remorse, Guillen and the insensitive person he's been for so much of his life.
And this is between the Cuban-American community's past and present, Cubans and their willingness to forgive and refusal to forget, Cubans and this man whose ignorance has appalled them.
Guillen, who'd told a national publication he loves Fidel Castro, sat before the nation – but really before Cuban-Americans – on Tuesday in Miami and apologized for his thoughtlessness.
For an hour, he confirmed he was uninformed to the point of oafishness. He was contrite. In certain terms, he said he deserved what was coming, including the ire of Cuban-Americans and the five-game suspension issued by his ballclub, the Miami Marlins.
"I was very stupid," he said, "very naïve."
The people outside held signs that scolded Guillen and demanded the Marlins fire him. He asked they give him a second chance.
"I don't blame those people to think what they think right now," he said. "They have every right. I hurt a lot of people."
He requested not that they forgive, but that they give him enough of a chance so one day they might consider forgiving him.
"Actions," he said, as translated by ESPN.
"The wind," Guillen said, "can blow the words."
See, that's how Guillen has treated words for, like, forever. Just words. Just Ozzie. The louder the better. The more the merrier. Before, he was reckless. Today, he is hurtful.
In a way, a cockeyed way, I see where Guillen was going with his Castro observations. We live in a world where Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy are dead by snipers, yet Fidel Castro apparently – and incongruously – will die of old age. I do not, however, see how that translates into "respect" for Castro, but that was Guillen's to explain, which he couldn't, other than to say it all just came out wrong.
Just the other day, during a conversation with Cuban defector Kendrys Morales, I was struck by the tattoo on his shoulder. It is a large American flag, rippled by a breeze, and serves as a backdrop for an eagle. He lives near Anaheim with his wife and children, and with his mother. They got out, too. They were lucky.
When I was a boy in New York, the next-door neighbors – Mr. and Mrs. Ortega – had emigrated from Cuba. I remember the day they received their U.S. citizenship and the party that night in their backyard. My parents presented them with an American flag, which they flew proudly from their front porch every day. They, too, were lucky.
I don't recall the Ortegas talking much about where they were from or how they happened to leave or even why. I suppose they didn't have to. But, I do remember they laughed a lot, and raised their three sons with such happiness, and so adored what they had discovered away from Cuba.
They wouldn't have thought much of the baseball manager who "loved" and "respected" the man who drove them away. But they probably wouldn't have had the time to hate him, either. There was enough of that where they'd come from.
I think they would have seen him for who he was – another uneducated soul, another in a sea of them. They would, I think, wish he knew what they knew and understand what they understood. But they would not want him to hurt where they hurt.
That would be vicious and serve no good.
Instead, what Cuban-Americans have today is one more sympathetic ear. Maybe they don't want Ozzie Guillen in that club. Maybe he doesn't deserve their forgiveness, their friendship, their patronage. That's between them and Ozzie.
But, the man who sat before them Tuesday, he seemed to be honest. He was not trying to save his job. He was not trying to salvage ticket sales. He looked like a guy who'd screwed up, whose ego had rarely before allowed him to be wrong, but knew it this time.
He'd hurt the people he lives with. He'd been flogged publicly, deservedly. What he had left he laid out in Spanish and English – an apology, a promise to be more sympathetic, a hope that his harmful words do not cast him as a bad person.
"I think I do the wrong thing," he said. "That's what I'm here for.
"I want to walk the streets with my head up."
It's his fight, and the people of Miami's, and all those whose lives and families he offended.
[ Big League Stew: Protesters watch Ozzie Guillen's apology on big screen at ballpark ]
"I'm here on my knees," he said.
"My heart is in my hands," he said.
I hope it's a start.
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