We need to play basketball in the Asiad
By Al S. Mendoza
IF you still doubt about basketball being our national pastime, think again.
You see the game being played all over. In parks, playgrounds, multi-purpose complexes, etc.
In almost every barangay, you even see a basketball court erected in the middle of a street.
It’s on television virtually for most days of the week.
How many basketball tournaments do we have that are ongoing almost simultaneously?
The game dominates prominent spaces of national newspapers.
Our basketball players hold superstar status.
They are co-equal in fame with movie celebrities.
They are mobbed by both their fans and mere kibitzers.
They enjoy demigod demeanor and fanatics kneel before them in adulation.
Basketball has become almost a religion that its devotees can rival, equal, in number any sect or denomination found all over the archipelago.
Thus, a rebellion may even happen if we forfeit our chance to compete in overseas battles, such as the Asian Games.
It nearly happened when our basketball officials decided to skip the Asiad in Indonesia set from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2.
An uproar immediately erupted, causing almost a revolt from the masses of basketball followers.
At first, on the surface, our officials were justified in their decision to withdraw our basketball participation in the Asiad.
Since our original Gilas team was decimated following the suspension of 10 players in the aftermath of that infamous “basketbrawl” on July 2 between our players and Australian cagers at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, the immediate verdict was to scrap the trip to Indonesia.
The initial reason was the lack of enough talents to replace the sacked players, not to mention we would be pressed for time preparing for the Asiad.
That didn’t hold water, of course.
To loyal fans, to basketball lovers forever, any lineup would suffice.
More than anything, our basketball presence in the Asiad would overshadow everything, including winning a precious gold in boxing.
Surely, we will not win the basketball gold.
That’s still OK.
In the first place, we are sending a so-so and a not-so-prepared team.
In the second place, our opponents in the Asiad are perennial giants of the game: China, Iran, even Korea.
Our being there in the Asiad is more than enough to placate wounded feelings.
That was the essence when Bong Go, the special assistant to the President, stepped into the fray and prodded our officials to reconsider.
The team of Yeng Guiao and Caloy Garcia may not be as competitive, so that it’d be a bonus if it manages to score some surprises, like snatching an upset or two.
That’d be more than enough joy to a nation eternally enamored with basketball.
After all, in every game, it is not in the winning but in how you played it—in how you conducted yourself before, during and after the battle.
Already, with the turnaround to send our basketball team to the Asiad, we’ve won hearts and made this basketball republic whole again. That’s all that matters.
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