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Apr 30, 1998

G. Michael Reid on Semi-pro basketball

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Since he took over as host of the Last Word over a year ago, News Five’s Commentator G. Michael Reid has discussed a wide range of topics in his weekly commentary. But through it all, sports seem to be his favorite preoccupation and it is to that world that he returns tonight for the Last Word.

“In BELIZE we have four major newspapers. Two are party organs and to their credit, they make no attempt to hide that fact. The other two of course, have continually laid claim to neutrality and objectivity, but as anyone who has ever read them might attest, their assertion to that effect, is a long way from being proven true. Still, every Friday religiously, like many BELIZEANS, one of the first things that I do is to run to my favorite venders in front of Brodie’s and dish out my 2.15 for copies of both the AMANDALA and the Reporter. I do not buy either of the other two and will usually only read them if I am somewhere waiting and one is at hand. According to my own informal survey however, this is not true of all or even most BELIZEANS, as many will usually also buy the BELIZE Times. The Pulse on the other hand, comes up rather short as far as faithful readers are concerned and for this reason, I find it hard to believe the AMANDALA’s continuous claim that a deliberate campaign on the part of the Pulse is the reason for semi pro’s eventual demise. With all due respect to my friends and colleagues at that establishment, I do not believe that many people take them seriously. I believe however, that if the publisher of the AMANDALA would carefully study his own article of the issue dated April 26th, he might find the real reason for the collapse of semi-pro basketball.

In 1992, which marked the first year of semi-pro, basketball was enjoying immense popularity and public support. I say public because as most people know, neither political party has ever put sports high on their priority list, yet to suggest that either party would deliberately destroy any sport is incredulous.

For the first two years of semi-pro basketball tickets for basketball games were a hot item and many times the lines for entrance would stretch clear around the Civic. According to an editorial in the AMANDALA of April 19th, sales for one championship game ran as high as 33 thousand dollars. Interesting enough, I can still remember cries by owners of money being lost instead of made. I didn’t believe it then and I believe it even less now that these figures have been made public. Yet, while greed and deceit had some to do with the destruction of semi-pro, it might have survived even that, for our kids love this game and many are willing to play for the simple fun of it. This was proven by the recently completed senior league, which though poorly attended, featured quite a few exciting games. There were 16 teams with more than a few former semi pro players suited up for different teams. These players while receiving not a penny for their efforts played their hearts out and the few fans who did attend were treated to many entertaining and competitive.

During the early years of semi-pro, the Raiders were hands down the favorite team and by the second year, arguably the most talented. They portrayed an image however, that attracted many unruly fans and few were the games that did not see fights, muggings and the breaking into of cars in the parking lot. This image seemed to be not only condoned but also encouraged by the owners and the coaching staff. I remember watching one game where Mose Hyde, an assistant couch, was ejected for cussing out the referee and had to be dragged off the court by fellow members of his coaching staff, all the while hollering obscenities and threats in the direction of the referees. Could this have been the example that Claude Jones was following?

Still the Raiders remained the team to beat and retained their popularity even into the last year of the league when despite winning; they were actually upstaged by the exciting Bucca Bandits from the capital.

In the publisher’s column to which I alluded earlier, Mr. Hyde questioned Claude Jones exclusion from the list of players invited to try out for the BELIZE selection. By Mr. Hyde’s own admission, Claude Jones has an attitude problem and to quote, seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. This is okay when playing some pickup game in the hood, but when representing BELIZE as a country, it is totally unacceptable. The fact is that Claude Jones was not only unsportsmanlike in the Bahamas, he did it again in Honduras last year. To suggest that Claude Jones, or any other athlete for that matter, should be protected because they comes from a rough, tough section of town is absurd. And the fact that Claude Jones is the tallest BELIZEAN does not mean all that much, after all Manute Bol is tall, George Muresan is tall, but who would choose either over a Michael Jordan or a Grant Hill. The fact is that while BELIZE might indeed be helped by Too Tall’s presence in the middle, we will be hurt by his attitude in the end. Maybe if Mr. Hyde, instead of protecting, had used his insight and influence to counsel and educate Too Tall and the many other talented athletes that have passed through his hands, semi-pro might still be alive today. Politicians did not destroy semi-pro, greed and hooliganism did.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The views expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five.

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