(Following is an excerpt from the editorial in Amandala no. 1762 of Sunday, May 11, 2003)
It is difficult to discuss sports in Belize without provoking emotional responses from various quarters, but we hope that in this essay we can provide clarification and background instead of sparking controversy.
The recent announcement of the new appointments to the National Sports Council suggests to us that power has returned to those who see sports as privilege, rather than opportunity. All children, even handicapped ones, love sporting competition, and we can view sports as an actual human right. So no reasonable person would want to deny Belizean children the right to play sports. The problem is that we are a poor country, with limited facilities. It has happened, most notably in the case of the Belize City Center, that there are disagreements between those who see sports as privilege, and we generally refer to such peoples as “amateurists,” and those who see sports as opportunity, and those are the people who support professionalism in sports.
You would be entitled to ask: how did we move from “right” to “privilege” and “opportunity”? Well, in sports all children start out as equals, but inside the sports system in the United States, for example, as the children grow into adolescents, and then young adults, various of them begin to realize they are not as gifted as their peers. This happens all along the way, until the system produces those elite performers who entertain the world and make a nice living as players in the NBA, the NFL, the baseball major leagues and so on. Most of those who drop out along the way and fall short of professional glory, become fans of the sport they loved the most, and the money they pay to see the elite athletes perform, helps pay the salaries of these athletes. (Amazingly, national pride has reached the point where the United States uses its elite professional athletes to defend their national ego in the Olympics, traditionally a bastion of amateurism.) Those athletes who conclude at some point that they can not make a living in sports, have to make alternative plans. Even those who do make a living in sports, often have to do regular jobs after their careers are over.
In the Cuban sports system, which is communist in philosophy, emphasis on the glory of the nation/state is the most important part of their sports philosophy. The elite athletes are actually professionals, in that they make a living performing in their sports specialty, but they are not encouraged to become greedy for material goods. In Cuba, the sports heroes are national heroes, idols of The Revolution. Sometimes, of course, Cuban elite athletes choose to defect to other countries, especially the United States, to seek greater personal wealth.
The point we make is that in sports all of us start out as equals, but along the way the cream rises to the top. It is very difficult when a person realizes that he/she is not gifted enough to go further in sports, but life is filled with hard realities. In systems as disparate as those in the capitalist United States and the communist Cuba, the sports administrators and trainers seek to identify and nurture the athletic cream of the crop.