A cabbie speaks

There’s nothing that welcomes you to a distant land better than a friendly cab driver. So what if he almost ran into four buses and nipped no less than three pedestrians trying to cross the street? He was good company.

Anthony Saunders, it turns out, was a basketball official back in his day. He’s since retired.

Anthony Saunders, ex-Bahamian ref, drives his cab and talks hoops.

A few years ago, though, he’d spend his Friday and Saturday nights on Nassau working club games. He recalled those nights with great fondness.

“We didn’t have the big gym (he means Kendal Isaacs, which seats 2,500 and will host the games this weekend) so it was only about 800 people that could fit,” Saunders told me. “But we would have 2,000 people in there watching because we had good teams. That was what you did Friday night. You went out to the games and then you went out to the clubs. Now, it’s just the clubs.”

As we drove along the Northeast shoreline of Nassau I noticed makeshift basketball nets all around. Even the big mansions right up against the beach, complete with gated entrances, had crude backboards attached to a pole. It immediately reminded of something out of the movie Hoosiers. All that mattered was that there was a hoop to put the ball through.

Basketball is in bad shape in the Bahamas, though, Anthony said. Back in his day the club teams (such as the one Indiana was supposed to play Saturday night) were well organized. The national governing body of sports forced them to have youth development programs if they wanted to compete at the highest adult level.

“That’s how we got good players and spread the game,” Saunders said. “Now, there’s no leadership. No one is managing it.”

Soccer and cricket have become more popular on the island, surpassing both baseball and basketball according to Saunders.

But as I paid Saunders, he paused for a moment.

“Maybe I’ll come out to those games tonight,” he said. “I haven’t been to the basketball games in many years.”