The Pain of Exile

Dan Le Batard is a sports columnist for the Miami Herald, sports radio talk show host, and writer for ESPN The Magazine. I have read hundreds of Le Batard’s columns, and I can honestly say that I’ve disagreed with about 80% of his opinions. Despite being an excellent writer, he tends toward the sensationalistic just to get a reaction from his readers.

Why am I writing this? Well, Le Batard also happens to be a Cuban-American. Le Batard wrote a column in today’s Herald that everyone here should read, regardless of which side of the fence you stand on the Cuba-WBC issue. Because it’s not just about allowing Cuba to play in a baseball tournament. It’s about our internal struggle to deal with the pain of our parents and grandparents and balancing that with our “Americanism”.

Le Batard has never written a better, more heartfelt column. He probably never will. When I first read it, I could have sworn that Val wrote it. It wouldn’t totally shock me if Val perhaps slipped it to him! 😉

Without further ado, here’s Le Batard’s outstanding piece.

Friday’s decision hurts deep down


This brings it rushing back up on me. Brings it rushing up from that awful, empty place in the stomach. Brings it rushing up with anger and sadness and horror.

The tears of my late grandparents? The suffering of my parents? It all rushes up on me and gathers, as it sometimes does, in a pool in my eyes.

They’re just games. That’s what I keep hearing. What’s the big deal? It’s just a bunch of baseball exhibitions. Why can’t Cuba play, too? And that’s fair and reasonable, perfectly so. I know I have a losing argument here, more than ever today because the United States government Friday reversed itself and is allowing Fidel Castro’s team in the most hyped international baseball tournament ever.

But I can’t help it. This still hurts. Hurts the way my mother did over Elian Gonzalez because she had all this pain in her past — visiting her wrongly arrested brother in prison for nearly a decade, being chased through the streets with chains by Cuba’s thug police, having her land and her childhood stolen from her — and the rest of America either couldn’t understand her tears for Elian or didn’t care enough to try.

What the hell are all those crazy Cubans down in Miami so angry about, exactly?
That was America’s reaction to Elian, as it is today.

A little boy. A baseball tournament. They’re just symbols, right?

And some people look at the American flag and see only fabric and thread.


This is an emotional argument, not a rational one. I usually don’t want government interfering in the great escape of sports. I usually think games ought to be a unifying symbol, transcending politics. That’s my head talking, unfeeling as a calculator.

But then I start thinking about all that my grandparents and parents lost, and how I get to be spoiled and free and Americanized because of their suffering. And what rushes back upon on me — the sadness, the love, the gratitude — are not feelings produced by the head.

Fidel Castro is our Hitler, our Saddam, our bin Laden. Before quibbling over the analogies or getting into a comparison of atrocities, please absorb that. Viscerally, immediately, how would you feel about playing games today with them? Would they just be exhibitions then?

Castro has the blood of my people on his hands. His prisons, his firing squads, his politics, his evil.

The beautiful island of my parents and grandparents is rotting and stuck in the 1950s just 90 miles away because of an assortment of human-rights violations that keep an American embargo in place and wrongly jailed my uncle for nearly a decade.

The desperation on the island is such that people drown in the ocean trying to escape it, literally throwing their lives to the wind.

How oppressed would you have to feel to put your children on a flimsy raft made of wood and tires?

So you understand why I don’t exactly want to play baseball with this man, why I don’t want him wrapping these games in his politics and propaganda, why I don’t want him to even have the chance to feel the way our triumphant country did with the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team. That was only the biggest and most emotional upset in the history of American sports. And America doesn’t even care about hockey.


But baseball is Castro’s proudest toy, a propaganda army with bats, perhaps the strongest thing left in his bloody reign.

And he has played us for clowns throughout this political debate, at first suggesting that America was afraid to play his mighty team and then getting around the embargo by offering all tournament profits to Katrina victims.

The only remaining solace for those who don’t want Cuba playing is that maybe another batch of Castro’s players will shame Castro by defecting.

But Friday still hurt.

Yes, my pain is borrowed. Learned. Passed down. It is not mine. I have not earned it.

But I feel it today nonetheless, on behalf of those who felt it so I never would, and it stings in my eyes.

28 thoughts on “The Pain of Exile”

  1. He is a gifted writer and he hit the nail on the head on this one! Free Cubans will protest at every game that our poor enslaved Cubans play!

  2. What breaks my heart is that Americans have stood against tyrants in the past but for some unfathomable reason choose to embrace this one. Borrowed pain? Isn?t that what engenders empathy?

  3. Ay Ziva, so many people here in America take freedom for granted that it makes me sick. Be it Castro’s charisma, be it the deal with Kruschev, be it the need to hava a commie to remind everyone about it, I don’t know. But as the NJ article I posted states, most Americans it’s just a game. They don’t see the other side of the issue. They never even understood that Elian parental rights (patria potestad) were with the state and not with his father.

  4. Ladies and gentlemen the problem is and always has been the media. They have aided castro since the beginning. And since the mass of the American people believe the crap they ready in the NYT and the WaPo and see on ABC, CBS, and NBC they have a vision of castro as as some sort of benevolent dictator. And that’s when they mention Cuba at all. If Americans really knew what Cuba was like they would not be so apathetic about it. Remember the mass outcry against apartheid in the 80s. Once the media spotlight was placed firmly on that regime the American people couldn’t believe that was happening. But you know media types never saw a left wing dictator they didn’t like. People that are informed know about the atrocities in North Korea yet it’s never really in the news. The media uses it’s power to push their agenda like in the case of Terry Schiavo. But millions of people living in oppression that doesn’t make the newspaper or newscasts. The internet is fine and dandy but the mass media is what influences people to influence policy.

  5. Wow. Ive always been in complete disagreement with Le Batard on every single issue he’s ever covered. Im stunned by this piece.

    A huge thanks to Dan for telling it like it is.

  6. I understand a lot of people don’t like Dan LeBatard as a sports columnist. I know him slightly, he’s a good friend of my cousin’s. He a good guy. His job is to be provocative and he does a good a job at it. And if yoou’ve ever listened to his radio show it’s quite funny. It’s what I would do on the air if I could.

  7. No matter what you think about Cuba in the WBC ? I am glad they will be competing, for the chance it offers to expose at least a small sliver of Cuban society to freedom’s ways ? the column perfectly describes why we hate Castro and what he has done to the island. We get accused of being over-emotional, but remember that our anger, despair, etc. have their roots in very real experiences for us and our families. We can never forget, if only so we can build a better world.

  8. The mainstream media says that it is just a game, but rest assured that if this were back in the 1970s and the baseball team in question was from Apartheid South Africa, there would have been no rationalization, no “but it’s just baseball!” no, “but baseball and politics don’t mix!” no, “if’s”, “but’s”, or “and’s”! The team would have been unequivocally banned! But, alas, Castro is not the head of South Africa, Castro is the head of a country that many deluded people, useful fools, anti-Americans, old-time communists, and liberal media types love and admire!

  9. Perhaps this isn’t exactly related. Other than the “pain in Cuba” part. (This is from my Mom. A beautiful Cuban woman of stout heart and sound mind. To paraphrase Celia Cruz: “Her English is no so pretty.” But the sentiments are heartfelt. May God bless my family and all those suffering in our homeland.


    “Hi,we are back, everything is fine, as you all know I have a brother in Cuba Ramon [ I am his namesake] (Monguito) well he is on the hospital and for what I hear very sick, he has diabetes and some time ago they amputated one leg and now they want to do the same with the other, all I know he is very sick ,so since you are my childrens I want you to know . I am not surprise because the living conditions on Cuba are pretty bad ,so I pray to God to help him,I will let you know if I get some news and yes I am upset about, I love you all. Mom”

  10. I was thinking about this because the other side has a seemingly valid point- Cuban teams played in the Olympics, in various sporting events just a year or 2 ago… why single out the WBC to exclude the Cuban team?

    It’s probably as callous as saying why bother to punish the man responsible for lynching Emmett Till when so many hundreds of other white men got away with lynching black people; what’s so special about Till’s murder that we have a need to punish his murderer.

    The decisions to accept Cuban teams in the US over the past few years were cowardly, wrong decisions. Cuba should be a pariah nation in the world, along with the Norks, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan & Iraq (until our invasions) and of course, China. For the rest of the world it’s simply easier to hate George Bush and blame those stupid gringos, norteamericanos, or whatever other choice words to describe Americans rather than do the courageous thing and stand up, look at an evil country and demand that they do the right, proper and decent thing for/by/to their people.

  11. And these kind of comments are what make moderate lovers of freedom afraid and unsympathetic to you, the Latin American rightwing.

    Given all the tyranny that you have supported (and the crimes committed by your shock-troops in Iraq–a war you let others fight while you get fat and stupid), it is no wonder that the Bush administration can cast you off when the heat of global opinion becomes too much for the white right to bear.

    Now–get ready to learn a little lesson about how baseball is played: it is more than about the art of whoring to the rich owners for bigger, better contracts, it is about sports as art.

    This is something that the extreme rightwing of Cubans has trouble understanding. From my experiences, your bullying tactics work to keep the silent, more moderate majority of Miami Cuban-Americans fairly silent, out of fear. YOu have become what you profess to hate–tyrants (with an emphasis on the ‘rant’ part).

    Let the games begin! Take notes compadres.

  12. hey slave to Fidel.

    “Moderate lover of freedom”? What is that? Lets correct you. We are EXTREME lovers of freedom..

    I guess that makes you a “non-lover” of freedom.

    So lets see, you criticize us for attacking Fidel and blame America for atacking Saddam. These are two murderous dictators.

    Tell me what kind of “experience” do you have with Cuban exiles? Granma, Code Pink? Global exchange? Kool aid? You don’t know us from your pea brain.

    So, I guess YOU are the one that is “fat and stupid”. Lets also change your name from “slave revolt” to REVOLTING SLAVE OF NOTORIOUS DICTATORS.

    Let me tell you one more thing… FUCK YOU ASSHOLE!!

    There now, that felt good.

  13. he’s so fool of crap…he is so far away from the cuba reality…he is just another mama’s boy otro oportunista que sabe como ganar dinero con el cuento cubano..

  14. can any of you bitongos tell me how come 95% of the cuban people supported fidel castro when he first came to power….so don’t blame the fuking press any more…don’t speak what you father told you…bitongones

  15. Hey, I am from Miami, born there, this is a town I love, and I’ll be damned if i will be cowed by mafiosos that cheer on the criminality of Bush et al.

    For your information the political class in the US supported Saddam during his worst years of terror–just like they support Posada Carilles.

    Extremism, yes, many of you are extremists–lovers of freedom–yes, the freedom of the powerful to exploit the weak. Just look around Miami–massive impoverishment, especially in the African American community.

    More than once I have verbally spared with neo-facists on Calle Ocho. None of these brave he-men bother to give up their comforts to help the ‘liberation’ project along in Iraq.

    Tough talk–when it comes to letting opc’s (other people’s children) be lied to and go off to die in Iraq on a fool’s imperialist errand to control the engergy supplied and rule the world.

    The less fanatical Cuban Americans in Miami live in a permanent state of fear if they depart from your extremist exilo fanatical adgenda.

    No, i will not use the vile language that you do Max because such rhetoric is indicative of your sense of powerlessness, your sense of outrage and impotence at a body of world opinion that doesn’t see neoliberal capitalism, tax-breaks for the extremely wealthy, or Haitian puppet governments as part of a healthy adgenda. The extreme rightwing acts more like a mafioso gang, or a hit-squad than they do enlightend lovers of freedom with a sense of fair-play, or a smidget of humility.

    My freind and mentor Fransisco Aruca can say all the above much better than I can–for he is a true descendent of Jose Marti, not a two-bit extremist that apologizes for tyranny.

    Let the Cubans play! And play they will–with your minds! LOL

  16. Francisco Aruca, that says it all. A Castro agent no less, and a well documented one.
    You spew the same old rhetoric and lies we have heard endlessly.
    If what you say is true why are all the refugees headed here and not back to Cuba, fool?
    I am certain you will be deleted, and rightfully so, but since we don’t have a forum on your beloved GRANMA ( you can’t go post there. Talk about freedom of the press.
    oh and yes, let them play, AND DEFECT, as so many others have. You don’t know who I am, so you have no clue as to my background and service in Iraq and the Persian Gulf – PROUDLY to fight repressive COMMUNIST and Islamofascist dictators.
    Oh and by the way, Castro LIED about being a communist and was quoted as such, promising Democracy. Checkmate Ahole…

  17. A classic left wing fool, blaming others for your own shortcomings. A failure in life and helpless, people like you think that government needs to dominate your life in every facet, and that only universal misery as supplied by communism will work. Well, look at what is in Cuba, only Castro and his cronies have success while the rest live in poverty. Well Cubans here are very wealthy and successfull (In your face) and are living proof that capitalism works for ANYONE, including the so called “oppressed” and poor black Americans (Oprah Winfrey?, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice..etc. etc. etc.)

    By the way, Miami is now a very wealth City.
    Communism has failed everywhere it has been. It will also fail in Venezuela and any other latin American countries where the people may be blind enough to hoodwinked into it.

    But then you would know about failure, as you are a walking example.

  18. Hey Aruca friend,

    How’s business? Has Aruca petitioned uncle Fidel for financial help since Aruca’s business pipeline Marazul in trafficking people in and out of Cuba has been severely restricted by Bush (great thing he has done).?

    Has Francisco been visiting Camillus house?


  19. Julio,

    I havent heard anything about where they’ll play. Fidel certainly won’t let them, especially El Duque.

  20. Max, you say that you are sure that my comments will be erased? What type of freedom-lover censors comments that he/she disagrees with?

    Yeah, the far right wing reverts to its default oppression, and kissing up to the thug with the biggest guns when the masses take this democracy and ‘freedom’ thing too seriously.

    Latin America is lurching to the left because of the failure of the Washington-imposed capitalism that throws you a few juicy bones–and you snatch up the bones and fight off the weaker dogs; you get fat as you take more than is socially just. You worship Walmart and deride their employees as they are forced to seek state assistance for ensuring healthcare for their children. Yeah, your a big patriot.

    The white master pats you on the head, then kicks you in the face–yet you remain loyal. This is what appears to other Latin Americans (those that you hate because they will not obey master Sammie) as ignoble, gusano behavior.

    The Cuban baseball players, in rebellion from the master, do so well, so consistenty because they have pride, and love of the art–and you hate that fact. You mock art and authentic human freedom. And this is tragic.

    History will judge you properly–and it will be a just judgement, because the victors will be lovers of social justice, ecological health, and art.

    Jose Marti knew this truth–and the far right in Miami betray Marti’s vision, his love of freedom in the face of imperialism and ‘might makes right’ mafioso thuggery.

  21. Listen “Slave”,

    Marti despised communism and caudillos. This is well known. We are not so easily fooled as yourself. He would have hated Fidel – especially when he sold out his country to the Soviet Union.

    Fidel has been exposed by declassified KGB documents as having desired to fire Nuclear weapons at MILLIONS of innocent people. Posada Carilles has been absolved in a court of law of any wrong doing. Even so, the millions of intended victims dwarfs any trumped-up claims you have against Carilles.

    You mentioned America’s involvment in Iraq. But you also fail to mention the thousands of found mass graves perpetrated NOT by America, but by Fidel’s partner in crime Saddam.

    Thank you for serving to reinforce what I stated, that you blame others for your failures and the notorious eventual failure of EVERY communist system. That the state is responsible for everyone and we are incapable of individual success. Well, our economic success here is a testimony of the bullcrap you post.

    You keep sidestepping a question I keep asking that exposes what a fraud you and your system is.
    If your barbaric and brutal (this has been well documented over and over) is so great, why are so many STILL desperately trying to escape? Conversely, why are there no rafts headed to Cuba? Why must you have so many state security agents accompany your players? Afraid of one more of the so many “El Duques”?? I am certain many, if not most of your players would defect in a hearbeat. Futhermore, if Cuba is so great what ARE YOU DOING HERE? Go earn a decent living in Cuba. (That may be possible if you are a member of the communist party and are one of Fidel’s cronies, but those are few.)

    This is not a state owned board as is where NO one can post. The day Granma, your overseer allows us to post on their web site, we may allow Fidel’s puppets such as yourself to do the same. Furthermore, since this is a privately owned blog, we have the freedom to stress that the truth be posted, not communist propanda. If you want communist propanda you can go to or the http://www.progresso (or whatever bullcrap url Aruca has.)

    It will be my pleasure to completely expose your lies and bring out the truth. I have truly enjoyed bashing you. Aruca will quickly cut off anyone that disagrees with him, so actually you were better treated here than what you can expect your soon-to-be-out-of-business Aruca.

    Those poor folks in S. America that end up being

  22. Continued,

    The poor folks in South America that fall under commmunist rule are simply learning for themselves the hard way. Eventually Communism will fail in South America much the same way if fell in Eastern Europe and WILL FAIL in Cuba. The repression will only succeed for so long. Even your people have indicated they fear they are losing control.

    You are a lost cause.

  23. Excellent post, Max, especially your last two sentences…the only thing I would add is that the Cuban experiment is ALREADY an obvious failure, and only thuggery and fear are keeping it afloat.

  24. Pat,
    Thanks.I was trying to say exactly what you indicated. I want to make one correction to my post. Making an “honest living” in a totalitarian, communist system is an oxymoron.

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