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Baseball and Society
Because of political differences, Cuba and the United States have very different conceptions of sports and its relationship to society.

Carlos Rodriguez Acosta

  • Importance of baseball to Cubans
  • Role of sports in the formation of values
    Alan Klein
  • Individual vs. the Collective
    Antonio Pacheco
  • Cuban dignity
  • On what he represents for the fans


    Carlos Rodriguez Acosta
    Commissioner of Cuban Baseball

    • Importance of baseball to Cubans
      The people have an incredible sense of ownership over Cuban baseball. It's a symbol. I'd say like the flag, like the coat of arms, like the national anthem. Baseball has been a symbol of nationalism for more than 120 years. And therefore, when we're organizing the championships, we have to be very aware that we're not just dealing with some baseball game; but rather with the most important spectacle that exists in Cuba, the Cuban National Championship Series.
    • Role of sports in the formation of values
      Our training process demands above all else a developed concept of dignity, of ethics, a developed understanding of who we are and what we represent. That is very important. So our athletes are very conscious, when they play on the municipal level, of what they defend, when they play on the provincial level of what they defend, and when they play internationally of what they defend, and who they represent, and why they've become great. They're great because they've benefited from a free education system, because sport is the right of the people, because they don't rely on sport to make a living, because health care is free, because it costs them nothing, because they are given everything. You add all of this up and the ones who win are ours. I don't know how many millions you would pay for all of this: training, healthcare, education, fixed employment, the right to retirement, the right to know you'll get top health care. And their idols. Wherever they go, they are like gods to the people. The people stare at them, respect them, adore them, attend to them, help them. What kind of money could pay for that. And in addition, as a principle, we refuse to convert our athletes into merchandise, for me to buy for two million, sell to you for three, and for you to sell to him for five-as if we were selling shoes.
    Alan Klein
    Sports Anthropologist
    • Individual vs. the Collective
      Every society has to articulate a relationship between the individual and the collective. every society in the history of the world , tribal as well as industrial, so that the Cuban version of it has sided very heavily with the collective because that's essentially the basis from which socialism operates. And in the course of Fidel Castro's reign in Cuba, or tenure in office, he's very heavily sided with the state and that's predictable at the expense rather of the individual. could you have constructed other socialist regimes where there was more access for the individual. Absolutely. Of course you could have. it didn't happen but you could have. So they have placed a dialogue between the individual and collective in a certain framework and within that framework they completely revere the collective and place the individual as purely a form of capitalism, it becomes the enemy. But it's not an either or a situation, in fact in all societies there's elements of both. so you really have to look at it on a case by case level. in the case of baseball you could in fact allow individuals to go out and earn money, you could have all kinds of mixed economic kinds of programs, they didn't opt for that, they put it all in a very one-dimensional political form of ideologies that may have worked 15 years ago but looks increasingly weak with time. It's almost as if it were frozen in time and when you listen to some of the rationalizations for things it just doesn't play well anymore. When the Cuban team beat Baltimore in Baltimore and at home run by Morales, when he was rounding the bases, he thrust his arms out and looked up toward the heavens. It was an interesting thing because the American ballplayers, the Orioles, thought he was showing up their pitcher, they wanted to beat him up, they were furious with him. And Fidel Castro, what did he get out of it? Proof positive that socialism its triumphant over capitalism. Both of them are misreadings: Morales simply was ecstatic to have won the game, that's what he said, he was just thrilled to have won this game, it was a high point in his career, and completely misread by both sides for different reasons. But nobody uses that one-dimensional reading any more: triumph of socialism over capitalism or vice versa but that's the way if Fidel has been framing things and the Cuban government has been framing things is just out of sync, it's not functional, it may have been functional earlier but it's not functional anymore . It is not to say that there isn't an element of truth in all this, it's just not the way you want to present the truth in one-dimensional terms. I think in this case you have both a Cuban government that is increasingly circling the wagons and a group of Cuban-Americans that is increasingly hostile and vociferous and both of them have one-dimensional readings in an era where those aren't satisfactory anymore. we really need something a little more subtle, something that teases out all of the subtleties of this incredibly complex phenomenon.
    Antonio Pacheco
    Team Cuba Captain
    Santiago 2nd Baseman
    • Cuban dignity
      Dignity means that you don't play for money, that you play for the love that you have for you pueblo, for your flag, that you defend it in whatever circumstances. That is our dignity. To defend our flag, not for money or anything like that. To defend it because we want to defend it, because we like to defend it, and because we know that the pueblo grows because of it.
    • On what he represents for the fans
      I think I represent to the fans the athlete formed by my country; the athlete that all Cubans want to see; the athlete who is role model for all the Cubans who put their trust in me; the athlete who will never leave his people; the athlete who will never betray them; the athlete who will defend his flag with love and dignity. I think that is where the fan's admiration and respect come from..

     
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