Cheerleaders in Cricket

Cheerleaders. With pompoms. It is too scandalous to believe. There I was on the Cycle Track—now a grassy knoll—asking the gods not to send the rain. Feeling happy to be in the Oval yet another time, calling down damnation on the heads of the England cricket team. I was waving my T&T flag in the gentle Oval breeze, trying to channel Tantie Merle in my movements. I was scanning the grounds, looking at the masses of my people, cricket people on their feet cheering on the West Indies team as they came out to take up their positions across the field. And there, like a big meggie in the middle of the cricket, were the cheerleaders. I thought for a second I was hallucinating. Like I think I’m hallucinating when I hear some wild rumour that Papa Patos wants to invoke the Terrorism Act during the Summit of the Americas to stop people from protesting. I mean it can’t be, can it? Cheerleaders in cricket? Why, that’s like making Trinidad mas in sweat shops in China. I guess in the whole scheme of things, pompom-toting cheerleaders are not that terrible. I mean, it could be worse. We could be kidnapping homeless people and hiding them away where the all the foreign press can’t see them. Oh no, we’re already doing that. I guess we still have culture. We still have a film industry. It’s not as if the Government has cut the funding to the T&T Film Company by 50 per cent. Oh no, they’ve done that too. I have to admit that the cheerleaders with pompoms upset me a lot. Not to the point where I couldn’t enjoy the royal cut backside England got from the West Indies. But I have to admit that half of the hoarseness and the pain in my throat came from my scandalised exclamations of rage at the sight of the pompom-toting cheerleaders. I don’t know whose idea it was. And I don’t particularly care to know either. But I suppose if you pay $600 for a sporting experience then you expect to have something completely devoid of any connection to the sport at all. Like premium-ish liquor and girls with pom poms. At least they were red, black and silvery. From what I could see on the other side of the Oval they were doing their job cheering the team on. At least somebody could learn a thing or too from their commitment and professionalism. Still, I wondered if they were being prompted when to jump up and dance and shake their pompoms for our boys. I mean I though Caribbean women didn’t need pompoms because we had bam bams? I must have it all wrong. I must be just jealous because I am not a pompom-shaking cheerleader in the $600 stand with all the beautiful people. I must be the outsider looking in. Wanting to be shiny and beautiful too. My flag sags in the dipping Oval breeze. But I refuse to be defeated by shiny cheerleaders with their Visa tot tots and designer batty riders. The woman to my right who, like a prime ministerial prophetess, declared that England would make no more than 120 runs, feeds me plantain and callaloo and buss-up shut and watercress to cool my righteous pompom indignation. I mean, seeing those cheerleaders with pompoms in cricket makes as much sense to me as the day before when I was at Phagwa celebrations at the Divali Nagar and Geeta Ramsingh of the Hindu Prachar Kendra announced that they had received a cheque of $5,000 from the Ministry of Culture for this year’s Phagwa celebrations, which includes the staging of the Pichakaree competition, among other things. Tantie Merle wherever you are, I’m so sorry. Uncle Ravi Ji, for all your work and effort to make this place a more livable place, I am so sorry. I try not to let the cheerleaders get me down. But this is hard, because they are right in my line of sight. The image of them is permanently etched in my consciousness. This is progress, yes. This is priorities and productivity. This is us being more than we could ever be. We have reached the summit of our national potential for the small fee of $600 million. And I wonder if cheerleaders with pompoms at cricket matches also feel like the country—stuck at silly point.

Dear Brian

You are more than you consume
Much more than you presume
More than others might assume
Beautiful soul
You are more than you expect
Far more than you project
More than others accept and reject
Beautiful Soul
You are more than you could say
More than we could ever claim
More than the games we play

Beautiful Soul, Kobo Town

Dear Brian
Well.  It had to happen some time.  I guess I was hoping that you would just go on batting forever.
That when I was oldish and now coming into my sense of beauty you’d still be there battling for the West Indies, with every stroke bringing us a little closer to something resembling self love.
And I understand why you need to go and I have to respect that decision and wish you all the happiness you deserve.
But that didn’t stop me from crying hot salty tears of regret watching you play your last game last Saturday.
Did you entertain me?  For sure.  You also gave me heart failure, made me cry and laugh and hold my head and make up whole new words to describe those feelings in those moments when you did things with a bat that defied logic.
I will miss you bad bad, Brian.  I anticipate my cricket tabanca will last a long time.  Which is not to say that I don’t hope that someday there might not be some young genius to take your place, to dare even stand in your shadow.
I guess I feel like I grew up with you and every one of your successes was mine, helped me make more sense of me.  And maybe this is a wrong way to see a mere cricketer, but what is life without heroes? What is life without people who challenge us to find that superhuman strength, drag it out of pain and frustration and downpression and turn it into something of such beauty and grace?
Plenty years watching you bat. I remember the first time I saw you make a century. And I remember times in Sabina Park, listening to the yardies change their tune, from Lara Bloodclaat to gwaan tru, my Captain.  And reminiscing with old cricket peongs in Kennington Oval in Babylon-don.   And plenty hours shouting at my television, and plenty shouting on the cycle track.
Ah, Brian, I think you have some clue but perhaps the real story of the love that we, well, some of us, have for you will never really be told.
And if I had to find one word to sum up how you made me feel about myself and about the West Indies and about cricket I would have to say full.
More full than any food or any coconut water on a Sunday evening watching the sun sink behind QRC building.
And I had to wonder then, who are they going to hate now?  Who are they going to demolish and bad talk and criticize in that special way that only West Indians can.   Worse than picong, that kind of nasty self-hating kind of talk that saps your spirit and fills the air with the anger that David Rudder sings so eloquently about.
These past few days I’ve been wondering who they will hate.  Now that you pick up your bat and walk, who will they blame?
Who will they accuse of things that have more to do with the myopic struggles of former colonies.  This loose
And it never made sense to me that they tried to get you to lead a team that doesn’t consider itself a nation.  Just a loose connection of former colonies all caught up in their own little survival struggles.
It’s a funny thing how they wanted you to take responsibility for uniting a fractured region of people where so many qualified and eloquent politicians had failed.
I guess it’s like how in man and woman things it just don’t work out sometimes.  Because no matter how much you love them you know that we can’t grow much further.
And don’t mind how much you miss them, you know in your heart that is only a dog would eat his own vomit and it’s a gentleman like you, Brian, who would walk even before the umpire puts up his finger.  And because I know you know when you’re out I don’t expect that you’ll ever change your mind.  But if you did I would be more than glad to take you back.  To return to the tears and the joy and the laughter and the admiration of a game.  You more than anyone else this new generation of disillusioned West Indians showed us what possibility we have.
What else can I say but thanks.