New year, new drama.
World class track stars Elaine Thompson-Herah and Asafa Powell speaking on a podcast said Jamaicans are ungrateful and that, as successful athletes, they should not be considered in the same class as ordinary Joes but be hailed as superstars.
Both are talented, well accomplished athletes who are gifted at what they do. They have represented their country and emerged triumphant. They have brought pride to Jamaica and are celebrated and admired.
When the citizens of your country elevate your status, laud you openly, it should not be diminished. Your very fame, wealth and respect comes from them. Like royalty, your existence is dependent on the will of the people- if they give you a thumbs down, your life as you know it can unravel and you too can be wearing the cap of anonymity.
Elegant, graceful, poised on the track, both stumbled over their feet on this podcast.
It has to be said, that most athletes are terrible communicators and, in many instances, come off inarticulate. This was the case here.
Powell did the talking on this one and Elaine Thompson-Herah wholeheartedly and exuberantly concurred with him.
Did they contemplate the ramifications of what they were saying and do they still stand by it after being met by red hot disapprobation?
This was Asafa Powell: “Jamaican people don’t respect and they categorise-they try to put us in the same circle as a regular class people. Come on! We are superstars. We are not social media influencers.
“We are superstars. We are celebrities. We have a talent. We go out on the track, we go out to the Olympic Games, we represent the country. Don’t put us in a basket with the regular people.”
Can this be interpreted to mean that Jamaicans should genuflect before them and deify them as gods among mere mortals?
Jamaicans are not that way. In fact, they are insistent that they will never be obsequious because of celebrity status.
Some now say that both Thompson and Powell should remain ensconced in their ivory castle and not deign to associate or engage with commoners – after all they are above them and made that known.
This was a big mistake and may well harm them both going forward.
An athlete is extremely lucky if he or she gets 10 years at the top of their sport. It is best to be loved and appreciated after the sun sets on a glorious career. It can be harsh when no one remembers your name or you are relegated to being a has-been and have to carry your own bags and no one pays attention to you in the grocery store.
You have to be smart about the adulation that comes your way and have the wherewithal to use it effectively.
Many of Jamaica’s track stars come from humble beginnings and their success has opened doors for them, enriched them. They give hope to many who harbour a dream.
Some recognise that the ability to run fast is not the be all, that you have to be worthy of the status bestowed upon you; you have to be articulate, clean living, always be an ambassador for your country, earn the grace and favour of your people.
Do not rub people’s faces in it and look down your nose at them. Powell and Thompson-Herah have not grasp this. Sooner or later, folk will be looking to expose you as a god of clay feet.
For most of us, life is long and it takes endurance to live it. In many cases, as an athlete, the crowd stops shouting your name in your 30s. What do you do for the next 50 years? Some can never get past their glory days and have a sense of entitlement that gnaws at their souls.
In the week before Christmas, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was at a school Christmas pageant in Kingston. Perhaps it was her son’s school, but she was the epitome of graciousness, friendly with everyone, a superstar among mums and dads but came off as just a regular mum; encouraging everyone and wishing them all the very best for the festive season.
This may be a sign of good things to come. She will remain beloved for decades and will go on to prosper far better than her contemporaries who deem themselves to be superstars and say they should not be treated as ordinary people – mark my words.
Usain Bolt is among the best athletes this world has ever seen but remains charming and self-effacing. He too is well loved in Jamaica and is appreciative of the recognition and support of his people. The goodwill he enjoys will last for years to come.
Contrast the way Shelly-Ann and Usain are perceived with what Asafa says here: “That’s the thing I don’t like about Jamaicans, they don’t understand how privileged they are to have us even living in Jamaica. Who would they get to brag about? Even just to walk up and take a picture with we and all that stuff. The ungratefulness is just real out there.”
Take that in for a minute, you ungrateful Jamaicans!
Many people now will be guarded when meeting Thompson-Herah and Powell during public appearances. What they said will remain in people’s minds for a long time and they will be wary. Both these speed stars may not be despised but they won’t be admired and adored- then the bitterness will take hold as their bodies sag and their faces become lined with age as they become engulfed in the vast chasm between grand promises and bleak reality.
Listening to Thompson-Herah and Powell, Percy Shelley’s poem Ozymandias readily comes to mind:
“I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Next time I see you, Asafa and Elaine, I won’t forget to kiss your bunioned feet.
Happy New Year.