A Coup de Grace for Cuban baseball?

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES, March 6 — It’s no longer something merely suspected; our national sport is being sabotaged. Such a statement may seem like the delusions of some paranoid soul, but unfortunately there’s evidence of what I’m talking about.

The most recent and blatant proof of this appeared a few days ago when the soccer teams F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid met in one of the matches of the Copa del Rey (The King’s Cup). Unfortunately this was one another of the deadening blows that Cuban baseball has been receiving in recent times associated with that most universal of all sports.

It was apparent that the two competitions would take place at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon (Cuba time) but someone decided to push back the broadcast of the only afternoon baseball game to later that night; the aim was to feature the soccer match at that prime time afternoon time slot.

This was done even though there was no other expectation than to see if the world’s most expensive soccer club could beat the most talented one in the middle of a season in which the former one had finally shown itself to be slightly superior.

The result: They delayed what would have been the live 2:00 broadcast of the baseball game in order to televise soccer.

It’s true that the quality of “our national pastime” has declined significantly, but that is precisely the fault of the poor decision making like in that example.  I don’t think the path to pursue is that of undermining baseball, but in correcting opinions and attitudes.

We all know here about the sudden and suspicious interest of Cuban authorities in broadcasting the best of international soccer (and by the “authorities” I mean the government, because I find it impossible to believe that the national TV and radio agency [ICRT] or the national sports organization [INDER] would independently conduct a pro-soccer campaign like this).

As we know, the fact of giving soccer such coverage is an attempt to fill the gap that has been left by the following question: Why is it that if we already play with our own professional players here in Cuba, we don’t broadcast professional baseball games from elsewhere? Actually, I think this would improve the quality of our baseball.

Thus a beautiful sport has wound up being relegated to playing a manipulative role, while another one — which for a long time has been a part of our cultural lifeblood — is reading its own epitaph.

If we really wanted to improve our soccer, we would let our players play in other leagues, even if they were weak; we would hire trainers or could exchange soccer trainers for baseball ones.

If we really love Cuban baseball — and it wasn’t a political tool that we mistreat when it pleases us — we would be willing to make sacrifices in pursuit of its health.

What’s the solution? Playing abroad? Improving our trainers?

So we would go for it, and I don’t mean us taking stupid steps like raising the height of the pitcher’s mound, which was already higher than what was stipulated in the rule book.

That’s why I think all of this is a game of illusions. Soccer and baseball are cards in the hands of a magician. The game is just a hallucination to please the public, because the real game, ladies and gentlemen, occurs only in the minds of a few.



Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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