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Orville Higgins | Giving No. 2 the cold shoulder

Published:Friday | September 16, 2016 | 9:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

For those who will be watching schoolboy football this year, one thing that will be noticeable is the absence of the number two from the jerseys of the players. This isn't by accident.

The body that runs schoolboy football, ISSA, told the manufacturer that jerseys for the 2016 Manning and daCosta Cup season should be bereft of the number two. The reason is simple. By and large, schoolboy footballers do not like to wear the number two because of the perceived gay connotation. ISSA is thereby saying it understands and accepts that the wearer of the number will not be comfortable and is, therefore, prepared to protect the schoolboys from the teasing and sometimes downright verbal onslaught to which they could be subjected.

 

SUPERSTITION

 

Let's not beat around the bush here. Rightly or wrongly, there is this association between homosexuality and the number two in Jamaica. It may be stupid, but that's not the issue here at all. There are many things that are stupid that don't stop otherwise rational people from believing in them. Some hotels don't have a 13th floor - the elevator goes from 12 to 14 for no other reason than the number 13 is considered unlucky.

That level of superstition has absolutely no basis in logic, but hoteliers can't change the prevailing public perception. They don't see that as their job at all. Most Christians have an aversion to the number 666, somehow considering it as the Mark of the Beast. This trepidation for the number 666 may be completely irrational, but for some Christians, it's not up for discussion. They see the number as a symbol of something with which they don't want to associate, and that is the end of that.

So, yes, the number two has come to be linked with homosexuality in Jamaica, whether we think it makes sense or not. Where this started is anybody's guess. Maybe it has to do with potty-training babies, where 'number one' meant one thing, meaning the toddler wanted to urinate, and 'number two' meant something else altogether. Terror Fabulous coined the famous line "Some boy a play number two" in his smash 1990s hit, and it popularised the notion that there is some intrinsic connection between the number two and men who have same-sex relationships.

The thing has got so deep in our psyche, certainly among some sections of our hard-core lower-income people, that they won't even count 'one, two, three, four anymore' - it is now 'one, few, three, four, and so on. Busy Signal told us plain: "Testing, one, three, me nah test two ... !" It sounds almost comical, but the message is clear.

The less you say the word 'two' is the more authentic and hard-core you appear in a certain sector of Jamaica's population. If you examine further, the need to appear to be as straight as possible in Jamaica has led to the disfiguration of a lot of other words. So Montego Bay now becomes 'Galtego Bay' and Manchester's official name among some ghettos is 'Galchester'.

None of this, of course, is lost on the impressionable schoolboy. He knows that in Jamaica, homosexuality is still frowned upon by the masses, and he will not want to do anything that appears to pin him down that way. So over the years, fewer and fewer schoolboy footballers want to be saddled with the burden of wearing the number two.

 

CAUSTIC TONGUE

 

Indeed, it is not just schoolboys who have this problem. One man called in to my radio show last week to say he was one of the organisers for an islandwide community football league and the number two is not very popular there either. Spectators at Jamaica's football games are known for their caustic tongues. I have been to games where the wearer of the number two, usually a defender, gets ribbed mercilessly when he makes mistakes, far more than his teammates are subjected to. Some of what is said to him can't be printed here.

Some say the schoolboys who don't want to wear the number are stupid. I disagree. Most of those who say that are adults who already have developed the backbone and confidence to deal with teasing. When you are a teenager, you are much less capable of handling the taunts of an unruly mob in a highly charged football environment. So, for me, ISSA did the right thing by not printing the number two en masse.

Where ISSA may have gone a little overboard is by printing in their rules that outfield players must wear the numbers 3 to 23. That may have been overkill. It didn't have to be a rule. It should have remained a preference for the schools.

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.