Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: Evan X. Hyde's Sports, Sin and Subversion

Book Review

Review by Lawrence Vernon
Evan X Hyde. Sports, Sin and Subversion. Belize City: Ramos Publishing, 2008. 230p., photos.

"When you count the loves of your life, is sports first or second?"
(Foo Yee Ping: Museum Tribute to Sports Greats)

Whenever a book on Belize by a Belizean is written and published this is usually an occasion for gratitude and joy to celebrate the fact that one more piece of literature has been added to our sparse literary output.  But whenever a book as unique asSports, Sin and Subversion, written by one of the most respected observers of our time appears on the scene, then we have an added reason to rejoice.  Evan X Hyde has given us a fine example of portraying his literary expertise – a talent that brings together both our sporting and literary traditions to produce passionate, evocative sports writing.
When the Sports Museum of America was opened in New York in May of this year, it heralded a first in sports tradition for the U.S.A.  The launching of Sports, Sin and Subversion on July 23 in Belize City this year will not match the event in New York, but for the author and the many other sports enthusiasts Hyde’s book will not only represent a first for Belize, but it will forever be our equivalent of a sports museum.  This is so because, although a museum is where people go to dream about the glories of the past and to create the future, in the words of the author as he describes those heroes he encountered: “Stars are like gods in the sports pantheon of this and future generations of readers”. 
In the last paragraph of his book Hyde laments that he “started this book with the innocence of the fifties and sixties” but ended up “with a broken heart in the third millennium”.  Actually from the time the reader begins to explore Sports, Sin and Subversion,from the Foreword and the Introduction, we can detect Hyde’s evident passion for sports on every succeeding page.  By his own admission, when he treats us to his early upbringing and family ties, he says he was raised to be a lover of sports. 
Although he admits being influenced by American sports writers in the 1950s, he was also privileged as a child to see football history in the making at Edwards Park (now Rogers Stadium).  The innocence of his early experiences in football, basketball, baseball, ladies softball, cycling and boxing in the early chapters give readers an idea of the times he grew up in.  Hyde was born in 1947, so this meant the 1960s and the 1970s were ideal platforms from which to view the development of sports in Belize.  The final five chapters constitute the 1990s, the “broken heart” era when he attempted to organize and manage his basketball teams.
Evan X Hyde asserts more than once that Sports, Sin and Subversion is not a history book. It is however, a book which is even more than a sports fan’s guide to the last century – it is in essence a reflection of ourselves as we grew as a nation through racial and political upheaval, and the never ending quest for money.  As an encompassing look at the development of sports, the book at once portrays the growing popularity of sport in a large part of the Belizean consciousness. 
Those who choose to read this book – and assuredly it will be of interest even to non-sports fans – will get a great sense of change in Belizean society.  Surely the book is about sports, but there is a blend of the coming of bigger money, and greater fame.  Sport is undoubtedly a great window on society, and Hyde brilliantly opens this window by telling us that most of the things we are arguing about in sports will sooner or later be reflected in the politics of the society.  This reviewer joins with the author in the hope that his book will prompt our relevant authorities to ensure that opportunities for participation in sports exist for all communities in every part of Belize.  We should be committed to making the joys of sport available to as many who want to partake. 
The narrative process that Hyde has gone through in Sports, Sin and Subversion has resulted in giving the reader the feeling that you knew the sports personalities personally.  He has named names, he has put faces to names we had only heard of before, and he has given us profiles of legendary figures.  Readers are treated to some memorable victories and defeats in our sports history, as well as very welcome photos to complement the text. 
All through this Hyde has been careful to adhere to the principles of putting together a book of this sort -- that is, one that offers perspective on where we have been and where we are headed -- there might still be critics who will be quick to note that he did not mention some athletes that were great in someone’s mind.  But the book supersedes all this by being an example of good sports writing which resonates like a quality literary work.  By telling tales of epic sporting battles and the dedication and determination of our heroes to succeed in their chosen discipline, the author has the power to inspire the next generation of sportsmen and women.   This is most vividly brought out in those instances where Hyde tells of sometimes harrowing yet hopeful experiences of persons emerging from the very humble beginnings, and battling against abandonment, poverty and depression to share their talent with Belize and the world. 
We cannot compare the quantity of talented sports writers in Belize to other countries, but the quality of our few sports writers is rich.  Sports, Sin and Subversion is an outstanding book written not by an outstanding sportsman, but by an avid sports fan and radio sports announcer.  This most recent work by Evan X. Hyde provides a unique insight into the man behind the personality we have come to associate with editorials and. “From the Publisher”, and earlier activist pursuits, poetry and personal accounts.  
The innuendos of gambling, sex, racism and politics which are evident in sections of the book, serve to show the forces at work behind the scenes that have had significant influence on major sporting events, and serve to justify the “sin and subversion” aspect of the book. 
Other countries have written profusely and published prodigiously articles and books about their sport greats.  Evan X Hyde, through a timely social commentary, has reminded us that “historically speaking sports are a wasteland in Belize”.  By writingSports, Sin and Subversion mostly from memory, because apart from cycling the other sports have no records or written history, Hyde has succeeded in taking us one step further in documenting our sports tradition and history.
Anyone interested in reading good stories about sports in Belize should get this book.

No comments:

Post a Comment