Sports Commentary in Cuba

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez


HAVANA TIMES — Censorship has spread to so many levels in Cuba that even sports commentary, a type of editorial journalism is caught in the same, ridiculous straightjacket that constrains political or specialized journalism.

In such matters as the assessment of an athlete’s or team’s performance, the regime is as apprehensive as it would be before a televised announcement by the political opposition.

Baseball coverage takes the matter to near-pathological extremes. Since this is the national sport, the “image” built around it is far more important.

The demand is so absurd that the commentator’s logical and unavoidable need to address or quite simply describe what everyone is seeing on the screen reveals their ridiculous and utterly senseless self-censorship.

The psyche of the commentator ends ups rebelling against the regime. There are thousands of examples of this, but the most humorous (to say it euphemistically) are those in which the journalist indirectly suggests that his job entails much pressure of the political and popular nature.

On the one hand, commentators have to censor themselves and, on the other, remain in good standing with spectators and sports aficionados who follow their journalistic work.

“I won’t keep quiet about what’s going on here this time,” you hear them say, as though offering a negative assessment of a referee were a declaration of war against the National Baseball Commission.

These, and similar incidents, are the kind of daily things that sport commentators handle with silk gloves, while everyone can clearly see for themselves what takes place out on the field.

Everything becomes more serious in the specific case of baseball, for the country’s general performance has been declining of late. This is coupled with the scandals surrounding the “talent theft” that is becoming more and more common.

In this connection, we recently witnessed one of the most shameful cases of sport-related misinformation that have gone unpunished within Cuban sports journalism.

Cuba’s national baseball league was resumed after the Central American Games held in Veracruz, Mexico, and some of the teams were missing key players. The commentators didn’t mention this because they couldn’t touch the delicate issue of “deserters.”

Pure surrealism – neo-liberalism with economic militarism, and free thought under a curfew.

Recently, Cuba’s team won the Caribbean Baseball Series, because of how playoffs tend to be and the talent and quality our baseball team still has. This may color the debate about the methods and concepts surrounding the training of Cuban players, whose anti-professional concepts have to evolve to professional ones.

This is no small challenge. Transforming the lethargy that stems from authoritarianism and strong-man mentalities into globalized capitalism is too much for a militaristic, land-owning gerontocracy.

Where will all of this lead us as a society?

For the moment, with the unpredictable logic of a game of Russian roulette, they are executing a kind of popular imaginary. They do and undo, and people are forced to run behind them, connecting the dots that remain to give some semblance of meaning to the chaos stirred up by the fits of the Court and their present imperial tutors.