“Sports Bring Sadness, Happiness, Smiles and Hope!” by Colin Croft

27th September 2015

Patrolling the Boundary  – a view from the outfield

Like West Indians everywhere, I hope that yesterday’s (Saturday) ‘Rally Round Dominica’ charity game at revered Kensington Oval, while a fun event, generated dollars galore for Dominica’s Hurricane Relief Fund, a very serious project which will help with absolutely necessary, timely rejuvenations of one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful, truly ecological islands.

Great merriment should have been had by all, for when players like (Sir) Curtly Ambrose, Ambassador and former WI captain Brian Lara, another former WI captain Darren Sammy and the likes of former Manchester United and Trinidad & Tobago footballer Dwight Yorke get together, regardless of the seriousness and severity of the cause, enjoyment and hope too should prevail.

Inundated by deceptively deadly Tropical Storm Erica, Dominica will shine again, for it is ‘The Emerald Isle’. Nowhere in the Caribbean ever seems to be as incandescent green as Dominica, with its rolling hills, still remembered steep, swirling descents for landing into Cane Field airport, and playing at and appreciating the magnificent, iconic Rousseau Botanic Gardens cricket ground.

I have been involved in at least five seriously devastating hurricanes, flying supplies into Haiti for disasters in 1994, 1998 and 2008, courtesy of Hurricanes Gordon, George and Hanna respectively, and doing similarly for Grenada’s problems with Ivan in 2004.

But by far the worst experienced, first-hand, was 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida, from West Palm Beach, where I then lived before re-migrating to the Caribbean, to the southern-most tip of Key West, and beyond, causing nearly US$30 billion in damage. Even now, Miami and environs are still rebuilding, fortifying, attempting hurricane-proofing, after Andrew!

Andrew was more powerful than 2005’s fabled Hurricane Katrina, whose results created misery in USA’s Gulf Coast, mostly Louisiana, where terrible engineering during construction of supposedly water-restrictive levees and flood walls aided Katrina’s resultant deaths and destruction. Regeneration has been slow and painful and no-one knows if that region will really recover fully!

Anyway, I had volunteered for involvement in that match for Dominica but did not make the final cut, but I will still make contributions, directly and stealthily, in time. Dominica must recover, as WI cricket needs that picturesque island badly. It is still the only Caribbean country where even a Test Match is almost guaranteed to be sold out!

The Caribbean owes Dominicans big time for undying support, regardless of local conditions, so this is an opportunity for every Caribbean country to give back in some way, a trend already started by Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago. There really should be no excuses for not doing something for ‘The Emerald Isle’!

Last week’s sadness came with the death of a genuine American sporting icon, baseball great Lawrence Peter ‘Yogi’ Berra. Often that word ‘great’ is used, especially in sports, to nominate and indicate contributions to some game, for club or country, by player or administrator. Here was a guy who deserved more than mere “greatness”, both as successful player and coach too.

There were rumors, even contemplated, eventually dropped lawsuits, emanating from suggestions that ‘Yogi Bear’, that likeable but insufferable cartoon character created by Joseph Barbera and William Hannah – ‘Hannah/Barbera’ – was something of a caricature for Yogi Berra. Indeed, last week, one very prominent news agency even actually announced that ‘Yogi Bear had died!’

It can certainly be wagered that no other sporting personality, with the possible exception of boxer Muhammad Ali, has been more quoted, even in these articles, than Yogi Berra, but Ali and Berra could justifiably claim to have been the greatest practitioners of their respective sports.

That Yogi, a catcher, could still garner such accolades is a massive achievement. Batters/hitters and pitchers, even outfielders, are more glorified in baseball teams, but Yogi’s exploits for USA’s best known baseball team, New York Yankees, could compete with another Yankees’ stalwart, George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth – ‘the sultan of swat’ – for being America’s best player ever.

Babe’s career spanned twenty-two years; 1914 to 1935; at a time in USA when sports played a tremendously important part for simple everyday existence, during the Great Depression. Yogi played baseball for nineteen seasons; 1946 to 1963, then 1965; yet another time of necessary rebuilding in American life, that time used for overall recovery from World War II.

Those periods confirmed that sports can be used to fuse nations fractured by abnormal situations, as WI cricket had so proved too during our own age of independence – 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – when, coincidentally, considering circumstances now, we were also cricket world champions.

Yogi Berra was obviously one of the greatest sportsmen ever, but it was his soliloquies – ‘Yogi-isms’ – that have so enraptured the English language; the sheik of very strange and memorable speeches!

“Never answer an anonymous letter”; “You can observe a lot by watching”; “I am not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did”; “If you do not know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else”; most favorite of all, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” Like Yogi Bear, Yogi Berra made everyone smile! Enjoy!

C.E.H. Croft

Colin Everton Hunte Croft was one of the fast-bowling giants of West Indies’ glorious period of world dominance. In his international career between 1977-82 he was part of a devastating 4-man pace attack alongside fellow greats Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner (with a young Malcolm Marshall as first reserve). In 27 Tests he took 125 wickets at 23.30 with a best of 8-29 v Pakistan in only his 2nd Test Match. He was a member of West Indies’ World Cup winning XI of 1979, and took the match-clinching wicket, spreading the stumps of England’s Mike Hendrick, to finish with figures of 3-42. In his post playing days ‘Crofty’ has been a teacher, commercial pilot, coach and a shrewd and honest cricket analyst, writer, broadcaster, commentator and summariser – gaining respect internationally for his insightful and forthright opinions and, not least, his splendid wit. Roland Butcher’s Hook is delighted to have Colin as a contributor.

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