The good, the bad, and the ugly (February 23, 2014)

Good

Back to Sochi we go. Jamaica’s two-man bobsled came in 29th out of 30 teams. That was no ‘flop’ as one of our national papers, the Jamaica Observer, headlined it. They qualified by entering races and getting enough points. They funded themselves by having friends with imagination who helped raise money through crowd-funding. They competed even though they had difficulties getting their equipment to the Games site on time. They raced very well–without qualifying their performance–ending 4.41 second behind the leading Russian pair, after three rounds. Think of that, over three runs on a 1365 meters course. Measure the difference between first place and the Jamaican time and you will find a minuscule difference. Meaning? The Jamaican team was very competitive, in a highly competitive and tight field. I could talk more about equipment, facilities, support, etc., but why bore you with what you know already in principle as the impediments they faced? The real flop? The sloppy journalism of taking a report from Agence France Presse and just dropping it onto the pages of the nation of the bobsledders, with little more thought that it takes to watch 4.41 seconds tick off a clock.

Bad

FIFA is not far from being considered a dinosaur in terms of its willingness to embrace technology to make football better in terms of quality of decisions at the highest levels of the sport. I am biased because I think certain changes are long overdue. I applauded the acceptance of goal-line technology this season, which has avoided many repetitions of egregious mistakes of goals not given (or even ‘no goals’ happening). Just this Saturday, we saw a crucial goal given to West Bromwich in their English Premier League draw with Fulham, after the ball barely crossed the line–all that’s needed. Mistakes are costly in many ways–monetarily, standings, etc.

Lampard scores past Neuer but referee 'saw' no goal
Lampard scores past Neuer but referees ‘saw’ no goal

This week, I again saw the case for instant replays in matches, especially to review decisions that concerns goals or goal-scoring possibilities. Liverpool lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup, but were denied what seemed like a clear penalty kick. Review would have at least given the officials the chance to see what they missed in the blur of action. Barcelona were awarded a penalty against Manchester City during this week’s UEFA Champions League. Let’s just focus on where the foul took place. I say outside the penalty area, definitely: no penalty. Some, even former referees, talk about ‘continuation’ and ‘second touch’. Guff, if ever I heard it. You handle a ball twice, one hand outside, one inside, it’s not the second touch that counts.

I’m not convinced by any arguments about losing flow of matches or time lost. The flow of games is broken more by many other things, and the importance of some decision argue against wanting to just ‘keep the game flowing’ above other considerations. My argument is simple: referees are asked to do something that is humanly very difficult–see everything clearly, even when at high-speed and from bad angles. Replays give officials the chance to look again. They can have their decisions confirmed or denied. It’s that simple. The use of replays has been good in removing much uncertainty from the minds of players and officials–fewer simmering arguments for decades. If FIFA wants to pretend that officials are superhuman, good for them. The world increasingly knows an ass when it sees one.

Ugly

I don’t know which is worse: the alleged sexual assault on a woman in the care of the St Mary Infirmary, or the case of cover-up on the part of administrators at the Infirmary. Both are disgusting. Desmond McKenzie, Opposition Spokesman on Local Government condemned the matter, and said that the incident took place on the February 9, but following what is suspected to have been a case of cover-up on the part of administrators at the Infirmary, was only officially brought to the attention of the St Mary Parish Council Wednesday at a meeting of its Poor Relief Committee. Add to this reports that the perpetrator was allowed to ‘clean himself up’ before fleeing. Jamaica has some people who are desperate. But, we also have a desperate shortage of people running institutions who are capable of making good decisions.

The good, the bad, and the ugly (February 8, 2014)

Good

The Winter Olympics began in Sochi, Russia. I love most of the winter sports, especially downhill racing, and get an enormous thrill watching that, ski-jumping, snowboarding, ice hockey, bobsledding (where Jamaica now has interest in the two-man…Cool Runnings II coming?),  and luge. I really admire the skills in curling. Another series of nights watching sports in the wee hours beckons.

Bad

I understand the urge to curb people from producing more children in conditions where they appear unable to support them, but reproductive rights should be protected. So, Sen. Ruel Reid’s suggestion of mandatory limits on reproduction do’t sit well. Reactions to this in coming days/weeks will be interesting.

Ugly

Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1…not the treatment that title leaders in the English Premier League like to endure. Worse, perhaps, for having to see Daniel Sturridge perform that very weird dance to celebrate a goal.

Follow the money!

Lack of finances stifling football‘ screamed a headline in today’s Gleaner. President of a parish (St.Elizabeth) football association cited lack of corporate support as the main reason for the parish’s failure to get a team into the national premier league. This coming from an area that routinely has one of the best schools football talents, St. Elizabeth Technical High School.

Last week, I wrote about corporate sponsorship being the lifeblood.

When I see what goes on normally in Jamaica, it’s clear that ‘the money’ usually flows to the winners. So, those who are clearly amongst our best have a very good chance of getting financial help. But, the report above shows that this is not always the case, even for a sport for which we would normally expect support and interest to be sky-high. What is wrong?

Last weekend, news flooded in that the Jamaican 2-man bobsled team had qualified for the coming winter Olympics, ending a 12 year absence since 2002.dogecoin-is-sending-the-jamaican-bobsled-team-to-the-winter-olympics Lack of finance had hampered their efforts in the past, and was likely to hamper them after qualification. Then a strange thing happened. Within hours, I was seeing messages about raising funds–particularly, through crowd-funding. Fans of the sport got busy fast. Soon, the federation in the USA launched an appeal, accepting major credit cards, but also using Crowdtilt, Dogecoin (virtual currency) and Indiegogo. The team needed US$80,000 (to cover travel and equipment costs), and by Tuesday it had raised US$115,000. The government has since stepped in to cover travel.

The bobsledders are a special story in Jamaica, with the images of the Cool Runnings movie capturing in 1993 the thrill of the first entrants, in 1988. To revive that image was perhaps easier than getting the dry dirt of St. Elizabeth wet.

But, the supporters did something, fast and effective. They found a way to get to the money, rather than waiting for the money to get to them.

Jamaica is strapped for money. Think like this has to happen and with it a realisation that the old ways don’t work. Does it take the diaspora to be involved to get the party started? Maybe, but it’s about a mindset that is not constrained to tried and tested, and positioning that is outward-looking.

Jamaica needs a lot of that.