Orville Higgins | Throwing ‘Dads’ under the bus
The case with Jason Morgan continues to be hotly discussed by most people in track and field circles. I can understand why.
'Dads' is the kind of guy you can't dislike. He is very big on social media, constantly sending inspiring messages. He's a very positive individual who is very strong mentally. His determination to stick to his dream of becoming a world or Olympic champion is admirable.
I have spoken to him and was instantly drawn to his charismatic personality. Athletes have told me, and indeed have posted on social media, that he is the "vibes man" on the Jamaican team. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and his impassioned, tear-filled outburst on television some months ago endeared him to a lot of Jamaicans, athletes and otherwise. He is to be given a lot of credit for the Government deciding to assist athletes with a financial package monthly.
Jason finished fourth at the national trials and was not included in the Jamaican team to the Rio Olympics. He is not taking it lightly. He is, reportedly, taking it all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). This I find a little ironic. Going to CAS is not cheap. I've heard that it can cost up to US$50,000 for your case to be heard. For a man who was crying on TV for assistance a few months ago, this business of going to the CAS seems a little odd.
Jason has said he has done all he has been asked to do and that it's unfair that he has been left off the squad. I disagree. Yes, he is one of only two Jamaicans to have the qualifying distance for the Olympics, but that's only part of the story. One of the things he has been asked to do is to finish in the top three of the national trials, and this he has not done. Finishing fourth means that he can no longer get automatic selection and has to depend on the JAAA's discretion.
Where Morgan does have a right to feel aggrieved is the case of the long Jumper Aubrey Smith. Smith finished seventh in the trials but has been selected on the team on the basis that he has the qualifying distance, again one of only two people in Jamaica in his discipline. Morgan can reasonably ask, "How come I finished fourth and couldn't get a spot, while a man who finished seventh can get a spot when we are in similar situations, where only one other in our discipline has the qualifying mark?" It's a fair question.
The JAAA has been at pains to say it has nothing personal against Morgan, but that it was simply not convinced that he would ever do well at the big occasions. Morgan has a PR of 68-plus but hardly replicates that form in global competitions.
My sources at the JAAA told me that he was taken to Osaka at the World Championships in 2007 - this at the B standard qualifier when they were not duty-bound to take him. There he finished 28th out of 29 performers, throwing in the mid-50s. They tell me he was also very disappointing at the London Olympics, finishing 39th of 41 athletes, again throwing in the 50s. In Beijing last year, he was 22nd from 30, although this time, his throw was better, touching the 60 mark.
The JAAA is clearly saying that Morgan has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not a big-meet performer. It is clearly saying that he has got enough opportunities at these global championships and hasn't distinguished himself.
His recent Diamond League form shows him struggling to finish even in the top five, and he hasn't come anywhere close to his PR. At the Racers track meet, Morgan finished seventh of eight competitors and was not impressive.
Against this background, the JAAA has all right to be sceptical of Morgan's ability to rise to the occasion. Personally, I would take him, but maybe I'm just captivated by his larger-than-life persona and not looking at the hard, cold facts.
Some say the JAAA is being hard on him because he embarrassed the association when he made his revelations about the lack of help to athletes. Is he suffering for that? It's hard to say, but the truth is that Morgan has not done enough to demand a place or command attention. Whatever our feelings about Morgan, we ought not to knock the JAAA's decision.
• Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.