Lessons for MoBay United from Atticus Finch
One of my favourite novels is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The main character in the book was Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who defended a black man, Tom Robinson, in a trumped-up rape charge against a girl named Mayella Ewell.
The book was based in Maycomb County in the United States at a time when racism was rife. It was basically taken for granted that no all-white jury would rule in Tom's favour at the time, no matter how questionable the evidence against him. Atticus took the case knowing fully well that he stood no chance. In fact, he was despised by many whites in the county merely for taking the case.
Finch's young daughter, Scout, was once discussing the concept of bravery with her father. He told her that real bravery is taking on something knowing you were licked before you even started, obviously in reference to his case. Tom lost, as expected, but Atticus' expert defence of him showed everybody that he wasn't really guilty. One or two of the anti-blacks in Maycomb were left feeling a little embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.
The book reminds me of the embattled owner of Montego Bay United, Orville Powell. If the definition of bravery is knowing you are beaten before you start, Orville Powell is one of the bravest men in the island. Orville has decided that, on principle, Montego Bay will not be contesting the Red Stripe Premier League final, scheduled for this Sunday at four.
His grouse is twofold. He says his team has travelled to Kingston for the final for the past two years for night games. He says the organisers were not prepared to listen when he asked for earlier starts to facilitate travelling Montego Bay supporters. So on those two occasions, against Waterhouse in 2014, and against Arnett Gardens last year, Montego Bay United were hopelessly outnumbered in the National Stadium. He is now wondering on what basis the final is being played early now, when he couldn't have that luxury extended to him in previous years.
His other grouse, which is an extension of the first, is that he feels that the interests of others are being put before his, which he finds unfair. The reason for the Sunday 4 p.m. game, we are told, is to satisfy the sponsors and TVJ, which will carry the game. Orville Powell feels that he is just as crucial a stakeholder as sponsors and television stations, and that his view must not be treated with any less respect.
Andrew Price, the man at the helm of the Premier League Clubs Association, said the game will be played on Sunday at 4 p.m., with the tone of a stern headmaster issuing detention to a truant. Powell was not amused. That may have been the last straw. He has decided that his team isn't playing, and up to the time of writing this article (about midday Thursday), he wasn't prepared to budge.
Orville Powell does have a case. He does have a right to ask why the deviation from the norm of playing at nights. He does have a right to feel that as an important stakeholder, he should have been consulted when the decision was being made. (This not to say his approval had to be sought.) He does have the right to ask why the needs of sponsors and television stations are seen as more important than those of his team, which is now in its third straight final.
These are legitimate questions, and I'm not convinced that I have heard a satisfactory explanation from either the main sponsors or TVJ.
With all that said, I cannot support my namesake on this one. Old-time people have a saying that 'you mustn't have you right and gi it weh'. This is exactly what Orville Powell is doing.
Not playing the final is too drastic a measure for the grouses he has. The game was shifted to Montego Bay, and not Kingston. That was done to benefit the organisers, not Montego Bay United. It simply wasn't practical keeping the final at the National Stadium if there were no Kingston teams involved. But Orville should just run with that advantage and not be so keen on standing up for principle.
If MoBay don't play, he will be banned, and that would be sad, because he does have a lot to offer to football. The players from MoBay United would also earn sanctions they really don't deserve. My message to Orville is that he has made his case. He should now let good sense prevail and take the field on Sunday. Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird, would be proud of him.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN. Email feedback to email@example.com.