Feature photos by Keith Allison

Titans will clash this evening at Progressive Field in Cleveland. No, not the Indians and White Sox. Watching the Sox play the non-Twins AL Central is like watching a babysitting 16-year old lose a video game to the kids. I am talking, of course, about the beginning of the Ozzie and Manny show. Tonight, Chicago will get to witness two of the most enigmatic figures in American sports finally united in a pennant race, and it brings to the fore some important questions about what, exactly, is funny about this. I mean, it is funny.

I intend to disagree with those claiming that these two players, and especially their meeting, are jokes because they are Latino. It is overly sensitive analysis to throw the racist attribution at the coverage of this story. I have not heard one comment calling either guy anything except what they are: characters. Manny Ramirez’s name is practically a verb at this point, invoking the carefree days when his bat was freely bopping and his hair made you think of Dominican slam poetry. His statistics attest to the hall of fame career of one of our generation’s most dominant hitters, tarnished to a debatable degree by a 2009 steroid scandal. And no one can touch the singular character-ness of Ozzie Guillen. He’s a loveable goof, but someone whose jumble-jowled pidgin English has never been cause for suspecting his baseball acumen. He’s won a World Series, first of all, after a respectable playing career, and by all accounts is a manager that players love. More importantly, he is one of the only honest people in the world of modern sports.

In other words, the association of these two players to each other has little to do with their Latino heritage, or that English is their second language. After all, find two other names in baseball who are more unhinged. When I laugh at the pairing of these two, I’m excited for it. Yes, they’re both portrayed negatively from time to time, and I’m not calling either a genius. But those ready to take ethnic umbrage need to understand that such is the consequence of dogging it to get traded or setting the world on fire with the most legendary Twitter account the world has yet seen. Mostly, these are two respected winners who happen to be Latino and almost as funny as Tim Lincecum’s gangly self.

By the time Manny takes the field tonight (presumably with shorter dreads) we will have already missed the meeting that everyone wants to see, the initial Ozzie-Ramirez handshake that collides two of the luminaries from the lighter side of our all-too-serious sporting culture. But neither will try to be funny, nor to piss off the staid baseball establishment. It will just be two guys who find it easier to be real than not, ready to combine their considerable talents this fall. I hope they joke around with each other. You have to respect athletes who play better when they’re having fun. I think most people do.

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