AS MY last column for the year, I want to use the opportunity to look back at the highlights and disappointments in sports for me for the year 2012.
The performance of Jamaica's Olympic team was an obvious high point. Usain Bolt confirmed that not only was he the greatest sprinter that ever lived, but he may have done enough by now to be ranked among the greatest sportsmen of all time. Usain is not only beating people, he is in a different zone. At his best, he really is only competing against himself. Of everybody who has ever played sports, maybe only Don Bradman in cricket appeared so far away from his contemporaries.
The West Indies' win in the World T20 tournament was another special moment for me. This current generation of West Indian supporters have had precious little to cheer about in the last decade and a half, and to take a global title would have done a lot to keep the game energised at the base. The spin-off effect of beating the world in the T20 championship may not be seen now, but years down the road, it may well serve to be the catalyst that inspires another generation of West Indian boys to want to play cricket.
To flash back on West Indies cricket over the year, one also has to recognise the body of work of one Marlon Samuels. This year saw Marlon playing like a man possessed, and in a way, he may well have been. I had the opportunity to talk to Marlon during that unfortunate ban, and you could see that he was hurt. I didn't think he was guilty to begin with. I thought the so-called evidence was weak and the arguments used against him spurious at best. But having seen him during those two years, you could tell that he felt that a terrible injustice had been brought to bear against him. I am sure at some point he may have thought about giving up the game altogether. To his eternal credit, he didn't, and he took the opportunity to refine his game and toughen his resolve.
lessons beyond the field
Marlon's story is one of the reasons why I love sports. The lessons that sports can teach you are invaluable and sometimes can't be learnt within the confines of a formal classroom. Here is a man who wasn't just making runs. Here is a perfect example of the ability of the human spirit to triumph despite adversity. Here is a classic case of somebody turning a potential negative situation into a positive one. In many ways, that ban may have been the best thing to have happened to him.
In football, we plunged from the high of beating the United States of America, for the first time, and qualifying for the final stages of the Concacaf qualifiers to scoring only one goal in three games in the Caribbean Cup and effectively finishing last in the tournament. Because of this, the public is split virtually down the middle as to what to do with the beleaguered national coach, Theodore Whitmore. His supporters will tell you that the man has qualified us for the final stages of the World Cup, which no Jamaican has yet managed to do. They will also point to his back-to-back Caribbean titles.
what to do with whitmore?
His detractors will argue that the qualification for the hexagonal stage was just 'buck up', and that there should be no great excitement in beating the Caribbean. It appears that both sides of the argument have fairly equal merits, and sometimes you get the feeling that the football hierarchy is themselves unsure of how they want to proceed as far as Whitmore is concerned.
Finally, I cannot leave out 'Axeman' Walters. He is oozing ability, and maybe just as important in his field is the fact that he is an endearing personality. He now sits on top of the world in his division and you get the feeling that he will continue to dominate. Boxing was a dying sport in the island, and the 'Contender' series, as well as Walters' title fight, would have done a lot to make old-time boxing fans come out of the woodwork, while creating new ones. Let's hope 2013 will be just as exciting and rewarding on the field of play from a Jamaican perspective.
Orville Higgins is a sportscaster on KLAS FM. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.