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Do we support mediocrity?
I am not a sports fan to any appreciable degree but whenever our teams compete in regional or international tournaments, I do take some interest simply out of my undying spirit of patriotism and love of country. That being so, I cannot discuss in any technical detail the fortunes or otherwise of our respective teams in any of the sporting disciplines.
I like Test cricket but only when the West Indians are taking on the rest of the Test-playing countries and will support the regional team for the same reason as stated in the opening paragraph. I will never forget when the Trinidad and Tobago football team took on the Americans in 1989, in that famous clash in Port-of-Spain, which we lost.
As so many of our citizens, I had contracted World Cup fever, so I packed my family in the car and joined the thousands who witnessed and cheered on our boys as they journeyed from the deep south for the battle in the capital city, which at the conclusion left many of us in tears.
Even up to today, you can still hear the various theories of why we lost.I sit glued to my television to view the London 2012 Olympics—only when one of our athletes compete in their respective events and of course, do feel a great sense of loss whenever they fail to enter winner’s row. So nobody can accuse me of being unpatriotic or non-supportive of our gallant boys and girls as they seek local, regional or international glory, for themselves and their native land.
I say all of the above to join the debate on something that has been disturbing me for a very long time—do we as a nation wittingly or unwittingly support mediocrity? Not only in sport but other fields of endeavours, and one case immediately comes to mind: international beauty contests. We shower praises on our delegates who fail to make the top three saying they were so good to make the top ten and soon. And today, I see the same pattern arising from our boys and girls’ performances in the London games.
A lot of people, including senior government officials, newspaper editorials and the like, are stumbling over themselves to sing the praises of athletes who did not even make it to the finals of their event. Now I know they had to have done very well to reach the world’s premiere sporting event and for that, they should be encouraged to give of their best, which to some extent did take place this time around.
I appreciate that they are competing with some of the most experienced athletes from around the world and they must be complimented for putting on a good showing against others who are more experienced than they. So far, at the time of writing (very early Wednesday morning), Tobago-born Lalone Gordon was the only national who made it to winner’s row, having secured a well-deserved bronze in the men’s 400 metres and he should be justly rewarded by showing our gratitude on returning home.
And that is where the plaudits are supposed to end. Only when others make it to the first three should they be given the kind of accolade the “also-ran” compatriots are now receiving. This is not to belittle or shame those who failed in their quests to bring home the bacon and judging from how most of them were nipped almost on the finish line by their more well-trained and aggressive opponents, we should encourage them to do better next time.
This will not be achieved by drowning them with platitudes of how great they were and that they did their country proud. Of course they did their country some good but it could have been much better if they had walked away with something tangible to show for their efforts—a medal. As a layman and a non-sporting fan, I wonder how well our young warriors were trained and who did their training?
What kind of investment is being spent on our promising athletes, apart from the funds expended by the Sport Ministry? I am aware that corporate citizens sometimes do contribute but shouldn’t we have a more structured training programme where budding athletes are virtually taken over either by the State or the business community and groomed exclusively for the world’s sporting stage? We cannot rely simply on raw talent to make it big time on the international sporting circuit. Congratulations Mr Gordon on a job well done.
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