Tennis and Bajan culture
“Culture consists of the derivatives of experience, more or less organized, learned or created by the individuals of a population, including those images …transmitted from past generations, from contemporaries, or formed by individuals themselves.” T. Schwartz, 1992.
In more than one way, Schwartz’s definition of culture describes the flow of the knowledge and values shared by a society; from those persons ‘who have’ to those who ‘don’t have’ and to those ‘who don’t even know that they don’t have’.
Essentially, he explains an organic exchange – a regular everyday happenstance in nature: the flow of water down a hill, always high to low, in search of a place of rest, or the falling seeds of a mahogany pod – after it has opened – twisting and twirling in the wind, and landing softly on the ground.
What Schwartz perhaps deliberately left unsaid is this: unprotected habits of value can become fossils during the exchange process – whereby, that which was once good becomes an impotent brew of brackish beverage, and less of the good remains to be savoured.
At times, the transfer of an idea by a contemporary only requires a simple prompt.
This week, – the start of the 2016 USA Tennis Open – viewers of the Rachael Ray morning show witnessed John McEnroe play Dr. Phil on a tennis court constructed on the street, outside the offices of Channel 7.
Junior Moore, a Barbadian living in Queens, New York, saw the exchange between McEnroe and Dr Phil. Immediately, it brought back an old experience that he spontaneously shared.
“Did you see the Rachel Ray show?”
“Well I did and I am sure that at some point in time in the future, they will claim that it is theirs – road tennis that is. But, it is not new. We did that kind of thing as boys, moons ago.
In the late 1950s, we, the Arthur Land boys, that is, were listening to a lawn tennis game on the radio. Tyrone Mapp was playing and beating somebody. I don’t exactly recall his opponents’ name. However, as soon as the match was finished, we immediately went outside, marked a road tennis court and started playing. We only had an old cricket bat and pieces of wood, but we played and had fun. Sometime later, one of the boys’ fathers – who was a joiner – made wooden paddles for us, and, the rest is history.
Moore didn’t identify the ‘they’. He saved his excitement – and endorsement – for this idea:
“We had no choice but to make the best of whatever we had. Perhaps, the reason why it came back to me was because of the devotion I read this morning: “do not despise small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10.”
Moore went further:
“I am not for one moment advocating boastfulness. But, as a people, we, Barbadians, appear to have great difficulty in accepting how good we are – acknowledging the many things that we have done well, and right.”
One case in point to support Moore’s stand is the life style of the Bangladesh people in the Pitkin neighborhood. Families plant vegetables in pigtail buckets. They lead vines up the sides of their house or construct plaited fences, where none exist.
“We order our soil from Long Island. The quality is good and it is delivered. We get enough, for ourselves, and to share with our friends. We tried red callaloo. It grows tall, has flowers, and will give us seeds for next year,” said the owner of M&H – a family construction business.
So where’s the “cultural” beef? Perhaps, Mr. Jones, a retired neighbourhood kitchen gardener, was correct when he once said: “God gave us light and the plants know it. Plant them, feed them and they will find the light.”