Of limp picks and inspiring licks . . .
OVER THE OFFICE at Harrison College was a long white room. Maybe it was some other colour. I don’t remember. Prep 3 was at one end. Briggs Clarke’s art classes at the other.
I was in Prep 3. Next door in Prep 2 was Andrew Alphonso Bend. Further on in Prep 1, Zacky Francis. There was, some said, a spiral staircase leading down to the headmaster’s study, well worn with Zacky’s tracks as he cheerfully travelled for his weekly licks from John Hammond. Don’t let the naysayers fool you: licks work. Zacky became a rich and successful banker while unlicked A.A. Bend and I more or less fell by the wayside.
Some of us had exceptional talents. Garnet Sylvester Clarke could propel a Coke stopper up to the third floor balcony with unerring accuracy. And Andrew Bend dodged rocks.
Many a time and oft we climbed walls and battlements, towers and windows to see the mighty Bend perform. There was no announcement, no fuss. Suddenly the urge would come upon him and he would throw a sizeable rock into the air. And dodge a split second before it crashed into his skull. Over and over, nonchalant, never getting hit. Andrew Bend was the matador of the falling rock.
Okay, my first point today: in an era when rocks falling from the sky were rare, Andrew Bend perfected a useless talent. But his talent was no more useless than probably 90 per cent of those we have oohed and aahed over at the recent Olympics.
Of course, we can see their original purpose. When dinosaurs roamed the earth, survival depended on running fast, jumping high, swimming far, throwing spears, kicking balls. But none of these nowadays will save you from a bullet. Nor do they foster any lofty ideals of fair play; cheaters abound.
But if we enjoy, so what? I just wish Andrew Bend could have reaped similar rewards for his talent. Moreover, we could infuse some practical value into these sports.
For instance, have it that a pole-vaulter must pick a breadfruit or some mangoes on the way down. Let’s see Bolt put on his underpants, no mean feat nowadays with those double flaps hiding the buttons, and then run his 100 metres, as a brother of mine had to do when caught in bed with a gun-toting neighbour’s wife.
High-jumpers would look far more spectacular if they had to rise 23 feet vertically from a deep sleep as I often do in the middle of the night when the wife yells: “Santapee in the bed!”
Ponder on that while we return to our long, white room to hear Dr Rudi Valentine Webster give a sterling talk on motivation and his successes with the Windies team.
Motivation is a lot to do with accentuating the positive, feeling good with yourself and all the accolades and finance. But I suggested to Rudi that positive motivation has its limits. You need the carrot and the stick. A jackass in a cart can be motivated by carrots only until his belly is full. But you can cut his ass all day.
A friend from Grenada long ago told me about Gouyave, Kirani James’ hometown. If a visiting sports team is about to win, they will suddenly hear “propping” noises all around. It’s the sound of sticks being broken to beat them with. Gouyave has an excellent home record.
Could it be that the remarkable Kirani was also motivated by the thought of those sticks?
A youth was enthusing about how he was at a Li’l Rick fete with Ryan Brathwaite: “Geez, Mr Hoad, he got so much money! Car, land! Yuh only got to win one medal and yuh set for life.”
To his credit, Ryan did us proud at the Olympics. But aren’t we overdoing the carrots? What else will athletes get for future successes?
Trinidad is giving Keshorn Walcott $1 million in cash; a $2.5 million house; land at Toco; a scholarship; and naming an airline, lighthouse and housing project after him. Why on earth should this young man risk spraining his shoulder by throwing another javelin?
Finally let us also give recognition to those stalwarts who toil steadfastly in any field. Far from finishing in under ten seconds, the more honourable among us even make a point of never finishing first.
• Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.