Do­minic’s death up close

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Orville Higgins is a sports­caster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

IN A bizarre way, I am telling my­self that it is I who jinxed the nowde­ceased St Ge­orge’s foot­baller. I had told every­body at KLAS that I had no real in­ter­est in see­ing any first-round games in the Man­ning or da Costa Cup. With few ex­cep­tions, first-round school­boy games no longer ex­cite me. The scores can some­times be lop­sided, (we have seen scores like 13-0 and 10-0 this sea­son al­ready), and un­less two ‘big’ schools are in­volved, quite of­ten there is a lack of at­mos­phere. I usu­ally get hooked from the start of the sec­ond round when the real foot­ball be­gins.

So I can’t quite ex­plain why, on Tues­day af­ter­noon, I was so keen on watch­ing the St Ge­orge’s vs Ex­cel­sior game. I came off air at 3:15 p.m., and for no ap­par­ent rea­son, de­cided to drive up to the Sta­dium East field. The drive took me less time than I had an­tic­i­pated. I was parked in­side the venue and or­dered a bun and cheese well be­fore the 3:30 p.m. kick-off. I took up po­si­tion in front of the main stand. I was in lively con­ver­sa­tion with bas­ket­ball pres­i­dent Dr Mark Brom­field and for­mer na­tional goal­keeper Clive ‘Spi­der’ Wed­der­burn, when a few min­utes af­ter kick-off, the game was stopped and every­body gath­ered around Do­minic James.

SIGNS OF PANIC

I didn’t think much of it. A player go­ing down and play­ers and of­fi­cials gath­er­ing around him is par for the course. What first got me think­ing that this was dif­fer­ent was when St Ge­orge’s coach Neville ‘Ber­tis’ Bell started to show real signs of panic. I heard him clearly ask­ing if a ve­hi­cle could be driven into the playing area it­self so the player could be car­ried away.

Look­ing at the young­ster, I was con­cerned that he wasn’t mov­ing at all. I kept ask­ing, where was the stretcher? Af­ter what seemed like for­ever, but was maybe five or six min­utes, they pro­ceeded to lift him up. There were five or six peo­ple car­ry­ing him off, and there was one lady who was mak­ing a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to keep his head up.

That set off alarm bells. For some­body to be hold­ing his head up in a very del­i­cate way meant some­thing dan­ger­ous. They walked with him di­rectly be­side where I stood and I couldn’t de­tect any move­ment, no sign at all that he was even try­ing to help him­self. I feared the worst then. The ref­eree then blew the game on and I said clearly to both Spi­der and Dr Brom­field that if I was his team­mate, I would be in no con­di­tion to con­tinue this game. I didn’t know why I even said that.

Play­ers com­ing off the field to get med­i­cal at­ten­tion is fairly rou­tine in foot­ball, but a sixth sense told me this was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. The St Ge­orge’s play­ers were clearly rat­tled. They con­ceded two penal­ties in quick time (one which was saved), and they could have been 3-1 down within 35 min­utes or so, rather than the 2-1 score­line when the game was called off. I then said to Dr Brom­field and Spi­der, “What if the youth died? Would they con­tinue the game?” I can’t even re­mem­ber what their an­swer was.

TRAU­MATIC MO­MENT

We had all for­got­ten about the in­ci­dent, when all of a sud­den, I saw Ber­tis re­act­ing strangely on the side­lines. He didn’t quite know what to do with him­self. He was hold­ing his head, he was cry­ing, he was look­ing up to the heav­ens. At one point he was even run­ning down the side­lines. I knew the rea­son even be­fore I heard Ber­tis say­ing, “Him dead! The yute dead!” And then I wit­nessed what I have never wit­nessed be­fore. The St Ge­orge’s play­ers al­most in uni­son fall­ing to the ground and weep­ing.

The Ex­cel­sior coaches, Shavar Thomas and Xavier Gil­bert, went over right away to com­fort Ber­tis and his boys, and the rest of the Ex­cel­sior team fol­lowed. The ref­eree’s whis­tle then blasted. I wasn’t even sure whether it was the half-time whis­tle or the ref­eree stop­ping the game.

Could all this have been avoided? I don’t know. I didn’t like the fact that there didn’t seem to be a def­i­nite plan as to what would hap­pen in an emer­gency like this. Surely, there should have been a des­ig­nated car for such pur­poses, even if the teams couldn’t af­ford the lux­ury of an am­bu­lance. Hav­ing the young­ster’s fa­ther tak­ing him away is un­ac­cept­able. He shouldn’t have to be put through that. God alone knows how he must have felt when he came to watch a sim­ple Man­ning Cup game and ended up driv­ing away a dy­ing (or dead) son. This one shook me up. I prob­a­bly should have waited till sec­ond round and not gone at all!

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