Last week ESPN sportswriter and radio host Dan Le Betard wrote a chilling column on his reaction to President Obama’s meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro in Havana. Le Betard described the trip as “another loss,” saying the Cubans who fled the Castro regime have experienced enough losses in their lifetime as it is.
“Lost childhoods. Lost roots. Lost families. Lost land. Lost freedoms,” Le Betard wrote. “Lost lives in the ocean that divides Cuba and America like the million miles of distance between desperation and hope.”
When Obama touched down in Cuba on March 21, he ended a century-long cold war-era estrangement that began with the two countries in 1959. He became the first president to touch down in Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
On March 22, the highlight of the trip came from the Estadio Latinoamericano where, at 2 p.m., both countries favorite past-times would be played and broadcasted to the world: an exhibition baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays of the MLB and the Cuban National team was played in front of more than 50,000 fans.
The two sides were friendly and the atmosphere surrounding the event was jovial. Players shook hands, Obama and Castro sat together behind home plate with smiles on their faces; it couldn’t have been a better afternoon of baseball — or, well, maybe not exactly.
Before the game took place that same Tuesday, the world mourned with Brussels after the aftermath of a terrorist attack took place in Belgium that killed 31 and wounded 330.
That was Obama’s plan. Although he was advised not to, the decision to remain present for the trip’s main event made a powerful statement.
“You want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation,” Obama said. “But the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives.”
As if playing a baseball game in communist Cuba wasn’t bad enough, the decision to not travel and be with the people of Brussels couldn’t have stirred up more grief on the decision to commence the game after the fact.
But the point Obama made regarding terrorist attacks was spot on, and in fact — may send a message of hope to the people of Cuba.
Like a baby crying for lack of attention, these extremist groups’ cries will cease and turn into the realization that their demands will not be met; lessons learned, no harm no foul.
By continuing to play the game, the message was clear: attacks will not break what can’t be broken. A paradigm for the way we as a country have decided to attack these pressing matters.
When someone tweets “Prayers for Brussels” it seems like a redundant statement that serves zero purpose. In fact, due to the social media age, the spread of information serves a greater purpose. That tweet can reach the masses and a social medium for hope and prayer has been catalyzed.
I understand the resentment Le Betard displayed with his tone. And sure, I’m willing to admit I am ignorant — something that as a group of people we aren’t too keen to admit.
I’m ignorant to the struggle for a better life thousands of Cubans had to endure. The fight for justice and the risk taken in leaving a land that is so precious to a group of people to live, for one that is as foreign to them as the brief encounter with a random passerby on the street.
At the end of the day, the people of Cuba still have no voice. As I am writing this, I understand the simple process of this being published is something no Cuban can ascertain or experience the gratification of.
Pen and paper is essential to me. It gives me the ability to voice my opinion in a manner everyone can understand at the same rate. You can’t hear my slang or the stutter between my words. In writing, the words come across as fluid and purposeful.
The game played in Cuba means nothing if we can’t conform the way of living in Cuba to give their people its voice back — give them a reason to be optimistic that change will come and a life of being contained will soon be over
But we can remain hopeful that soon, their way of life can be as free as the game of baseball they cherish so dearly. Similar to a baseball that was just hit for a home run, as it glides in the air, soaring over the fence, they too can be free and cross home plate.
Sports Editor, Bryant Drayton
Bryant is a sports advocate who’s always smiling. He is a senior print and online journalism major aspiring for a career as a professional or college football columnist. Bryant currently covers high school football games for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn