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Thursday, June 22, 2006
Ozzie-being-Ozzie days can't go on any more

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

Ozzie Guillen is a *!%#% homophobic Venezuelan creep who ought to have his U.S. citizenship revoked.

Oh, wait. I didn't mean it like that. I mean, I did, but I shouldn't have used some of those words. Instead, I should have used other humiliating, demeaning words.

Ozzie Guillen
Ozzie Guillen's antics continue to be controversial.

In the Chicago suburb where I have lived for many years, those words mean different things, but that's not an excuse. After all, I have Venezuelan friends, go to Cubs games when Carlos Zambrano pitches, and have long insisted that Venezuela is the prettiest dirt-poor country in South America.

Oh, boy, did I say, "dirt poor?'' If I hurt anybody by saying, "dirt poor,'' I apologize.

Of course, ESPN can do whatever they want to me, but I'm not going to back off on Ozzie. He's a piece of #&%!

See where I'm going with this? This is the Ozzie Guillen School of Public Relations. He first unleashes a macho rip-job, such as his most recent cleats-in-mouth moment (calling Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti "a fag''), and then, as the mushroom cloud once again envelops the White Sox manager, he issues an apology, but almost always with an asterisk attached.

The Guillen old dependables: He was kidding … He said this, but he meant that … In his native Venezuela, (insert slur) has a different definition ... Some of his best friends are (insert offended group) … He's sorry.

The schtick isn't working anymore. It's like watching somebody learn how to drive a stick shift. All you hear are gears grinding. All you see is the car lurching forward and backward.

In a bizarre attempt to somehow justify his homophobic comments directed at Mariotti, Guillen said he has gay friends, attends the Gay Games, WNBA games, and Madonna concerts. This would be like Guillen making a crack about Jews, but saying it was OK, since Jerry Reinsdorf is the owner of the White Sox.

Guillen wants it both ways. He's all for free speech, but only if he's the one delivering the speeches. He can be clever, engaging, emotional, profound, funny, and perceptive. He also can be crass, crude, vindictive, petty, defiant and in serious need of a mute button. He is Charles Barkley in a dugout.

But this isn't simply about Guillen inching closer to suspension or, eventually, dismissal, because he keeps breaking PC law. This is about something more subtle and basic, at least, as it concerns managers, big league ballplayers and the media.

In the Byzantine world of baseball, where there are more DaVinci codes and unwritten rules than any sport I've ever covered, Mariotti violated one of the cornerstone understandings of the game. It started after Mariotti ripped, as did others, Guillen for going postal after rookie Sox pitcher Sean Tracey failed to bean Texas Rangers star Hank Blalock during a recent game. You've probably seen Guillen's June 14 tirade and, if not, it's just as well. Guillen made an idiot of himself.

But what helped prompt Tuesday's "fag'' comment was Mariotti's continued boycott of the White Sox clubhouse before and after games. Mariotti has said he was physically threatened by unnamed -- and since departed -- Sox personnel in the past. He told Chicago's WSCR-AM 670 that he won't enter the clubhouse until the White Sox devise a "professional standard for how they deal with me.''

I'm not sure what that means, but then again I've never been physically threatened by any White Sox player. As a baseball beat reporter I've been screamed at, mocked, berated and, yeah, twice threatened because of something I wrote. It happens.

The general rule of baseball thumb is this: If you rip a player or manager in print, then you've got to give that player or manager the opportunity to rip back the next time he sees you.

One of Guillen's problems with Mariotti is this: He never sees him.

This is Old School we're talking about here, and Guillen is one of its graduate students. To him, this is a black-white/right-wrong issue. If Guillen thinks you jobbed him, then he wants to say so in person. He might f-bomb you. You might yell back. You agree to disagree. Hands are shaken. That sort of thing.

Not this time. Guillen and Mariotti are like India and Pakistan -- mortal enemies.

The problem, as usual, with Guillen, is that he confuses cultures on occasion. He forgets he lives in the States, and that we didn't live in Venezuela. Sometimes we don't get him, and he doesn't get us, even though he became a U.S. citizen this past January.

About 10 years ago, while working for the Chicago Tribune, I wrote a clumsily conceived column about a make-believe Indian taxi driver trying to convince Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett to sign with the Bulls. What I thought was "The Simpsons"-like humor was considered ethnic stereotyping by others.

I learned an assortment of lessons from that experience, not the least of which was that one person's one-liner is another person's bruise mark.

Guillen needs a similar lesson, and perhaps his Major League Baseball-imposed sensitivity training and fine will provide it. Here's guessing Guillen will write the check, but he won't be sitting at the front of the room when sensitivity classes begin.

Bud Selig had to do something about Guillen's remarks. Guillen didn't give the commish any choice.

Two seasons ago I saw Guillen take a seat on the dugout bench, only to discover he was sitting on a local newspaper, with the page opened to the mug shot of a female columnist. Guillen cracked wise about the location of his rear end and her mug shot. I remember wincing. There were a few forced chuckles, but nobody wrote about it. Hey, it was Ozzie being Ozzie.

Sorry, those days are over. If they aren't, Guillen's reign as White Sox manager will be.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.