I love the taste of coffee. I take it every morning. Through the years I have mastered how to make my own coffee. I use the same mug every time, the same measure of Gold Blend Coffee, the same Coffee mate and same original local honey. The result is the best taste in the world.
Drinking coffee first thing in the morning has become my ritual. Tito knows this. To completely win me over and ‘defeat’ me in the endless games we play between us, he has mastered and bettered my coffee making skills and ability. Now, he prides himself as ‘the best coffee maker in the world’. So, he is the only person now good enough and allowed to make my coffee everyday. As far as he is concerned, his father is the limit of the world. To defeat me in anything and everything makes him ‘the best in the world’ in that activity. So, he loves to defeat me and to swim in the sea of celebration. Once I am beaten, the rest of the world can go jump in the Atlantic Ocean, because ‘Tito Odegbami is the best in the world’.
These days he tells me that although people told him his father was a great footballer and sprinter, he can beat me in both football and running. I look at this small boy and I laugh. I marvel where he gets such confidence and audacity from. He tells me gleefully that he is ‘super fast’, like a Cheetah – too fast to be caught by anyone in a race. I am told he wins all his races in his class in school. I am not surprised. He has been running on the track of the National Stadium, Lagos, most Sunday mornings with me, from when he was 3 years old. Now, he is almost 6 and still running and getting better and faster. When I told Lee Evans about him, Lee predicted he would be a super athlete one day. Without question he is going to do a lot in sport in his life. He is very passionate about everything that has to do with sport, except watching it. He lives to participate in everything, not watch. He has been horse-riding and swimming since he was 3. Now he does both beautifully on his own. His grandmother has promised to bring him his own a pony from Gombe when he turns 7. He plays tennis. He rides his scooter and skating board like an expert at both, doing all manner of acrobatics on them down our little close.
During this COVID-19 lockdown, I have seen him display all his array of skills in the confines of home, or where we run in seclusion in our area of residence. He has kept the days very engaging for me, and time just flies by. These days, I even have to squeeze some time between our plays to do some of my writing. We play Chess. That’s one sport he knows but will not agree I am better at..for now! The ‘problem’ is that he invents his own rules and moves when the going gets too tough between us. During our Chess duels, because he does not have the patience that a typical Chess game requires, and also because he has not been able to work out how to imagine several moves ahead of every move, he makes his own rules as he goes along, one move at a time, and arbitrarily checkmates my King whenever he chooses to, and that’s it – he wins! Even in the ‘Snake and Ladder’ game that he likes a lot and we play sometimes to wind down from physical sports, he hates it when his dice lands on a snake and he has to move it down to the snake’s tail. He uses his finger to squash the snake, declares that the snake is dead, and leaves his dice on the same spot.
Yesterday, for the first time, he came down from his ‘high horse’ and declared our football match in the sitting room a tie. He was leading by a whopping 19 goals to 12 when I decided to do some ‘mathematical’ moves on him. I became ‘seriously determined’, shut the ‘gates’ to my goal, unleashed a little of my my dribbling skills and, before he could regain his composure, I had leveled the scores at 19-19.
He was stunned. We had agreed that the match would end when one of us got to 20. He was winning comfortably. Now he was staring down the barrel of his first defeat. I could see he was worried and thinking what to do.
He asked for time out. He wanted a new deal. Now, he got all my attention.
He introduced the deal, a new rule.
Meanwhile, he had the ball in his hands.
He reminded me that a goalkeeper could use his hand to play. Yes. And that a goalkeeper could throw the ball and score if he was the only one in the team. Yes. I was still thinking about the pending deal when he threw the ball into my goal posts ( the space between 2 chairs in the sitting room) and scored what he happily declared was the decisive goal. I stood there stunned, looking at this small boy with the audacity to change rules between a game, and to implement the rule without getting my consent first, and declaring himself winner. I disagreed with him vehemently even as he was jumping in celebration of his victory.
‘Tito’, I asked him, ‘ must you win every game you play against me?’
He was laughing and enjoying the look on my face.
‘You are an old man. I am a young big boy’.
I looked at the small ‘rat’ describing himself as ‘big boy’.
‘OK Dad’, he said, ‘lets have a deal’
I am having no deal with this guy.
‘Let’s agree this is a tie. Let’s go and run and whoever wins is the overall winner’.
The boy cannot be ‘trusted’ not to have a catch in his proposal. I sense a bait. That’s the fisrt time since our ‘competitions’ started across all sport – tennis, football, chess, Snake and Ladder, Ludo, horse riding, football (by the way we are both FC Barcelona supporters, and he is in the FC Barcelona Academy), even piano playing – that he would be conceding anything to me. So, this Greek gift of a ‘tie’ must be loaded with suspicion. He always won everything, so, why now? It is a bait. I will show this small boy. I think about it. He has always defeated me in our sprint races. Always. But that’s probably because, despite my arthritic knees that are usually painful when I jarr them in running, I never gave everything to try and outrun him. This time, I assure myself, I will teach him a lesson. So, I agreed to a race. It happened yesterday evening.
He could not wait for the appointed time.’How many hours to go, Dad?. ‘How many minutes is that?’. ‘Can I count up to 300 minutes and it will be time?’ He had endless questions. He just wanted the moment to come.
At 5:30 pm exactly, we were at our usual ‘exercise’ place, a very secluded empty ‘track’ in our community.
The umpire and cameraman was JJ.
‘On your Mark’s, set, go’. JJ’s voice rang out.
We were to run over a roughly calculated 100 metres stretch on the cobbled road of interlocking brick stones.
I took off like the wind, remembering my sprinting instructions from 40 years ago – ‘high knees’, relaxed arms, and running straight and erect.
The race did not last 5 seconds before it was over. The rest is history.
Anyway, it is immaterial who won and who lost the race. Remember, I am an Olympian. I remember what Sir Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic movement had to say about the spirit of the games. That the essence is in the participating and not in the winning.
So, I ran against Tito that memorable evening in the Olympic spirit! I can’t say more.
The video below speaks for itself.
But be mindful that the start of the race is clear enough. The end is not. You have to each make up your mind who you think won this final decider of who is the greater of the two – Tito or I. . If you are reading this, that means you are my friend and will make the ‘right’ choice