Leon Bailey is undoubtedly the most successful player in the recent history of Jamaica’s football and there may be some truth to some of the ‘charges’ he recently levelled at the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), however, lambasting your national organization is a no-no.

I do not want to get into the wrongs or rights of the statements, however, the JFF’s history is replete with players of varying levels of professional experience complaining about some of the very same things Bailey seems to take umbrage with.

However, each time that a player has made his feelings public, I have thought to myself, there is a better way to do this.

I do not believe the JFF wants to get into a battle of words with a player and have rightly sought to remind Mr Bailey of his professional responsibilities with a ‘gag order’.

I put gag order in quotes because I believe that no such order will be given to Bailey, but that the JFF is attempting to publicly make it known that the organization would not be putting up with that kind of behaviour.

I have heard Mr Bailey’s agent, Craig Butler, in defence of his client, which is his job really, say he supports the statements and believes the player has a right to them.

I agree.

But controlling sports teams, especially national teams, is a funny thing.

It is not like running an organization with employees who have contracts and are firable, which once done legally, has very little impact on the organization, even in the case of a good employee.

Let us say, that the JFF reached out to Bailey quietly and asked him what the issues were and sought to find common ground.

Here is what I fear would happen.

Now, players in growing numbers start believing that they can just say what they feel, regardless of their platform when doing so.

That, just like the chopping and changing that Butler and Bailey speak about, will have a deleterious effect on team building.

For example, one can look at the French team that imploded at the 2010 World Cup under famous former French player, Raymond Domenech.

It is safe to say the players did not want Domenech leading them anymore and went through a sort of revolt which Zinedine Zidane, arguably the country’s greatest player, foreshadowing the implosion by saying the coach had lost the dressing room.

Theodore Whitmore is, as far as I am aware, respected by his players, but how long will that last if public criticisms of his knowledge and/or competence as a coach are questioned openly without a response?

If the JFF had not responded, Whitmore would be well on his way to losing that dressing room.

Playing for a coach means having the confidence that he knows what he is doing, even if you don’t agree with his methodologies.

A team is not the players and then the administration and coach, an addendum. The team is all of the above.

This means Whitmore is part of that team and one of the most important parts in the success of that team is trust.

You have to trust your coach and public comments disparaging his methods do not engender trust.

The JFF, on the other hand, have to fix the years of mistrust between themselves and players by earnestly reaching out to them. Letting them know if there are financial problems that make it difficult to pay them, if they are having trouble getting games, whatever is an issue that if not communicated properly, could be taken in the wrong way. In other words, the JFF needs to understand that it is part of the team as well and comments by president Michael Ricketts that the JFF cannot cause the team to be eliminated from World Cup qualifications suggests the head of the organization does not see himself as part of the team.

The JFF is part of the team, win, lose or draw.

Not being able to kick the ball into the goal or make a tackle that saves one has nothing to do with being part of the team and the JFF boss and all future ‘bosses’ need to begin to see themselves as part of the team.

That way, whatever the way forward, Jamaica’s football will tackle it as a team.

 

The image of a former West Indies Women’s team representative left to hobble around in pain for years because of an injury sustained while on national team duty is certainly enough to bring tears to your eyes.

My thoughts, of course, turn to former Barbados women’s team captain and Windies women all-rounder Shaquana Quintyne, who sustained a devastating knee injury during the regional team’s preparation for the 2017 Women’s World Cup.

Three years and four surgeries later the player is not only unable to return to the sport but is, if reports are to be believed, at times unable to walk due to excruciating pain.

First let me say, based on the evidence that has been made available so far, we must dismiss the notion that Cricket West Indies (CWI) has done nothing to help the young player.

No one disputes the fact that the regional cricket body paid for consultation and three separate knee surgeries sometime between 2017 and 2018, plus the requisite rehabilitation. 

With cruciate ligament surgeries ranging from anywhere between an estimated US$5,000 and US$15,000, the organisation has clearly spent a pretty penny.

If we are to believe CWI CEO Johnny Grave, and there is no reason we shouldn’t, then the organisation also deserves commendation for adding Quintyne to the Total and Permanent Disablement policy even though it came into existence after she was injured.

Despite all that, however, the fact remains that Quintyne is still not back on her feet. I don’t know what the overall prognosis was, and cruciate ligament injuries are known to be a serious issue, but with athletes known to require multiple surgeries and several specialists before things are made right, I’m not quite sure that all has been done to safeguard the future of Quintyne. 

In any case, she is 24 years old and was injured in the line of duty so to speak. If she is unable to continue her cricketing career, she should at the very least be able to lead a pain-free, or pain-minimized existence as she looks to take what must certainly be new, uncertain steps in her life.

The CWI might not have a contractual obligation to do so, but certainly, a moral one and continued assistance for the player would go a long way in sending the right message to current and future generations.

I listened to Grave speak eloquently and passionately about the organisation’s desire to repair relationships and care for players. It is indeed a very positive mindset to have.

It is a well-known fact that for years, in one way or the other, the major bone of contention between the regional cricket board and regional players has had to do with the fact that players, rightly or wrongly, believe they are often short-changed and abused by the board. They are of the opinion that a profit-making board does not care about their well-being. 

What better example than Quintyne’s case to show that any such narratives are things of the past and send a clear message to a new generation of players looking to give their all to regional cricket, ‘we will always take care of our own.’

The dim view taken of the board in such matters involving players is not just held by the players themselves, but many fans of the regional game as well, who are once again watching with keen eyes. There are some cases that your reputation and the ability to enhance it will always be worth more than a few dollars.

In some cases, football clubs, for instance, have been known to make significant investments in the health of the player without reaping a tangible reward. 

At 31-years-old, former Arsenal midfielder, Santi Carzola had to undergo as much as 10 surgeries on a troublesome ankle injury, which eventually nearly cost him his leg, and saw him spend three-years out of the game.

In 2017, despite the player having not appeared for the club for some time, Arsenal extended him a one-year contract in order to allow him the opportunity to fully recover. He never appeared for the club again, but sometimes it makes sense to be about more than just dollars.

The CWI clearly does not have Arsenal’s resources but shouldn’t be willing to give up on Quintyne, her health or future just yet.

For many sports fans, Mike Tyson has been the most dangerous fighter in heavyweight boxing history.

At the start of his career, he ferociously knocked out his first 19 opponents, 12 in the first round and 84% of them inside the first three. That conquered group may not have been challenging but the New Yorker’s cold-blooded demolition of them made a huge statement about where his career was heading.

Within 21 months of being a pro, Tyson would become the youngest World Heavyweight champion in history at 20 years and four months with a brutal two-round win over Jamaican Trevor Berbick in Las Vegas.

Tyson’s raging life of crests and troughs -- in and out of the ring -- includes a 1992 prison sentence and who knows what chapters are still to be written in his storied career.

Two separate Instagram posts this month showing surprisingly striking punching power and speed from the 53 year-old sent tongues wagging about the ex-champion’s possible return to the ring.

Tyson said he is getting into shape for some charity exhibition bouts but his other remarks that the Gods of war have “reawakened” him and “ignited” his ego “to go to war again” aren’t conjuring images in my mind of exhibition outings. He also said he feels “unstoppable now” and like he is young again.

Insiders are suggesting whatever charity engagements he speaks of are just a teaser to things more massive.

At the end of his most recent video, Tyson proclaimed "I'm back" but I am hoping he is not contemplating a serious return because the current crowd of top-flight heavyweights are big, powerful and tall and would be too much for an almost senior citizen Tyson.

It’s a no-brainer for me that Tyson should, since his desire is heightened, feel free to engage in exhibition bouts but he should spurn any temptation to tackle top-10 men and champions. History is replete with great heavyweight names suffering humiliating defeats during protracted careers.

Watching a run-of-the-mill Berbick in December 1981 dominate Muhammad Ali in “The Greatest’s” last fight at age 39 in Nassau and Tyson savagely extinguishing a genuinely solid but fading 38 year-old Larry Holmes in Atlantic City in January 1988 were just two of many such sad moments in boxing history for me. Tyson has already given us a few of those flashes with three losses in his last four fights and I don’t wish to see anymore.

Big George Foreman, who returned to boxing as a 38-year-old in 1987 after a 10-year retirement and claimed WBA and IBF world titles, is shockingly endorsing a serious comeback for Tyson.

After watching Tyson’s sharpness and intensity in the video posts, Foreman suggests Tyson looks like he has “turned the clock back at least 20 years” and declared him fully capable of becoming a top contender again if he commits to training and “dedicates himself to that for about 10 months”.

Foreman’s pronouncements though are partly an illustration of the deep respect and rating he has for Tyson. Decades later, Foreman admits to the fear he had for “Iron Mike” as he stayed away from any clash with the Brooklyn native while they were active at the same time during the 1990s. Foreman labelled Tyson a “nightmare” and a “monster” that he wanted no part of.

Now Foreman seems to be encouraging Tyson to re-enact a part of boxing history that he Foreman starred in, his remarkable comeback from 10 years in retirement to be crowned the oldest heavyweight champion ever at 45 years old.

Tyson doing a Foreman though is highly improbable for several reasons. Tyson is 53 years old, not the 38 that Big George started his comeback at. Tyson has been out of the ring for 15 years, five years longer than Foreman was dormant, and at 6’ 4” and over 250 pounds, Foreman – though lumbering and lacking speed -- often used his overwhelming size to manhandle his smaller opponents.

Tyson is a short heavyweight at only 5’ 10” and his advancing years would have diminished many other assets he had used in his prime to offset his physical deficits.

I simply cannot side with Foreman’s take on this proposed Tyson “comeback” even though I have a very healthy respect for Foreman’s understanding of Tyson. He has been right, prophetic even, about so many things regarding “Iron” Mike including his prediction during his first reign as champion that women would be the downfall of Tyson.

Of course, Tyson was soon after Foreman’s forecast, mentally derailed by his highly publicized calamitous marriage with actor Robin Givens that ended in divorce within two years in 1989. A few years later in 1992, Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison for raping 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington.

Muhammad Ali is widely regarded as heavyweight boxing’s greatest ever, but Tyson at his violent best could probably have beaten him and every other heavyweight in history.

Ali’s unquestionable craft, multi-dimensional skills and confidence would probably have served him well in a Tyson clash. He advertised those qualities in clinically cutting down other frightening punchers like Foreman and Sonny Liston. Liston and Foreman were like massive dangerous beasts who boxers were afraid of. Ali wasn’t scared and if he was he didn’t show it and knocked them both out. Tyson was also a beast of a fighter but with bullet-like hand speed that Liston and Foreman never had.

A lot is being said about Tyson’s changed lifestyle, no drugs, a plant-based diet and his physical conditioning completely reversed from the man who had bulged from a regular fight weight of 220 pounds to over 350 pounds after retirement 11 years ago.

Ex-champions Oscar De La Hoya and Jeff Fenech have said in the past week that this 53-year-old could easily measure up to the current top heavyweights, Fenech even suggested that Tyson – with six weeks training -- would beat current WBC World No.2 Deontay Wilder by knockout.

Insiders believe Tyson is significantly better today than the last few years of his career 2003 to 2005 when he lost to Danny Williams and Kevin McBride. He had better be if he is serious about a comeback because the mediocre Irishman McBride, who stopped him in his last fight in June 2005, would not have beaten the real Mike Tyson even if the American was blindfolded and had one arm strapped to his body.

If a pitiful 6th-round loss to a less than second-rate McBride was what Tyson gave me 15 years ago, what extraordinary transformation can we expect as he approaches his 54th birthday in a few weeks?

Tyson’s recent sparring video honestly looks dazzling and extraordinary for his age. His trainer Rafael Cordeiro swears he is hitting the training pads with the same speed and power as guys 21 and 22 years old but we have to be real, that “Baddest man on the planet” disappeared more than 20 years ago and he isn’t coming back.

It has been about two months now since we have seen any live sport anywhere. Football, cricket, track and field, basketball, everything has ground to a halt as the world battles this pandemic in pretty much the same way it dealt with the Spanish Flu, just about 100 years ago.

NBA great turned noted basketball pundit Charles Barkley recently named basketball legend Michael Jordan and golfer Tiger Woods as the two greatest athletes he has seen in his lifetime.  Surely, he has never tuned in to track and field to witness the exploits of Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt.

Of course, at first glance, I chalked up Barkley’s comments to the long-extolled values of ‘America first’, commonplace for USA sporting analysts and popular in that arena long before President Donald Trump weaponized the ideology to disastrous effect. 

After all, it is routine for the US to refer to its national sporting champions as world champions, despite playing the competition only within the country’s borders and excluding other contenders around the globe.

Resisting the urge to completely dismiss the observance as humdrum, overly exuberant nationalist fervour, I decided I took a closer look.  It’s a lot closer than you would think.

There is often a tendency to try to forget the greatness of Tiger by looking at the player’s recent injury issues and scandal-hit career, forgetting that at his best Tiger was one of the most dominant players to ever play a sport.

For starters, at the age of 20, Woods became the first man to win three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles. He was the youngest to win the Masters, the fastest ever to ascend to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings and, at 24, the youngest to win the career Grand Slam.

In addition, he held on to the No. 1 ranking for 281 consecutive weeks, which is to say five-plus years. His 82 PGA Tour wins has him tied with Sam Snead for the most ever and nine ahead another legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus.  Tiger's 15 major titles leave him three behind Nicklaus but he is no longer a sure bet to break that record.  For some, this means he might never be the greatest golfer, but let's leave that argument for the time being. 

In addition to his remarkable achievements, Tiger’s propensity to always shine when the lights were brightest made the game of golf sexy.  From massive sponsorship deals to a major increase in prize money, he revolutionized the game.

But, without taking anything away anything from Tiger, he still doesn’t quite measure up to the legend of Bolt.

 In a sport like track and field where dominance often seems to barely last longer than the 10-second dash to the line, Bolt’s near-decade-long supremacy is unprecedented.

The sprinter’s haul of 14 World Championships (11 gold), 8 Olympic Games medals combined with three earth-shattering world records speaks volumes for themselves.  But, in a sport where the winner is defined by mere fractions of a second, Bolt’s four-year 45 race winning streak over 100m is a feat in and of itself.  His longest undefeated streak in the 200 m was in 17 finals, lasting from 12 June 2008 to 3 September 2011.  There is an endless number of statistics that could be added to the pile on this comparison but that isn’t really the point.   

The simple fact of the matter is that Bolt, like Jordan, had in the same vein a potently combined aura of invincibility and transcendental quality that Tiger does not.

 Outside of the US, little boys and girls around the globe took up their basketballs and dreamt of being like Mike.  On tracks around the world, no matter what the surface, after seeing or hearing of his surreal Olympic feats, kids took off running as they fantasized about being like Bolt.  Tiger would, of course, have influenced some to play golf but to imagine a level of influence anywhere close to the other two is surely a bridge too far.

Both the symbols of Bolt and Jordan, the 'Jumpman' and lighting Bolt, after all, became trademarks associated with triumph, conquest, excellence, and unquestionable status as the ultimate competitor.  I’m not sure the same could be said about Tiger's swingman. Oh wait, there is no swingman.

 

Germany are set to restart their Bundesliga campaign and other European countries are looking to follow suit earliest.

The England and Wales Cricket Board, Cricket Australia, are actively looking at ways to restart cricket in their countries. Cricket West Indies have said nothing, except to say salaries might be cut in the near future.

Smaller cricket nations like the West Indies and Bangladesh, as you would imagine, are closer to the ground in terms of how much of a cushion they have for (unimaginable) eventualities like COVID-19.

I can understand the region taking a hit, but what I can’t understand, is how quiet the governing body for the sport here has been.

Chief Executive Officer, Johnny Grave, has made a couple of statements, one in respect to the Women’s cricket and how precarious postponements and cancellations make the sport in the region, and another about the salaries it pays out to regional players and the potential for reduction.

I get that. I get both statements. What I haven’t heard from Grave and his president Ricky Skerritt, is what, if any, strategies are being put in place for the regional game’s recovery?

And the truth is, there may be no answer to this, however, I want to know that Cricket West Indies have not just folded their hands in a time of crisis.

I have some ideas, and they may all be terrible ideas, but at the very least, I have them.

Leaders at a time like this must show their mettle.

In Jamaica, the hardest-hit Caribbean country by COVID-19, their leaders have made public, on a day-to-day basis, their strategy for fighting the spread of the disease and strategies to help those impacted.

When schools closed, there was an immediate response, with the government posting online material for primary and secondary-level education to continue.

It is too early to tell if these things work or are working, but I see the effort.

The Heads of State in the region, brought together a team, the Committee on Governance of West Indies Cricket, commissioned a report for the running of West Indies Cricket because they had said the organization, then called the West Indies Cricket Board, had fallen away badly.

The Heads of State need to now be putting their heads together to, again, ensure the survival of West Indies Cricket, they too have been silent.

Once as a young man, I faced a gunman and I had every opportunity to make good my escape, but at the time, I had never been faced with my own mortality before and I froze.

That is not likely to happen again, because having faced my mortality, I am less afraid today.

The same should be true of West Indies Cricket and its leaders. I can understand it freezing out of fear after its calamitous free-fall over the last 25 years, but now, having begun to arrest the slide, we must be bold.

Here’s one of my ideas.

Why don’t we agree to pick a country yet to be impacted or significantly impacted by the Coronavirus, have each territory pick teams, bring those teams to that island, quarantine them for 14 days, while doing the requisite Testing, put them up in a sterile location, hotels don’t have guests these days with all the lockdowns, arrange transportation to and from a venue already made sterile, do the same with a broadcaster (say SportsMax as a shameless plug), and sell the rights to a tournament?

There is no other cricket being played anywhere, so I doubt you’ll have a problem selling the only live content out there.

Like I said, could be a bad idea and maybe I’m not taking into consideration enough variables.

However, I believe sitting on your hands during this time is worse.

Last week, Jamaica was flooded with much-needed good news regarding a number of its top high-school athletes accepting scholarships to a number of great universities in the United States.

The Tallawahs management this week rejected Chris Gayle’s attack on them over his exit from the CPL franchise but the Jamaica-based entity is doomed to failure if the fans don’t buy their story.

Gayle labelled Assistant Coach Ramnaresh Sarwan a "snake", "vindictive" and "despicable" as he ripped into retired Guyana and West Indies batsman and the “politics” he said triggered his departure from the Tallawahs.

On the ropes after Gayle’s verbal blows, the Tallawahs issued a terse press release that was too tame to be taken seriously, then stiff jabs by Andre Russell and Sarwan’s Gayle rebuttal 24 hours later hurled the issue into more confusion.

The Tallawahs top brass says omitting Gayle from the Tallawahs 2020 CPL roster was made purely on business and cricketing reasoning but the “business” reasoning seems seriously flawed.

Sabina Park attendance is critical to the franchise’s commercial success and we’ve already seen how unattractive a Gayle-less Tallawahs is to Jamaican fans. Not to mention the possibility of a calculated match boycott in solidarity over any perceived disrespect of a local star, as we’ve seen before in Caribbean cricket.

In April 1992, Barbadians pointedly shunned the historic one-off Test at Kensington Oval against South Africa because an anticipated debut was not given to local boy Anderson Cummins, who at that time enjoyed probably a mere 5% of the immense popularity Chris Gayle commands in Jamaica.

Gayle was visibly hurt in his YouTube outburst as he lashed the Tallawahs and Sarwan.

It was, to me, an unprofessional display by a giant in modern-day cricket but the new age of communicating with fans probably made it easy for him to go that route. His rant though, not only badly tainted his ex-West Indies teammate Sarwan but also soiled Chris Gayle and cricket’s image.

The Jamaica Tallawahs were – based on Gayle’s account – hugely at fault for not communicating with him honestly that they weren’t interested in retaining him for the 2020 season and absolutely nothing in the Tallawahs’ press release refuted Gayle’s charge that CEO Jeff Miller and Owner Krish Persaud failed to inform him that he was not in their plans for the upcoming season.

Gayle, now 40 years old, felt betrayed by an organization that gave him their word and went back on it. Gayle made only a passing mention of this, but it’s also instructive that Miller chose to speak directly with Gayle instead of the standard route of going through his agent.

It is very easy for me to deduce that the Tallawahs’ request – according to Gayle – to take not one or two but three pay cuts, may have been a strategy to frustrate him away from the franchise since they were not brave enough to confront the big-hitting superstar-about releasing him from the deal.

I understood fully the Tallawahs being “disappointed” over the way Gayle went public and I agree with their position to “much rather have had these discussions in private” but that is under normal circumstances and clearly Gayle did not consider the circumstances normal. He felt he was dealing with a group that he could no longer trust.

Did this Jamaican franchise ever consider that Gayle would have needed time to pursue other options if he knew he wasn’t with them? It was on deadline day that Gayle said he was called, not by the Tallawahs, but by a CPL official who did not see his name on the list!

Because of Gayle’s monumental record as a T20 batting star and crowd puller, the St Lucia Zouks snapped him up immediately. Gayle could have been left out-of-contract for the 2020 season because of the Tallawahs’ non-communication.

I am not interested at this point in addressing Gayle’s scathing and toxic references to his “former” friend Sarwan, nor the rebuttal coming from the 39-year-old Guyanese that he had no part in “the decision or the decision-making process” in not retaining Gayle. A lot was said in the narrative from both men and at this stage, it’s one man’s word against the other. Both very wounded by actions of the other. Cricket lost in that exchange.

I became aware very early in my career as a broadcast journalist that while fans worship sporting heroes because of the unbridled joy they generate, these successful men and women on the field of play are human beings like us.

They have imperfections, character weaknesses and limitations that adoring fans will hastily gloss over in standing behind them in times of controversy.

The Jamaica Tallawahs may have been in a position regarding Gayle as some Big Bash and IPL franchises had reached, where his stocks had declined over time, so Gayle being at a crossroad in franchise T20 cricket is not new. He had not been a part of Australia’s Big Bash since 2016 and his IPL standing had been shaken ahead of the 2018 season.

Gayle’s career had been highlighted by some tremendous seasons with Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, including 2012 when he topped the IPL’s batting charts with 733 runs at an awesome 61.80 average and 2013 when he averaged 59.0. But after two moderate seasons, 2016 and 2017, when he averaged a mere 22.7 and 22.2, RCB were no longer interested and he almost went unsold ahead of the 2018 IPL campaign.

The King’s XI Punjab bought him and he showed in 2019 he still had shots to fire with a 40.83 average.

As a privately owned franchise, The Jamaica Tallawahs has to make its own decisions. Under Chris Gayle’s leadership last year, the team played very poorly and finished last with eight defeats in their 10 games. He averaged a moderate 24.30 and his 243-run tally was No.2 on the Tallawahs batting list behind the New Zealander Glen Phillips (374).

By Gayle’s own admission, there was turmoil in the camp as referenced in his caustic YouTube address admitting that he “flipped” in a “very heated meeting” ahead of the last CPL game that “almost got physical”, clear signs there of a dysfunctional team setting. The scale of the clash with Gayle suggesting players were “making fun of the Universe Boss” and mocking him “in front of the younger players” could be interpreted as team damage that’s irreparable.

So, If the Jamaica Tallawahs managers believe that going forward without Gayle is a step toward rebuilding, it is their right, but it should have been done professionally, certainly more skillfully given what Gayle represents to Jamaican cricket fans.

The current world leader in T20 cricket Andre Russell has also jumped in, accusing the Tallawahs of poor communication while angrily announcing he is quitting the franchise after the upcoming season scheduled to start in August.

The CPL has been sold to the Caribbean public as an event with huge economic benefits potentially to the territories, but the truth is that team owners have been struggling over the years and the Tallawahs are heading for even tougher times.

This is not to suggest that the Tallawahs franchise cannot flourish without Gayle because he would have to go at some point, but Gayle’s absence has negatively affected CPL attendance at Sabina Park in the past and that effect would be escalated if the fan perception is that the T20 batting Phenom was disrespected by the Tallawahs owners and management.

I have long since remonstrated against the US colleges’ ‘abuse’ of athletes.

I am, of course, not talking about the rigours athletes go through trying to keep their GPAs while being asked to run at track meets week in, week out and burning out before big events like World Championships and Olympic Games. That is for another discussion.

I am talking about the massive amounts of money colleges earn on the names of their sports stars without ever having to shell out any money to these athletes who must make do with whatever their parents can scrape together or side jobs will allow. All this while being asked to train for long hours, in addition to making heads or tails of their classes.

It has long been the practice of the United States Collegiate governing body, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to put an athlete in the class of professional if he were to earn from his sporting endeavours and therefore be barred from participating in college sport.

On the face of it, I get it. Doing that should limit corruption from private entities, agents and the like, from ‘buying athletes’ and keep the college experience clean.

However, the truth is, the laws around professional athletes versus amateur athletes have meant that for some, they are forced to choose sport over education, like the high-school basketball star who goes straight to the NBA, or the first-year linebacker who chooses to forego the rest of his university education for the NFL.

That ‘some’ who I speak of are the lucky ones. Because the truth is, there are many others who get injured along the way or simply do not make the transition after college and they will never earn a dollar from the sport they have given quite a bit to.

College sport in the US is big business. The coaches earn multiples of millions per year, the schools earn millions from merchandising and ticket sales. But the student-athletes who they earn on the backs of, make nothing. A wholly exploitative situation if you ask me.

On the quiet, when a poor student from a rural community in the United States, or even the Caribbean, is wanted by a number of schools, boosters will offer ‘gifts’ to the parents to make their college the choice.

Can you imagine, a poor mother living in a one-room dwelling getting an upgraded house, a car, or even cash to feed the rest of her family? I would have loved to have been able to do that (talent aside) for my parents when a college came calling.

But in order to do that, you have to keep quiet about it. As if it weren’t your talent that was being courted. If it were ever found out, you would lose it all and you might even find yourself in legal troubles.

That hasn’t changed, but the NCAA’s decision to allow athletes to earn from the use of their image and likeness is a step in the right direction.

Now, maybe some of the big bucks the colleges and coaches and everybody else involved in collegiate sport seems to make, can go back to the people who actually earn it.

The Board of Governors of the NCAA met on the issue this week and agreed that athletes should be allowed to receive compensation for third-party endorsements “both related and separate from athletics.”

In addition, athletes can receive payment for other opportunities that come with stardom. “Social media, businesses they have started and personal appearances” make the list of areas in which athletes are now ‘allowed’ to earn while maintaining their amateur status.

Still, payment will not come from universities for this stardom and I believe that is where the rule-change falls short.

The schools make a killing off their athletes and should give back. Again, I get it, the idea is to make for a level playing field where wealthy schools don’t end up with all the great athletes.

But doesn’t that happen anyway?

T20 cricket will not go away like some purists of cricket have expected. It’s faster, more intense, and for the average watcher, all-a-round more entertaining.

The biggest proponent of this big-hitting genre of the game has been the West Indies’ very own Christopher Henry Gayle.

Gayle has been dominant, setting benchmarks in almost every aspect of batsmanship in the T20 game with heirs to the throne well off the pace.

To date, the big left-hander has been at this T20 game for 15 years.

In those 15 years, his contribution to the growth of the sport has been immense.

Along the way, he has played in 404 games, scored 13,296 runs, smashed 22 centuries, 82 half-centuries and boasts a healthy strike rate of 146.94.

There is nobody close to that kind of body of work and Gayle should be proud.

He’s lasted longer than many thought he would or could and he may have more big innings left in him.

In fact, his last outing for the Chattogram Challengers in the Bangladesh Premier League including a typically destructive 64.

But the truth is, the Universe Boss is ageing and while runs have still come they are few and far between.

I was one of the few who felt Gayle should have been allowed more Test cricket before that option was taken off the table.

I believed that Gayle’s late, but growing maturity, meant he would have been dominant in Test cricket, just as he has been over the last 15 years in T20s, but that horse has gone through the gate and alas, there is nothing more for Gayle to prove.

I learned with deep concern earlier this week that Gayle would be turning out for the St Lucia Zouks in the Hero Caribbean Premier League and while that means I will get to see him live whenever the CPL gets the go-ahead to start, I can’t help but feel I will be disappointed.

The Chris Gayle who I saw at the last CPL, while still a most-impressive cricketer, is nowhere near the man I had been seeing over the last 15 or so years.

There was still the worry for the opposition that he would get off and they would have hell to pay, but there seemed some unsaid secret. The whispers said, ‘yeah he’s dangerous, but he’s not likely to be today’.

I do not want to abide by that. I do not want to see a man I considered a hero in the wake of the retirement of absolute legends like Brian Charles Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, be reduced to being a mere mortal.

His T20 average of 38.20 is quite brilliant, but it used to be higher.

Bowlers are still afraid of him, but they used to be more scared.

Teams used to plan for him as the key to beating a team he played on, they still do but now bank on success.

There has been much talk of Gayle retiring since he seemed to suggest he would do just that after his last World Cup in 2019. It hasn’t happened and while I am glad to have seen some more of this most explosive of enigmas, I am also saddened because I wanted him to go out at the top of his game.

I did not want to see a day when an available Chris Gayle does not make a West Indies T20 side. He is too good a player for that. Yet that day has come.

Two seasons ago, I watched at Sabina Park as Oshane Thomas bowled a quick length ball that crashed into Gayle’s pads. It was the first ball of the evening and my hero, though he played for the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots at the time, was sent packing, beaten for pace.

Gayle is blessed with great hand-eye coordination, but Thomas’ delivery said to me, that is going.

There was a time it didn’t matter how quick you were. Gayle would find a way to hit you to all parts of the ground. That day is past.

Now there have been a number of athletes who have waited too long to call it a day for varying reasons.

For some, they needed those last few paychecks to guarantee their futures, while others just loved the game they had dedicated their whole lives to so much, that walking away was like kicking a heroin habit, nigh on impossible.

I believe Gayle falls into the latter of the two categories. Financial future already secure, I believe Gayle is playing on for the love of the game.

But maybe he should consider something else as well. Maybe he should consider his legacy and his health.

I’ve watched Gayle unable to train because of a nagging back problem. I saw him chase down a cricket ball at Sabina Park and not be able to come out to bat until much later in the innings.

His diminishing ability and health hurts his image but it also hurts his team. Already Gayle’s stocks around the world have plummeted and he is not so sought after anymore.

Before it gets to the stage where he is not wanted by anybody, I ask that my hero calls it a day.

I ask that Cricket West Indies (CWI), as soon as it is safe to do so, give the Universe Boss, a fitting send-off.

Last week I looked at the trends linking timespans between the great eras of Jamaican male sprinting.

Meanwhile, the island’s women were more consistent but, alas, to the Jamaican public, sprinting success only seems to matter when the men do well.

When Jamaica’s men have struggled to win medals, their women – Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert, Sandie Richards, Merlene Fraser, Juliet Campbell, Beverley McDonald, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson, Kerron Stewart, Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, kept the country’s flag flying by winning medals.

However, these days I worry about what I believe is happening with a lot of Jamaica’s emerging male and female sprinters who seem unable to navigate the gap between their amateur status and the professional ranks.

There are several reasons why I believe this is happening, injury being one of the major factors, but today I will focus on what I believe to be another.

It was the 18thcentury American political activist Thomas Paine who said:

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble that can gather strength from distress and grow.”

It is a lesson many Jamaican youngsters would do well to learn.

After Usain Bolt blew up in 2008 with three gold medals and three world records in Beijing, many aspiring young athletes were inspired to be like him. They were coming out of the woodwork by the dozens. High-school track and field coaches experienced a boon in talent as they had never experienced before.

Along with the emergence of new talent came global sponsors seeking to snap up the next star early and cheaply.

After all, Bolt was signed early and cheaply by his sponsors who benefitted greatly as he rocketed to stardom. This came on the heels of a period of uncertainty when it seemed as if he was going to be yet another casualty of a system that many argue asks too much too soon of our high-school athletes.

However, when Bolt and company stunned the Commonwealth in 2006 in Melbourne and then the world two years later, there seemed to be a mad rush on to sign any child in the Jamaican high school system that displayed a modicum of talent.

Kids were signing contracts left, right and centre and 12 years later, it is almost embarrassing to see how few have successfully transitioned to the senior ranks.

Mind you, there are good and bad sides to what was happening.

On the good side, a few Jamaican kids from humble backgrounds were able to secure small contracts that allowed them to ‘eat’ and maintain a fairly decent lifestyle as they prepared to launch into professional track and field.

When you have nothing and someone offers you something more, it is easy to lose perspective. A few kids and their families were able to secure homes, a nice car, and a little money in the bank.

However, in too many instances all this seemed to do was take away the hunger that is oftentimes necessary to keep athletes focused on what the real goal is. Yes, a few thousand US dollars can make life better but imagine what could be, if you actually won something or became the best in the world.

Alas, for too many kids, the morsel seemed to be enough.

I remember attending the signing ceremony of a particular youngster who had promised so much during his years in high school. I believe the value of the contract was somewhere in the six figures, a life-changing amount of money for someone who before had relatively very little.

I was truly happy for the youngster. However, months later all I saw from the athlete was the purchase of a shiny new car and a frequency on the club circuit in New Kingston. Meanwhile, performances on the track progressively got worse.

Unfortunately, this has become the norm for too many.

Putting the carrot before the horse can be a good thing. However, giving the horse the carrot before the journey has even begun can have disastrous consequences.

As Paine suggests, working hard and making sacrifices tend to make any reward a lot more meaningful. You are less likely to take that reward for granted. However, when fortune literally falls into your lap when you have accomplished nothing, it can make you feel a bit entitled.

I think Michael Frater, the 2005 World 100m silver medallist, a man who has run the 100m dash in 9.88 seconds, was onto something when he spoke to the media recently about why some of Jamaica’s youngsters are failing to make the grade.

“They feel like it's a sense of entitlement where they feel they are just going out there and other athletes are going to roll over and let them win, and that's not the case,” Frater said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

“They weren't hungry enough to go out there and get it. You have to go out and fight for what you want.”

It is hard to fight for what you want when things come too easy. Too many of these kids now believe all they have to do is run fast in high school and things will come easy after. That only happens for a few.

People see Bolt and his success, the flashy cars and the lavish lifestyle and forget how he got there. It took four years of blood, sweat and tears, disappointment and getting his butt handed to him on the track before he finally realised what was required to be the best in the world.

The lesson seems to have fallen onto deaf ears.

Many would do well to learn that lesson… or to borrow a Jamaican phrase, “If yuh waah good, yuh nose haffi run.”

 

 

Hey guys, I’m coming to you with a little request. Please stop pretending to be a fan???!!! The grass is green over here too— I promise.

Let me tell you a story of how I quit faking it.

There was a time when I forced myself into the athletic space. It was the most embarrassing experience of my life (thus far).

When I was 11, I struggled with athletics. There I was, lanky and delicate in a school known for dominating sports. Unlike my schoolmates who had gold

medals dangling from their necks and their accolades being honoured during devotion, I found it hard to value sports.

When I got home from school, I wittered about sports with Lee. Lee was my best friend who, like me, didn’t appreciate sports. We spoke idly about the track

team’s excessive popularity and special treatment. Like, being offered creamy porridge in the morning for breakfast and complimentary PediaSure with lunch.

In PE, I would surreptitiously look through the lineup to see who wore spikes. Everyone knew athletes from the track team wore spikes to PE. According to them, they get accustomed to the shoes that way? Even so, they help athletes run faster and lighter— a bragging right I couldn’t allow. So, at all cost, I avoided getting paired to race against them.

Still, the boys in spikes made PE hard for me because they were usually put in charge of stretches and drills.

“What are you doing Melissa?”

One of them asked while shaking his head in disappointment.

“Drills?”

“No, do it like this...”

As I examined his demonstration, I wondered how it felt to exaggerate warm-ups? To police stretches? To actually be a fan of sports!

Hoping for an athletic opportunity, I kept my eyes and ears wide open.

High jump was a new event for my school. They needed prospective student-athletes to make a team. Coach Barge visited every classroom and issued open invitations for the tryouts. Even though Lee was confused, it didn’t take much for me to convince her and so, she accompanied me.

The tryouts were already in session once we got to the grounds. I immediately started having second thoughts. Spectators, other competitors and the horizontal bar to be cleared welcomed fear. But even then, I didn’t want Lee or better yet, anyone to see me like that.

It was obvious who the crowd favourites were— they looked confident and steady. I followed suit: I counted ten paces from the bar and marked it with tape, then ran up to the bar from the tape a few times.

Shortly after perfecting my strides, it was my turn to jump. I glanced at the ground and walked over to my marker. I leaned all the way back as if someone had me in a slingshot ready to release. In no time I retracted my upper body and began running as fast as I could then launched myself over the bar. I couldn’t believe it.

I was laying on the other side of a broken bar.

Immediately after my unimpressive performance, I glimpsed Lee on the sidelines with her face in her palms. I dragged myself from the bed and began walking towards her. I knew she wouldn’t let me live this down so I tried to think of clever excuses as I approached her.

Nothing came.

“ Are you kidding me!? What was tha...”

Before she could finish, Coach Barge yelled unbelievable news. “Talbert, come training tomorrow. You made the team.”

I confidently answered her as if I was expecting to be selected. “Yes, Coach.”

I turned to Lee and gave her a smirk.

“You were saying?”

Tomorrow came and I was now on the track team. Still, it was so obvious that I didn’t belong.

It didn’t take long for me to stop faking it but now I know all the signs that show you are.

 

Six signs that make you a fake fan:

 

  • You pretend to know about teams/players
  • You like sports because everybody else does
  • You force excitement
  • You only tune in to the game’s finals
  • And my personal faves;
  • You joined the track team for porridge
  • You joined the track team for complimentary PediaSure

 

Share your experience as or with a fake fan on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use the hashtag IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Chairman of selectors, Roger Harper, said in an interview recently that Caribbean territories needed to take more responsibility in the arena of developing world-class cricketers and he is right.

Now, as chairman of selectors, he may have good reason to turn attention away from the Cricket West Indies, since it is they who employ him. But even if that is the case, he still has a point.

For a long time, the blame for the dwindling fortunes of West Indies cricket has been put squarely at the feet of the West Indies Cricket Board now Cricket West Indies.

As the governing body of the sport in the region, placing the blame there is, on the face of it, the natural thing to do.

After all, what else are you there for?

I read a column from one of my esteemed colleagues, a one Leighton Levy recently, where he pointed to the death of grassroots cricket as one of the reasons for West Indies’ demise over the last 25 years.

Furthermore, Leighton went on to vaguely describe a plan to expand grassroots cricket and to create a system for the transitioning of that grassroots cricket to the senior levels and ultimately to the production of more world-class cricketers.

Leighton’s theory doesn’t seem to fall too far adrift of Harper’s, who while not charting a way forward as did the journalist among the pairing, seems to suggest the problem lies at the beginning rather than at the end.

So while Cricket West Indies is the obvious ‘scapegoat’ in analyzing the reasons for the senior team’s decline, there may be merit in pointing a finger elsewhere.

But here’s the kicker. No longer is the Caribbean an escape from the fast-paced world, a place where time stands still and where the things of importance are what they’ve always been.

Today, there is cable television, android boxes, firesticks, and websites that bring the world rushing into the Caribbean.

That has created, and understandably so, a bit of an identity crisis, although maybe it is no crisis at all.

Cricket is no longer the most popular sport in the Caribbean. Through no fault of Cricket West Indies, children are growing up with heroes on the NBA courts, on the football fields, on the track.

Players like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, impose larger-than-life characters on the Caribbean but it is not the same as the days when Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards walked the region as Gods.

The West Indies, over the course of 15 years had already proved that men from humble beginnings can compete with and beat the world.

That’s nothing new.

Maybe the West Indies were too successful.

Harper suggested the territories in the West Indies were to be blamed for not producing players who could make the jump to the next level, but these territories have much to compete with.

Nobody plays cricket anymore.

I’m in a few sports groups with serious sports fans. They talk about everything from table tennis to curling, but lately, the conversations about cricket have dwindled.

These sports fans are fathers of upcoming sports fans and maybe serious players. They won’t be told about the greatness of West Indies players of old, not that they would listen anyway.

When I was growing up, I had to watch whatever was on TV. And sometimes, that meant missing out on cartoons for, you guessed it, cricket.

I was usually pissed by this, but something happened.

I would sit and watch with my Dad and I would learn.

I would learn about the difficulty of playing the game, and the bravery of standing up to a big, strong fast bowler and how quickly the .33 of a second you had to figure out what to do with a ball and do it, really was.

I grew an appreciation for it.

But at the time, there wasn’t a lot of football on TV to compete with cricket, there wasn’t a lot of anything.

Now, with a competitive media industry, filled with the pitfalls of rights buying, I don’t have to watch cricket for an entire day.

A couple of things happen with this increased content.

One, you won’t learn very much about cricket because that takes time, and two, you may never acquire the taste for it because it isn’t fast enough. Then, to add to that, your parents don’t drill the stories of Viv Richards having his cap knocked off only crash the next delivery over the boundary ropes.

All of that combined means cricket is slowly being forgotten.

So today, the talent pool that the territories have to draw from is a much smaller thing than in recent times.

How then do these territories produce world-class players?

World-class will come from talented players vying to be the best against many other talented players.

Today, the few talented players excel very easily because there isn’t a lot of talent around them. Then they get stuck in a rut.

A few half-centuries at the regional level, mixed in with one or two centuries is enough to get your team winning more often than not.

There was a time that players had to score six or seven centuries for their team to have a chance.

Then there are the few bowlers with talent. They get easy five-fors and six-fors and have great stats. But then their opposition has come from the dwindling talent pool and the work that they have to put in to be really good isn’t understood until a 16-year-old Indian thrashes them to all parts of the ground for an entire series.

Now they’re playing catch up.

And if you watch world economics, and you’re from the Third World, you understand how difficult it is to do that.

So Harper has a point, and Leighton has a point, but how do we get our youngsters loving and playing a game they have forgotten?

Let’s be honest, I've never had an interest in sports but considering a lot of you guys do I decided to share my thoughts on some ridiculous terms I’ve heard during football matches.

I know what you’re thinking— why would I attend a football match if I don’t have an interest in sports. Well, in my defence, the match was brought to me. Let me explain:

My dad tunes in when a football match airs. His television of choice is the one in our living room. It’s the biggest and the loudest. While the match is happening, my father encourages his team and criticizes the other. Most times, his critiques are filled with jargon. I try to interpret them.

One Sunday afternoon, there was a match scheduled on SportsMax. I knew because daddy ( in his blue and white gears) kept announcing it to the household.

“Match starts at one everybody… Manchester United dead today!” “Change the channel to SportsMax.”

Everyone knew what those comments suggested. It was a warning for us to be quiet and low key when the match begins.

While I changed the channel I called him. “ Um, Daddy?” “ Yes, baby? What happened?” I wanted to tell him how necessary it was for me to have quietude too once the match begins.

Nevertheless, I knew it wouldn't be possible for him, so I shrugged and went to my room. Seconds later, the match commenced.

#Shift

“Look on the big idiot gone take shift like him nuh have nuh sense.”

Daddy sounded so upset and he had every right to be. Imagine, the match just started and a player is going on his shift? Then again, I don’t want to knock anyone’s side hustle. He probably really needs the money.

The cheers and shouts of real spectators permeated the house. My father followed suit and giggled happily.

#Tump

“See the man tump (punch) that one in the top corner.”

I couldn’t help but wonder if the tump resulted in a fight. Who knew this happened in football?!!! Come to think of it, maybe these players have anger issues. It only makes sense that they play with a ball ever so often. I just hope the troublemaker faced some repercussions.

Soon after, I could hear analysts recapping the first portion of the game. I also heard the crunch of snacks outside my door. Guessing it was break time, I prepared to make fun of the terms to come.

Once 45 minutes ended, daddy resumed his commentary.

#Plait

“Him plait over it two time and leave the defender on him derrière.”

I could definitely relate to that. When I was younger, my mother would plait my hair, then undo it to redo it. My hair took so long that sometimes I sat for hours.

While I reminisced, I was interrupted by clapping.

#OnionBag

“See how the man splice the ball and lick the onion bag !”

If an onion bag is on the field, it only means one thing— someone used onions. According to some claims, onions are placed in socks to ward off smelly odours. A lot of athletes battle with foot odour. They don’t call it ‘athlete's foot’ for no reason.

I burst into laughter— cracking myself up. But my joy quickly turned to shock once daddy started shouting in excitement.

#Ball

“Ball!!!”

Well, that’s self-explanatory. Isn’t that what they’ve been playing with this whole time? These terms are duller than I thought... until daddy yelled.

#BussLace

“See how defender buss boy lace!!!”

I couldn’t help but think how spiteful that defender is. He didn’t even take into account if the shoes were of sentimental value. What happens now? Does the player stop playing because his shoes are damaged? This game is just sad and unfair!

With minutes to spare, daddy grumbled with annoyance.

#Foul

“Referee, that’s not a foul!”

Suddenly, daddy got quiet. I no longer heard him attacking players with remarks. I figured a foul ended the game. I glimpsed at the lower third of my laptop for the time and there were only five minutes remaining. Daddy’s team lost.

Though I understood his disappointment, I didn’t want to cut my fun short. I decided to google for more terms.

While I hovered over my laptop, I tried to put together the perfect set of words to search. I tried a few; ‘football for dummies, ’ soccer for dummies,’ ‘ funny names in football.’

Although it took some time, I finally found 10 common terms used in football. The site listed them in alphabetical order. I closed my eyes then opened them. The first term I saw was free-kick.

#FreeKick

Believe it or not, I’m familiar with the term. Even more so than the person who named it. Free kicks aren’t free. Think about it. Injuries can result in a free-kick. A sacrifice a player’s ankle, chest, shin or even face has to make.

#Nutmeg #Touchline

I browsed the list again but this time for a term my dad would always use. Something to the effect of getting a nutmeg on the touchline. I didn’t see it on the list. I searched for it separately. When the definition came up, I was confused. It didn’t mean what I thought it did. Though many searches revealed I had it wrong all this time — I still don't buy it.

So there you have it! The ridiculous terms I’ve heard during football games. Comment below on other terms I might have missed. Until next time!

Like the fabled legend Heracles, Carlos Brathwaite dutifully completed the impossible labour of lifting a seemingly down and out West Indies to an unlikely triumph over England at the 2016 T20 World Cup final.

In its aftermath, much like the mythical Greek hero, he would soon after, however, happened upon a poisoned cloak of his own, unrealistic, heavy expectations, which have so far proven to be his undoing. 

Needing 19 off the last over and the ball in the hands of a capable Ben Stokes, few would have picked the Windies to be triumphant.

Four straight sixes later, however, the shrill blast of commentator Ian Bishop sang, ‘remember the name!’ after the muscle-bound Brathwaite brutally battered Stokes, announcing a new West Indies star had been born.  Gleefully looking on, fans secretly hoped perhaps the player was from the same mould as legends like Viv Richards or Chris Gayle.

 Of course, Brathwaite’s trajectory never hit such heights, the fateful T20 World Cup represented unprecedented heights, and his descent seemed just as rapid as his rise.  Perhaps he just hit the sky too fast too soon.

Less than two years later ‘remember the name!’ became a term of derision, not inspiration, uttered whenever the behemoth wafted powerfully but failed to connect or managed to move the ball just feet after a blustery swing.

The man, who had delivered a victory for the West Indies, the hero of the 2016 battle at Wankhede, went from being captain to being left out of the squad entirely.  He went from being a well-sought-after T20 name in most major leagues to reserve spots or replacement selection.

Ironically, Stokes, who the big West Indian had left deflated on his haunches, went on to be one of the world’s best players and is likely to be at the next World Cup, while Brathwaite is almost certainly guaranteed to not be.  In fact, his failure on the biggest of stages, in the end, seemed to serve as a benefit as the Englishman rebounded from his lowest point to great heights. 

For Brathwaite, it was the opposite. With only eight T20 matches under his belt, he was named the West Indies captain later that year.  In the IPL, he went from a modest US$30, 000 base price to being signed for US$626,000 by the Delhi Daredevils.  It was a whirlwind couple of months for the player, who was expected to now dispatch bowlers every time he went out to bat while at the same time ensuring the Windies lived up to their billing as world champions.  Neither happened.  Brathwaite was also added to the ODI squad and went on to play seven and was called to the CPL and played a Test against India in Antigua.

The rest, as they say, is unfortunately history. In the end, it seems the weight of the expectations proved too much for the player. Brathwaite had been pushed too far, too high too soon. 

When we saw him at his best, the moment for which he will forever be immortalized, very little is anything was expected of him and he was free to swing for the fences.  Who knows what he might have become had he like Stokes failed to deliver on the big occasion?

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