Now that I’ve had almost a week to reflect on last Thursday’s Marshalltown Chess Club, I’ve done a 180 degree turn from my opinion that it was not one of my better days because I lost to Matt Kriegel for the first time ever to thinking that it was a pretty good day after all since I had 2 new players come to the club to play chess (a boy scout and a Mormon elder on his mission trip). New players are more the exception than the rule. The Marshalltown Chess Club has never been well attended despite being fairly well publicized due to having a couple of articles in the local newspaper every year and occasionally being mentioned on the radio in addition to being listed on the newspaper’s weekly calendar of events. I meet a lot of people who live in town who tell me they love to play chess, but when I invite them to the club I’ll likely be told they will visit some time (and I’ll never see them), and when I see them a month or a year later and ask why they never came they’ll apologize and say something to the effect that they play so bad they’ll just lose all their games. I don’t agree with this attitude since with a little practice most adults who enjoy chess get used to the club’s level of competition pretty quickly, but there’s certainly no need to apologize for not accepting an invitation to play chess.
Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the Miami Marlins is on his second apology after being quoted by Time Magazine as saying ‘I love Fidel Castro’. Guillen claims his remarks were taken out of context and that he was saying how he loved that Castro is still alive after 50+ years of people and governments wanting him dead, but that hasn’t stopped him from being suspended from the Marlins for 5 games without pay. If Guillen was still the manager of the Chicago White Sox, I doubt he would have had to apologize at all, but the Miami Marlins have just renamed themselves from the ‘Florida Marlins’ to capitalize on their new stadium in Miami’s ‘Little Havana’ section. The Marlins are counting on heavy attendance from the Cuban-Americans who are in Florida after their families fled Castro’s communist regime. I’m not sure the 5 game suspension will be enough. Now that the initial waves of protests and boycott threats have seen such quick movement, I suspect that there will be plenty of boycott leaders seeing an opportunity to make a name for themselves as the community leaders who got the Marlins to fire their manager.
I wonder what the Marlins were thinking they would be getting when they hired Guillen as their manager, As a native Venezuelan, Guillen comes from a country that is closely aligned with Cuba and whose dictator (or president depending on who you listen to), Hugo Chavez, constantly praises Castro and has gone to Cuba for his cancer treatments, so it’s possible that Guillen’s comments may be more culturally based than political. But Guillen has always been a public relations nightmare. In 2006, he had to publicly apologize when he referred to Jay Mariotti as a ‘fag’ among other terms in an expletive laced rant directed at the Chicago sportswriter. His public arguments with White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams were unparalleled in their viciousness, almost leading to punches when Williams didn’t draft Guillen’s son early enough in the draft one year.
Winning used to be the sure fire panacea when sports celebrities misspeak and have to apologize to avoid losing their jobs. Guillen was aided in 2006 by the fact that his White Sox team had won their first World Series in 88 years in 2005 and he received neither fine nor suspension, instead being ordered by Major League Baseball to attend a sensitivity training class and a trip to the Gay Games for positive publicity. Guillen appears to have kept his job despite his current faux pas, but if the new Miami stadium was in ‘Little Caracas’ instead of ‘Little Havana’ he may not only have not had to apologize, a statue of his likeness may have been built outside the ballpark. I don’t think Guillen’s apology was needed, but given the marketing strategy of his employer, it was necessary.
Arkansas Razorback football coach Bobby Petrino was not as lucky as Guillen. Petrino parlayed his 2006 Orange bowl victory as coach of the Louisville Cardinals into the Atlanta Falcons head coaching job only to lose start quarterback Michael Vick to a dog-fighting scandal. He started the season with a 3-10 record, pledged his commitment to the team owner to coach the team for the long haul, and resigned the next day to become the head coach of the Razorbacks. After a mediocre first 2 years, Petrino led his team to 22 wins against 6 losses the past 2 years including a Cotton Bowl victory last year. With a 7 year contract paying him 3.5 million dollars a year, Petrino’s future looked to be assured. At least until he broke 4 ribs and cracked a neck vertebrae in a motorcycle accident a week and a half ago.
Petrino has every right to ride a motorcycle, but in the aftermath of the accident, he failed to mention that he had the accident while riding in the company of a girl less than half his age. The motorcycle passenger, Jessica Dorrell is a former Razorback volleyball player who had been hired the week before by Petrino as the football program’s student-athlete development coordinator from a pool of 159 applicants.
When the police report was released disclosing Dorrell’s involvement in the accident, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long put Petrino on administrative leave and Petrino went into apology mode, stating that the reason he didn’t mention his passenger was because of his concern to protect his family and prevent a previous ‘inappropriate relationship from becoming public’. I suppose Petrino could have protected his family better by taking Dorrell out in a car or maybe not having had the inappropriate relationship in the first place, but that ship sailed long ago for the married father of 4. Yesterday, Long disclosed that his investigation uncovered a $20,000 payment from Petrino to Dorrell but did not disclose what the payment was for. Long fired Petrino ‘with cause’ to prevent him from collecting his $18 million dollar buyout and Petrino has committed himself to ‘being a better husband, father, and human being’, which should be a piece of cake considering his current state. I’m sure Petrino will resurface as a big-time football coach in a year or two for the next college program that needs a ‘quick-fix’ so bad that Petrino’s coaching successes will overshadow his other failings. Petrino apologized again to all after his firing, but he didn’t need to. After all his misleading statements over the past two week laid waste to his family and football program, there’s no one left to care.