Disagreement doesn't mean disrespect.
Not that it makes one iota of difference to the narrow-minded advocates of any particular issue or point of view. Still, it's worth highlighting the difference, if only as a matter of record. Maybe one of these good days we will advance to the point where almost every matter of public debate doesn't degenerate into a confrontation based on the protection of fiercely partisan interests. That obviously won't be anytime soon, though.
But we are not alone in this regard. Indeed, it is perversely reassuring to witness and listen to the unfolding (some will say unravelling) of the respective campaigns for the Presidency of the United States and recognise how seemingly intelligent, or at least well-educated and impressively-accredited people can portray such fanatical myopia over the credentials and policies of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Of course in many respects it's just a show: people who actually know better but are performing their role as hired assassins with a compelling conviction and enthusiasm in the hope of convincing the undecided to opt for their man. And in the case of our Sports Minister and his strident defence of those selected as Trinidad and Tobago's "50 Greatest Legends" in sport in the Independence era, it's also about bluster and intimidation.
Love him or loathe him, Anil Roberts knows exactly what he is doing when he launches into a tirade against those who dare to question specific omissions from the list of people honoured last Thursday. It isn't about merely shouting down the dissenters, which he's very good at, especially when he teams up with someone of like mind and manner, like Jack Warner.
No sir, this is also about fuelling the notion that questioning the selections and the selection process amounts to disrespecting the "Legends", that it is about a mischievous and unpatriotic media who, rather than joining in the fulsome and wholesome celebration of our outstanding sporting achievers, would seek to discredit them by inference in their moment of richly-deserved glory. And to do this dastardly deed in the midst of the 50th anniversary of the nation's independence?
Well, we guttersnipes should all be ashamed of ourselves.
Anil won't succeed in silencing everyone, for the media environment is sufficiently expansive and varied as to ensure that some outlets will continue to tear into him for being farse and out of place, while others will just as stridently rally to his defence. Again, that is all part of the strategy—distraction.
What better way to divert attention from the fundamental issue than to take the matter on a detour that amounts to an argument about who likes or doesn't like the government of the day?
As a politician and unofficial megaphone of the People's Partnership administration, the Sports Minister is really performing no differently from his role as a bustling, barrelling centre-forward in his old Fatima College days. Then, as now, it was about distracting the defenders, throwing them off stride, being relentless and, if the opportunity arises, making the decisive strike that leaves the opposition mortally wounded and incapable of an appropriate response.
Those footballing moments were 25 years ago. Now, 25 years hence, he is still at his bullying best to the extent that some of us would prefer not to have to deal with him at all because, if he doesn't have the last word, there would have been enough words from him along the way—fluent, articulate, even gregarious and, of course, amplified—so rendering any crisp final rejoinder by the harangued interviewer as inconsequential.
Yet beyond the scoring of political points and putting the occasional media personality in his or her place, what does it achieve?
In this matter of the selection of the "50 Greatest Legends" it should be noted that there will never be unanimity on such a subjective issue. We can argue endlessly for this one over that one without ever really getting anywhere. Any collection of experts (hopefully without any political or other interference) making such decisions must know that it is not only a thankless task but also, as in this case, they will leave themselves open to accusations of being self-serving. So they deserve credit for even taking on the challenge.
But this is not some listing put up by the bar owner around the corner to stir debate and attract more customers. This is national in scope, defining of our nation at the 50th anniversary of independence and a supposedly authoritative acknowledgement for posterity. So it cannot be inappropriate to question the omission of someone perceived to be an outstanding performer, or ask if a criminal record—depending of course on the nature of the offence—should automatically debar world champion performers from consideration.
And how do administrators get into this? Is the work of any administrator over the past 50 years in this country deserving of "legendary" status ahead of at least four other sporting performers?
Even if there is an eventual conceding of this point, how does the team that made it to the 2006 World Cup football finals (although only a select few were apparently invited for Thursday night's event, but that's another story) get nominated but the official who recruited coaches and players and pressed for the region to get an extra half-spot via a playoff—which we used to get past Bahrain and qualify for Germany—is not named as an administrative "Legend"?
No amount of sound and fury from Anil will suppress those questions. firstname.lastname@example.org