Out at home

By now, most of you have heard that Cuba, one of the few remaining Communist countries in the world, had its bid to participate in the World Baseball Classic denied by the U.S. Department of the Treasury because of the embargo. You can read the particulars here. Dick Pound, one of the Olympic world’s heavyweights, said that if the U.S. doesn’t change its mind, then our prospects of hosting international events will be sharply curtailed.

The WBC was baseball’s answer to soccer’s World Cup, and it was meant to showcase the sport on a world stage. There’s European teams playing (yes, even Italy, which would be employing the services of one Michael Piazza, and, who knows, maybe a certain Jason Giambi), Asian teams, and of course, Puerto Rico and the U.S.

But you can’t have a true world championship if one of the best teams isn’t playing. And in baseball, Cuba is one of those teams, if not the best. It’s a little like trying to have a World Series, and excluding the Yankees because you don’t agree with how they run their franchise.

The WBC is being held hostage to political considerations. This isn’t 1980, but George W. Bush is doing his best at showing us what a second Carter term would have looked like–just like this, only without an edifying commitment to human rights.

We aren’t keeping Cuba from playing because we’re concerned about the lack of liberty in that poor, benighted island; we’re keeping Cuba from showing the world how good its team is because Lincoln Diaz-Balart holds a grudge against Castro, wants to replace Castro as President of Cuba, and because Florida has 26 fat electoral votes. Take away those votes, and John Kerry is president.

Well, no more. Some things shouldn’t be sullied by petty political calculations, and sport is one of them. In his soul-sucking desire to sit on the Sugar-cane Throne, Diaz-Balart is embarrassing this country. I’m not surprised that he’s got the temerity to complain about Cuba’s civil rights abuse while ignoring those in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. I’m just surprised that no one’s pointed out the obvious to him: you don’t spread freedom by hiding folks from it.

Then again, I shouldn’t be. These are the same folks, after all, who would save our liberties by extinguishing them.

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