What's sport got to do with it?
The question has been bundled around quite a bit. Where do you stand on this? The cricket/football/sport and bars question is the same query which has been posed to society as a whole. The risk-reward scale is different for everybody, but at the end of the day, the dilemma is the same: What matters most?
Sports, at its best, have transcendent, healing powers. Almost 15 years ago we saw as a nation just how much sports, in this case football, if even momentarily, could lift a nation and in some sense bring a form of healing as it did after the T&T football team sealed qualification for the 2006 World Cup with victory over Bahrain.
Prior to TKR’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2020 success this past week, our sports haven’t had a great period dating back to even before the start of the pandemic. One of our most popular sports had been mired in controversy for several years while there are other sports which routinely chooses to deny problems exist. None of these issues is going away any time soon.
So here’s a side of the return-of-sports we haven’t looked at. While the guardians of the games have said sports is needed to bring back a piece of normalcy, and the would-be players in the games have sweated/dreaded the details in returning, no one has wondered if the games are really all that important to the healing process. It has just been assumed they are.
For me, there’s no question what the return of it has and can bring. The players of the various CPL teams became part of our households over the past few weeks and it was topped off with the splendour of Kieron Pollard lifting the trophy at the end of arguably the best contest of the campaign. That alone says it all!
But on the risk-reward scale, is it worth it?
“We want sports. Do we need it?” One local colleague in the sporting world asked me on Thursday. This is after we de-stressed with a proper plate of pelau and two cold ones following the win at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba.
These T20 cricketers, members of staff and the organising committee are true “patriots” for wanting to return to help the country and the region in some form. Cricket and CPL stepped up in troubled times to be a leader. While we were on the outside going about our business as normal, yes, normal, all the players and officials were inside, sometimes in cramped conditions, living in this weird bubble-state of pandemic nowhere.
Hardly anyone spared a thought for them and their sacrifices to not just do something of worth for themselves but to at least give the public, the fans, something to take their minds off from everything else happening beyond the boundaries and gates of the Queen’s Park Oval (Port-of-Spain) and Brian Lara Cricket Academy.
According to the United Nations’ Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport and Development, sport is an effective voice to convey messages of peace and relief on global and local levels. It also offers a sense of normalcy to environments that have been struck with chaos. This unity, comfort and stability can come in many forms.
Sports as “social entities” have a role in helping communities and their residents bounce back from severe disaster, according to researchers who studied the effect of spectator sport on victims of natural and man-made disasters between 2001 and 2011. The time span covers thousands of catastrophes, including 9/11 and the 2011 earthquake that triggered deadly tsunamis in Japan. Okay so we haven’t had a tsunami or a major explosion but we’ve had our fair share of trying times, some of them ongoing.
Sporting events, major and small, have long been occasions for people to draw strength from simply being together. After this extended period of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, people are longing for the sense of community and shared experiences that sporting events and activities provide.
Following the traumas, frustrations and sacrifices that so many will have endured during the coronavirus pandemic, future sporting events will be sources of comfort, relaxation and renewal.
I do hope you are in a better position to give some thought to my question in the opening paragraph. In the meantime, let's hope the powers that be who hold so much in their hands can realise this as they consider their next steps. As for now, we'll soak up what the CPL left us with, look forward to the IPL (Indian Premier League) and brace ourselves for an interesting EPL (English Premier League) season.
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He is a former FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and currently a CONCACAF Competitions Media Officer. The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation.