Kobe Bryant, sports, and the uncertainty of time

Kobe Bryant, sports, and the uncertainty of time

By Ray Ford

Thursday, January 30, 2020

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The passing of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and others in that helicopter crash last Sunday is an unspeakable tragedy. But, in reality, these tragedies occur every day some place or the other in the world. It's only because most have not risen beyond parochial media coverage that we, the public, have not heard about them. The fact, though, is that this one has resulted in a global outpouring of emotion and sympathy for the bereaved, especially for the family of the world-recognised, five-time world champion NBA player.

Needless to say, I too feel a sense of grief for all aboard the helicopter, and a sense of loss over the death of Kobe Bryant in particular, because globally televised sports these days, of which Bryant was a part, form an inextricable part of my day-to-day life. Just like the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King Jr, years from now we'll all remember where we were when we heard the tragic news.

Last September, the day after the West Indies lost their Test match at Sabina Park, I boarded a Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) #98 bus at North Parade in downtown Kingston to take a head-clearing ride out to Port Royal. On it hopped a quiet-looking, middle-aged lady who, after a while, began to preach: “Repent! Repent!” she repeated with the shrill familiar to Pentecostals, “...for you know not whence the hour.” Last Sunday's tragedy, like all others, reminds of the trueness of the latter part of that humble little lady's elocution.

Come Sunday, February 2, 2020, mostly all of us will be looking towards the Super Bowl, and then there's the Australian Tennis Open, US's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college basketball's 'March Madness', the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championships, The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, the Olympics in Tokyo, and so on. Right throughout the year, one after another, some major sporting event will rivet our attention. And these will all represent the best of the best, going head to head not only to feed their driven passions, but to entertain us as well. And, how boring would life be without their entertaining us?

Shortly before India toured the West Indies four years ago, in anticipation of seeing them, I dug through my vault of photographs and lifted a few of Sir Vivian Richards, Jeffery Dujon and Sunil Gavaskar. And, in-between their commentary stints in the Test match at Sabina, I called each to the side and gave them these pictures of their younger selves, in the process thanking them for the cricket entertainment that in bygone years they provided me. They were delighted that I had remembered to remember. And every time I run into one Andre Hudson at my local post office I thank him just the same. Hudson was one of Michigan State University's key players on the NCAA Championship title basketball team back in 2000.

To be a champion, mostly always, requires a lot of hard work — which few of us lesser mortals might realise. And so, I find it only fitting that when the opportunities arise I let my champion sports personalities know, in person, how much I appreciated them for — by being the best that they could be — providing me with some memorable moments. They all have helped me break up the ho-hum of life.

But, behind their athletic prowess, there are great stories as well, of little kindnesses, and of exemplary work ethic. ESPN's Mike Wilbon talks about the bouquet of flowers that showed up on his doorstep after he returned home from the hospital 12 years ago, having suffered a heart attack. Unbeknown to him, at first, it was sent by Kobe Bryant. And there are other numerous reports of Bryant's acts of kindness to kids aspiring to be like him in terms of being a basketball great. From Bryant's passing we all will husband our own takeaways. But mine are these: At the end of his stellar basketball career, in a sit-down interview, Kobe was asked, how he would want to be remembered. “As a person who didn't waste a moment, didn't waste a day, didn't take talent for granted, and for working as hard as if I were the 12th man on the bench,” Bryant said.

In Jamaica, in business, leadership, sports, and in public service, some who have some talent hardly as much as that of Bryant do not see the need to get better at whatever they do. And some want to achieve greatness but are either unwilling to, or feel that they don't have to put in the work.

On the matter of using or not wasting one's time, quite some time ago, I was assaulted at the National Stadium for supposedly having told a prominent Jamaica sports personality that I no longer had any more time for what he might have been about. To be very truthful, I was not disrespecting the gentleman. Instead, I was being pragmatic. In life, each of us is only given so much time. And it behoves us to employ that time in pursuits that we ourselves see fit. And it is incumbent on each of us to guard against the insistence of others of using our time as theirs.

For the record, I must point out that among the contents of my wallet since is the police report of the said incident. And I have at home a copy of the stern warning from my Duke Street attorney. Some acorns must not be allowed to grow.

In the grander scheme of things, regarding the use of time, as much as I love my beloved Jamaica, I have no more time for recurring campaigns, such as 'Eat Jamaican', 'Keep Jamaica clean', making suggestions about stabilising the Jamaica dollar, or weighing-in on Jamaica's crime and violence problems. To the former three, having written about, or having drawn attention to the importance of them going back over 30 years, I've lent enough time. And, as for trying to posit solutions to the latter, that is above my pay grade. In addition, many hands, most more capable than mine, are already on-deck.

Even on Methuselah time eventually ran out; much less on lesser mortals like myself. With the uncertainly of time, there comes a stage in one's life one might want to decide which pursuits might be worth advancing and which might not.


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