Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lightning Bolt!

Congratulations to Usain Bolt, Jamaica's first Gold Medalist at this year's Olympics. What a joy to see him run like him navel string cut pon it! Him run so natural, easing up at the end, looking around, slapping his chest in anticipation of victory. He's clearly capable of cutting back on that 9.69 world record time! Asafa Powell's performance was disappointing, but it was a great feeling to look at a field of sprinters who were all from the Caribbean, save the American, Walter Dix. Congrats too to Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago and Walter Dix of the USA, who placed second and third, respectively. I've three or four posts in the making this weekend, and there will be a couple more about sports, so this one will be relatively short. It ends with a beef. No commentator speaks of Michael Phelps, or spoke of Mark Spitz, as coming from the American swimming factory, and factory for factory, dem have plenty, plenty more factory dan we. So why do our sprinters come from 'Jamaica's sprinting factory'? Not so much a matter of being thin-skinned, but a matter of objecting to a comparison that's misleading. I taught Don Quarrie at Camperdown High School many years ago, and remember the struggles of the late Mrs Ivy Grant, founder and headmistress of Camperdown High, as she fought to support the young sprinters of that school, to secure training for them, to see them into national and international competitions. Happily or unhappily, things haven't changed all that much in the intervening years where training for our athletes is concerned. So there isn't anything like a training factory for sprinters in Jamaica – a recent article in the New York Times (by Duff Wilson, 20 July, 2008) says as much. As a poet and former media person, I feel strongly that metaphors shouldn't be random or decorative. They should be warranted, and this one isn't.


FSJL said...

I agree, it is a completely unwarranted metaphor. It is also -- unsurprisingly -- xenophobic. After all, the Americans are supposed to win everything, since the Jamaicans have beaten them, it must be by underhanded means, such as manufacturing sprinters (perhaps down on Spanish Town Road). In any case, Mr Bolt did Jamaica (and his name) proud.

I was amused, a little while back, by the Xtian group that got tripped up by it's automatic text-replacement software. When Tyson Gay qualified for the US team, it changed his surname to 'Homosexual' in the story on its web site. This created such marvels as 'Homosexual eases into first place'.

clarabella said...

fsjl: Better you comment on the zenophobia than me. It's all about attitude, isn't it? They taught us when I did my Dip. Ed – and I DID learn stuff that year – that education was about skills and knowledge, yes, but more about attitudes and values. An educated police force isn't trigger and taser happy. At very least, an educated cadre of journalists and commentators does not let its zenophobia SHOW! As for your ostensibly Xian group, and its lovely serendipitous headline about Mr Gay, who says God doesn't have a sense of humour? (It occurs to me that Mr Gay could sue them for any number of things, including invasion of privacy...)

FSJL said...

Education is about how you handle the world, which involves having a lot of tools inside your head for doing so. At least that's what I think. Xenophobia tends to restrict the toolkit.

I see that the young women of Jamaica have done better than the young men at the 100 metres.

Gold and two silvers, that's excellent.

Jdid said...

the US media really outdoes itself come olympic time. I remember as a child I thought Carl Lewis was the greatest thing ever because we used to get the american coverage of the 1984 and 1988 olympics. I mean carl lewis his sister, flo jo, jackie joyner kersey and all the other US olympians had this mythology built around them and as a kid i completely bought into it.

now I look at their coverage more objectively but the same mythologies are built into every word spoken about michael phelps and the US athletes so if they lose we are led to believe one they were overcoming incredible odds just to get their anyways which is in itself quite fully when you realize that unlike athletes in many other countries who train and then have to make a living most of the US athletes are full time athletes sponsored for thousands if not millions per year. two the other countries must be cheating or using some special techniques that are somehow less than honest or sending in underage gymnists etc. or three the other countries have some inate inborn affinity for the event in question which the US does not have. no way can they just be athletes who put in as much work as the US athletes but perform better on that day. none. thats just not credible to the american media.

clarabella said...

Hi jdid: I think you have analyzed it just about right. That's why I think it's important to call people on these things. Our athletes are not the products of a factory. That simply isn't true. That's probably why they have done so splendidly. There's no heart in a factory, no challenge, no exhilaration. I think there may well be a case for examining other countries, to see whether they don't regard their athletes as commodities 'produced' on a manufacturing line. Nobody, anywhere ought to be regarded in that way, nor treated in that way – though I often think that, quite apart from sports, some people organizing educational systems in the north have been – indeed, ARE busily adopting the factory approach!