Follow The Trace | Enough of Ari
Controversy certainly sells, and, for sure, the swirling saga engulfing the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), Uganda-born Kingston College (KC) athlete Ari Rodgers, and defending under pressure boys' champions Calabar High has ignited even more interest in what already promises to be a supercompetitive and spectacular 2017 ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls' Championships.
It is almost surreal the way this situation has escalated to the point of it dominating almost all the pre-champs discussions. The media, in doing our job, have given widespread coverage to every micro-dynamic concerning the eligibility of this 14-year-old class two athlete. The subsequent decision by ISAA to grant Rodgers special exemption to compete, and the ensuing polarising effect it has had on the Kingston College and the Calabar fraternities, have seen this issue ballooning into an incredible soap opera.
One is tempted to forget that despite this being Champs, the biggest sporting event on the Jamaican sporting calendar, and the biggest and best event of its kind in the entire world, and despite all the perennial hype, champs is still an amateur high school event.
Ironically, it has been the adults involved in this process who have driven the controversy. It is the adult loyalists on either side of the issue who continue to broaden the divide by their often blind and irrational support for the purples' or the green and black' - the same adults who are supposed to be guiding the students along the righteous path of rational objectivity, balance and fair play.
While there are important points of principle driving the discussions surrounding this issue, Champs, as an institution, has always been bigger than any single individual. in the wider scheme of things, winning or losing champs ought not to be so critical to the lives of so many people, but it is.
There comes a time, though, when enough must be enough, enough mud-slinging and anger expressed. The venting process must end. Time to move on to the more important business of champs itself. Both the Calabar and KC families should move from anger mode and get set for the real spectacle. Rodgers or no Rodgers, this Champs will be a battle royal between these two powerhouses.
I am personally embarrassed by the fact that the rhetoric of the past several weeks has been dominated by the eligibility of a 14-year-old Ugandan distance runner who will not even be the biggest star or the brightest prospect on show. The young fellow, in his quiet moments, must be thinking to himself, "Wow! After living in Jamaica for a few months, I have become the most talked-about person in this country, these Jamaicans are quite silly," and who could blame him for having those thoughts.
For sure, ISSA made an unusual decision in response to an unusual situation driven by some extenuating circumstances, and again, quite rightly, questions of consistency and equity have been asked of the governing body, but things have definitely gone overboard. The level of polarising discourse that this issue has ignited is becoming unhealthy and is sending the wrong message.
Its approaching the level of petty, party political partisanship. It would be reasonable under normal circumstances to even suggest that we have had enough of this Ari Rodgers fiasco. It would also be reasonable to propose that Kingston College should, in the interest of transparency and fair play pull the young Ugandan from competing at Champs. On the other hand, Calabar would, under normal circumstances, be expected to extend the olive branch and let bygones be bygones. However, these are hardly normal circumstances and neither Calabar nor KC will relent. That is what makes them what they are.