By Tuesday evening this week, I realized that Calman Williams, the father of Justin Williams, the 2015 Holy Saturday Crosscountry cycling champion, and his brother Cory, who sacrificed his own race (he finished fifth) to bring his brother home to victory, had made a mistake by staying so far in the background. Calman consciously tried to make sure his sons got all the attention and glory they deserved. He succeeded in doing that, but had he made himself available to the Belizean media, then a lot of these “questions” on Belize’s social media about the authenticity of the Williams brothers’ Belizean-ness would have been exposed as, to my mind, frivolous and irrelevant.
Calman is a totally roots Belizean brother who migrated to Los Angeles soon after he began riding Crosscountry in 1984. He had fallen in love with Crosscountry, as we Belizeans all do, and began coming home from L.A. every year just to ride the race. According to him, he was actually in good enough shape to ride on Holy Saturday 2015, but decided to coach his sons instead. (Calman is about 53 years old.)
On Saturday, Calman coached a beautiful race, a perfect race. He could not have done a better job than he did. His sons got away in a break along with some other cyclists in the twenty series going to Cayo. Now, in the old days, ‘Country began at Mount Hope. Nothing much really mattered before then. Things have changed big time. The early break in which the Williams brothers participated, which included an American, Weiss; a Mexican, Godinez; and six or seven Belizeans, held up all the way to Cayo and back to the City. (At the end, though, only five cyclists had a chance to win – the Williams brothers, the American, the Mexican, and one Belizean – David Henderson, Jr.)
One of the unique things about Belizean Crosscountry is that there is no post-race media discussion. Once the race is over on Holy Saturday and the winners are interviewed in the early afternoon, one has to wait until the radio and television stations crank up on Tuesday morning to hear any serious analysis of what happened in those six hours “to Cayo and back.” The reality is that men who are riding Crosscountry die out there on the road. They go through, to be more accurate, near-death experiences of exhaustion and pain. During these excruciating experiences, they are consulting with strategists who nowadays are riding in air-conditioned vehicles and are able to look at the race in a larger perspective. These strategists have to make critical decisions, and these decisions materially affect the outcome of Crosscountry races. Sometimes the strategists make mistakes, and these mistakes, if we are allowed to continue the metaphor, cost the men on cycles their lives. This is what would be the grist of some kind of discussion show on Holy Saturday evening.
At home watching the end of Saturday’s race on television and listening to radio commentary at the same time, I realized that I wasn’t seeing Calman or hearing anything of him. What a fabulous moment this was for a father! The little I know of Calman, I know that he is a mischievous and humorous guy. He had gone serious, silent, in this moment of ecstatic triumph, and he had essentially disappeared from sight and sound. But, Calman’s story was a huge one, a journalism monster.
On Tuesday morning driving to work a little after 7, I heard Mose announce that the Williams brothers would be his guests on the WUB. I felt sure Calman would be around, so as soon as I got to work I went up to the television studio on the third floor. I met the Williams brothers, and David Henderson, Jr., who rode a heroic race to finish third. They were seated, waiting to go on air. I asked Justin for his dad, and was told he was downstairs. The truth is that Calman was on the street inside the car in which he had driven his sons to KREM. He had never come out of the car, apparently, so that the Kremandala workers whom I questioned could only say that there was some guy in a car waiting for the brothers.
Calman is not a shy guy. Of this, I am sure. So, all this beneath-the-radar stuff had to be deliberate on his part. Finally, someone brought him upstairs to my office. One of the things I remember saying to him was that the rap against us Belizean roots men has always been that we are not good fathers. Calman, I said, this is a fabulous thing that you have accomplished here, and our people need to know you and how faithful you have been to your sons.
Between 1956, say, and 1970, there was a Belizean father whose sons won ten Crosscountry races. There was no media to speak of in British Honduras in those days, and it was only in our streets that the legend of the Miguel brothers – Edward, Arthur, Johnito, and Rudy grew and became held in awe. Edward, the oldest, won three ‘Countries and should have won four (a championship was taken away from him because he took his hands off his handlebars in triumph before he crossed the finish line); Arthur won one; Johnito won four; and Rudy, the baby of the bunch, won the last two in 1969 and 1970. Ten Crosscountry victories in one family is a record which will never be broken. And no one even knows the first name of the father of the Miguel brothers! And he was the general out on the old Western road!
Back then, you see, ‘Country was just a roots thing, a Belizean thing. In the middle and late 1980s, the race almost became a plaything, like a competition for corporate multimillionaires. This year, a poor black Belizean who migrated to California brought his sons back home to win the race, and some controversy began about the family’s Belizean-ness. Cut this b—l s—t. Cut it right now. If Calman Williams did not love his children so and did not want for them to enjoy their moment in the Belizean sun, he would have let you know that nobody on this here map is more Belizean than he. I would second the motion. Straight up.