And so there is baseball in Cuba, and it's all the rage.
All the cool kids were in Havana: President Obama, Derek Jeter, and Florida's own Tampa Bay Rays. Even Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are Havana Daydreaming, coming down for a Rolling Stones concert this week.
Richards will have a lot in common with those '55 Chevys still in working condition in Cuba. All dinosaurs who have survived.
Still, the euphoric rush escapes me. Color me ambivalent.
It's all highly personal. My family fled Cuba in 1961 when I was just a toddler. We weren't immigrants. We were exiles. Big difference.
My family didn't come to Florida for the wonders of Disney World and Publix. We fled to escape an iron-rule dictatorship where speaking your mind can get you killed. Ask any dissident who has been jailed, if President Raúl Castro allows you to see them.
He had the gall to tell a foreign reporter this week, "What political prisoners? Give me a name or names." Then his pants caught on fire.
Two things are worth noting beyond Tuesday's box score (Rays 4, Cuba 1):
1. Raúl's regime rounded more than 50 protesters — mostly women — on Sunday and threw them in prison.
2. A few days earlier, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship picked up a raft of 18 Cubans, who had fled the Communist island on a 30-foot boat. Not everybody made it to the ship. Nine died at sea. Those who survived were in bad shape.
Like a lot of other Cuban-Americans, I am in-step with Obama on easing restrictions and opening doors to this isolated paradise. The embargo is a joke, for all practical purposes. "If you do something for 50 years and it doesn't work you have to do something else," Obama said during the game.
Lifting the embargo will lift the curtain off the Castro's royal scam: Uncle Sam is a bogeyman and a diabolical capitalists who hates his Cuban neighbors. Blame him for your problems. Our failed corrupt Communist reign has nothing to do with that.
If baseball can be used as a conduit for change, that is great. But I would respectfully ask President Obama that beyond the pomp and circumstance, and the fastballs and curves, there is much work to be done regarding Cuba's deplorable record on human rights.
Please don't forget the human collateral and sacrifice. Don't forget those thrown in prison on trumped up charges, those who have been executed, and persecuted. All of this the handiwork of the Castro brothers.
So please forgive me if I have no Sympathy for the Devil(s). I'll bust a move if Jagger dedicates the song to Raúl and Fidel.
— Orlando Sentinel (TNS)