Thursday, 20 August 2009

Is Usain Bolt Jamaica's Muhammad Ali?

Those who are talented enough and work hard enough to represent Jamaica in athletic endeavours (football aside) on the world stage are expected to observe a certain decorum.

Gracious in victory, stoic and sporting in defeat, recent paragons of this code have been Courtney Walsh (who in 1987 cost West Indies a place in the world cup semi-final by refusing to mankad Saleem Jaffar); Asafa Powell (unsmiling, all business before he races, calm and philosophical after losing); and Veronica Campbell-Brown, on the podium in Athens with tears flowing despite her best efforts at control.

Not for us the aggressive swagger of Justin Gatlin, the
out-thrust tongue of Maurice Greene, or the space age glasses of Ato Boldon (remember these?)

Enter Usain Bolt, mugging for the cameras, apparently oblivious to the seriousness of the occasion, irreverent enough to celebrate victory before the finish line, slapping his own chest in a gesture more readily associated with the braggadocio (or what we call 'mouting') of the domino table, and cap it off with the celebratory gully creeper. It's an almost unseemly display of self-confidence. As the man himself described it, "I try to enjoy myself at all times. That's how I stay relaxed. That's who I am and I won't change."

Now maybe I'm imagining things, but did I see Powell slapping hands with Daniel Bailey before the 100m final at the World Championships? And Brigette Foster-Hylton making faces for the camera before her 110m hurdles final? And Melaine Walker piggy-backing on the frigging mascot after winning the 400m hurdles?

It doesn't seem a stretch to see a link between all this self-expression and the ascendancy of Usain Bolt. Now it may be that this is a sign of generational change. That the freedom displayed by the Walkers and Frasers would have come with or without Bolt. Except for the previously unimaginable sight of Powell miming his mouth being taped shut in a light-hearted jab at sports commentator Oral Tracy.

In a milder version of the way that Muhammad Ali was the anti-Jackie Robinson; making it ok for black americans to be themselves, to not worry so much about being a "credit to their race", maybe Usain has shown us that we can be brash, or whimsical, or whoever the hell we really are.

That could be worth even more than a world record or four.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Poker story - we're all from different planets

I had a phenomenal night last night in my home game. Best night of a sub-par year so far for me, finishing up by 10 buy-ins.

Towards the end of the night, I played an Omaha hand with Q-Q-x-x. The flop was 6-6-4 with 2 hearts, and got checked around. The turn was a magical Qh. I was in early position, and decided to try to represent a non-nut flush, so I bet $500 into the $900 pot. Fold around to the button who raises by $1500. Glory. Generally this villain does not easily find laydowns, so I reckon I don't need to slow play. I raise by $2k, trying to say I still like my hand, and I'm not believing you.

He shoves for around $4k more. So I have to stop and think now, because 6-6, right? But I can't fold here to this villain so I call and flip my cards while saying "You'll need quads to beat me". He flips over Ah-9h-x-x and is drawing dead. But the most interesting part is when another player (let's call him Jeff) reacts to my quads statement, saying, "Oh please, quads?!" almost implying I'd slow-rolled.

So I say "Villain had earlier overbet-shoved over the top of me with the near nuts and got me to call, and I had to at least think about it." And Jeff says "It's not a night for quads - we haven't seen any all night". I think he's joking and play along saying "Well it's not like the cards know what night it is." And he's like, "What, you don't believe things happen like that?" and getting support from another player "Yeah, we haven't seen quads in ages". So I shut the fuck up because....Say Whaaaat?!?!

So yeah, I'm from Mars, I guess.