“The bourgeoisie,” Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in 1848, in one of many eloquent passages to flow from their pens, “has played a most revolutionary part. The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has…left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value….The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. …The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.”
I was transformed when I first read these words in a basement apartment in DeKalb, Illinois in the spring of 1978. They almost perfectly captured and helped me understand what it was that so alienated and enraged me about the society I inhabited – its savage privileging of self and greed and money and profit (“exchange value”) over and above the common good and indeed over everything that seemed decent and valuable to me.
I’ve never understood greed. I never will.
Recently I was reminded of this passage by what might seem like a surprising source: the comments of former Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who recently jumped ship to become manager of the lowly Florida Marlins.
I’ll get to what Ozzie said in a moment. First a little background. Like more than a few males of my generation, I was propagandized from a young age (in the mid and late 1960s in my case) in the religion – yes, the heavenly ecstasies – of, well, baseball. I spent countless hours fielding grounders, chasing down fly balls, hitting line drives, collecting baseball player cards, attending major league baseball games, waiting outside games for players to sign my scorecard, watching games on television, and listening to games on numerous local stations late at night on my transistor radio, which picked up the St. Louis Cardinals, the Detroit Tigers, and Cincinnati Reds as well as the hometown Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
Like many fans in the 1960s, I followed and cared about all of the major leagues and all of its leading players. One of the neat things about growing up in Chicago was that it was a two-team city, with both of the big leagues represented. I could see National League stars like Willie Mays (San Francisco), Hank Aaron (Atlanta), Bob Gibson (St. Louis), and Juan Marichal (San Francisco) up at Wrigley Field (home of the lowly Chicago Cubs) on the North Side and American League stars like Mickey Mantle (New York), Harmon Killebrew (Minnesota), and Al Kaline (Detroit) at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox down on the South Side. Sometimes sneaking a transistor radio into school, I followed every game of every World Series from 1965 through 1973, none of which involved a team from Chicago.
Still, there was no doubt about who my favorite and hometown team was – the weak-hitting, strong pitching “Go Go” White Sox. The Sox had made it to only one World Series (1959 – they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers) since their collapse into decades of losing after the infamous “Black Sox” scandal of 1919, when a number of leading White Sox players agreed to throw the series. Unlike Barack Obama, I actually am “from the South Side of Chicago.” The ultimate baseball dream was a White Sox World Series triumph, preferably through a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a seventh game against the Cubs.
The dream of a White Sox World Series victory finally came in October 2005, long past the time when baseball or any other sport was a significant factor in my experience but not so long that it didn’t hold meaning for me. I watched or heard every game, inning, and out and felt a surprising sense of satisfaction – more than I would have predicted – when the team wearing the same uniform as my boyhood heroes claimed the biggest prize.
The 2005 White Sox won in the old Go Go Sox tradition of strong pitching, speed, and defense, chalking up a lot of low-run victories. Watching them win took me back to a forgotten part of my past, when my father and I arrived two hours before White Sox games to take in batting practice on warm summer nights at old Comiskey Park.
The manager of the charmed 2005 Sox club was the brash and mouthy Ozzie Guillen, the third great Venezuelan shortstop to play for the White Sox, after Chico Carasquel (1950s) and Luis Aparicio (late 1950s and 1960s).
Telling Chicago Sun Times columnist Rick Morrissey why he would be jumping from the White Sox to manage the Florida Marlins for more money the next year, Ozzie Guillen had some interesting things to say about what matters to him. He crapped all over the silly dreams of baseball fans (White Sox fans especially) young and old. He wasn’t motivated by championship rings, he told Morrissey, but by money. “With the rings,” Ozzie sagely observed, “I can’t do [anything] with that.” But with money,” Ozzie observed, “ I can go buy me a new boat, I can go buy me a new car, I can dress my wife the way I want to dress her, I can go to Spain,” Guillen said. “With the ring, I can go to United Airlines and say, ‘Hello, I won the 2005 championship. Can you fly me to Spain?’ Hell, no.” Take that, baseball romantics! Try to buy something that really matters like, you know, a boat or a car or a vacation with “a ring” – with a little pathetic symbol of a mere world championship.
Ozzie wasn’t done. “Money is everything besides health. Money is next to that. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, love.’ They don’t know what love means….I work in this job for money. I don’t work for nothing. Money. That’s it. The ring? Fuck the ring. I don’t even wear my fucking rings. I don’t….. I want to buy my fucking boat. That’s my inspiration. My inspiration is money. That’s everybody’s inspiration.’’
Nice. Wow, what an asshole. How’s that for leaving “no other nexus between [fan, player, and manager] than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’”?
Ozzie “has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of [athletic] fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of [baseball] sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. [He] has resolved [baseball championship rings] into exchange value…[He] has stripped of its halo [an] occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe[:baseball manager. Ozzie] has torn away from [a baseball championship] its sentimental veil, and has reduced [baseball] to a mere money relation.”
Forget the interesting fact that Guillen was demanding more money from the White Sox even though his teams have often played badly in the last 4 years. A bigger problem is that Ozzie’s audacious claim that people like me – for whom money and greed are no inspiration at all – do not exist…that money lust is human nature. To make matters worse, the multimillionaire Guillen has the sickening narcissistic chutzpah to bitch about being too poor in a nation where a record-setting 46 million Americans now live at less than the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level. Guillen whines about being underpaid in a city (Chicago) where many neighborhoods are now suffering with real unemployment levels of 40 to 50 percent, thanks to the investment decisions of those who accumulate cash on a scale that would make Ozzie’s money-mad mind spin.
Modern big league sports are about money, of course. This is nothing new. I guess Ozzie’s sin is to be so childishly honest about it in a way that vomits so callously over the dreams and sentiments of fans. I will always remember the 2005 season with fondness, but I will not miss Ozzie Guillen in Chicago.
Paul Street (www.paulstreet.org) is the author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008, described by John Pilger in 2009 as “perhaps the only book that tells the truth about the 44th president of the United States”) and The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2010). Street’s sixth book, co-authored with Anthony DiMaggio, is Crashing the Tea Party Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Boulder, CO Paradigm. 2011). Street will speak on (and sign copies of) Crashing the Tea Party at Peoples’ Books Cooperative in Milwaukee, WI (Thursday, September 29 at 7 pm), and Bluestockings Bookstore in New York City (Tuesday, October 4 at 7pm). Street can be reached at [email protected].