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OFF CENTRE: Fast track to disrespect . . . National *Shampionships?

Sherwyn Walters

OFF CENTRE: Fast track to disrespect . . . National *Shampionships?

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There I was at the National Stadium on Saturday and Sunday all primed and ready for a meet of “stellar” events (the adjective was occasionally used by one star-struck? starry-eyed? announcer to describe an upcoming race).
It was the 2012 National Championships in athletics.
In recent times, my visits to the National Stadium have been for the National Senior Games and the Relay Fair. Taking in the National Championships was a new experience for me. And the price was right: $10 and park yourself anywhere in the Stadium. Well, if I can’t get a hammock, I’ll take a chair – so you know where I was.
Unfortunately, I have to say I was less than impressed. Not with those dedicated athletes of track and field who stressed sinew and heart to do their best. Not with those hardy souls who decided to take on qualifying times and heights and distances. And the urge not to bother. Not to mention a buffeting headwind and a disgrace for a track.
I hesitate to name names because when amateur athletes brave the odds one does not want to set up comparisons, which are, indeed, often odious.
But forgive me if I say that that was one hell of a run by Kion Joseph in the 400-metre hurdles – a consummate combination of poise, technique, stamina and irrepressible clock-beating will.
Not forgetting that never-say-die, won’t-lose-in-front-dis-crowd power surge by Ryan Brathwaite to take the 110-metre hurdles.
And Sonia could run (Malik, come again!). Just this wisp of a girl and the clock and the crowd so into it, that if by our cheers and nervous breathing and naked desire we could have shaved off that 21/100th of a second to help this Gaskin sweetheart make the World Juniors qualifying time, we woulda.
But I was less than impressed with other things. Where were the large numbers of athletes, the wannabes, gonnabes, some of whom we were looking at with almost beside-ourselves hope not long ago? Who kept the National Championships a secret from them? Why was I looking at fields of two, three and four competitors?
Was it a kind of disrespect?
Also, why did we not see any Barbados Masters and Seniors Athletic Club (BAMSAC) athletes in the races for seniors, only being offered Freedom Striders Seniors competitors and the unattached? Did somebody forget to invite members of one of Barbados’ longest (if not the longest) running seniors athletics organization (BAMSAC)? Or were they invited but failed to show up?
More disrespect?
There was more that did not impress.
I am in the Stadium for an athletics meet and the announcers and the deejays, not for the first time, seem short of the requisite intense passion to sensitively foreground what the meet is really about. It en about chit-chat. It en about music. It en even about interviewing athletes and coaches, although I would allow that.
Why is it that the raison d’être, the whole reason why anybody operating with all their marbles dresses up, leaves home and pays to sit down in the Stadium, the sine qua non even – the athletics competition – is frequently not given its due as the centrepiece?
Who chooses the announcers and deejays for these meets? And do the choosers unflinchingly demand that these operatives demonstrate utter respect for the athletes, the sport and the patrons? My weekend experience left me dissatisfied.
Case in point: four runners take their starting positions in the 5 000 metres for men. I realize that; many others do – well, maybe not the lady who has her hands full with an overactive child; maybe not the fellow who only has eyes for some baked chicken or the one who ogles the girl in the stick-on pants who just this minute chooses to stand (and he isn’t thinking about baked chicken).
But the announcers are silent, and the deejay is pounding out something in the region of 160+ beats per minute. The starter raises his gun. Pow? Pax? – I’m not sure. Anyway, I’m feeling glad nobody is dead. But . . .
Four anonymous fellows are apparently running around the Stadium track to music, just for the fun of it.
The deejay pumps on, making his music, making his money, I suppose, while burning up mine.
And it seems I was wrong about the pow/pax. The shot from the starter’s gun apparently killed everybody in the announcer’s booth.
The forsaken athletes press on with the sideshow.  
Disrespect. I believe the Bush Hall air was heavy with it last weekend.
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor.