By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published on May 21, 2018, in the Western Mirror
Surprisingly, while in my living room at 2 AM, I witnessed one of the greatest athletic performances by one of the smallest athletes of all-time.
Since of late, my Monday columns are often penned late Thursday nights to early Friday mornings. I write best in nature’s tranquillity when the crickets are chirping, and everyone in my household is fast asleep. I find that I am able to focus my thoughts and transform them to paper more poetically in those moments. Henceforth, this column like several others started at around 2 a.m. Friday morning.
While there are several burning issues in the sporting world that I’ve been dying to talk about, including the IAAF new testosterone laws for women, this week’s column will venture down a different track. This week I felt compelled to share with you, my loyal readers, one of the greatest athletic performances I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
Like several sporting fans, we all have our favourite athletes whether it be Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Pele, Diego Maradona, Brian Lara, Tiger Woods or Usain Bolt. All these athletes and several others not mentioned have all produced athletic feats which have spellbound the world. Several of these performances, for example, Jordan’s ‘flu game’ in the NBA Finals, Ali’s ‘rope-a-dope’ in the Rumble in the Jungle, Maradona’s ‘goal of the century’ in the 1986 World Cup and Usain Bolt’s demolition of world records in Berlin are just a few of the memorable moments some of us all cherish. Well, at around 2 a.m. Friday morning, I witnessed one of those great athletic performances for the ages from arguably one of the smallest athletes alive.
My first nightmare as a child involved a theriocephalic creature, that is, a human with a particular animal’s head (half human – half animal beast). The beast chased my parents and I around the house trying to kill us. Our only respite was locking ourselves in that small bathroom behind that white door while the beast pounded vociferously trying to get us. It must have been then during that nightmare that I developed the ability to run fast. That nightmare foretold of hidden talents that would emerge later in life especially at several track and field meets and during several school fights. I still remember my overly heavy breathing when I awoke from my sleep like that of an athlete after a 400m race. Panting out of breath, with my lungs clutching for air to stay alive.
Ever since then, I must admit that I have a certain phobia for the animal whose head stood on that human’s body in my first nightmare. Ignore the fact that I have neatly refused to name the animal even now after over 400 words in this column. While you look up the definition of my phobia – herpetophobia – without question, this phobia is shared by several Jamaicans both men and women. However, I believe I might be the first man to admit it publicly. If you want to see Shelly-Ann Fraser-esque performances that is ‘pocket-rocket’ type dashes, especially by certain Jamaican women, just let them see this animal in their houses. My neighbour Judith and I have a special bond with this phobia. In Jamaican parlours, she can admit to it publicly and be fine, but if I do, that’s a no-no.
At around 2 a.m. last Friday, I sat to pen my latest column, only to find myself face-to-face, mano-a-mano with my greatest competitor and fear. This night was not my first encounter with beasts of this kind.
On occasions in the past, I have made mad sprints to get away from these animals, but of late I have challenged these beasts for my territory and my house where I and not they pay the mortgage. Little did I know I would have witnessed one of the all-time great sporting moments that very night.
Years ago, I read that boiling water can bring an end to the life of these creatures. Through experimentation, I found out that this was true. Thereafter, I challenged monster after monster for my space and won. I figured this time would be no different. Oh, how I was in for a surprise. Little did I know that I was up against one of the great athletes of these beasts.
My first cup of boiling water flung in his direction saw this brute perform some exquisite moves only seen during the ice skating competition at the Winter Olympics. With the porcelain tiles as his ice rink, the creature pulled out back-to-back-to-back triple axels like Sarah Hughes to escape the scorching 100-degree heat. Figuring his legs were severely damaged, I drew closer to the beast only to see him perform the Olympic style triple jump like Jonathan Edwards, landing well beyond not just the hot water but my impending approach.
After the second pot of hot water, I said, “This must be the end.” Two cups in hand and ready, I hurled more hot water in its path. The four-legged beast dashed across the floor and seemingly pounded his chest like Usain Bolt during the 100m finals at the 2008 Olympics.
“You can’t catch me,” he seemingly said
“Can he not die?”, I questioned the Lord.
By now my floor was soaked with water. The beast slipped under the couch, and the third pot of boiling water was in the making. After the water was ready, I pulled the sofa away only to realise he had fled the safety of the couch.
“Where is he?”, I questioned fearfully.
After laser-like perusal, I saw that he had made it across to the newly installed carpet my wife just purchased. Ignoring the little voice telling me that if I damage this carpet, my wife is going to kill me, I tossed more boiling water at this tailed beast. With two forward somersaults, a tuck and pike, this beast again skedaddled the reach of the water, not once, but twice.
Fed up, I resorted to the insect spray, only to see him make a “you-shall-not-pass” stance like the wizard Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings. The beast was defiant. He will not be killed!
Now onto my fourth pot of boiling hot water, I splashed him one final time. The momentum of the water slid him under the other couch. “Is he dead?” Your guess is as good as mine.
This beast did not win any Olympic gold medals or win any world titles that morning, but he earned my respect. They often say that sometimes real life meets sports and sports is often about entertainment. However, in a life and death fight for survival, this lizard has taught me valuable lessons and produced one of the all-time great athletic performances.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a sports columnist, freelance sportswriter and a multi-award-winning blogger. Though I have this extreme phobia, these creatures seemingly are attracted to me. They have walked on my face, my torso, my feet and have even appeared inside my toilet and on my TP while sitting on the loo. I kid you not!
A version of this blog article was published in the Western Mirror on May 21, 2018.