May 2017 Volume 14

Taking Jamaica’s Pulse

Ray Ford
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A s one who likes controversies like how the late Melvin Belli liked torts, not shortly after arriving at The National Stadium for Champs 2017, I inquired of young Ari Rogers - where is he and, when will he run? I had read of his journey to that point in time, expertly chronicled by our H.G. Helps in the Jamaica Observer. And along with that, I was keeping track of the controversy that swirled about whether the young man should or should not be, allowed to participate in the meet. The controversy as I saw it was par for the course. Because long before that, I had oft been reminded by some who attended Kingston College long before I did, that, `they are always out to get us’. And so for me, the stage was set.

I have also always been keen to see, how men transferring into the KC system, operate. And in my time, there was a host – Errol Gage, Tony Keyes, Gerald Murray, Andrew Rhone, St. Aubyn Samuels, Calvin Stewart, Las Talbot, and Len Tulloch, are some who come to-mind. One that did not transfer to KC, was the Excelsior sprinter, Danny Clarke.

“When Danny, for whatever reason, wanted to leave Wolmers’, his first choice was KC. But when I broached the matter with our headmaster Mr. Douglas Forrest, he balked,” recalled the then KC Track & Field Coach, Mr. Donovan Davis. “According to him, Danny was too famous. And Mr. Forrest did not want it to be said, that he was `buying’ athletes. Much to my disappointment I might add.”

Incidentally, it might be worth reminding here, that one famous Calabar athlete in my time – the quarter-miler Dennis Anderson, transferred there, from Happy Grove. And so, the case of the 15 year-old Ari Rogers, is not a precedent-setting one.

Regardless, there’s a certain unspoken way that the KC `school-tie’ is to be worn, as displayed by a certain work ethic. And, I wanted to see, if Rogers had it. How he would have bounced back from being boxed-out of the 1,500 meters on the Friday evening, was my question, because, the young man was terribly disappointed not to have taken the gold. The true hallmarks of any KC athlete, or any KC boy for that matter, is not in winning per say, but in bouncing back after losing. And most fittingly, at this Champs, I was reminded of the 1963 Class II 100 yards showdown between KC’s Jimmy Grant, and JC’s P. Silvera.

On the first day of that meet, which was on a Thursday, at about 3:30pm, Jimmy was beaten by Silvera in the heats where the winning-time was 10.60secs. And at 2:55pm the following day, Grant was again upstaged by Silvera in the semi-finals, in 10.30 secs. “And what would you have told Jimmy Grant after those back-to-back losses to Silvera?” I recently asked Mr. Davis.

“You know what you can do and we know what you can do,” Davis recalls telling Grant. “You can’t do anything about the heats and the semis. Those are both over. Shrug them off quickly and focus on the fundamentals for the finals; start well, accelerate quickly, and, run through the tape.” advised our former ace high school coach.

Jimmy took Coach Davis’s advice to a `T’ and burned Silvera in the three o’clock Saturday-afternoon finals, in 10.40 secs. The National Stadium erupted, as it did this past Champs-Saturday at 8:40pm, when Rogers won going-away, the 5,000 meters. By doing so, new KC boy Rogers, exuded the KC spirit, proving that he had, `the right stuff’.

The frenzy Ari’s win created, took well over ten minutes to subside, and served as a great appetizer to the 9:08 pm `winner-take-all’ men’s open mile relay final.

Unfortunately in that final race of the evening, KC could not hold that final gallop, and it would have taken the likes of the KC quartet of Jimmy Grant, Alex McDonald, Lennox Miller and Rupert Hoilett, to do so. But few if any of the Fortis brethren, lamented. Young Rogers and his spirit, had applied balm to their wound. Congratulations to the KC coaching staff headed by Mr. Neil Harrison, and a big thank-you to Fortis Wayne Stevens - `The Mayor of Oakville’, for positioning me right on the finish-line. Back in the day, from a seat like that, I could have been a line-judge.

And as for the brouhaha surrounding the young Rogers draping himself in the Ugandan flag after the race? I gave that short shrift. Because most of that negative commentary was coming from the same commentators who were advocating that the youngster, not participate, in the first place. And so as they say in the commentary-business, `consider the source’.

Besides, of those throwing vitriol on Ari Rogers now, I wonder how many protested as strong or, lent support, when Kingston College lost seventeen year old Khajeel Mais tragically, back on July 01, 2011.

But what of the going fare after Champs? I was not this time, privy to the Fortis Sunday-brunch round-table discussion, as I once was, on the leafy terraces of the Alhambra Hotel. No track & field aficionado, I defer to experts. And as Mr. Davis mused, “the acquisition of the new synthetic running track should help cut-down on injuries.” But regardless, “ KC will still need to better manage its participation in pre-Champs meets,” he advocated.

Champs for me though, is more an opportunity to `razz’ with my beloved elder son, and, to take Jamaica’s pulse. And as for the latter, and in my wandering-around, I still feel Jamaica more that ever before, is lacking a belief in the capabilities of its citizens. And as a consequence, the country has not yet in earnest, begun to develop its inherent potential. Our tact, as exhibited by this and successive Governments is still – in my opinion - too geared towards the quest for foreign direct investment. And sadly in the process, this continues to subordinate the honing of our own skills capacities, as a nation, to an after-thought. Secondly on my little walkabouts, I find Jamaica’s sun far too hot, for the country not to go full-bore into maximizing the use of solar energy. But that did not deter me from making my usual rounds.

I had always tried to impress upon my visiting son, that Merritone on a Thursday-night, was the place to be. It might still be. But, the music played there on Champs Thursday-night, was a little bit of a let-down. Winston’s energy and vibrancy, were missed. I however found solace on The Deck – breezy, relaxing, spacious, and centrally located. And as always, enjoyed my dishes whether at the modest Coal Stove, the Hotel Four Seasons or at the Indies Hotel. And on Monday-night, thanks to cable-television, I felt at-home, away from home.

`In Rome’, I have always looked-forward to my college basketball March-Madness final, and to the opening Monday-Night of a new Major League Baseball (MLB) season. Both, I managed to catch at the Indies Hotel. And so, I did not miss seeing Roy Williams coaching for the hundredth time, and pushing the North Carolina Tar Heels to their 71-65 win over Gonzaga. And in-between, I watched the Cleveland Indians 8-5 win over the Texas Rangers in the Monday-night MLB opener.

But later-on this month, when the West Indies host Pakistan in the first Test at Sabina Park, the real games, will begin.

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