Our stars should also be inspiring us
It continues to amaze me that outside of celebrating when the nation's athletes do well on the global stage, our people here in Jamaica seem not to understand the full power of sports and its capacity to become a significant vehicle to promote growth and development.
Unlike countries such as the United States, where they have created lucrative multibillion-dollar industries out of basketball (NBA), American Football (NFL), and baseball (MLB), we seem to be unaware that with proper planning and marketing, we could do much the same things as despite being a small nation, we have produced some of the greatest stars in global sports.
Last week, I was watching the game between the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 Cricket Tournament, which is now unfolding in India, and I got goose-pimples as I watched the awesome outpouring of love that the fans in Bangalore bestowed on Jamaica's star batsman Christopher Gayle.
Based on what was written on some of the banners in the stadium, there was absolutely no doubt that the vast majority of the fans had turned out primarily to see Gayle, who they have lovingly adopted as their own on account of his impact representing the city's Indian Premier League (IPL) outfit, the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Even Ian Chappell, the legendary former Australian Test captain, who came down very hard on Gayle last year for his 'don't blush baby' comment to Australian journalist Mel McLaughlin during the last Australian 'Big Bash,' had to admit, in his television commentary, that he had never seen such outpouring of love for a non-Indian cricketer from an Indian crowd.
I was particularly moved by one banner, which stated that Gayle" came from Jamaica and won the heart of everyone here in Bangalore". That, coupled with the scores of fans, including adults, who came rushing out to get his autograph after the game, leaves no doubt that he is a massive source of inspiration in that part of India.
What I saw of the treatment that Gayle got in Bangalore saddens me greatly because here in Jamaica, except for when he does something extremely special, our youngsters in Jamaica see him as no more significant that the other persons who are regularly seen on television or who have their photographs appearing in our local newspapers.
SEE HIS VALUE
In a country with so few role models for our youngsters to emulate, I think we are doing ourselves a great injustice when we don't have Gayle appearing in advertisements, involved in youth development projects, or even have landmarks named in his honour. If the 11.5 million people in Bangalore can see his value, why can't the 3.6 million persons here in Jamaica be similarly inspired?
It is such gross oversights that have resulted in situations such as the statute that was commissioned of Usain Bolt, the greatest athlete that has ever graced the planet, to be all but forgotten at the sculptor's home simply because of his Beijing, Berlin, and London heroics are no longer the main topic on the streets of Jamaica.
It is my hope that Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, the new minister of Sports, will take a serious look at developing a proper sports policy for Jamaica, that will seek to properly market our athletes, promote the development of high-quality sporting facilities, and, perhaps, most important, seek to cash in on the lucrative sports tourism market.
While I am happy to see Gayle making such a major impact on the cash-rich city of Bangalore, which is dubbed 'India's Silicon Valley,' I am just hoping and praying that we here in Jamaica will quickly come to our senses and start seeking out creative ways to derive maximum value from revenue-generating capacity and that ability to inspire and motivate our people.
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