Laurie Foster | Penn Relays disappointment
The 125th hosting of the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field Stadium was staged last weekend. There was the traditional outstanding display by Jamaican athletes cheered on by the usual mammoth crowd of supporters travelling from both within and outside of the United States.
This gathering of the nation’s people has mushroomed in the years which have elapsed since Kingston College first graced the spectacle in 1964. Now, it outnumbers by a long way the natives, many of whom lend their voices in support of the black, gold and green, although they wear the colours of their individual schools and colleges. Apart from the Reggae Boyz’s campaign for the finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, no other event has matched the fervour and passion of the Jamaicans all centred on a single aggregation of athletes.
LACK OF TELEVISION COVERAGE
However, there was a disappointment to a whole host of supporters, including Foster’s Fairplay. Television coverage to Jamaica of the three-day event was non-existent. Every available method of communication was used by the multitude of interested parties to keep abreast of what was happening on the tracks and in the field in Philly. Did anyone see the 43.62 sprint relay by Kevona Davis and the three 14-year-olds, including the Clayton twins of Edwin Allen High School? No one could say ‘yes.’ In the past, when such a situation arose, the evening newscasts would do a rescue act by carrying limited video footage. Not even that was available this time around.
Kudos to KLAS FM, which kept fans up to date with their regular voiced reports, albeit sometimes delayed to accommodate other sponsored live programmes. This was a long way from being good enough.
The exploits of Jamaica’s world-class athletes on the global stage has spoilt the fans, especially so since the likes of Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Elaine Thompson arrived in the mid to late 2000s. The undoubted female stars of Champs 2019, Kevona and the twins, were absent from the recent Carifta Games. Penn was the next item on their competition menu. Fans would have been keen to see them take the track again. This opportunity was denied them. It was not a good look, and that type of deprivation should not be allowed to happen again. How can it be avoided?
In previous years, fans have been treated to a television highlights package from the organisers sent each day of the action and viewed locally a day after the actual events. That was acceptable then, but a further step is essential in these times of much increased interest. It is a fact that the athletes on display do not just spring from nowhere. They have families and relatives who put in the early work long before they were recognised by the schools and colleges for which they now compete. Many of them are supported and financed by unknown benefactors, who wish to play some role in their development. These persons desire to know how their little Wayne, Oblique, or Joanne is doing against the best at their level from other parts. In many cases, they were left in the dark – no television facts to revel in, respect and sustain their interest.
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