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Let sport chiefs take over governance

Published:Friday | August 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Orville Higgins

By Orville Higgins

As Jamaicans celebrate another birthday, I find myself thinking of the obvious disparity between our sports accomplishments and our political achievements. Our politicians have failed us. Our economy continues to lag, our crime rate is always uncomfortably high, and the general standard of life in Jamaica is well below what it should be. Juxtapose that with what we have managed in the sports arena.

Over the last 52 years, Jamaica can proudly lay claim to producing performers in track and field, boxing, cricket, netball and a variety of other sporting disciplines that rival and, indeed, surpass the very best in the world. The question that should most occupy our minds is: why this anomaly? Why is it that our performances in sports can be so high-class, while our politicians continue to operate at such mediocre levels.

I don't claim to know all the answers, but I believe that we the people must shoulder the greatest part of the blame. Joseph de Maistre's statement, "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle merite," or 'every country has the government it deserves', is, to a large extent, true. A government will perform, more or less, at the standard that people demand. If the Jamaican people had put the same pressure on politicians as they do sportsmen, Jamaica would be far ahead of where we are economically and socially.

Jamaican spectators can be brutal to their own players. I have watched sports practically all my life, at every level, and it never fails to amaze me how we go hard at those we pay to watch. When we watch sports, we insist that our athletes perform at their best or they will feel the full wrath of our collective tongues.

When we don't feel they are giving of their best, we boo and rant and rave. This starts from they are children. I have been to Manning and daCosta cup games and heard adults giving it to these kids when they make a bad pass, or miss an open goal. This level of rancour from the Jamaican public is part of what defines us as a people.

J'can crowd hardest to please

It doesn't stop at sports either. I have heard Jamaican entertainers, both in music and comedy, saying the Jamaican crowd is the hardest to please. People have been 'bottled' off stage when the crowd felt their performance hasn't been up to par. Why then are we so easy on our politicians? Why is it that we hold our sports performers to higher standards?

Politicians seemingly can say or do anything. The quality of their work hardly matters. They make promises they rarely fulfil. They take over ministries and mismanage them to the ground.

It doesn't seem to matter what they do, politicians enjoy status in Jamaica. Once every four or five years, the politicians get nervous when it is time for the public to decide who gets the privilege of ruling us, and at that time, their performances immediately improve. Those who weren't in their constituencies suddenly become very visible. Projects that were dawdling suddenly spring to life. After the election, they continue to strut around with an air that suggests that we all should be lucky if they lower themselves to interacting with us mere mortals.

Sports people are treated different. They know that they are judged EVERY TIME they take the field. They know they will be scrutinised to the maximum, not every five years, but every time the officials say 'play'. Unlike politicians, sports people can't boast about what they did five years ago, or what they will do five years to come. Sports people know that it's a case of 'What have you done for me lately?' We must put our politicians through the same mill.

My suggestion, partly tongue in cheek, is that we give some of our top sports administrators senior political posts. Do you see Glen Mills and Stephen Francis failing if we give them two ministries to run? Do you not see where some of our top sports administrators would do a far better job than some of these politicians in running our ministries?

Maybe we should form a political party called the Jamaica Party of Sports and Recreation. Get our brightest sports minds to be part of it. I would be among the first to vote for them, and I'm sure the country would be better off if they formed the Government.

Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host. Email feedback to