Saturday, March 19, 2016

Baseball, the diplomacy and tragedy

Baseball, the diplomacy and tragedy
Without the baseball-that shared way of being and being in the world could not tell the story of Cuba and the US. The presence of Obama in a match next Tuesday will help normalize the so visceral relationship between the two countries. The first two countries in the world where baseball was played were the United States and Cuba and, since the nineteenth century, the sport that Cubans call "the ball game" intricately part of spirituality and imagination in both countries. No baseball could not tell the story of any of the two nations, because baseball is in the soul and identity of these countries so close and sometimes so far. In Cuba, for example, it is said to be his ball as well is the country.

Following the announcement of the visit of President Barack Obama to Cuba as part of the process of strengthening the resumed bilateral diplomatic relations, all information agree to ensure that during his stay in Havana, the president will participate in the exhibition game of baseball teams Rays of Tampa and the Cuban national team. Obama, they say, will have the honor of throwing the first ball of the sporting event, which will reach immediately, historical and symbolic value within the new diplomacy proportions. Because, finally, the ballgame is very serious for those who were born on either side of the Straits of Florida. And because baseball has been one of the many discordant relations between the two countries in the past six decades apples.

The last time I after a break of forty years that a team of professional circuit of Major American Leagues visited Cuba was in 1999. On that occasion, as in many others throughout the years of tension, the parties concluded they lived by managers and Cuban players as battles of war. Because even at that time the political rivalry between the systems even expressed through the concepts of sport, embodied in the existence of professionalism and market. One win apiece this exhibition was closed and the Cuban sports system won the game was a demonstration of the stature and competitiveness of the socialist formula.

And since the 1960s, when the Cuban government decreed the elimination of sports professionalism, every challenge sustained by amateurs Cubans and also amateurs Americans, devenía a demonstration sport and ideological rivalry. Cuban successes in Pan American Championships, World and even Olympic Games (Barcelona 92 and Atlanta 96), served to reaffirm the success of a sporting, economic and social concept.

However, with global political changes that happen after the fall of the Berlin Wall, also in sports walls they fell, as separating amateurs and professionals in almost all competitive disciplines. Cubans then touched their players face a higher level than hitherto confronted. And the usual victories became more difficult and, in recent years, even rare. But almost at the same time, he had begun an internal process in Cuba which has now reached crisis proportions: the departure of players looking for contracts in professional leagues. If the brain drain practically did not exist in the 1960s to 1980, late last century began a trickle of players, to become in the last three years in a torrent. Today it is estimated that during this period have been over two hundred of the island's baseball players who have left Cuba by the most diverse means looking for opportunities in professional baseball.

This situation, which has allowed several Cuban athletes achieve sporting and economic success in the world's most competitive baseball in turn has involved various tragedies. The problem essence of the relationship of the players on the island with most circuits governed by the system of the majors has been unable to claim a contract as Cuban citizens, vetted by the Embargo Act. Thus, for a Cuban can hope to compete in the US rented baseball is essential to leave the country and take the residence of a third nation. To achieve this possibility the players have exhausted all ways, from the desertion during a competition abroad (considered a political betrayal in Cuba) to the clandestine departure. Both solutions, as is expected, pose many dangers and both have resulted in more than one occasion that Cuban talents have had to negotiate with traffickers, related traffickers contracts, characters that have occasionally come to threaten to physical integrity of athletes.

However these risks and internal political condemnation involved, the Cuban players still choose to search for a better sporting and economic luck. The difference between winning fifty dollars a month to play in Cuba and hundreds of thousands or millions each year on the professional tours is too powerful and beyond the power of political speeches. In recent weeks perhaps the event that has moved to Cuba has been the defection during a tournament developed in the Dominican Republic two players, by other brothers, one of them considered the best player who remained on the island and the other one of the most sought after prospects in the country. This flight was the icing on uastel which was already baked: the crisis of baseball played in Cuba has touched a depth that was not and when professionalism and hundreds of players was abolished lost the chance to compete in the country.

While this decline occurred, several players triumphed in different leagues, demonstrating the quality of Cuban player. And, to the tragedies that predated or around these successes, the structure of Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation began a complex talks in search of the only possible solution: the special license from the US Treasury Department to allow direct hiring players on the island. That step, which the Cubans finally authorities have now agreed, would be the first major obstacle to overcome, but then would have to target your results: either through individual contracts or by the Cuban Federation, the way already practiced with the Japanese league. Only then it would be possible to get some treatment for Cuban baseball players that rid themselves of the real dangers of desertions and leak which are legally unprotected.

Perhaps the party on March 22 with the honorific speech by President Obama not take just as a diplomatic gesture, but also help achieve normalcy in this very visceral and active relationship for more than a century and a half have supported Cuba and the United States through a game that is a shared way of being and being in the world. Because if something should change in relations between the two countries, that change has to include something as important as baseball.


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