By George Davis
The term 'critic', first used in the late 1500s, basically refers to a fault-finder, someone burdened with the responsibility of highlighting the flaws in the work of another.
The job of the critic is as easy as breathing. Yet, it's as difficult to master as reading the emotions of a woman. The particular difficulty lies in the critic ensuring that, at all times, he critiques the work of the person while resisting the temptation to criticise the person himself.
In this way, criticism becomes a skill to be honed and crafted through application and diligence alongside a single-minded focus on the manner in which the subject of the criticism is doing his or her job.
The greatest gift all the good critics possess is the ability to understand, discern and draw sound conclusions. In a word, perspicacity.
Part of the danger with criticism, however, is that because it appears so easy, many would-be critics end up engaging in a vituperative assessment rather than basic fault-finding.
I'm reminded of the responsibilities of a critic every time Asafa Powell fails. Admittedly, given the number of high-profile failures against his name, I've had numerous reminders in recent years. It seems every time he falters, there's fierce competition among his bashers as they mock, psychoanalyse, diagnose, prescribe, proscribe and sentence a man who has done nothing but burnish Jamaica's reputation as an athletic powerhouse.
Many have dismissed him as a wimp, saying he's the embodiment of a weak and cowardly person. Others are even more derisive, saying he should retire now and take up full-time modelling or race car driving. Still others say he cannot be regarded as a great sprinter, despite a record number of times under 10 seconds and past dominance of the Grand Prix circuit.
I've seen many bashers of Powell in my time. I've seen the obese schoolteacher who doesn't have the discipline to stick to his doctor-mandated weight-loss programme slate Powell for not having 'any heart'. I've seen him branded 'wutliss' by the police constable who, after 13 years in the force, has never seen his name on the sheet titled 'Promotions'.
I've seen Asafa described as a waste of time by company executives who've consistently failed to get the best out of some of their most talented employees. I'm forced to chuckle when some persons who can't even find two CXCs to rub together dismiss him as a 'big, thick eediat'.
ACCEPT HIM FOR WHO HE IS
The problem with the criticism of Powell lies in the fact that we are failing to accept people for what they are. It should be clear by now that he doesn't handle big occasions well. It should also be clear that when not fully fit, Powell's self-belief that he can beat world-class talent on the biggest stage also diminishes.
The moment we can accept that the situation with Powell is what it is, the faster we'll be able to move on from the disrespect heaped on a man who has never disgraced this country. We criticise him for not having the fighting spirit of, say, a Michael Frater, but we never blast Frater for not having Powell's speed.
We rudely suggest he change his coach, as if taking orders from a different technical director will do the trick. It's funny how we freely prescribe switching coaches as the cure for someone with a perceived mental deficit, even as we would never submit the same prescription for someone with a talent deficit.
We approach Powell's failures as if he's breaching some condition which dictates that great sporting talent must be accompanied by great mental strength. It's as if we've never known a brilliant student in high school or university who illuminates the coursework and tutorials, but who always seems to fall well short at final exams.
I would wager that Powell is even more frustrated at his failures than we are. I would suggest we appreciate what he has done for this country's sprinting reputation rather than seek to belittle his achievements simply because he lacks a major individual world title to his name.
George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.