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EDITORIAL - The shaming of Champs

Published:Tuesday | March 30, 2010 | 12:00 AM

We suspect that among the first things that Mr Herbert Nelson, the principal of Kingston College, did on Monday morning was to summon one of the members of the school's athletics team for a good ticking off. If Mr Nelson didn't, he should have.

Then, at school assembly, the principal should have spoken to all the students about what is acceptable behaviour for Kingston College students, how inappropriate behaviour diminishes the individual and the institution, and how bad behaviour can mar grand and noble occasions. Which is how we perceive the annual boys and girls' athletics championships, which concluded at the National Stadium last Saturday night: grand, beautiful and noble.

Indeed, the boys' competition has survived for 100 years, an achievement that is perhaps unparalleled in schoolboy athletics anywhere. Jamaicans, rightly, and with pride, celebrated the occasion.

Champs 100, and the girls' competition - which is itself more than half a century old - was, in that regard, an opportunity to demonstrate the genesis and depth of Jamaica's global athletics prowess. So, for those who came to observe, and cared to understand, these games offered a profound explanation of why the Bolts, the Powells, the Shelly-Ann Frasers or Veronica Campbells are not merely raw products of nature. They are the outcomes, too, of a fair bit of early nurturing.

Champs, in another way, is a vindication of ourselves; of our capacity to organise and to get things done. It is no small feat for mainly volunteers to ensure participation of hundreds of schools in scores of events and to conclude the games without significant hiccups.

There is beauty, too, the way Jamaicans, at almost any age, cling to the old school tie, turning up at Champs to offer support to their alma mater. And we were usually confident, and took pride in the presumption that whatever went on elsewhere, there was wholesomeness in the competition inside the stadium - on the track and in the field.

Competition in harmony

Champs, the prowess of our young athletes, lifted us above the the vulgarity and crassness that daily threaten to encase Jamaica. It made statements about the possibility of competition in harmony.

And here is where we feel that Mr Nelson's intervention was, and remains, critical. It is important that the breach-of-contract behaviour of a Kingston College athlete not pass unchallenged lest it become the norm.

The issue to which we refer is a boy having successfully completed an event, turning to the crowd with his right fist in the form of a gun and pretending to fire into the stands. This was an open and prideful embrace, by an athlete in a privileged position on his team, of the culture of the gun in a society where more than 1,600 people are murdered annually, most of them with illegal guns.

His action suggested that it is cool to 'back your nine' and fire randomly in celebration, regardless of the consequences. Guns, in the process, are mere accessories, demanding of little accountability and no responsibility.

This athlete, and others, must know that his behaviour was definitely 'uncool' and unbecoming of his position. With his behaviour, he diminished himself, his school and Champs.

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