More good examples needed
With violence rising on the sport field...
What sort of sporting legacy are we leaving for the next generation?
What’s the point of drumming the virtues of honesty, integrity and fair play—not to mention respect for officials, opponents and the game—into the heads of impressionable youngsters when all they see around them is confrontation, threatening attitudes and a perpetuation of the “by any means necessary” philosophy?
In these times when leadership at all levels is in desperately short supply, we should be very concerned over the rising tide of intolerance and physical hostility that defines many of our sporting environments, and I’m not even touching on the hurling of insults and accusations that characterise the often bruising battles for status and position in the various sporting organisations. That’s another story by itself.
Last Tuesday evening at the Aranjuez Savannah, an umpire was attacked by a spectator during the tense final minutes of a semi-final in a windball cricket competition. “So what?” you may say in response to an event that is not uncommon to either this particular location or indeed any other part of the country where emotions tend to run high and officials of any sport are left to run for their lives when one group of hooligans or another believes the only way to respond to a disappointing decision on the field is to beat up the decision-maker.
You hardly see or hear much in the way of sympathy for officials in any sport at any level in any part of the world. If it wasn’t Sir Alex Ferguson almost routinely implying that officials had it in for Manchester United, it’s the disingenuous behaviour of sports commentators who go to town on marginal errors that were only exposed via a succession of slow motion replays and from a variety of angles.
That sort of shameless dishonesty is bad enough. But it’s when the refusal to abide by an unfavourable verdict hardens into a justification for violence that we should be very concerned, not just for the welfare of sport at all levels, but more importantly, the message it sends to the next generation that it is perfectly acceptable—if not expected—that officials must pay the price for their perceived indiscretions with a good cut-arse.
Of course, much of that asinine behaviour is fuelled by both the consumption of considerable quantities of alcohol and the reassuring and emboldening company of like-minded jackasses. But even the sober ones reflecting on such an incident are more likely these days to utter something along the lines of the umpire being a long-time t’ief, or that the referee has always been biased against such-and-such team.
In other words: He look for it. He deserve it and, if anything, he damn lucky he only get away with a buss head.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sort of distressing, self-righteous stupidity from which we expect will emerge the next batch of world-beaters, the next handful of superstars who will rise above the morass of mindlessness to achieve great things for themselves, their community and their country by sheer dint of hard work, dedication and discipline.
Yet, amazingly, this is exactly what is happening. Never before has there been a reigning Olympic champion (Keshorn Walcott) and a reigning world athletics champion (Jehue Gordon) at one and the same time in this country. Cricketers from Trinidad and Tobago are among the most sought-after for the many T20 competitions now played all over the world and throughout the year, with Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo leading the way.
Notwithstanding the bacchanal that engulfed national football in the immediate aftermath of the appearance at the 2006 World Cup finals, and from which we are only now emerging, players from this twin-island state have plied their trade across Europe, Asia and the United States. Kenwyne Jones may be the leading light given his position in the high-profile English Premier League, but there are so many others, from communities identified as “vulnerable,” who are making a name for themselves in places that we would struggle to identify on a map of the world.
In the same way that we grieve at the loss of the academic brilliance and visionary selflessness of the Nairobi attack victim and 2002 President’s Medal winner Ravi Ramrattan, we hope and pray for the recovery of talented footballer Akeem Adams from a massive heart attack suffered last Thursday in Hungary, where he plays for Ferencvaros.
It seems to be a real paradox the excellence that emerges from such backwardness, except that we are not alone in that regard in the world. In fact, we are not even unique in this Caribbean region for Jamaica, an island with a disproportionate level of violence, leads the entire planet in the field of athletics, where the shining star that is Usain Bolt represents—so far—the pinnacle of over 60 years of excellence on the track.
Yet even as we bask in the sporting successes achieved at the expense of opponents from much more populous and richer nations, should we still not be troubled by the rising tide of indiscipline and physical aggression that scars both the sporting and national landscape? One of these days, God forbid, the violence that so many of us seem to take for granted will go too far on the field of play and those with any modicum of decency will regret not doing or saying anything in the face of such disgraceful behaviour.
It doesn’t take much to set a better example.