Archive for November, 2012

Anyone who is an avid fan of sports, particularly any european football league, is familiar with the notion of the transfer market. This refers to the two periods – one in August and the other in January when teams are allowed to negotiate the “purchase and sale” of professional players. With January on the horizon the rampant speculation that this season of transfers evokes is already heating up. Forgive me if I misled you but by no means is this blog post about the Robin Van Pursetrings or the Cristiano Ronaldos of the world.

In fact quite paradoxically the subjects of this post are for the most part children not professionals. Yes, you guessed it i’m wading into this big hullabaloo in the Jamaican society today regarding student-athletes frequently being “bought and sold” to and from the powerhouse schools in schoolboy sports. Let me state it upfront  I 100% abhor the practice ( and not just because certain schools keep nabbing the best footballers from my alma mater though that makes the practice even more painful). Notwithstanding my hatred for this practice of “buying” schoolboys for the principal purpose of playing sports, I think some of the more recent comments have been beyond the wildest degrees of Hyperbole. With due respect to some of the fine minds that have been commenting, likening the practice to lance armstrong’s alleged drug cheating or to modern-day slavery might be slight exaggerations to put it mildly.

But I disagree in degree and not in substance as I said before the status quo in schoolboy sports cannot continue. We cannot have a situation where the term student-athlete becomes a misnomer because the student no longer is required to achieve certain levels of academic success, but rather win trophies for the school in sports. No one is knocking a child and his/her parents for transferring from one school to another for the purpose of bettering that child’s development, but when these kids become pawns in a game of “we must win at all costs” so some old boys can sit at the bar and celebrate I cannot support that. Not to mention the fact that once these “assets” have passed their athletic usefulness and have not been proportionately guided in the academic and life skills departments oftentimes little care is shown about what happens to them. Too often they are discarded and the same big men that reasoned with them as “peers” have limited interest in their welfare. I know the previous two sentences paint extreme cases but sad to say there is truth in them.

Dont get me wrong either or confuse me with self-righteous academics that wish to look down on those in society who are unable to collect letters before and after their name. This is not that. I do not expect that every student that matriculates to high school will become Albert Einstein or Professor Stephen Vasciannie. The natural gift that some of us are given will be art, some of us it will be singing and for some of us will be in sports. Therefore I am all for the development of players and for intense focus on sports for those who are seen as having the potential to earn some bread through that vehicle BUT THERE MUST BE SOME BALANCE.

If we say we are running schools, then it must be schools that we are running and the first and foremost purpose of an educational institution is EDUCATION. All other extra curricular activities must be seen as complementary and auxiliary to the learning process and even if one is going to enter a field where “book learning” is not paramount each individual must be brought to some agreed minimum standard of education. If we are primarily focused on athletic development for those identified as potential professionals then another vehicle apart from the school structure as is must be created to satisfy this cohort. What immediately comes to mind is the football academy structure in europe where the focus is primarily football with basic educational training provided in tandem.

What is clear is that whilst we claim to be operating schools the Student-athlete MUST BE A STUDENT FIRST. Also these students must not be commodities traded to and fro despite their academic performances in the pursuit of victory at the expense of their future.

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Not to flog a dead horse, but i know i have already  examined the back and forth between the secular and church points of view on Sunday horseracing in Jamaica in the context of a wider discussion of the separation of church and state. In that post I predicted that that debate would perhaps rage forever. Well based on the evidence of one of the issues grabbing most of the headlines in Jamaica at present my prediction may indeed be spot on. What is stoking the flames of the sacred vs. profane battlefield this time? CASINO GAMBLING!!!

As far back as I can remember this is a matter that has been in the Jamaican discourse and to no avail these discussions have always stalled with the pro casino gambling economic case meeting upon an equally strong anti – casino gambling moral case. Two things in my view have breathed new life into this debate. The first of which was the November 9, 2012 signature in the nations Senate (Upper House of Parliament) of a bill that lays the regulatory framework out of which a Casino Gaming industry. This represents arguably the first real and strong concrete step the Government of Jamaica has made towards allowing casino gambling.

The second, and more earth shattering, flashpoint in this discussion is best encapsulated in the headline of our nation’s most read newspaper on Monday November 12, 2012 which read:  “Catholic Deacon Bats for Casino Gambling.”  The aforementioned quotation is attributed to one Mr Francis Tulloch who is a relatively new Roman Catholic clergyman who in his former endeavours was a Politician and Minister of Tourism in Jamaica. Mr Tulloch despite his religious leanings has stated emphatically his belief that the institution of casino gambling would be of great benefit in the enhancing of Jamaica’s tourism product, the latter being one of the principal engines of the Jamaican economy. This has had equal and opposite impacts on the two factions of this debate. Some segments of the Church are deeply saddened by the proclamations of Mr Tulloch and still vociferously state their opposition to casino gambling on moral grounds. Concurrently the supporters of Casino gambling see this as an example where a balance between the religious views of some and the potentially economic benefit of the collective is being treated in a balanced way, especially by someone affiliated to a traditionally conservative religious grouping.

And it is indeed balance that is needed. Whether the entire populace is in agreement or not I think the democratic processes which govern the way the nation goes are slowly but surely evidencing a majority view in favour of Casino gambling. The potential economic benefits of 1) attracting more visitors perhaps and 2) increasing the expenditure of regular visitors and/or locals in the economy cannot be denied. However, some of the potential social/moral issues that could arise from the large-scale promotion of a casino gambling too are not to be scoffed at. However there are several potentially socially debilitating things that societies are able to regulate and harness to gain benefits from them or at worst lessen their harmful benefits. Alcohol comes to mind as an example.

As such whether I personally support casino gambling (which i wouldnt ban but am not a fan of personally) or not, it is poised to become a reality and as such all the stakeholders must come together to ensure that it is at best a blessing and at worst not a scourge.

Lets hope some of my not so clever wordplay gets some “i see what you did there” responses.

If state x and state y have a major historical conflict and are killing each other off THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THAT THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ESPECIALLY A POWERFUL STATE Z CAN HELP DIFFUSE THE CONFLICT WHILE PICKING ONE SIDE IN THE FIGHT.

THE END. (I thought it was profound hope you agree)