We were surprised to see that a Cuban blog based in Spain is keeping a running count of the medals won by Cubans in Beijing. If each winning athlete were granted his (or her) freedom as a prize (as slaves were in the ancient Olympics) , we would be cheering for the Cuban team to win all the medals. However, the "honor" of continuing to serve Castro or dedicating medals to him is not one that I wish for them, and since, as Castro himself has gloated, the fraternal Chinese will guarantee that he suffers no "losses" there, nothing can be expected from the Beijing Games but another propaganda victory for Cuba and that's nothing to cheer about.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Should We Cheer for Cuban Athletes At International Competitions? Only If We Revel in their DegradationAn actual discussion, sans obscenities, threats or anathemas (so far), is taking place at Babalú blog in response to Alberto de la Cruz's observation that "they must be eating out their livers in Havana right now" because the Americans beat the Cubans to win the Baseball World Cup in Taiwan. A commenter, Espirituano, observed correctly that Cubans on the island do root for their players (we might add, whether playing in Cuba or the U.S.). Cruz, and, especially, abajofidel (fantomas), forcefully brought home the point that a victory for Cuba is a victory for no one except Castro, certainly not for the Cuban people or even the Cuban athletes themselves.
Do Cuban athletes represent the Cuban people? The Cuban people believe they do and they are closer to them than Americans are to their athletes. For one thing, though they receive perks which ordinary Cubans do not, these afford Cuban athletes, even at the highest levels, a lifestyle which is far, far closer to that of ordinary Cubans than the salaries of their American counterparts place them in relation to ordinary Americans. A professional athlete in the U.S. can aspire to earn as much or more than a CEO of a Fortune 500 company; no athlete in Cuba earns more than a major in the army. Cuban players are obviously exploited by the regime and denied the opportunity to employ their talents to their fullest potential. All Cubans can empathize with their plight because all Cubans share it. Excluding the parasites of the regime, all other Cubans would be doing better today, whatever their positions, if the state released them from the yoke which it imposes on all Cuban workers, that is, if serfdom were abolished in Cuba. Of course, athletes are the most exploited of all Cubans; their real value, as confirmed by those who have escaped their involuntary indenture, is sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars; yet they are forced to squander their talents and their futures in the stables of their decrepit master at whose pleasure and for whose glory they compete — or not; for, in many cases, they are denied the opportunity even to exhibit their talents because they are deemed unworthy of the privilege of serving him.
Of course, it would be unjust to ask these young men and women to renounce their dreams of athletic glory, circumscribed as those dreams are. The ultimate dream — that of escaping and realizing their potential elsewhere — is contingent on their participation in Cuba's sports programme. No one would want them otherwise because they would be unknown quantities. That is the one advantage which accrues to them from being showcased by the regime: they get noticed. To go beyond that they must risk their lives on the high seas just as all Cuban refugees must do who want to realize their potential, or attempt the even riskier feat of defecting abroad and running the same fate as the Cuban boxers who were deported by Castro's slave catchers in Brazil.
It is correct to see Cuban athletes as victims of the regime, because they are; it is quite another thing to root for them at international competitions because that is just to applaud their status and prolong their servitude. Applause in their ears rings as hollow as that bestowed on gladiators by spectators to, and participants in, their degradation. It is well to remember that almost all Roman gladiators weren't Roman. Foreigners were sacrificed in the arena while Romans cheered. If freemen cheer the exploits of Cuban athletes they are in fact condoning their exploitation.