Finding (dis)interest in the Reggae Girlz

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The Reggae Girlz celebrating after they drew with Brazil and moved to the second round of the World Cup (photo:courtesy of Team Jamaica).

I lost interest in the Reggae Girlz just after the draw with Brazil that sent the team into the round of 16 at the recent World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand, a first for any Caribbean football team since Cuba in 1938. While I was up for the match with Brazil, pecking away at the keyboard and keeping up with live written updates (my preferred source of sports content), I just happened to wake up close to the end of the Colombia game, saw the 1-0 scoreline and thought ‘oh well’. What happened in between the two matches, under a week apart in early August? An aura of self-importance and seizing on national attention from some players which rubbed me wrong. Cass cass about funding. Hollering for a national holiday. Focus on the perks of affecting people’s emotions rather than the game. I may be one, but I decide how my emotions and time are spent, so I tuned out.

In this season of world level sports where the gold of Jamaica’s kit is an indication of the colour medal we deem worthy, to the detriment of even making a final, which, in itself, is a huge accomplishment.

This is another entertainment column which crosses into athletics territory. Still, as they are so intertwined – which other country could have a world class cricketer calling himself the ‘Punjabi Daddy’? – I do not feel as if I am straying too far from the centre. And there is a sports and music connection which speaks to the issue at hand, how I got interested in the Reggae Girlz and, before the loss to Colombia in the round of 16 at the recent World Cup Final in Australia and New Zealand.

In the Drop the Mic clash between James Corden and Usain Bolt on the ‘Late Late Show’ in 2016, the media personality jabbed the fastest man ever with “for real, tell me what it is like to have a career/That people only care about once every four years?” Bolt had the answer, about the weight of his medals on his neck. But, the point, from an American perspective who have the NFL and basketball with extended seasons and may not care two hoots about the Diamond League that the world’s elite track and field performers compete in annually, he had a point.

And, the same goes for the Reggae Girlz. They have our collective emotional attention once every four years – if they make the World Cup Final, which they have twice – and they have trifled with mine, which I do not take lightly. It is like getting involved with a lady you are really interested in and, as soon as she sees that she can affect you emotionally, she can’t help exercising her power to affect you negatively. Demands on a whim. Pouting, just for you to ask what is wrong and do your best to fix it (which always costs time and money). Declaring that she has options.

Well, so do I, and they are not every four years. Netball (oh, those skirts!), track and field. And, I am exercising them. I get the feeling that I am not the only one. The return to Jamaica was affected by runway outages and, of course, not all the squad members came back to Jamaica, but still the welcome home was nowhere as euphoric as would have been expected for such a monumental achievement. For make no mistake about it, to make the World Cup Finals twice in a row and crack the final 16 the second tme around is no small achievement. But it has come with a sense of ‘never see come see’ which has deflated my interest. There are few things as unattractive as arrogance and that is what I felt from some of the media coverage around the Reggae Girlz. And it did not start with GoFundMe nonsense after drawing with Brazil.

So y’all can force coach changes. Y’all can decide which official cannot travel on the bus with you. I won’t be coming to see y’all play in matches in between World Cup Finals appearance (if the team makes it), as I had intended to, after I found interest in the team to a point in this World Cup Finals campaign. It was short-lived, as I now am back to disinterest.

Unless there is a change in this attitude of self-importance which has reared its head in some quarters of the team, based on media coverage, the Reggae Girlz will not make much more progress globally anyway.

Mel Cooke covered Jamaican entertainment as a print journalist for almost two decades, overlapping with his MPhil research on dancehall and experiential marketing with the Institute of Caribbean Studies, UWI, Mona, where he is now working on a PhD while lecturing in the Bachelor of Arts, Communication Arts and Technology (BACAT) programme at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech, Ja.).

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