Jermaine McCalpin | Hapless harangue by hopeless Helps
I could not hold my pen or in this case my fingers from typing a response to what I will call ISSA's (de)fence concerning the eligibility of Kingston College athlete, Aryamanya Rodgers of Uganda.
I will start this précis with a disclaimer and a few disclosures. The disclaimer is simply that I have no personal or professional problem with journalists. I count many of them as friends and colleagues. I have no problem with any KC alumnus, avid supporter, seasonal waggonist or virulent propagandist.
For the purposes of full disclosure, unlike others like journalist H.G. Helps, (Don't hate me, Jamaica, Ugandan athlete pleads', Observer, March 27, 2017) who have defended their school of choice without showing their hand, I will declare that I am an alumnus of the distinguished Calabar High School and I am a member of the executive of the Old Boys' Association.
As a political scientist, I am aware that the mass media, and, in this case, newspapers have specific interests and proclivities. Newspapers have agendas, provide interpretation of events and, therefore, are not designed to be inevitably neutral in their reportage or writing. They also do symbolic manipulation.
THE REAL ISSUE
I would like to focus on the latter. Alternative facts traffickers in the media have taken focus away from the real issue, which centres on the need for ISSA to uphold its own rules and procedures. They have turned the focus on appealing to emotions and sentiments that we all know are very unreliable in public or private discourses.
From the beginning, Calabar's contention has been an appeal to ISSA. There was no official or unofficial statement or comment from the school and its stakeholders that vilified or targeted the young Aryamanya Rodgers for attacks. If the Observer's H.G. Helps needed help in understanding the content of Calabar's detailed press advisory, he should have solicited such. Instead, he writes an article that trafficks in alternative facts and reduces Calabar's principled stance as "feelings" because our principal was once interviewed for the post at KC.
Calabar cannot be held responsible for any negative fallout from this about-turn by ISSA.
The burden of perceived antagonism against the athlete falls exclusively on ISSA. The young athlete should be encouraged that adversity is what sweetens success, it is, after all, the implication of his school's creed. Hate is a strong and inflammatory word. I have not met anyone that has expressed hatred for young Rodgers. I certainly do not hate my brother from East Africa, nor the distinguished school he represents.
Had the roles been reversed and Calabar had gone prospecting in the gold mines of East Africa or anywhere in Jamaica for a star and he was deemed ineligible to participate and was later granted eligibility, the saintly and pious posture of KC would have swiftly transformed into a zealous and rabid objection. In this Lenten season, let us not forget Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees "that rules preached must be practised" (Matt 23:3).
APPEAL TO DIVISION
When one writes an article that is to pass the stamp of journalism, it must not be riddled with clear intent to evade the real issues or to appeal to parochialism and division: Calabar vs KC. We have been too schooled into antagonistic divisions of JLP vs PNP, uptown vs downtown, dancehall vs carnival.
Everyone is free to support their school, team, club but it must not be to the point of the contravention of rules and procedures. Neither Calabar nor KC are the only reasons I love Boys and Girls' Champs. It is watching our next generation of national athletes who will continue international success that makes the impact of Champs long-lasting. Yes, I cheer Green and Black, but it is never to the point of irrational, sycophantic words and actions.
In the end, Calabar's best response to all of this smearing of its principled stance is to maintain its mastery on the track and in the field. Calabar is the only school founded in the 20th century to have won Boys Champs in every decade since the 1930s. After all, five consecutive years of victory is no small feat in the modern era of Boys Champs when there is much more parity across high-school athletic programmes.
Whatever the outcome of this battle of the gladiators, our Calabar athletes remain true to our school song and will rise to the challenge as lions: "Come what will, good or ill, we will answer 'We are here.'" "Here, sir, here, sir," so we answer near or far. "Here, sir, here, sir," at the call of Calabar."
- Jermaine McCalpin is assistant professor and director of the African and African American studies programme at New Jersey City University. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.