Spectator sports and participatory sports all make for good entertainment and friendly rivalry. Once there is a sporting activity, there is bound to be some interest from individuals or groups.
Jamaica has long been involved in sports whether as a spectator or as a participant. This would have gone way back to the first quarter of the 20th century. If an event was not popular in Jamaica it would soon be caught on by Jamaicans even before the advent of television and the big screen. Families would collect baseball cards even when they do not have a clue as to what the game is all about.
American Football, Basketball, baseball, boxing, cricket, swimming, tennis, netball and Track & Field have always been among the most loved spectator and participatory sports for Jamaicans at home and abroad.
With the West Indies Cricket team carrying a tradition of a “most loved” team, they were once the most prolific team in the world of cricket. Never mind that their fortune has fallen tremendously low, this band of Merry Men from the Caribbean still command great respect from the islanders at home and in the diaspora.
It is however Track and Field, Football and Cricket that Jamaicans have become warm to. All of this being given enough prominence by the Jamaican public.
Just now the vaunted track and field Boys and Girls Championships would have commenced in Jamaica. It is an event that each year brings in over 5,000 athletes from high schools across the island – all competing for supremacy in both the boys and girls events at the National Stadium.
Boys & Girls Championships or “Champs” as it is popularly known, is the most sought-after event in the local track & field season. It brings to a close 9 months of intense preparation for this one-week event. Millions of dollars would have been invested and considerable earnings from the gate and sponsorship would have been expected. All of this and the anticipation of top results for the favourite schools will come to naught because of the dreaded COVID -19.
It is not only Champs that would have been affected. The National Championships, the CARIFTA Games and the Penn Relays have all been affected. All these events headed by the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan have either been postponed or cancelled.
Like Track & Field, there are other sporting endeavours that are affected such as cricket and football. There will not be any International football matches played on FIFA dates. All upcoming Red Stripe Premier League games have been postponed, all the major football leagues in Europe have all been shut down leaving local football fans in a quagmire. For Jamaicans, no live football on the weekend is like finally getting to the front of the line at KFC after 15 minutes to find out there’s no barbecue…
For cricket there will be no Indian Premier League and possibly no Caribbean Premier League. It’s safe to say there will be no international cricket tours happening soon. The Regional Four day tournament ends early as panic stretches across the Caribbean islands. Even the ones that secretly enjoyed watching cricket will be crying foul.
One popular television commentator added a comedic twist indicating that Jamaican sports fans would welcome watching anything at this time. Even a West Indies vs Afghanistan Test match at 3:00 AM would do the trick during this time of sporting famine.
The next port of call is to make more very tough decisions should the wide-spread impact of the virus stretch into the second half of the year. Liverpool is approaching its first league title in 30 years, plenty of local YNWA fans will not be happy with suggestions to cancel and void this season.
The local Red Stripe Premier League is also at a critical juncture while cricket’s first World T20 Championship in four years will be held in Australia in October.
There is some solace to take from this for others. At Champs, the likes of Edwin Allen High School out of Frankfield, Clarendon and Kingston College from North Street, Kingston will both have an extended hold on their respective Champs trophies and will continue to make good use of their bragging rights.
But guess what? The pieces will have to be picked up and efforts made to return some levels of normalcy. There will be many opportunities after COVID-19. Already people are talking about doing some events before the year is done. Until then, we must follow the advice given on social distancing, staying at home, observing strict hygiene practices and just stay healthy!