(or how to join the water-dispenser conversations, or how to explain to your non-basketball friends (do they exist?) why your blood pressure was so high these past 10 days. Or why your basketball-crazy officemate couldn’t stop talking about different countries but it wasn’t about Zero Fares)
There are 10 reasons. You can skip to the ones you think you like best.
1. First, The Philippines won an international tournament.
When people say they will fight for you, I think they at least deserve a “Thank you” and “good luck.” Well, said people just won for you, and I think we should at least congratulate them.
Rejoice. Be merry. It doesn’t matter if the Philippine team won in Tennis, Swimming, Archery, he Olympics, the Asian Games, or in Monopoly – our team won.
This is all the more important because we won in basketball. You might not be into basketball, but I guess, 9 and 3/4 out of 10 people are into it, have played it, or have relatives who have high blood pressure because of it.
The FIBA World Basketball Championship is set every two years. Yes, just like its more famous cousin, the FIFA World Cup (for football, yup!). For some reason, there are a certain number of slots allotted to different regions. And these regions compete for these slots. The FIBA Asia competition had three slots open. So the Philippines’ objective was to win one of these three – or, to at least finish third. We ended up second. And yes, that’s why everybody was still very happy despite losing to Iran in the finals. We get to go to Spain and play with the world’s best again.
I think the last time we busted into the World Stage, was before I was born (I’m 28, so you have an idea). So if you’re my age or thereabouts, our parents might have been longing for this moment even before they were longing for you and me to come into the world.
For a basketball crazy country, you think we’d get our act together sooner. However, as it happened, division and politicking got in the way. We made several different leagues. We argued about who to send to competitions. We didn’t even have a decent training pool. We finally got banned. We worked our way back into being legitimized, and now, we finally hosted the shebang, and got a ticket into the bigger stage.
2. Because of the Amazing Business it is, that it generated, and will continue to generate.
MVP did it again. He rescued a cause many believed to be too worn out by politics to cause the country any good. Of course he must have earned a lot of money by investing in this team, but the fact is – he invested in the dream everyone left behind (or everyone just fought over).
Events like these are the confluence of many sectors: Sports, Marketing, and Tourism. All of them pitched in. All of them earned.
Imagine all the teams flying over here. Imagine them telling their families what a greet place the Philippines is. Imagine how many of them actually return. Imagine how many rooms they got at the Dusit or wherever. Imagine how much food they bought.
Imagine all the people in the SM MOA Arena looking for something to eat. Imagine the parking costs. Imagine all the merchandise they bought to commemorate the event.
We haven’t even talked about the tickets yet.
So aside from making a great business out of the event, the Pangilinan Group also made the Philippines a great business for other countries to invest in.
3. Gary David
If you’re not a basketball fan, you might still be interested in the stories of these next three guys who made me love the sport even more.
First up, is Gary David.
Gary is a gunner. In basketball, that means he usually shoots from the three point area. Note, they don’t shoot exclusively from there. But when they get “hot” – no one could stop them. Some gunners you might have heard of are Allan Caidic and Ray Allen. In the eternal words of the Pringles guys, once they pop, they’re hard to stop.
The thing with gunners is that it’s as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Gary David was in a slump. Blame pressure. Blame mental toughness. Whatever. After the first game, he got called out by his coach – his percentage was nowhere near where the team needed it to be. It wasn’t there during the next game, either.
Then came the game where the crowd, instead of booing him, cheered him on still. Then all the trust of his coach his team mates and the crowd paid off when he exploded for 22 points one night when he was needed most.
Here’s a beautiful article by one of my favorite sports writers, Carlo Paminutan : http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/320773/sports/opinion/2013-fiba-asia-championship-how-the-crowd-saved-gary-david
4. Marcus Douthit
We were told in Grade School AP/Sibika/Hekasi, that Citizenship is acquired through two natural means: jus sanguini, and jus soil. Then there are other means, like naturalization. I learned, however, that there is another one: laying your body on the line for your teammates and the flag whose anthem you now rise to.
That’s how Marcus Douthit earned the trust, thanks, and even adoration of this basketball-crazy nation. Despite being injured, he played hobbled. Despite being hurt, he fought. And the beautiful thing about how Douthit handled his injury was that he tried his best not to show how it really hurt. The first time he fell, he did not allow himself to be carried off on a stretcher.
When he played again that same game to secure the win, a wince was the only window through which the world would see his pain.
When he played the next game, he played big and once again helped bail our shocked asses, this time from the Hong Kong surprise. Then he tried to do it against versus South Korea. Alas, his injury finally caught up with his body. He had to leave in the second quarter. But he still refused to be melodramatic. The way he left the court, the way he sat on the bench, you’d think it was business-as-usual, and he’d just get up and get back. He was a soldier who fought for the same country I would fight for.
5. Gabe Norwood
Gabe Norwood is my personal choice as Gilas MVP.
Fine, he didn’t score the same number of points as Chan, Castro, Tenorio or Douthit. He didn’t explode like David. But he is the glue of that team. He is the perfect player that can play up to four positions, shoot and drive, and defend the best player on the opposing team. AND he doesn’t tire easily. He might be the one with the most number of minutes. I would even dare say that Gilas’ wanting to run, attack, and be the most hardworking and athletic team is possible because they have Norwood. I would even venture saying that if Norwood weren’t there, the entire character of the team might change.
Theirs are only three stories among the rich collection this team must have. Stories that will not only make you love basketball, but even being a Filipino.
6. Because it proves that height is not necessarily might.
If there anything we proved, it’s that height is not everything.
OKAY, height is definitely something. Like in the game against Iran. Okay, it was because of Haddadi, that freakishly tall Iranian Center. However, signs pointed to the fact that given the right manpower, we could have taken him down (figuratively).
OKAY, basketball is a game for tall people, the object of the game being to put the ball in a basket 10 feet up in the air.
But look at the Gilas Team.
We were never the tallest team. But we made sure we were always the more hardworking, more passionate and more fired-up one.
Dennis Rodman wasn’t the tallest guy, but man could he rebound. So could Charles Barkley. Locally, we had Rudy Hatfield. And in international play, South Korea proves time and time again, that it’s not just about size, but speed, athleticism, skills and know-how. They slew the Chinese Dragon with it. Look at the US Team, too. There’s only one “true” Center on that team: Chandler.
And yes, in the end, Haddadi got the better of us. But i’m not so sure he’s unbeatable. Because there were flashes of strategy there where we thought we had him. Given more manpower and more time to study his game, this team of lilliputians can haul Gulliver’s ass.
So we’re finding out all over the world, and we proved it on our home soil: height is just one way to win in basketball. Heart is another matter altogether.
7. Because it gives younger players a bigger dream.
Now, every varsity player in high school and college can actually dream beyond just the PBA. Hopefully, as my friend Aaron said in his status, that these kids get to appreciate these games this past week, and develop a desire to play for the Flag.
Now, every young guy or girl playing with a makeshift court in his backyard or subdivision can also dream big. They can believe that they too have what it takes to compete with the world’s best.
I hope coaches, trainers and scouts also get to see that they have a place in helping our country not only get better in basketball, but also represent the country themselves on the world stage.
8. Because it proves, once again, that our athletes and coaches, given proper training and funding, can compete with the world.
Imagine every sport, coach, team and athlete in our country given the same investment by Manny Pangilinan. I think you get the picture.
Some coaches and trainers today give free advice and sessions to deserving athletes who desire to compete. Some athletes brave competing in a sport and fighting for the flag even if they know that the compensation may not be good, or even passable. But there are too much of these martryrdoms. We have a long way to go from donations and gimmes to actually institutionalizing our sport funding. The Gilas Business Model might – emphasis on MIGHT – be a good way of doing things.
9. It unites us.
Basketball, for all the teamwork it preaches during MILO Best Training Camps and such, can also be quite divisive. There are various styles of playing. Various teams to root for. Various players to cheer for. And a lot of Coke Litro to fight for.
So if you’ve seen your fanatic friend go haywire over certain arguments, you know what I mean.
This GIlas Run, however, brought everyone together. Doubters and believers, blind lovers and rabid haters – everyone threw their support for the team.
And you could see it in the way our different coaches came together, too. All the best minds in the country, at one point or another, came and helped Gilas. Yeng Guiao, Tim Cone, and Toroman came in to check on the team and shared their assessments with Coach Reyes. Jawo even came to inspire them. Norman Black, and Jong Uichico came to assist on the bench. Nash Racela and Ryan Gregorio filled the role of scouts and video boys. They all came together for the players and the country the players served.
The fans, too, came together, not just on social networks, but in their hopes and dreams.
So whether you cheered for Ateneo or La Salle, Crispa or Toyota, Ginebra or Alaska, (or even Miami or San Antonio), i think you shouted at the same time i did as the final buzzer sounded tonight. you, me, and everyone in the Philippines who grew up with a basketball in his hand and magic in his heart.
10. It makes us remember.
Some Marxist-leaning scholars, social commentators or even taxi drivers can tell us that religion, entertainment and sports are actually instruments of existing hierarchies to make the masses forget the things that matter.
Okay… granted. Sports does lift us on a plane equal to some sort of Shrooms. Everytime Pacquiao fights, for example, we forget everything else.
However, sports also has the capability to remind us of our capacity as a citizenry. Sports can remind us of who we are as a people. Sports can push our spines against walls and from catastrophe, discover our character.
We learned from the Gilas experience that the Pinoy fights. Whether we’re down by 10, or we end up losing by 10. Whether we’re faced with a sprightly offense that runs like clockwork, or we’re being bombed by threes, or we’re being literally overshadowed by giants from the Middle East, we fight.
Because the players reminded us of our fighting spirit and unrelenting heart, we must be able to use that which is in our national DNA to fight different battles: against poverty, against corruption, against apathy. We must fight against those who pocket millions, from the millions who are battling for life. And like Gilas did every night they stepped on the court we must give our heart, soul, sinew and yes, pockets into the fights that need fighting.