Tony Becca | Good stroke, Minister Grange
Every now and again, someone in the seat of power has the courage to stand up and speak the truth, and two Saturday nights ago, the lady with the authority to spend the people's money in the Government's assistance for sports did just that.
Shortly after the coming of the Caribbean Premier League cricket tournament in 2013, a privately run tournament and a tournament that sells itself as playing cricket in true Caribbean style, the owners of the franchises, for example, the Jamaica Tallawahs, have been asking for financial help from the respective governments of the territories.
And the requests have come in the form of threats.
Although they select the team to represent the Jamaica Tallawahs, there have been threats of going elsewhere if the request is not met, and these threats were, no doubt, based on the huge popularity of the tournament, and according to the franchise owners, the vast number of tourists and money the tournament brings in annually to the country.
While they may be right in talking about tourists packing some of the countries and filling thousands of hotel rooms for the matches in the other islands, that is surely not so in Jamaica.
On top of it all, CPL saw the opportunity to make money off a T20 tournament played in the West Indies, they offered the West Indies cricket board a "little" money for the rights to play the tournament, promised the individual territories some help for the development of their domestic cricket, and instead of doing so, are now asking for money.
The Government subvention for sports development to the national federations is J$200 million annually distributed to some 40 federations. In 2015, the Government assisted the Jamaica Tallawahs with US$25,000. In 2017, it assisted them with US$35,000, and last year, the request was for a sum in excess of US$1 million or else.
Two Saturday nights ago, however, at the delayed annual awards dinner of the Melbourne Cricket Club, Minister Olivia Grange referred to the Government's effort to fund sports in Jamaica as being something "like cutting a small cake into many slices in an effort to try to make it stretch".
In such a situation, therefore, if J$200 million divided by 40 would be stretching things, the question must be asked, what would this money do for sports, if it was then divided by 40 plus one, with the one, a foreign one at that, getting more than Ja$130 million out of it?
After admitting that the Jamaica Tallawahs represent an "exciting development for bringing cricket back - getting our people out to matches and getting more young people interested in the game", that "they carry our country's name", and that they "receive support from the Jamaica cricket fans", Minister Grange went on to say, however, that they are not a national federation and do not benefit in the same way that the Jamaica Cricket Association receives an annual subvention from the Government.
To a ringing round of applause, Minister Grange echoed what many Jamaicans have been saying all along: "The Jamaica Tallawahs is a commercial venture. It is a business concerned with making profits."
After saying that she was, however, in discussions with the Tallawahs and hoped to find a way to give some support to them, she ended with: "We cannot find that kind of support. I have to be clear and upfront about that. Working with the private sector, we could find a way, so this evening, I make a special appeal to corporate Jamaica to come aboard with the Jamaica Tallawahs."
SLAP IN THE FACE
As The Gleaner's editorial said on Wednesday, January 16, however: "Any potential propping up of the Tallawahs would be a slap in the face of the anaemic sporting bodies.
"If Mr Kris Persaud (of Florida and owner of the Jamaica Tallawahs) thumbs his nose at any moderate support the Government offers his operation, he should shut the door - but leave Brand Jamaica on his way out."
Jamaica cannot, and should not, fill the pockets of a private investor, especially when Jamaica's sports is pleading for assistance.
From the mouths of ... .
Two Thursday mornings ago, I got into a taxi, said good morning, and then added, "Sabina Park".
The taxi driver looked at me and asked, "Are you Mr Tony Becca?"
When I said yes, he asked me why I was going to Sabina Park so early, and when I said, "Cricket", he started on a tirade during which he lambasted the board presidents, the clubs, and the players, calling the presidents and the boards a bunch of fools and the players a set of wasters.
"The presidents don't know what they are doing, and the players are no good," said the elderly driver.
On the following morning, Friday, I got into another taxi, from the same company, and I said, "Good morning, Sabina Park".
The taxi driver said, "Whey u going a Sabina so early fah, sah?", and when I said, "Cricket", he said, "Cricket? Dem still play cricket a Sabina?"
For the 20 minutes or so that it took to get to Sabina Park, I could not get in a word as the driver cursed everybody in cricket, from the presidents down to the players.
"The man dem too nuff. Dem gwaan like a dem own di cricket, and the players dem no good at all, yu know, sah.
"You know someting dem call star boy, sah? Well, star boy dem all in a movie. A dem people waan fi si. Cricket no have no star boy today. When Sobers, Kanhai, Foster, Rowe, Holding dem used to play, mi have fi go watch dem.
"All dem boy today want is de money fi buy pretty car fi show off to di young gal dem and sey dem play fi di Jamaica or the West Indies."
Finally, when the taxi turned into Sabina Park and headed for Kingston Club, the driver turned to me and asked: "Whe the gateman is?"
When I answered that admission was free, he replied: "Mi neva know, otherwise mi no would pass through sometimes?"