Doing 'home' work
The high-speed geometry that Cesc Fabregas worked on Italy's right bye-line to set up David Silva's headed opening goal in the Euro final was something. The sweet-passing breakaway that saw Xavi Hernandez laying on a pin-point pass for overlapping Jordi Alba to slap past Gianluigi Buffon was something else.
That was the best side in world football laying down the guantlet which the Italians could not run through in Kiev.
In Kingston, Jamaica, Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also laid down some unanswerable challenges of their own. No one, not Usain Bolt, not Veronica Campbell-Brown, could stop them racing to the 100 and 200 metres men's and women's titles at the Jamaica National Championships.
It was a weekend of fascinating action, the full significance of which will only be appreciated in time.
For the Spanish football side, though, four years have gone by since they broke their title duck...four years in which they have now won two European Championships and a World Cup; not just winning, but winning with an eye-pleasing style not seen in these modern times.
Has any national side ever passed better? It is hard for me to imagine so. But being limited in my obesrvation of the top teams through history, such a statement has to be relative.
Inevitably, even from half time in Sunday's match, the media were jumping on the greatest-ever bandwagon; such an impossible conversation because of the numerous variables created by the passage of time.
Just looking at the bare statistics alone cannot determine who is superior and who is not. It would be unfair to the Brazilian World Cup winners of 1958 and 1962—Garrincha, Didi, Vava, Pele, Mario Zagallo, etc—to dismiss their credentials because they also did not win the South American championship in that time.
High class football did not start from 1970 with Carlos Alberto's legendary side. And while the Dutch in 1974 and 1978 did not become world champions, how many national teams have been as influential in affecting how the game is played than them?
Spain in this era are doing the same.
Blake and Fraser-Pryce are also products of what has gone in the past.
In their time, outstanding Herb McKinley over 100, 200 and 400 metres, Donald Quarrie (100 and 200) and the still-running—at 52—Merlene Ottey (100 and 200), to name only three, made class sprinting synonymous with Jamaican athletics. Usain Bolt has since come along and elevated sprinting to a level hardly conceived of previously.
The speed with which Blake is now travelling down the track is as a direct result of the Bolt example. How fast he will eventually go is a thought that makes a body really keen to view the 100 and 200 events at the London Games.
It is not that the Bolt era is over.
Still only 25, one might be tempted to say he hasn't peaked yet! But the swiftest man does not always win the race. A false start in Daegu last year put paid to a World Championships double. It gave Blake an opening which he has seized brilliantly, his self-belief soaring as fast as his times.
On the weekend at the Jamaica Nationals, Blake twice bested a labouring Bolt, clearly not at his physical peak. The big Usain will be back. But whether he can get everything in place in time for a London double is debatable. Whoever wins in London, though, the fact is, the sport is being moved forward by the present-day generation.
A similar thing is happening in local track and field.
The emergence of Richard Thompson, Keston Bledman, Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Josanne Lucas, Renny Quow and Jehue Gordon has followed the era in which Ato Boldon set new standards with multiple Olympic and World Championship sprint medals.
This new generation has so far produced, since 2008, an individual Olympic silver medal, 4x100 relay silver and three World Championship bronze medals.
The solid represenation by shot putter Cleopatra Borel and the now retired hammer thrower Candice Scott in the field events also represents a raising of the bar for T&T athletics. Now young javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott is emerging.
The sheer inspiration provided by the feats of others has certainly been a powerful motivator throughout the history of sport. But it has not been that alone.
The Spanish way of playing has been nurtured, mainly in the academy of FC Barcelona. Xavi and Andres Iniesta did not come to pass and move like that just so.
Bolt and Blake are the products not just of a proud tradition but a high quality coaching system in Jamaica.
The emergence of a number of promising athletes from Tobago in recent times also points to an efficient system at work. This is to be applauded.
In general, however, I am not so sure that coaching is working to the advantage of sportsmen and women in these islands. I keep wondering whether, at the most cruical stage—early adolescence—that the youngsters aiming to make cricket or football a career choice are getting the fundamentals right.
Above average natural ability rarely, if ever, makes up for poor technique. But in those two sports in particular, so many T&T players who have achieved relative success have done so while lacking a really sound command of the basics. Hence, their success is more limited than it might have been.
This is an area that both the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation and the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board need to give heed to urgently.
It is not just a matter that there is coaching, it is who is doing the coaching and what is being taught, technically and otherwise.
Answering the challenge of the best in the world means doing proper "home" work.