April 21, 2024

(Last of two parts)

So serious is the situation that even the Senate, with all the pending laws that it is supposed to deliberate on, opted to set aside a few sessions to tackle the departure of Filipino players to play abroad. The senators, too, are alarmed.

This is unprecedented. Not even the flight of so many nurses abroad to seek greener pastures merited the time and effort of the Senate to regulate this. It only shows the significance of a continuing and progressive basketball league in our country.

Specifically, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in collaboration with Sen. Win Gatchalian brought out the matter of agents poaching or pirating Filipino cagers to play abroad.

The two senators revealed that even if there is a contract between the players and their mother teams, recruiters have not restrained themselves in goading professional basketeers to play elsewhere. These players are dangled money and rewards beyond their dreams that to say “no” is close to stupidity. Well, if we were in their situation, we would act the same way.

There is a provision under our Constitution that prevents involuntary servitude. A law restricting the right of a basketball player to play abroad under better conditions and compel him to play here might qualify as an involuntary servitude. Thus, it would seem obvious that the Senate is inutile in preventing the exodus of Filipino talents overseas. The senators, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, are helpless in averting the situation. For the players, the temptation is too much to pass.

There was a time when playing basketball was done for the fun of it. Players played out of loyalty. They took to the court with a sense of undertaking that they are exhibiting their talent solely for the purpose of satisfying the public. The primary consideration was loyalty and a love for the game. Monetary reward did not matter. That was before.

Now, basketball evolved into a multi-million peso industry. No thanks to the sponsors. The players themselves would not be left out and therefore, demanded higher salaries. Professional players, after all, work for the money. They make their service available to the highest bidder. They hire agents to do the bidding for them.

This, therefore, made the game of basketball a sorry plight. With no loyalty in sight and with only money as the consideration in playing the game, there is no dignity left. The players lost sight of why they are there.

Basketball players owe their market value to the fans. The least we expect from them is to stay here in our own league and wager their court savvy and talent in our midst. Not in some far-flung country where they are not seen and not patronized. The latter alternative is depriving us of the fun and entertainment that is due us. It is short of treachery.

Yes, we almost forgot. The players, too, have a right to live. They have the right to earn for their effort in much the same way lawyers get paid for exerting their effort in another court. But that is beside the point. The commercialization of an inherently entertaining activity is doing more harm than good. Look at the situation now. Players leaving the Philippine Basketball Association for another league. Players refusing to honor their contracts because of a better offer abroad. Players not wanting to be recruited in drafts because they know there is another lucrative tournament where they can show their wares. Where will all of these lead to? We have a term for that in local parlance – “mukhang pera.”

Filipinos have a special kind of relationship with basketball. It is our tonic. Most of us, if not all, are addicted to it. But, much like any other addiction, if it loses its “punch and flavor,” we can give up on it easily. Should players act the way they do and continue depriving the fans of what they are entitled to appreciate, it becomes easy to give up watching basketball and shift to other sports like volleyball or other team sports.