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RON IN COMMON: Don’t make sport with your sexual health

ERIC SMITH, [email protected]

RON IN COMMON: Don’t make sport with your sexual health

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SOMETIMES IT IS best to let certain things remain out of sight and therefore out of mind because to do otherwise can draw unnecessary attention to yourself and or an issue which may offend many people.

Such is the case of former Barbados and West Indies cricketer, Tino Best. His mouth opens and out comes a whole trail of foolishness.

The boast, comment, revelation or what it may be called about his going to bed with about 650 women is not something to feel proud about in 2016.

It may be a good marketing ploy involving a juicy, salacious chapter to get people to buy his upcoming book. But in the end, what? 

The claims by Best, whether 100 per cent accurate or a figment of his wild imagination, tell a sad story about us as a people, the failure to institute behavioural changes and the need by our sports officials to do more when preparing our sportsmen and sportswomen for the big stage.

The bragging rights among West Indies cricketers that Best speaks about were the sort of thing once heard of from many high-profile sporting stars, particularly in the United States. The basketball and NFL players, the Formula 1 racing drivers and a host of other top sportsmen used to boast of their exploits in bed, from city to city, from state to state and from country to country.

Then when Earvin Magic Johnson made that frightening announcement on November 7, 1991 that he was HIV positive, there was a big shift in sexual behaviour amongst many of the sporting stars, or so we thought.

Johnson was a real man like many of his NBA colleagues who had a good time with lots and lots of women of all colours, various sizes and from different social and economic classes as well as multiple ethnic backgrounds.

Many men would have been jealous, until Johnson’s announcement. Wild sexual behaviour has its pitfalls, and can lead to the contraction of syphilis, HIV and even AIDS.

Even before Johnson’s disclosure there had been an international campaign to fight HIV and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases. There have been Caribbean-wide initiatives to highlight the dangers of casual sex and locally the Government, civil society, the churches, educational institutes and community groups have paid a lot of attention to this issue. Well-known sportsmen have been roped into the campaign not just to promote safe sex but to avoid promiscuous behaviour. Clearly the message hasn’t struck bulls eye.

Best’s claims also highlights the significant role the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) must undertake as it relates to public education of its members. Players must not only be told about and be prepared for the challenges and various situations they are likely to encounter on the field of play but off it as well.

One of the off-the-field encounters must be the large number of women who will be attracted to the cricketing stars and are willing to go to bed even in a one-night stand. Indeed, in this fast-changing world, in which members of the LGBTQ community are now out of the closet, the concerns must also be about sexual liaisons with one or more of them as well. WIPA needs to give the players proper guidance in dealing with such situations.

There is also need for the West Indies Cricket Board and the Barbados Cricket Association to come up with guidelines, if they have not already done so, on interaction with the public, in whatever guise. Players should understand the importance of proper deportment, the need to speak properly, and be masters of etiquette.

Being a success on the field of play, whether with bat or ball, behind the wicket or in the outfield, is not all that matters. A cricketer, and indeed a sportsman, ought to uphold certain characteristics as role models for young impressionable minds. Each and every one should aim to stand for something good and wholesome.

In his quiet moments Tino Best should perhaps reflect on the example of Tiger Woods, that brilliant golfer. He was at the top of his game and commanded the respect of people all across the world. He did wonders for the game of golf. He has been going through a lean period and many people have been understanding about his challenges on the field of play. But, it was his sexual exploits which caused him nightmares and cost him dearly.

It will be interesting what Best will tell his children when they ask him awkward questions about that lurid chapter in his book. Perhaps he needs to spend some time looking in the mirror.