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Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: October 29, 5:19 PM ET
Ozzie Guillen's talent

By LZ Granderson
ESPN.com

Sometimes Ozzie Guillen makes me laugh.

Sometimes he makes me cringe.

There are moments when I wish I could sit down and have a beer with him and moments when I can't even watch a team he's managing on TV.

Too many of those unwatchable games this season are why he's out of a job.

On paper, few come close to his accomplishments in baseball -- multiple All-Star appearances as a player, a championship as a third-base coach, a championship as a manager. And, in the paper, few come close to igniting as many firestorms.

Who moves to Miami, takes a job based in the neighborhood of Little Havana and praises Fidel Castro?

Ozzie, that's who.

Ozzie Guillen
It was not the happiest season in Miami for Ozzie Guillen.

"Let's face it. It was not a positive for the team; it was not a positive for Ozzie," said Larry Beinfest, president of baseball operations for the Miami Marlins, about the remarks that led to protests, threats of boycotts and Ozzie being suspended. "It was a disappointment, no doubt about it."

Who defends a player after he writes a homophobic slur in Spanish on his eye black?

My man Ozzie.

"I think he just did it for fun. I know he didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. Nobody is that stupid," he said in defense of Yunel Escobar, according to The Associated Press.

"In my house, we call [each other] that word every 20 seconds. I've got three kids," Guillen said. "For us, it's like 'What's up, bro? What's up, dude?' It's how you say it and to who you say it. But that's our country. We have to respect this country. Sometimes for us it's funny, for other people it's not."

This is why Ozzie is bad for a team's focus on baseball but great for our national conversation.

Most years, he's just as likely be in the headlines for a winning team as he is for offensive comments. This year has been the opposite but has not been unproductive. His comments might not be eloquent or politically correct, but they always offer an opportunity for important discussions to be had. That is, if we take the opportunity to remove the filters he ignores and have it.

The comments he made about Castro: a chance to explore the intimate grievances of the immigrant community in Havana and to talk about this country's long-term relationship with Cuba.

The homophobic slur: a chance to talk about cultural nuances, sensitivities and interpretations.

In past seasons, he talked about Asian players being treated better than Latino ones. He spoke out against Arizona's controversial immigration law; he defended the work ethic of Latinos; and he called Americans lazy.

The man is a magnet for trouble -- which is terrible for the daily business of baseball -- but his high-profile gaffes give us permission to talk about topics many of us would be afraid to bring up otherwise. Does he do this on purpose -- as part of some grand scheme to elevate the nation's dialogue? Probably not. But there is value in his voice because he doesn't just drop bombs and walk away -- like trolls on Twitter -- he sticks around to talk about the wreckage.

He's the kind of guy thoughtful people would like to have a beer with … and maybe take a swing at later.

Which is why if Jim Leyland decided to step down as manager of my Detroit Tigers, I would not be thrilled to have Ozzie take his spot, but I wouldn't hate it, either. He has a solid résumé -- and he has won the World Series.

In the world of sports, championships often outweigh principles. There are franchises in professional baseball, football and basketball that have players, coaches and even owners who have said and/or done some horrible things.

Yet they remain.

L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling settled a suit brought by the government for housing discrimination against black people and allegedly said that we stunk, and he's still a part of the NBA.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall has been charged with disorderly conduct and drunken driving and been involved in a number of incidents of alleged domestic violence, yet he's still Jay Cutler's No. 1 target on Sundays.

We forgive, forget and ignore in sports, so even though Ozzie's mouth has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way from time to time, his talent will continue to give him chances. He hasn't worn out his welcome in baseball … just in Miami and Chicago. His next opportunity could result in another trip to the World Series. It also could get him suspended.

Casual fans sometimes call baseball boring. You won't hear them saying the same about Ozzie.