Hooked on to the wrong sport
My first sports story in high school was a basketball game where one center was the tallest at 5’ 8.” It did not see print in the school organ but it sure introduced me to the thrilling world of sports.
It also taught me that to write about a game, one must understand how it is scored and what roles the players assumed.
Sports writing had a jargon all its own and it was here that my education begun on the importance of verbs and on getting the facts correctly.
My first journalism teacher, the late Prof. Rodrigo Abastilla, advised me to read write-ups on the various sports if I wanted to learn further and that there was nothing wrong in patterning one’s work from great sports writing stuff. It was a valuable advice that held me in good stead as I ventured into feature writing and later into newspaper editing.
While in college I read with keen interest how the national basketball team fared abroad. This was the period when China was still a sleeping giant and the Philippines occasionally dominated Asian basketball until the likes of South Korea’s Shin Dong Pa spoiled the fun. This country’s golden age in basketball, I am afraid, belonged to this period.
Yet there was a much earlier time when the Philippines was a global cage power, thanks to the likes of Francisco “the Rajah of Rebound” Rabat and Loreto Carbonnel who anchored the Philippines to a third place in the 1954 World tournament in Rio Janeiro.
But with the rest of the world able to catch up on the sport, RP promptly faded into its proper place not even a bunch so-called naturalized Filipinos was able to save from an abysmal finish as the recent FIBA games would show.
I interviewed Rabat later in the midst 1980s when he was governor of Davao Oriental and also got to interview his wife, Edith Nakpil Rabat, a granddaughter of Andres Bonifacio. It seemed that the good-looking Rabat was the face of basketball in the 1950s while she reigned as Ms. Philippines. He had tall sons but none excelled in basketball.
With cable TV bringing in a court side view of the world’s premier basketball league, my colleagues and I soaked in the victories of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in the NBA, then to the Houston Rockets, the Lakers up to today’s San Antonio Spurs.
Despite this fascination, it is my honest opinion that this country has latched on to the wrong sport. First, we are not a nation of six-footers and basketball is definitely a tall man’s game. The only chance probably for RP to become world champion is when world basketball opens up a Bracket B for teams averaging six feet and below.
The Filipino’s skill in basketball is joy to watch as the recent FIBA games would show. But the Filipino is too much of an individual player to achieve dominance in a game where team chemistry and bench strategy are paramount as the best NBA teams showed time and again.
The Filipino’s “individualism” extends to politics where the so-called political parties are overshadowed by the inter-play of personalities and the issues and baggage that dog them every which way. PNoy is PNoy the President and Binay is Binay the Vice President, not the leading lights of the parties they are supposed to spearhead.
It is a pity that while basketball courts are dime a dozen and are often equated with development by anchovy-brained politicians, boxing gyms are rare and 99 percent of these are in private hands.
This region boasts of three world karate champions in Julian Chees, Franklin Kawaen and Edgar Kapawen, Jr. Mixed martial arts has been creating waves and wushu has been a contributor to this country’s medal haul in the Asian games.
Grandmaster Wesley So at 21 is ranked No. 12 in the world with a rating of 2775 bunching him with the elite in chess and is still developing. Practical shooting has a produced a world champion in Jethro Dionisio.
The exploits of Manny Pacquiao has shown us that boxing is about the only sport that can decongest traffic and bring criminal activities to a halt every time the Pambansang Kamao steps into the ring.
His recent incursion into basketball does not detract from the window of opportunity the world of boxing has in store for us, where the Filipino’s natural size and skill can match up with the best there are, pound for pound.
Nonito Donaire’s debacle merely underscored the obvious: that the smaller man, no matter how highly-skilled, stood no chance against a bigger and much stronger opponent.