ON REFLECTION – Keep sports sporting, please
What a scarce commodity these days, since our glorious achievements at the CARIFTA Games and in other disciplines are rapidly being undermined by ungentlemanly conduct, quick recourse to the law courts and veritable thugs.
When teams aren’t up in arms and hauling sporting organisations before the courts over disputed match results and referees’ decisions, individuals are being called to account for violence on the field and court, including a recent basketball brawl which pitted Barbadian and Jamaican fans and players against each other at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus.
Now, with the ink barely dry on the headlines of that UWI incident, we have a young basketballer jump-kicking a rival in the Premier League at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex. What is wrong with this picture?
These were not games played in “ghetto” neighbourhoods among so-called rude boys who lime on the block and are among the prime stereotypes associated with drugs and guns.
Most of the players in both incidents are either present or past tertiary level students or men with solid backgrounds in sport.
If these players whom most Barbadians would describe as good citizens are resolving issues on the basketball court and other sporting fields with violence, then what we’re seeing is a society where conflict resolution by dialogue is becoming the exception; where any man who walks away from a confrontation and seeks to resolve issues peacefully is derisively described as “soft”. To be a thug now is more admirable.
Obviously then, many of my generation and before who settled disputes without weapons and even developed a few friendships as a result of respectful, peaceful confrontations are in danger of extinction by some of these younger louts who are taking us rapidly back to the days of the wild West, when respect was earned by the fist, knife or gun.
Have all we taught today’s youths in the home and school gone to nought?
Are we now reaping the whirlwind by allowing them to attend church and Sunday school when they felt like?
Are their lone “teachers” the thug-like heroes of modern movies that depict “the hood” and inner-city ghettoes, with which the average Bajan cannot identify but to which our youngsters, incredulously, aspire?
We saw all this coming and did nothing, Professor Henry Fraser rightly said a few years ago.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart recently expressed his disappointment about the senseless violence among some of our youths, noting that “settling disputes by dialogue is to be preferred” over settling by violent means.
But if sport, one of the few remaining bastions, can no longer be the place to hone self-discipline, to start young people on their journey of becoming active citizens, to appreciate the importance of endurance and a sound mind in a sound body, to understand mutual respect and to practise simple camaraderie, then this society is lost.
Over the weekend, the Station Hill Cavaliers declared their intention to fight the life ban meted out by the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association (BABA) to Ricardo Yearwood, whose jump-kick against Cougars’ Keith Mayers has been spread across the world on YouTube and Facebook.
If a sporting body like the BABA is seeking to clean up the sport’s image, then it cannot do so without strongly condemning such shocking acts of violence.
Should the BABA give Yearwood a slap on the wrist, thereby telling younger and even angrier players that it’s okay to strike opponents?
And what about other sides of the issue?
If victims like Mayers decide to press charges against those who assault them, then sporting incidents could be drawn out into emotionally painful legal battles. And worst, if victims decide to personally avenge these acts, they could catapult into even greater violence.
The cry has been heard across this land for sporting organisations to discipline their members and make sure they adhere to the rules of the games without fear or favour, but that no longer works. There is such ease in taking these matters to the law courts that one must wonder whether sporting bodies still have any authority.
Furthermore, in today’s world of digital technology where incidents like the jump-kick can be captured by the average spectator, there’s less dependence on witnesses’ memories and therefore less doubt regarding guilt.
Therefore, drawing out in court a matter like last week’s incident is nothing more than an attempt to hold onto a star player and justify wilful violence.
Sporting bodies must be given the authority to take back their disciplines, with recourse to court being allowed only in extreme circumstances.
The ban on Yearwood is not extreme.