Tue | Nov 13, 2018

Protect Brand Athletics

Published:Sunday | September 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Dr Orville Taylor, Columnist

Every time I open my mouth, people seem to think that it is a gate or
door, and attempt to jump down my throat. Am I the only one who is
worried about defending home turf?

Despite allegations of xenophobia and blind patriotism, I'm not good at being anything else but Jamaican, and I will defend this little piece of land of lengths of wood and scarcity of water against all who want to sully its reputation or sell it out for pieces of silver.

In economics, we learn about comparative advantage and market share, especially when nations have unique commodities to trade.

History is fraught with examples of the powerful 'tekking disadvantage' of the less sophisticated, naïve, powerless or the ignorant. The Aztecs, who were invaded and overrun by Hernan Cortes in the early 1500s, had no idea just how valuable their shiny yellow-orange metal was worth. But as Spain made Mexico its own, this unequal exchange was the first part of the massive migration of wealth to the 'fatherland'.

Substance to legend

Although it does appear to be a folk tale, there is substance to the legend that Manhattan was bought from the Native Americans in 1626 for the value of 24 guilders worth of beads. After the way that they were eventually displaced, it is now a serious understatement that the Indians ought to have had more reservations about the sale.

As for us, has anyone ever asked what Jamaica has to offer the world that other countries do not have? And when we answer that question, the follow-up should be, 'What is its value, and can we afford to give it up or sell it out?' And if so, at what price? One can only sell off a national treasure once.

Thus, when non-Jamaicans had taken control of the Marley brand, we all backed his clan in bringing home the name and brand to this country. We were not as vigilant with ska, and now, of the scores of those bands, maybe only one or two originate from, or reside in Jamaica.

What has me showing signs of dysentery is the recent announcement that the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport is spreading wide its doors to Chinese nationals. Now, nothing is wrong with opening up academic programmes to foreigners, especially when there is reciprocity.


Maybe, we didn't notice, but the one thing that places us head and shoulders above the rest of the world is sprinting. We lost cricket and pace bowling to everybody. The Reggae Boyz, now ranked 100th in the world, are a shadow of the 1998 dream, and no cyclist has made a global final since 1980.

And no, it's not our genes. We have had the same gene pool since we first stepped off the Slaveflower. It's the evolution of our coaching in the last 15 years which has been the final piece of a developing puzzle.

The paradigm shift took place with the formation of MVP Track Club in 1999. Discovering esoteric methodologies, Stephen 'Frano' Francis was able to take 10.70 Asafa Powell to world record 9.77 in five years. He and Bruce James built the club with second-string runners. With an MBA, Frano understands piracy and copyright violations and knows which countries have perfected the art. That is why he keeps his cards close to his chest, although they would be better hid below his paunch.

It is also overlooked, but the second locus of coaching excellence is not Racers, but G.C. Foster. Racers has yet to demonstrate that it can take unspectacular athletes and make them world-class. Usain Bolt, Warren Weir, Yohan Blake and Kemar Bailey-Cole were all outstanding junior athletes. Legendary coach Glen Mills had superior raw material and he moulded well.

On the other hand, G.C. Foster/Sprintech does not have a battery of wunderkinde. Its flagship athlete, Anastasia Leroy, was a mere supporting actress in the mid-2000s Holmwood Technical epic starring Anneisha McLaughlin, Sonita Sutherland and Bobby-Gaye Wilkins. Yet, Leroy has steadily improved to enter the 50-second club in the 400 metres. Similarly, journeyman Rasheed Dwyer, a Racers reject who ran 22 seconds as a schoolboy, has now joined the elusive sub-20-second 200-metre posse.

Posting sub-20 for the 200 is more difficult than sub-10 for the 100 metres. While more than 90 men have run 9.-plus, only 51 have done 19.-plus. Justin Gatlin never did it until this year. Jamaica has 20 per cent of all sub-20s, but 12 per cent of the sub-10s.

Coach Maurice Wilson knows something that the Chinese want. I wonder, what price did G.C. Foster and the sports ministry sell it out for?

Maybe you missed it, but although Jamaica won most medals at the IAAF World Youth Championships last year, we gained no 100m silverware. Furthermore, it is the Chinese athlete, Youxue Mo, who won the men's 100 metres in a smart 10.35, which did not merely copy Michael O'Hara's then-leading 10.39, but improved it. Moreover, despite O'Hara's revenge gold medal in the 200 metres, Mo and Zhe Li both made the finals.

This, to me, feels like bauxite all over again. If we are not careful, we will lose our edge before we can say, "Ping!"

Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.