Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Orville Higgins | Bad-mind people, leave Bolt alone!

Published:Saturday | September 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Usain Bolt reacts during training with the Central Coast Mariners football team in Newcastle, Australia, on Tuesday, August 21.

If I live to be as old as Methuselah, I will never quite understand Jamaican people. We are prone to take some highly irrational positions on some subjects that are nothing short of flabbergasting. The latest uproar in some quarters against Usain Bolt trying to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a professional footballer is bewildering to say the least.

Why on Earth would anyone have a problem with Bolt wanting to be a footballer? Indeed, why would anyone have an issue with Bolt deciding he wants to do ANYTHING? Would the backlash from certain sections be any different if Bolt had decided to play table tennis?

Would they be as caustic if Bolt had decided to play professional volleyball? I honestly don't think so.

I have found out that the most rabid critics of Bolt over his intention to turn pro in football have been people who are heavily biased towards football as a sport. Usually, these are people who wanted to be footballers themselves and may just be harbouring some ill will against Bolt because he is getting an opportunity that they wished they could have had.

It is not costing any of us one single dollar for Bolt to follow his dream. The way some of us are behaving would appear that Bolt was using Jamaican taxpayers' money to go chase his dream. Why are we bellyaching over this? We should be silently applauding the man for the willingness and bravery to follow his dream. What if Bolt was an illiterate who, after retiring from athletics at 32, decides he wants to fulfill a lifelong desire to be a lawyer?

Would we be as critical if he started taking reading lessons and hired special teachers to help him? Wouldn't we be all silently admiring him even if we secretly doubted that he would make it? A lot of us are where we are in life because we dared to believe and hope. Many of us have reached places many didn't expect us to reach.

It is the hope that eternally springs in the human breast that gives us dominion over all living things. Lower animals as a rule can't plan for life in five or 10 years. They don't carry hopes and inspirations for 30 years. That's the domain of humans. It should be illegal for us to talk Bolt down or try to stop him from doing something he so desperately wants to do.

So what if he flops? What if he is a horrible failure in football? Surely the sun would still come up the next day! There is this "fool fool" misconception that somehow Bolt's legacy as a sprinter will somehow be tainted if he fails as a footballer. How can anyone with a brain reason like this? Michael Jordan was very average as a baseball player, and yet when we come to discuss the greatest of all time in basketball, Jordan's name is perennially at the top of the list.

His ordinary stint in baseball has no bearing whatsoever on his status as a basketball player. If Serena Williams decides to retire and take up kick-boxing, how would that in any way diminish her achievements as a tennis player?

I have heard that if he can be training for football, then he should have stayed in track and field. What nonsense! The man has achieved everything that he wanted in athletics. There is nothing left for him to prove there.

None of what I have said speaks to the qualities of Bolt as a footballer. I have saved this for last because it really doesn't matter. Even if he had zero ability, he shouldn't have to deal with the criticism he is now facing. The truth, though, is that Bolt does have some ability. He will not be the modern-day PelÈ or Maradona. He will not be a star in one of the top leagues around the world. But anyone with an objective mind can see something in him. He can head, he kicks reasonably well with both feet, and if he cranks up his fitness to close to where it was before and put in the work, he can be decent.

Bolt has some raw attributes that could see him becoming an average player in one of the lower leagues in the world. He is a better player than some of us are crediting him for. I wouldn't put it past Bolt to leave some eggs on a few faces a few months from now.