HAVANA TIMES — A delegation of Major League Baseball representatives has just visited Havana, and it’s no secret: they came to explore the field, where skilled players sprout like grass, and to assess the possibility of purchasing such talent with Cuba’s sports authorities.
These sport magnates come to deal, not with free, individual players, but with the owners of these players. The transaction will be more less what we see in the medical field: the State, which owns our medical doctors, sells their services and pockets most of their earnings.
(Just so there’s no confusion, according to the Spanish Language Academy, an owner is “a person who has dominion or control over someone or something.”)
The times in which Cuba’s sport glories were paid for with an embrace from the great leader are ending. It’s not that Cuban sport authorities have changed their outlook. No, it’s pure, unbridled pragmatism, an opportunity to make millions of dollars, so that the State bureaucracy can continue to decide how to spend this money.
Skilled Cuban baseball players have been leaving for the Major Leagues on their own for years now. They’ve stayed in the United States during a visit or risked it all, leaving the island on a speedboat, at the hands of people traffickers. They pay a high price for their disloyalty and earn millions in the Major leagues. Till recently, they were called traitors. Now they will be known as “dollar-earners,” and they will earn the Cuban government the dollars of disloyalty.
Young Cubans have long ago begun to turn away from baseball, which has always been the national sport par excellence, and toward soccer. We can conclude different things from this, but, without a doubt, the poor quality of the national baseball games, brought about by the loss of many stars, must be one of the major causes.
Soccer fans follow Messi, Ronaldo, the “Conejo”…Cuban television has been broadcasting their games for years. Baseball aficionados, on the other hand, ceased seeing their idols, who became “deserters, enemies of the people and counterrevolutionaries.” When these players left for the big leagues, very few people in Cuba could follow their careers, as professional baseball wasn’t broadcasted on the island until recently, and games still weren’t televised when a Cuban star played on one of the teams.
Sports-for-profit, that “capitalist abomination” that the great leader criticized so much, has long been venerated on the island. People know how many millions this and that team paid for so-and-so and how much they’re offering for the other fellow. They know that one player who left gave Industriales this or that thing…
Times change, particularly if there’s money involved.
For the bricklayer, the carpenter and the plumber who work for a State construction company, the times are also changing. Now, maybe they’ll be able to see, on their black-and-white Soviet television, the Cuban players they hadn’t been able to follow on their screens.
It’s also possible baseball may begin to regain the terrain lost to the spectacle of professional soccer…that’s what money can do in this world. What a country we live in!