Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Hooking off the top edge

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Collie Smith
Grace Jackson
Merlene Ottey
Jamaica's first great batsman, George Headley.-File Photos


When I was a boy, I remember the older folks talking about a man they called "Maas George", about how great he was, and I remember how they loved him, or rather, how they hero-worshipped him.

George Headley was the first Jamaican great that I ever heard about, and as I moved on in years, I heard about Helsinki and Arthur Wint, Les Laing, Herb McKenley, and George Rhoden, and then Alfred Valentine.

Those names were like music to my ears. They were not American, English, or Australian. They were not names like Jesse Owens, Mal Whitfield, or Joe Louis, Len Hutton or Denis Compton, Don Bradman or Lindsay Hassett, or names which, for a long, long time, left me fuming with jealously, sometimes sorry for my lot.

Soon, however, the local names grew more and more, from stars like Collie Smith, Roy Gilchrist, Lawrence Rowe, Donald Quarrie, Michael McCallum, Michael Holding, Merlene Ottey, David Weller, Jeffrey Dujon, and Grace Jackson, to others such as Courtney Walsh, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and to Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man.

They were the world's best from little Jamaica, and my heart pumped with joy, as today, Jamaicans travel the world, going from place to place, beating whoever they come across, and in almost everything they attempt, including many of the sports once considered foreign to them.

Jamaica's sportsmen and sportswomen are so good, so great, that Jamaica, known as the sprint factory of the world, should be recognised, as small as it is, and for the time being at least, as the sports nation of the world.

Every Jamaican has a right to feel proud of this achievement, and they should, especially if patriotism burns in their chest, feel it incumbent on the nation to do everything in its power to give every Jamaican child the chance of reaching for the stars, for glory.

Regardless of the euphoria that achievement brings, however, that chance must rest with the country, and not necessarily with the government of the country, and this has nothing to do with government and sport, but with harsh reality.

It is true that Jamaica is a small country, and it is, for the time being, a poor country. It is true also that as a poor country, it must spend some of its scarce resources on things that are important to the country, things that lift the morale of the people, and things that make Jamaicans feel as good, or better, than the other man.

The psyche of the Jamaican is important, very important.

In doing that, however, the Government must remember their first duty is to the people, and the government's first duty is to serve the people, all the people, and that requirement means that their responsibility is to provide, as good as possible, the necessities for better living conditions - including houses, running water, etcetera, etcetera, health care - hospitals with proper staff and medicine, roads, security, and most importantly, education.

Jamaica is not as bad as some countries, and that is the truth. In fact, Jamaicans should be somewhat happy that Jamaica is their home.


Those who travel the length and breadth of this country, however, those who read the newspapers or listen to television and radio stations will notice the grief of so many Jamaicans who live in shacks, walk a mile or two to get a drop of water, and sometimes have nothing to eat.

And that is not all. There are also the people who do not go to school, who live without ever seeing a doctor, those who die because of the lack of health care, and those who continually sleep under the stars. They are all Jamaicans, Jamaicans who live in fear, with no one to care for them, and with nothing for which to live.

Jamaica is for Jamaicans.

The sad truth, however, is that some Jamaicans have, and some do not have. Those who do not have need the help of the State, and it just does not seem right that Jamaicans, especially those who live away from home, in first world countries, should fly around the world almost daily, live in hotel rooms, and eat well, all in the search of more glory in sports while there are Jamaicans at home dying for a crumb to fall.

Some of those who make it big in sports, all of them or most of them, with the support of Government or the private sector, also want the cash-strapped Government to break the rules and offer them concessions, or gifts, probably of land, that will mark them as heroes of the people.

The country should always say thanks to them for their achievements, always remembering that there is a subtle difference between a doctor and a nurse, a lawyer and a teacher, and a sportsman or sportswoman in the general scheme of things.

This country needs a lot of things to help the social order, some of it is widely known, and some of it is not. Every day, however, in the newspapers, on the television screens, and over the radio stations, we hear that millions of dollars are being spent to do something for sports, to build a stadium, to start an academy, to light up somewhere, or to send someone somewhere to participate.


Jamaica is in everything, and it is in everything to the extent that even if it cannot participate in things like Caribbean tournaments it always finds the money to attend world games - the ones that you do not have to qualify for.

It has become so popular to be involved, to host or travel, that the latest thing in sport is for sporting associations to plan to host an event, or to go somewhere, and then, a few days before the starting date, or before departure, there comes the news that there is no money.

Regardless of its previous stance on the issue, the Government, maybe for political reasons, maybe to save face, usually comes up with the money.

Dominance in sport is great, and the more dominance, the better. Sport, however, is sport, regardless of this age of professionalism, and sport must be secondary in the general scheme of things in any society and to any government. Sport must be treated as such, until it can pay its way, or until it can fund other important areas of the society.

Sport is great, achievement in sport is a big thing, all the money in sports does not come from the Government, and the dreams of a people should not be limited, neither should it be restricted to some and not to others.

Until such time as the wants of the people are met, or most of it, however, the Government can help, but only in a small way. Because of its importance to a healthy society, because of its importance in education, it can fund recreation sports, but it should have little to do with elite, professional sports.

Professional sports, professional sportsmen and sportswomen, with the help of the private sector, should look after themselves regardless of how much we love and admire those who bring us glory.