Sporting History

Write about a sporting event in history (anywhere, any sport) that is important to you and why. Here’s the twist: the reason for this event’s importance has to be a non-sporting one. So don’t give me the finer details of Mohammad Ali’s right hook or someone’s batting technique. I want to hear about the people involved, the context, and non-technical factors of why this event resonated with you. I’m not setting a word limit, but it has to be more than 200 words. You don’t have to cite sources or anything, because I want to you to think about why this incident mattered to you. Here’s mine as an example: In the winter of 2019, the English cricket team went on a winter tour to the West Indies, and made an indifferent showing in terms of the game. However, the tour contained one of the most talked about moments in cricketing history – even friends who do not follow cricket were posting about this one on social media. As Trinidadian fast bowler Shannon Gabriel walked back to his mark, he passed the English non-striker and traded glances with him. “What are you staring at me for, do you like boys?” he demanded (hardly the most offensive thing a fast bowler has said to a batter, but we’ll come to that later). English captain Joe Root overheard the remark, and was caught on the stump mic saying: “Don’t use that as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.” On the surface, this may seem like a moment of “wokeness”. To be fair to Joe Root, I believe he had only good intentions and I was impressed by his words. What I found most interesting about this incident was how it raises a larger question about the colonial history between Trinidad and England. England colonized Trinidad in the early modern era. In the Victorian era, the English government banned homosexuality in the British Empire, Trinidad included. This was part of a larger effort to impose a strict moral code on the Empire. Once the Empire disintegrated after WW2, each nation charted its own course. In Trinidad, homosexuality was legalized only in 2018. Shannon Gabriel was born and raised in a country where “liking boys” was criminalized because of the legacy of British imperialism. Of course it was an offensive thing to say, and Joe Root was absolutely right in noting that there is nothing wrong with being gay. However, by using this as a way to “teach” former colonized people about what is right and wrong; aren’t we ignoring the history of colonial dominance that cemented the criminalization of homosexuality in the first place? Is it really the “white man’s burden” to do this anymore, especially since Trinidad has an indigenous LGBT+ movement? These larger questions about postcolonialism and “pinkwashing” are important when I take a long view of history.

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