By Orville Higgins
Like a lot of Jamaicans, I am turned off by our politics. I have never been convinced that those given the mandate to govern our country, from both sides of the political fence, have done as well as they could have, and as a consequence, we are all living at a lower standard of living than we could have.
Part of the reason our politicians operate at such a mediocre level is that, by and large, the populace accepts it, and I keep wondering why is it that we mark our sportsmen much harder than our political leaders.
I have sat and watched many 'honourable' politicians given ministries to run for which their training and experience do not prepare them. They then give average performances, and we wonder why. They get those ministries because they are career politicians and not because they have any great competence in the particular field.
Sports is different. Can you imagine an experienced footballer being made captain or coach of a basketball team without prior basketball experience? It wouldn't happen. Sports ensures that people are placed in their position of strength, while politics in Jamaica often finds square pegs in round holes.
In Jamaica, high-calibre sports personalities know that they are perennially under the microscope, and the nation expects nothing less than their best every time. When Asafa went to the Olympics and finished fifth, he was ridiculed. People were genuinely upset, and it was as if he let the whole country down. When Melaine Walker inexplicably failed to make the final in last year's London Olympics, it was almost like national mourning. People were asking for some kind of enquiry.
Theodore Whitmore had a poor run as national coach in the last round of World Cup Qualifiers, and the public rose up in anger to the point where Whitmore has now become almost public enemy number one.
How many of our politicians, over the same time frame as these incidents, so stirred up public wrath? Why do we rile in disgust and anger at our sports people for so long, while the sins of politicians are mere nine-day wonders?
Even if we are upset with our politicians and vote them out, the resentment tends not to last as long as that which is reserved for our sportsmen. Indeed, the very man who got voted out one election may be voted back five years later, as if nothing happened.
Lawrence Rowe, for example, went to South Africa in the 1980s, and up to today, there are Jamaicans who will not forgive him, almost three decades later. Rowe, in some quarters, is still seen as persona non grata.
Why is that fair? Rowe didn't preside over an economy that is causing hardship to people. Rowe didn't run a country where the average Jamaican is worried sick about the state of crime. When you get right down to it, Rowe went to play some cricket, and he was vilified, while politicians who have caused us so much hardship can still walk around and be hailed as honourable men!
The irony is that sportsmen, generally, don't promise us anything. They strain every sinew to get the results to make us happy, but they are rarely into the business of telling us beforehand to get our hopes up. On the other hand, politics in Jamaica, to a large extent, is about promises. Vote for us, they tell us, and we guarantee you a better life, better schools, better health care, yadda-yadda-yadda. When these things do not come to pass, we do not hold them accountable to the same level as sportsmen.
When sportsmen fail on the field, they get a collective boo. We ramble on and on how 'dem nuh good', oftentimes creating great levels of stress among these athletes. Chris Gayle had a few failures recently and all of a sudden he faced immense public pressure. This at a time when the dollar is valued above J$100: US$1, and the politicians walk around business as usual.
We call for the non-performers in sports to be dropped, or for them to resign when they fail. And failure is usually after three or four bad games, and not for five years, as these politicians are accustomed to.
Why can't we hold the politicians to the same high standards? I say if we treat our political leaders as we treat our sports stars, Jamaica would be a better place.
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host at KLAS FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.