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Sports in focus – losing the connections?

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I have been a long-time sporting fan for more than six decades, avidly trying to follow everything I could, with a few exceptions, using all means available. It started in those days with the radio of course, the BBC and its “Sports Round-Up”, relayed twice a day via our local feed station (WIBS), as often the central factor, at least where international sport is concerned. But there were also important regional feeds, via Radio Trinidad and Radio Guardian as well as CBC in Barbados.

Then, coverage of sporting events via radio was far more prevalent than today, when, if you don’t have a television cable subscription or Internet connection, you often have to wait until the day after. Also of importance in catching up with the tide was reading, then a necessity, but increasingly today, a matter of convenience.

Our humble library played an important role, where though borrowing of classics was not always permitted; you could go into the library and read up on a whole history of boxing from the 18th century onwards, cricket, football and so on. It enabled young ones to get an appreciation of the historical development of sport and not just react and comment on current issues.
I raise these not to do as so many of my generation, talking of the “old days” being “better’, but to express an appreciation of the evolution of sporting coverage and how it impacted on the youth of my generation. If we are fortunate enough to have access to the connections mentioned above (Internet and cable tv), a world of sporting information is there for us.

The challenge is how to make the connections between the world of sporting information available via modern technology, and local and regional connections. If you are a cricket fan for instance, the site provides you with more info than you can digest. But when you fill yourself with all the stats you can about cricket globally, you have a problem regionally.

That gap used to be filled by outstanding regional journalists and commentators. The late Tony Cozier was especially instrumental in this regard; his Red Stripe Cricket Annual being staple fare for cricket fans, while his Barbadian counterpart Harold Eastmond, also did his bit with an annual statistical compilation of cricket records from a regional perspective.

Many other outstanding regional commentators, writers and journalists made their contribution as well, but because of the historical role of cricket in the Caribbean, the efforts outside cricket were not so well documented. But even from SVG, one could follow football in Trinidad and Tobago. From college up to national level, we heard commentaries on teams from Brazil and Suriname playing against top Trinidad club teams like Maple and Regiment, and even entertained some of those top clubs here at home.

We had the Windwards’ football and cricket competitions annually, now almost reduced to nuisance level. There was radio coverage of Trinidad’s famous Southern Games bringing coverage of world class athletics and cycling every year at Eater.

We even had radio coverage live, of horse racing, complemented by betting booths locally, where you could bet on horse racing in Trinidad and the UK. Interest in local boxing was fuelled by radio live broadcasts of professional boxing, allowing us to make the connection between the international stars and our own Mike Harry and the like.

So in those days of no Internet, no TV, there was a medium to keep interest in sport alive among young people. When you went to cinema for instance, there were BBC news reels through which you could see snippets of international sport. There were also regular “film shows” at Peace Memorial Hall for instance, through which we could view the historic West Indies cricket tour of Australia, 1960/61, including the first-ever tied test in cricket.

Those were the “ties that bind’, having young generations hooked on sport, in spite of the lack of facilities and absence of regular live coverage. They provided the inspiration which kept cricketers in North Leeward aspiring to the top, and which produced a Mike Findlay, which galvanized our talented footballers to overcome the obstacle which was the Victoria Park, to rise to the heights of regional competition; which fuelled the rise of our national netballers to overcome the poor facilities and challenge regional powerhouses Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. (Part 2 next week)

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