A BELIZEAN LITERARY & ATHLETIC MASTERPICE!
After my interviewing so many legendary Belizean athletes of the 1960s, 70s and 80s of Belize sports greatness, the book by Belize’s most astute and prolific writer, sportscaster, and historian of all time, Evan X Hyde called, “Sports, Sin & Subversion”, has been resting deeply on my conscience for years now, having used it as a road map to chart my direction of who, what, when, how and where is Belize’s past, present and future direction in sports.
The journey across Belize’s incredible sports history through this first complete anthology of Evan X Hyde’s literary work in sports took me into the accomplishments of Belizean athletes of the past who dominated with excellence in sports like football, softball, cycling, basketball, boxing, horse racing, athletics, tennis, and cricket. It awakened me to many of the highlights of a great period in Belize that many of us, the writer’s juniors, were too young to know and remember.
And it dazzled my imagination as to how dynamic Belizean athletes of the times were, especially in the sport of football that had produced some of Belize’s footballers who were definitely World Cup material. From the likes of Louis “Mugger” Garbutt and the sensational Gilbert “Chico” Ellis of the 1960s, to the fascinating Cristobal Mayen, Anthony “Garrincha” Adderley, Harry Cadle, Maurice Jones, Earl “Mandingo” Barnett, Ricky Gongora, Orvin “Stud” Hendricks, Orin Orio, Buck Palacio, Enrique Carballo, Gregsie Jones, and many more of these Belizean football superstars from the 1970s. Hyde expressed proudly in one of the book’s chapters that It was a classy Belizean national football selection made up of some these same players he celebrated with distinction that went undefeated in five games in Mexico (the state of Vera Cruz) in 1978.
Besides the sport of football itself that the “X” divulged so much information through about the kind of predominantly black cadre of Belizean athletes that were dominating most of the sporting life in Belize, his chronicling of the legends of Belizean basketball like Dougie Joseph and Sonny Meighan of the 1960s, as well as Wilton Cumberbatch, Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn, Mervin “Shape” Rodas, Charles Goff, and many more of that period could not have come at a better time. His account of sports in Belize was written as Belize continues to struggle to maintain its athletic edge in Central American and Caribbean sports, as well as being a dominant athletic competitor in world class softball of the past.
Belizean women of softball greatness had accomplished perhaps the best for Belize as a small emerging nation in the world as the then “British Honduras” by beating the best softball team in the world, the United States, “Orlando Rebels”, in the 1979 Pan American Games. These outstanding Belizean female athletes had not only done that, but they also won Belize’s first gold medal in sports in the Central American & Caribbean Games in Santa Domingo in 1974.
Though the “X” made special mention of them, hailing the late Noreen Rivers Bodden, Linda Lewis, Glenda Ellis, and Margaret Usher as some of his all-time favorites, he should have spent more time on their highly acclaimed and world class performances outside of the knockout softball tournaments in Belize. But we are so grateful though that he raised them up as the “Queens” of Belizean sports greatness that they were and continue to be today as legends.
Highlighting the legendary Belizean boxer Ludwig Lightburn as the former British Honduras’ (Belize) golden boy after his defeat of the American boxer, Ralph Dupas, at the famous Madison Square Garden in New York in 1955 to become the no. 2 lightweight contender in the world, Hyde’s prolific and exciting writing style shared the moments of other Belizean boxing greats like Eckert Lewis and Slim Terror of the 1960s, David Dakers, Roy “Shorty” Clarke, Raymond “Sixteen” Thompson of the 1970s, and many others of the 1970s who had brought a proud period of boxing history to Belize through their remarkable athletic abilities.
Hyde’s masterpiece in literary excellence brought joy to the Belizean sporting soul as he documented Belize’s mastery of Central American and Caribbean cycling in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and its world renowned “Holy Saturday Cross Country” cycling classic through the Miguel Brothers cycling dynasty. He also championed Belize’s other cycling greats like Jefferey O’Brien, Kenrick “The King” Halliday, Charlie Lewis, and Alfred Parks as some of the best cyclists Belizeans have ever seen. He mourned the loss of those like the three-time Belize Cross Country cycling champion, Alpheus Williams, and his fantastic career as a young Belizean cycling superstar.
But he also troubled the restless heart in his powerful analysis of how foreign cyclists who were probably doping had come to dominate Belize’s most favorite and popular pastime, “The “Holy Saturday Cross Country”. He opened up a Pandora’s Box of more questions than answers as to how Belize will manage this immense change in its sporting development as it struggles to find formidable Belizean cyclists today to turn the tide of defeats by foreign cyclists year after year on Belizean shores. It remains one of the open wounds in Belize’s athletic development as it emerges as a young nation looking for its athletic heroes as ambassadors of goodwill.
Referencing Belizean athletic talents in cricket, tennis and other sports like horse racing that became very popular Belizean sports nationwide, Hyde injects the politics of sports in Belize as a wrap around viewpoint in his book so as to explain to his readers why Belize rose to such a pivotal era of sports greatness in the past and how the passion of politics in Belize pushed back against a black athletic demographic since Belize’s pre-independence days. It also unravels the undercurrents of political exploitation of Belizean athletes of that time and how they are still not honored today in any kind of national Hall of Fame.
“X” Hyde’s life as one of Belize’s best writers of all time, reveals from beneath the surface some of the most taboo subjects known to many Belizeans that were never really discussed openly about sports, sin, and subversion in Belize and of the Belizean status quo in resistance against a predominantly black “Creole” population of blue collar workers, laborers, civil servants, and craftsmen who were also athletes that had built the national pride of Belizean nationalism through sports. This breed of Belizean ancestors in Belizean society had also produced some of the most promising Belizean athletes that had ever come out of the former colonial slave society called “British Honduras”, now Belize.
Throughout this thought-provoking analysis of Belizean athletic performance and achievements nationally and internationally, Evan X Hyde has rewarded Belizean artistic, literary and historical institutions with one of the most brilliant works that the Belizean nation-state of Belize can accredit to its name. Whether we disagree with his analysis, accounts, and documented historical presentation, Belizeans at home and abroad have not seen one like it materialize since.
We here at “Belizean Legends” will embrace this eclectic work in Belizean sports greatness as well as the revolutionary author, Evan X Hyde, as Belize’s best writer today. Kudos to Evan X Hyde and his remarkable book, “Sports, Sin & Subversion”!
(Photos through the courtesy of the book “Sports, Sin & Subversion” by Evan X Hyde)