THE ODD COUPLING WHEN JAMAICAN BOBSLEDDERS SOUGHT A SPONSOR, EVANSTON, WYO., SIGNED ON

October 19, 1997

Zeb Bell, rodeo announcer, was just warming up as he introduced
the opening procession of the Cowboy Days Rodeo in Evanston,
Wyo., on Labor Day afternoon. The smell of wet straw hung in the
air, and for the 61st straight year it seemed as if the entire
town of Evanston had turned out to clap for the riders, ropers
and rodeo royalty. As Bell belted out their names, the VIPs
galloped on horseback around the ring at Uinta County
Fairgrounds, waving to the crowd. First came the Cowboy Days
queen, Marlene Lester, and her two attendants; then Miss Uinta
County Fair, Katrina Oldroyd, and her court; and then the
members of the Cowboy Days organizing committee.

But two special guests remained to be introduced. Bell hollered,
in a voice as clear as the mountain sky above, "Now, everyone
welcome the Jamaican bobsled team!" Sitting on hay-bale thrones
on the bed of a wagon pulled by a tractor bearing the Wyoming
and the Jamaican flags, Devon Harris and Patrick Robinson rolled
into the arena to a booming ovation. Harris, a member of the
original 1988 Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, blew kisses to the
crowd. It was the kind of reception that made you think that one
man's loopy idea--the marriage of a Caribbean team and a cowboy
town--might not have been so crazy after all.

Last February, Paul Skog, an Evanston lawyer, contacted the
Jamaican Bobsled Federation after watching Cool Runnings, the
feature film based on the Jamaicans' unlikely debut at the
Calgary Winter Games. "I liked it a lot," he says. "It was about
underdogs, and Evanston is in some ways an underdog, a small
town tucked away in the southwest corner of Wyoming. With the
[2002] Olympics coming to Salt Lake City and the bobsled run
just 50 miles away, I thought, The Jamaican bobsled team must
train somewhere, so why not here?"

Skog's timing couldn't have been better. Harris, 32, had been a
pusher for the team in Calgary and a driver at the '92
Albertville Games, but he left bobsledding later that year and
moved with his family to New York City. For the next four years
he worked first at a Jamaican restaurant as a cook and then in
the receiving office of a department store. "Then the bobsled
bug hit again," he says. "The last thing I wanted was to be a
grandfather on a porch someday watching the Olympics and saying
I could have been an Olympic champion. I needed to know if I
have it."

During Harris's absence, however, his old team had been
transformed. It had gone from being the subject of a Disney
comedy and of jokes by David Letterman to being an actual
contender. At the '94 Olympics in Lillehammer, Jamaica's
four-man sled, driven by Dudley Stokes, finished a respectable
14th, ahead of the 15th-place U.S.

Jamaican confidence was so high that when Harris told federation
president Christian Stokes of his comeback plans last year,
Stokes said he would love to have two Jamaican two-man teams
finish in the top 10 at the '98 Games in Nagano, Japan. There
was only one caveat: Although Dudley Stokes and Jamaica I were
training in Calgary and had a corporate sponsor--Red Stripe, the
Jamaican beer company--Harris and Jamaica II would have to find
their own provider of $150,000 to cover their costs for the next
season, including the purchase of a sled and travel to World Cup
events. They would also have to pay their way to the Olympics.

It didn't help that Harris was paid only $10,000 by Disney,
which grossed more than $150 million worldwide on Cool Runnings.
(The Jamaica Bobsled Federation, meanwhile, made nothing from
the movie, since the contract was between Disney and the
individuals involved with the original team.)

Harris and the members of his two-man sled, Robinson and Jason
Morris (one will be an alternate) still hadn't found a sponsor
when Skog came calling from Wyoming. While Evanston couldn't
give the Jamaicans $150,000, it could provide a small-town
version of corporate backing: Red Mountain Apartments, which
offered a pair of two-bedroom units free of charge, would become
the Official Housing Provider for Team Harris, and a lawyer
named William Combs, who would lend the Jamaicans his old
Toyota, would be the Official Ground Transportation Provider. In
time the team would also have an Official Internet Provider and
an Official Chiropractor.

"This idea wasn't meant as a joke," Skog says. "It was meant to
be mutually beneficial. All I wanted to do was introduce my town
to the international community, and with our location and
elevation [6,500 feet above sea level], I thought the Jamaicans
might like Evanston as a training site. There was also the whole
idea of a cultural exchange--western Wyoming meets Jamaica."

Skog's plan appears to be working. When the Jamaicans visited
Evanston for the first time, in May, they shared their soccer
background with local kids by putting on a daylong clinic for
more than 300 children. Their hosts, in turn, taught them the
intricacies of a distinctly American tradition: pizza delivery.
To earn food money, Team Harris works at the local Domino's from
5 p.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week, sometimes seven. Harris and
Morris drive the delivery car; Robinson, who doesn't have a
driver's license, makes the pizzas. (The latter's name tag reads
YA PIZZAMON.)

"It's tough," says Robinson, 29, a radiology student at the
University of the West Indies and a member of the '92 Olympic
team. "We train every morning and afternoon, and by the time we
get home from work, we're so tired we can barely look at the
television before going to bed. Sometimes we stay late and don't
get home until one in the morning."

Harris has his own stories from the road to tell. "I don't trust
dogs," he says on his ninth delivery one night, his low-fuel
light flashing and a fuzzy country station crackling on the
radio. ("Reggae isn't much of an option here," he points out.)
"Yesterday I delivered to a house that had three dogs, and one
of them chased me and nipped me in the butt." Even when
deliveries go right, they might turn into long autograph
sessions. More than a few customers ask for one of the Jamaicans
when making a delivery order.

"They've had to put up with a lot of local yokels like us," says
Leslie McMahon, who owns a photography studio in Evanston. She
has come to the high school track to take pictures of the team
practicing with its new pushcart, which was built by five
welders from the nearby state hospital who donated it to the
cause. "People like to be around them, and we don't ever get
celebrities to come here," she explains. "I've been here 13
years, and about the most famous folks we've had were a group of
skinheads and Klansmen we had to run out of town a few years ago."

Although there were only 25 blacks counted among Uinta County's
18,278 residents in the last census, the Jamaican bobsledders
say they haven't encountered any animosity. "Everyone has been
very friendly here," says Morris. "Our arms get tired from
waving to people all the time when we go on runs."

"We feel bad sometimes," laments Robinson, "because we've turned
down so many invitations to lunch and dinner. But we have to
train." He means it. One of those spurned offers came from a
Jamaican woman living 100 miles down the road in Rock Springs,
Wyo., a chemical engineer by the name of Barb Ewing. Patrick's
sister.

In the meantime, Evanston, with one eye toward 2002, has begun a
campaign to woo other foreign bobsled teams to use the town as a
training site. Plans have been made to construct a $100,000
push-start facility, and in June the Chamber of Commerce sent
letters to 50 bobsled federations with one simple question: If
we build it, will you come? So far, 10 countries have responded,
eight positively (including Argentina, Mexico and the
Netherlands) and two negatively (Germany and the U.S. Virgin
Islands). Evanston also has a Web site (www.bobsledcity.org).

The Jamaicans left Wyoming last week, as planned, but with no
sled and with no secure funding source for the future. "Apart
from our sheer determination to keep going, the most important
factor in our being in Evanston has been the goodwill of the
people," says Harris. "There might have been another way for us
to be able to train together, but I can't imagine one." Jamaica
II's plans for the 1997-98 bobsled season remain uncertain. "I
was sure we would have gotten a sponsor," says Harris. "I can't
count how many proposals I've sent out." He is still trying to
raise enough money to compete this winter on the World Cup
circuit in Europe, which would help the two-man team qualify for
the Olympics.

Whether or not Jamaica II makes it to Nagano, Harris calls his
first training season in Evanston "a precursor to 2002," and he
plans on staying in the sport until then. If he does, there will
be at least one payoff. As John Edwards, an Evanston bookstore
owner, puts it, "When these guys go down the run in 2002,
they're going to have a whole town there cheering for them."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY E.B. GRAPHICS Harris (right) and Robinson used a locally built practice sled. [Patrick Robinson and Devon Harris pushing sled] TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY E.B. GRAPHICS Harris hawked shirts and delivered pizza to raise funds; residents lent a car and an apartment. [Devon Harris and others beside T-shirt stand; Devon Harris signing skateboard for two boys]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)