Western Grandstand : Let’s make heroes out of our sporting figures
Despite the criticisms attracted by some aspects of the recent gala celebrations to honour the athletes who represented Jamaica in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games in Brazil, I believe the gesture was well intentioned and should be applauded.
While I can understand and appreciate those who think the J$82 million expenditure was somewhat exorbitant for a country which is plagued by limited infrastructure in critical areas such as health, education and national security, I don't believe that should stop us from celebrating excellence, unless we want to create an avenue for the intrusion of mediocrity.
Although I stated in last week's edition of this column that I am not for the wholesale erection of statues to immortalise ordinary achievements, especially performances that are likely to be replicated quite easily, I am all for any reasonable measure to highlight those who have brought glory to Jamaica by winning medals.
HONOUR SUCCESSFUL ATHLETES
It is against that background that, while I am against the setting a low 'statue bar,' I believe creative ways must be found to honour the successful athletes so that their inspirational and motivational qualities can be of value, especially in the communities where they grew up and are considered special.
To that end, I would recommend that a sporting hall of fame be established in each of the nation's 14 parishes. In fact, I believe this would be the ideal way to preserve the sporting legacy of these athletes who have made an indelible mark nationally and, in many cases, internationally.
While one could argue with some amount of justification that some parishes have not been churning out many high-quality stars, we need to be cognisant of the fact that sporting halls of fame are not just for the present and the past, but also for the future, which no one can predict with any degree of certainty.
In a parish like Trelawny, many youngsters born in the 1980s might be misled into believing that track stars Usain Bolt, Marvin Anderson, Veronica Campbell-Brown and basketballer Samardo Samuels are the first top-flight international stars the parish has produced.
However, I am sure there would be many perplexed faces among these youngsters if they were to be told the stories of Anita Belnavis, a many- time female Caribbean table tennis champion; Wilbert Plummer, a former national cricketer; and David Bernard Sr, a long-serving former national footballer, who were among an illustrious crop of sporting stalwarts who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s.
In neighbouring St James, which is now crying out for positive role models as thugs continue to impose themselves on many communities, there are more than enough heroes to celebrate.
Unfortunately, the heroes are playing second fiddle to cash-rich lottery scammers.
With persons like Steve Bucknor, one of the most accomplished cricket umpires in history; footballer Warren Barrett, the man who led Jamaica in their historic 1998 World Cup appearance in France; Paul 'Tegat' Davis, one of Jamaica's most accomplished football stars; and Dexter Lee, a world champion in junior athletics, the stars are here and waiting to be properly recognised.
While I have only used Trelawny and St James as examples, I am sure the other 12 parishes could come up with their heroes. It is for entities like the parish councils, the chambers of commerce and the various sporting associations to join forces to create the suggested sporting hall of fame, which will not only highlight excellence but encourage others to pursue excellence.