Thursday, April 18, 2024

ON THE BALL: Respect professionals


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A COLLEAGUE once pointed out that Bajans have problems respecting professionals.

Not that I needed Sherrylyn Toppin’s Facebook post to realise the average man feels they can do a better job than someone who actually makes his living doing that same job.

I mean you hear it all the time.

“Man, I wouldn’t mek dem mistakes like the people at de Nation.”

“Wha dah woman down Oistins can’t do steak fish better than me.”

Apparently, sports journalists don’t know how to assess athletes’ performances either.

At least that’s what I gather from Saturday’s sorry excuse for a national awards ceremony, where more blatant errors were made than a Miss Universe competition judged by Stevie Wonder.

Hayley Matthews somehow received our highest honour. Darian King was shockingly shut out again.

And a category was made just to reward road tennis without recognising Dale Clarke or Ricardo Marshall.

Not me

Yeah, someone definitely doesn’t know how to assess performance, but it sure as hell isn’t me.

You just can’t expect anything different when the National Sports Council is being led by three sporting neophytes.

To their credit, though, they actually invite us sports journalists to sit in on their meetings, put forward nominees and present cases for each potential award winner. And most of the time they even agree with us, at least to our faces.

But then, what’s the sense of asking for a professional’s help to completely disregard it to make amateur decisions?

So we’re good enough to cover these athletes for a living, but not competent to assess them for free.

Each of the last two years I shortlisted four athletes for the Sports Personality award while writing a comprehensive bio of their seasons and then detailing a list of those respective achievements.

Yet the ultimate responsibility for choosing Barbados’ best sportsmen rests with someone who may have no time to even watch their performances.

That’s how you come up with people choosing Hayley Matthews for Sports Personality Of The Year on the back of a one-off 66 in the ICC World T20 and absolutely nothing else.

Yes, Oba, Ryan Brathwaite, Andrea Blackett and Ivorn McKnee also won due to one-off performances, but my expertise in this field allows me to understand the magnitude of an Olympic medal, World Championship title and Commonwealth medals far outweighs that of a half-century in a final.

Heck, Matthews shouldn’t even have won the Junior Female Outstanding Sportsperson, considering squash sensation Meagan Best became the youngest senior Caribbean champ at just 14 years old.

And unlike the committee that would like to dismiss the level of that competition, I know, as a trained sports journalist, that a former top 20 pro Nicolette Fernandes consistently plied her trade at the Caribbean tournament.

It helps to know that Best won the Canadian Junior Squash Open and a bronze at the US Open equivalent as well.

Of course the average man can identify the Grand Slams as the pinnacle of tennis, but what they won’t realise is that many top 100 players have never appeared in an Olympiad.


But guess who has.

That’s right, the same Darian King who’s been overlooked, for the “level” he competes at has become the first Barbadian tennis player to contest an Olympics, break the top 150 in the world, win three ATP Challenger titles and appear at Wimbledon and the Australian Open – all in the same season.

Members of the committee may not remember that Martin Blackman – who owns victories against Pete Sampras as a junior – just so happens to be Bajan and he has none of these accomplishments.

I can appreciate the creation of an Indigenous Sports Award, but not when the man responsible for the resurgence of road tennis, Dale Clarke, isn’t even mentioned.

And all he did was make the sport an actual profession for at least two players. You see, I can make this estimation after covering his pro tournaments.

The Professional Road Tennis Association president probably should have been handed the Alvin Burgess Award, too.

Not the worse

He wasn’t the only one left out from the road tennis, err Indigenous Sports Award, as Ricardo Marshall didn’t get a nod either for his role in running the primary schools’ tournament.

Then again, that’s not worse than someone trying to belittle the fact that Akela Jones qualified for the Olympics in five events and broke two of her own national records in one year.

But I understand what Olympic qualification means. I can assess tennis and squash levels.

I know exactly who really contributes to road tennis.

And I know I wouldn’t mek dem mistakes like the people down at de National Sports Council.


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