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WHY CAN’T CHICAGO REALIZE THAT OZZIE GUILLEN IS A (F---ING) FOOL?
A city that should be more refined — it produced an endless troupe of actual comedic legends — continues to be crudely entertained by the embarrassing ramblings of a washed-up baseball manager
This is what passes for entertainment in Chicago, a culturally repressed city where the tragedies are endless, the weather is either too cold or too hot and all sports perspective is warped. I tried to understand the people when I wrote columns there for 17 years. Now, I just feel sorry for them.
They have an odd, disturbing obsession with a former baseball manager from Venezuela who, at best, is a bad comedian or, at worst, is a twisted fool who belongs in a straitjacket. His name is Ozzie Guillen. I knew him as The Blizzard of Oz, a nickname that stuck. And he’s at it again with another unhinged stunt, using his tortured Twitter feed to challenge a veteran beat writer named Jon Heyman — who’s a “2” if Stephen A. Smith is a “10” on a scale of media vitriol — to a charity boxing match.
Why? Because Heyman, not incorrectly, surmised in the New York Post that The Blizzard’s harsh criticism of White Sox manager Tony La Russa this week could be construed as an attempt to win back the job he was fired from in 2011. It wasn’t the first time Guillen, a studio analyst on the team’s pre- and post-game shows, has found fault with La Russa, who has been torched by Sox fans for the better part of two years but won’t be fired because the owner who hired him, Jerry Reinsdorf, is absurdly hellbent on proving he was wrong to allow La Russa’s firing from the same gig in 1986. I know, it’s batshit daffy. I know, it’s Chicago. And yes, if Reinsdorf wants any shot of pennant contention for probably the last time in his 86-year-old life, he’ll dump La Russa — just as the Blue Jays, Phillies and Angels have ziggied managers — and put an underperforming, hot-and-cold club out of its sub-.500 misery. Even I’ve declared as much from my writing perch by the sands of southern California, as have others in the national domain.
But the difference between us and Guillen is that we don’t respond to backlash by referring to a particular critic as a liar, a hater and a clown and making as colossal a farce of his TV role as he did of his managerial position in two cities. Wrote Heyman on social media: “Will be interesting to see if it’s possible to get someone’s job by insulting them on a postgame show.” Guillen should have left it at that, accepting the critic’s creed that those who use bows will receive arrows in return. Instead, with the push of six “send” buttons, he exhibited why he’s the last guy who should manage the Sox and why he’ll never land another gig in a major-league dugout.
“My wife will be mad but tired of this liar talking about me. Your a jelous man that me with shit English do the job you do,” he replied to Heyman. “All you do is lie about stories. I get paid to talk baseball just like you. I said I love Tony but I gave my opinion and he know how I feel. You always hate.
“Hate me why? Because of bad English? Because I won? Am loud? Good looking? Rich? I don't need to insult anyone to get a job. Maybe you think I do. Tired you putting me down. Maybe you think you can because your privilege and I am not?”
He wasn’t finished. “I have always defended Tony because I love the guy in many ways. So don't talk shit without knowing who I talk to and what I say,” Guillen wrote. “My wife will be piss and I have changed but you asked for it. You clown. You will never be better then anything you do in life including tv. Payaso”
Oh, but there was more: “I apologize to @NBCSChicago and my family but tired of Jon Heyman using me as his punching bag. He is not here in Chicago he don't know anything stop lying stealing people money with bad stories. Am a man before it all and I won't let him insult me like that.
“Jon you hate me and always bad mouth me. Let's settle it. Let's raise money Jon me and you the ring. Whatever money we raise goes to charity. I am not perfect, but tired you hiding behind you a writer.”
When Heyman responded by saying he wasn’t impressed with Guillen’s work in Miami — where he was fired by a team whose ballpark is in Little Havana after expressing his “love” and “respect” for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro — Guillen escalated the fight with more grammatical recklessness. He typed: “Not even about baseball anymore with you is personal so Lets make it personal.”
Question for Dana White: At 58 going on 13, is Ozzie too old/young for UFC?
The baseball industry gave up on Guillen years ago. It’s remarkable his wife didn’t give up on him, too. Whatever success he had in converting his madness into magic in 2005, when the Sox won their only World Series in 105 years, he sabotaged it by missing pennant opportunities in subsequent seasons. Those setbacks only drew attention to deep personal issues. He said he was blackout drunk after a night of partying and can’t “remember anything” when he interviewed for the Chicago managing job. In free fall with the Marlins, he detailed a long history of alcohol problems dating to his playing career, telling CBSSports.com, “I go to the hotel bar, get drunk, sleep. I don't do anything else. I get drunk because I'm happy we win or I get drunk because I'm very sad and disturbed because we lose. … Same routine, it never changes. It's been the same routine for 25, 28 years. It doesn't change.”
Perhaps that’s why he once referred to a columnist — me — as “a f—ing fag.” And why he made inappropriate comments in the company of female media professionals. And why he allowed his son, Oney, to rip Guillen’s boss, Kenny Williams, on Twitter. And why he defended his right to order pitchers to throw at opposing batters’ heads, which led to the “f—ing fag” comment after I criticized him. I could go on, but I dismissed The Blizzard as a lost cause years ago.
Problem is, Chicago continues to pay attention. Why? Is Midwestern life that boring? Has the sports scene — filled with lame owners and franchises that rebuild more than they contend — become that hopeless for the most passionate fans in America? Or, have too many media people kowtowed to Guillen by constantly celebrating him, talking about him and writing about him? A low-level columnist, Rick Morrissey, tried to make money off him with a no-impact book. The Athletic’s Jon Greenberg is so mesmerized, he did a fawning story on why ONEY GUILLEN should be a big-league manager someday. An immature radio host and apparent Sox fan, Laurence Holmes, embarrassed himself during my flap by appearing on a Fox News show and complaining about my Blizzard of Oz nickname — what, am I racist? — and the host was apoplectic and shouted him down. I am not surprised, then, that Holmes didn’t correct Guillen when he claimed Thursday that he once challenged me to the same sort of charity boxing match.
“I did it to Jay Mariotti. If this thing is personal, that’s easy, we can definitely take care of that,” Guillen said on Holmes’ long-faded station, 670 The Score.
Not only is Guillen nuts, he’s a liar. He never challenged me to such a folly, nor would I ever stoop into his excrement. Holmes’ boss, Mitch Rosen, might have interceded if he wasn’t busy giving Reinsdorf a colonoscopy.
Why are these media charlatans so supportive of a crude, disgusting jackass? Truth be known, they realize that supporting Guillen — and condemning a Guillen critic such as me — is an easier path to continued job employment in a media market long influenced by Reinsdorf. They also know it’s the only way readers and listeners pay attention to news outlets and sports talk stations that have lost staggering shares of their audience. So, they confuse amateur wackoism with … sound commentary? “White Sox analyst Ozzie Guillen shines in eventful week on and off the air,” wrote a sports media critic at my old newspaper, the Sun-Times.
And people wonder why I got my ass out of that nuthouse, handing back a guaranteed $1 million before I lost my mind as The Blizzard did. Every so often, I think of returning and raising some much-needed hell. I contacted an editor at the Tribune and offered to squash the Sun-Times, but everyone back there is content with irrelevance and a suffocating parochiality that thinks the world ends at the city limits, unless an Italian beef stand is just beyond the border.
What happened to you, Chicago? Didn’t you produce Barack Obama? Didn’t you host Michael Jordan? Didn’t you hone real comedians, some of the greatest known to the art, on The Second City stage in Old Town?
Why are you still entertained by Ozzie (F—ing) Guillen?
Or, maybe it’s this: You aren’t a major American metropolis anymore, just another flyover dot that matters only to those who never left. Seems you and The Blizzard deserve each other.
Jay Mariotti, called “without question the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes general sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts and shows in production today. He is an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and talk/podcast host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects.