Shaq, Castro, Granderson, Summitt . . .

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    It is what it is, freedom or freedom of speech is just a mission statement or idea tossed out when it serves an agenda. Of course I understand that we cannot go out in the world and direct personal criticism at an individual — Miami Marlins first-year manager Ozzie Guillen did not do that.

    I do understand he is a loose cannon. So when he recently came out and told a reporter he admires Fidel Castro because he is a survivor, I was not surprised. However, his comments set off protests in the middle of the community where the Marlins have built their new stadium and among fans they want to woo. For his non-thoughtful retort he was suspended five games by the Marlins after a protest involving about 200 people.

    Sure, Castro is a bullheaded dictator. I do not believe anyone should rule any country for 50 years. It is insane to think only one person in 50-years is smart enough to uplift Cuba or bring it into the technology age. On the other hand, the large Cuban-American community should remember why they left Cuba. They left because of individual suppression, the lack of free speech and the exchanges of differing ideas and opinions, the same things they now want Guillen fired for.

    THE FEMALE John Wooden of women’s college basketball, Pat Summitt, coached Tennessee for 38 years, recently retired. Her retirement from the game she loves was a direct result of her being diagnosed last year with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The disease simply won’t allow Summitt to perform her duties in the manner she has grown accustomed.

    The White House announced Summitt will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Barack Obama says Summitt is an inspiration as the coach who has won more games than anyone else in NCAA college basketball history and for her willingness to “speak so openly and courageously about her battle with Alzheimer’s.”

    WELL, I KNEW it was bound to happen, Shaquille O’Neal, who I’ve known personally for about 15 years, is a fun loving, jovial big, big man, but he has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth.

    “Inside the NBA” host Ernie Johnson recently asked Shaq directly if he had ever tanked a game to try to get a better playoff position. Shaq immediately said no. But then he went on to say that he had coaches and GM’s who tell him to take games off so they could drop in the standings to avoid Utah in the standings, because they didn’t want to face them in the first round.

    With Shaq concluding his first year as co-analyst on “Inside the NBA” with Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, I knew it would not be long before he had to try to be as outrageous as Barkley. They are now the say anything that comes to one’s head duo.

    I’ve known and watched former Lakers star player and GM Jerry West while Shaq was there and there is was no way West or former coach Phil Jackson would ask any player to be less than they are. I do not believe Shaq’s diarrhea of the mouth for a second. His words is the complete opposite of West or Jackson’s DNA. What we have here is reality TV and shock journalism seems to now be everywhere.

    FORMER Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson is one of my all-time favorite Tigers. I was very disappointed when the Tigers unceremoniously let him go to the New York Yankees in 2009.

    Sure, Tigers centerfielder Austin Jackson has done all he can to replace him, and the memory of the personable Granderson was starting to dissipate somewhat with his loyal Detroit following. However, Granderson got my baseball juices going again recently when he stole the early season spotlight by belting three home runs and going 5-for-5 with four RBIs in a Yankees 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

    Just think, if Granderson, who blasted 41 home runs last year, was in the order with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Well, I’m allowed to dream!

    No matter, I’ll always keep my eyes of Grandy while wishing and hoping that he continue to uplift his status as one of the best players in Mayor League Baseball.

    Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and Twitter at LelandSteinIII.

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