February 9, 2023

Just how passionate are we, Filipinos, about basketball?
The answer is obvious. To us, basketball is not only a game. It is an integral part of our lives bordering religion.
We patronize our teams and idolize our players like they are part of our families. We rejoice in their victories in the same manner that we sulk and cry when they lose. And, no matter how many times they play against the same opponents, year after year, conference after conference, we never tire of watching basketball.
Call it addiction, if you may.
Proof of how we are enamored with basketball is the recently concluded seven-game series between the most popular ballclub in the country, Barangay Ginebra led by the winningest Coach Tim Cone, and the visiting team of Bay Area Dragons coached by the legendary Brian Goorjian.
In the first six games, the momentum shifted from one team to the other. We thought we have seen all there is to see in a classic encounter between the home team and the visiting team. The games had every element of blockbuster showdown.
There was comedy, there was fun, there was anger, there was excitement, there was fear, there was enmity, there was suspense, there was frustration and finally, there was relief. Every moment, every play, every execution, and every end game took our breath away.
The first six games were truly classic with the Bay Area Dragons giving Barangay Ginebra a run for its money, therefore, leading the series to a deciding and final game seven.
Oh boy, what a game seven it was. In front of a roaring, clawing, clambering, cursing….you name it all, a record crowd of 54,589 fire-breathing souls, Barangay Ginebra clobbered the Bay Area Dragons to submission en route to being crowned the champion of champions. They won by a whopping margin of 15 points.
Yet, the wide margin of victory in the deciding game did not reflect the true picture of the game. Barangay Ginebra’s win did not come easy as the scores suggest. On the contrary, it was a struggle.
Coaches Cone and Alfrancis Chua, two of the helmsmen of the team, conceded that the championship was the most difficult one that was achieved. It was doubly hard and arduous because Bay Area paraded a roster of international players that were not only skilled in their craft but were likewise tall and mobile. They are well coached and can dominate the boards and shoot the ball with precision. They scouted each and every player of Ginebra and neutralized all advantages. Except for one.
Goorjian, with all his accolades and accomplishments as a coach, was not able to plot a plan to counteract the so-called sixth man of Ginebra – the crowd that trooped to the Philippine Arena to cheer their hearts out for the home team.
Indeed, the hordes of people who shouted hurray every time players from Barangay Ginebra made hoops and who jeered and booed the players from the Bay Area Dragons even before they could attempt to make a basket, made all the difference. That was the secret weapon of Ginebra.
From the opening tip-off, it was not a fair fight. Actually, that night, the Bay Area Dragons were not only pitted against a team. They were pitted against a country. In game seven of the finals series, it was Bay Area versus the Republic of the Philippines.
What is more, the five players on the floor were not having a game against five players from Ginebra. They were contending against 54,000-plus Filipinos, not to mention the millions who were watching at home.
Hence, they stood no chance against this basketball crazy nation. Hence, it was not Ginebra that won the game. It was us. Ginebra’s victory is our victory.
Ginebra’s championship is our championship.