Reactions in the midst of emotional turmoil don’t often stand up to dispassionate scrutiny.
So the temptation is to immediately categorise the decision by the administration of Presentation College of San Fernando to retire the number four worn by Akeem Adams when he played for the school’s football team as coming from the heart and not the head.
Who wouldn’t want to find some meaningful way to pay tribute to the fallen national player, especially when attempts at mounting a simple but tangible memorial at the institution’s entrance on Coffee Street just before the New Year came to nothing, thanks to another of those lawless, predatory elements who abound in sweet T&T?
And of course the storyline is uniquely tragic to our sporting experience.
A young, talented national player mere weeks into his association with a top Hungarian club is struck down by a massive heart attack and, despite the best medical care available, the support of his mother and brother at his bedside and the prayers of so many others, including his new teammates, he eventually succumbs just over three months later, leaving many to wonder what could have been and, as in the case of “Pres”, what should be done to honour his memory.
In opting to retire his number, meaning that no-one else can ever wear the number four on their shirt when playing in the colours of Presentation College, the school appears to have broken new ground, for I am not aware of any similar instance in any sport in this country. That doesn’t make it an inappropriate course of action of itself, for all traditions everywhere and in every sphere of life had to start somewhere.
Even if the accusation is that this is merely replicating a regular practice in sport in the United States, what’s wrong with that? Are English sporting traditions the only ones worth following? Fans of American professional sports will be familiar with the retired numbers of superstar players of various franchises hanging from the rafters at basketball and ice hockey venues or being prominently displayed at baseball or American football stadiums.
Some numbers are also withdrawn when a player dies suddenly in the midst of a career, so it’s not as if Presentation are venturing into completely new territory here. There’s no question that shock and grief at the loss of a 22-year-old who appeared to have so much to accomplish in the game would have contributed to the retiring of his school team number. Yet once it serves its purpose as a tribute that’s all that really matters.
Where there may be some contention would be whether, if you’re going the way of retiring numbers now, Akeem Adams is singularly deserving of the honour among the thousands who would have played football for Presentation College of San Fernando.
Maybe it’s something the principal should clarify, just to ensure it is not perceived as an inadvertent slighting of those who represented the school with pride and considerable distinction on the football pitch over the years and whose numbers will still be worn when the 2014 seasons kicks off in September.
If Akeem’s passing and this particular way of remembering him triggers a bit of dialogue among sporting clubs, teams and national associations over the manner in which outstanding performers are honoured, then it will be a worthwhile act above and beyond its intention to highlight the contribution of the central defender to the game he loved so much.
We have a Sports Hall of Fame at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, but apart from the fact that you hardly ever see anyone stopping to look at those names during any event there, it also seems to be a case for us of “out of sight, out of mind”.
No-one can say we didn’t put so-and-so in the Hall of Fame, but what do we really know of them to the extent that we or the generations who follow us can be inspired by their stories?
Yes, most of us can crow of the accomplishments of Brian Lara, Dwight Yorke and Ato Boldon because they are of fairly recent vintage. And while names like Mannie Dookie, Raffie Knowles and Hilton “Barracuda” Mitchell may ring just a bell, there is no proper appreciation of their achievements because we not only treat their stories like ancient history, but ancient history that has nothing to do with us.
A significant contributor to our almost complete lack of civic pride is that we know very little about ourselves, our country and even our own communities, including the sporting personalities who either went on to achieve great things in great arenas around the world or were outstanding stalwarts for their clubs and districts.
It is that absence of civic pride that will cause someone, apparently under the cloak of darkness on the night of December 30 last, to steal flowers, candles and a portrait of Akeem Adams from in front of Presentation College, items of no real material value but of great sentimental importance to quite a few people. But this is what we have come to: t’iefin anything in sight and then working out what it is we t’ief.
Maybe it was that soul-destroying incident which prompted the “Pres” hierarchy to come with a tribute out of the ordinary. Retired number? Let’s see how anyone can t’ief that! Even if it doesn’t seem possible, I wouldn’t get too complacent. They don’t call us Trickydadians up the islands for nothing.