Ever read or see* something you really enjoyed and discover later that it was considered that way by a lot of other people – otherwise known as the gratuitous inconsequential spotting of talent [GIST]. I’ve always remembered great articles I read in Sports Illustrated as a teenager about Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer. Recently, I discovered through the Sports Illustrated vault of past articles, that they were produced by writers considered among the best of their time, Pat Jordan and Frank Deford. Jordan’s recent article provides insight into how the relationship between athletes and writers has deteriorated.
Michael Lewis is already well know, so no GIST credit can be claimed, but his article [warning it’s long – a 23 page printout] is still amazing. The topics read like a personal wish list to me; baseball, communism, immigration, economics and native Cubans capacity for survival. The story takes you from a Federal courthouse in Key West to a Correctional Facility in California, with pit stops in Canada, Havana and Camagüey. Along the way, on a smaller scale I admit, Mr Lewis may have done for Victor Mesa what Tom Wolfe did for Chuck Yeager – shine a light on a larger than life character.
No ideological rant could be as damaging to any delusions of adequacy the Cuban government may still harbor, than this example of Lewis’ reporting:
On either side of the highway as you leave Havana you see to the horizon fields now fallow that under better management would be making someone rich. Much closer, right beside the highway, you see Cubans selling the items most easily pilfered from the government and resold on the black market—fruit, milk, eggs, giant cheese rounds, live turkeys—while everyone from small schoolchildren to little old ladies waits for buses that run only in theory. On the road itself you see horses, mule-drawn carts, bicycles, army jeeps, ancient tractors, sugarcane cutters, and Soviet dump trucks belching hot black smoke. What you don’t see is anything resembling an automobile. The moment we leave Havana, in a 2003 Korean-made rental car, we become an object of wild curiosity. Everyone we pass stares in to see what sort of important person must be inside this exotic vehicle. “They probably think we’re either artists or musicians or maybe famous baseball players,” says the young Cuban guide I’d talked into coming with me.By the time I reach the province of Camagüey—birthplace of Gus Dominguez—I’ve seen almost all the Cuban teams, talked to managers and players, and gotten a general sense of the caliber of play (high). But there are two things, in addition to cars, that I never saw. One is other tourists, who seem to be well imprisoned either in Havana or at beach resorts. The other is journalists. I’d been to a dozen games but had yet to encounter a single Cuban reporter. The games are on national television, they get written about in the national paper and get argued about on the streets—and yet no one interviews baseball managers or players. “The journalists don’t even want to talk to us,” the Camagüey manager tells me. “They think they know everything. I tell my players: Don’t read or listen to them. They don’t know anything.”
* – My all-time GIST was the fact that my favorite Hawaii Five-0 episode – the Monopoly clues thief – turned out to star legendary actor Hume Cronyn – as the only bad guy McGarrett ever liked.
** – GIST also named in honor of the proverbial character actor and director, Robert Gist, a native Miamian.