'BLO IT RIGHT BY 'EM: Welcome to Our World, Ozzie

Like it or not, everyone has a take on Harvard.

Your neighbor seems impressed that you go here, for one. You personally think that the classes are just “amazing.” And your parents are generally uncertain why they pay 40,000 dollars a year for you to learn about Dinosaurs, their relatives, and the Fountains of Central Italy.

Last year, though, the Harvard name got so big that even baseball’s brightest stars began expressing opinions about our humble institution.

Shortly after future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux recorded his 3,000th strikeout, current Cooperstown tenant Don Sutton couldn’t help but make a Cambridge comparison. In describing Maddux’s intelligence, Sutton said the hurler was very sharp, but “wiser than he is smart. I don’t know if he could be the president of Harvard, but he could run Bally’s.”

Kudos to you, Lawrence H. Summers.

But then, of course, there was the infamous Ozzie Guillen.

In the midst of managing the White Sox to the 2005 World Series crown, Guillen offered a perspective on Harvard’s brainpower that was slightly different from Sutton’s.

Basically, Guillen said, he is probably smarter than you.

“I’m smarter than a lot of guys who go to Harvard,” the 41-year-old native of Venezuela declared during October’s ALCS. “When you come to this country and you can’t speak any English at 16 years old, and you have to survive, you have to have something smart in your body.

“If you take one of those Harvard guys and drop them in the middle of Caracas,” he heteronormatively continued, “they won’t survive. But if you drop me in the middle of Harvard, I’ll survive.”

Naturally, this was my away message for a really long time. Many journalists merely chalked the quote up to Guillen’s characteristic irreverence and self-confidence. One can also imagine that he was just kidding, or maybe using his playoff success to rail against the emerging Ivy League baseball intelligentsia (like Boston Red Sox general manager and Yale grad Theo Epstein, or recently deposed Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta ’95, or Oakland A’s assistant GM David Forst ’98, or Florida Marlins vice president and assistant GM Mike Hill ’93).

But speaking as someone currently enrolled in his second semester of Intermediate Spanish—as well as the roommate of a person who was quite literally driven to tears while research-writing “Let’s Go: Peru” last summer—I am not so quick to dismiss Guillen’s strong words.

On behalf of the Harvard community, in fact, I will take them a step further. I hereby extend a formal offer to the Sox skipper.

Mr. Guillen, you are invited to Cambridge, Mass.

Upon arrival, you will be subsequently “[dropped] in the middle of Harvard”—which I suppose means The Pit, or the circle of tourists in front of the John Harvard statue—to fend for yourself.

You will have nothing at your disposal. No cell phone, no bat, no glove, no pen, no paper, no World Series ring. But you will find a list of Harvard-centric challenges which I have devised that you must complete.

Successfully execute the items, one by one, and you will prove your point to the entire world: you can, indeed, survive Harvard. And you may very well be smarter than a lot of people here.

To be clear, I am completely serious about this. In fact, Mr. Guillen, if you do survive, I promise that I will go to Caracas myself, and grant you sole stewardship of my illustrious single on the third floor of New Quincy in my absence.

Of course, I—subsequently—will not survive.

But before that can ever happen, Ozzie, you need to back up your words like a true World Series champion.

A word to the wise before you depart, though.

Harvard really isn’t as warm and cozy as it may appear on the outside, or in the bizarre Korean soap opera I recently discovered on the internet entitled “Love Story in Harvard.”

You’ll need to weather some brutal things in Cambridge, and so don’t get ahead of yourself just yet.

For your sake, I sure hope you know a lot about fountains.

­—Staff writer Pablo S. Torre can be reached at torre@fas.harvard.edu.

Tags