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We can only win if God plays favorites

By Al S. Mendoza

WE know we could not win in the Fiba World Cup of basketball. 

We know we need God’s help to even survive the first round of the Fiba qualifiers.

Still, we are playing in the Fiba World Cup: A commitment to world peace through sports.

And so, we are now in Foshan, China, to be among 16 countries vying for the world crown in a game that is perennially reserved for giants.

For, isn’t basketball designed for goliaths—literally?

How many times have they hammered the following into our coconuts (Gonz Duque loves that word now)? 

In basketball, height is might!

Unfortunately, we don’t have height—since time immemorial.

We can have one or a couple of man mountains in our team, yes, but are they enough?

Not at all.

Our foes from overseas are all—literally—taller than the tallest trees in the mountain.

In the past, we would be lucky if we have one standing more than 6-foot-3.

Like Abet Guidaben then at 6-foot-5?

And Ramon Fernandez at 6-foot-4?

They were our giants, but then, ranged against our rivals’ centers, Guidaben and Fernandez were mere Lilliputians against slot men as tall as Makati’s skyscrapers.

Now we have players, who have grown taller, like 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo, 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar and 6-foot-8 Troy Rosario.

But they are just three of our 12 players to the Fiba Worlds.

The rest of their teammates, mostly, aren’t taller than 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5, except naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche at 6-foot-11.

And consider:  Fajardo, Aguilar and Rosario are our tallest homegrown Filipinos already but how about their foes from the other side of the court?

They are almost seven-footers all—and having the size and beef of fattened cows and bulls ready to ram us in underneath clashes in the battle for the boards.

Our first game in the Fiba Worlds was last night against Italy, with no less than President Duterte watching at ringside (thanks to Sen. Bong Go for making that possible).

Sorry, but we would be just lucky if we beat Italy last night.

Meaning, if we won, God willed it.

For, if truth be told, only God can make us win against Italy, period.

Tomorrow, Sept. 2, we face Serbia, a title contender simply because it placed second to the US in the last Fiba Worlds in Spain in 2014.

Again, to be honest, if we beat Serbia, I’d accuse God of simply being biased, if not being downright guilty of favoritism.

It’d be against the strictest rule of the game:  Serbia as the hands-on favorite getting beaten by a super underdog like Gilas Pilipinas?

Next, we have Angola as our third foe on Sept. 4 in our grouping.

OK, in this game, it’d be fair to say we have a slim chance of winning.

Although Angola is the African champion, history is on our side as we beat the last African champion in the 2014 Spain Worlds: Senegal.

That was an exciting win for us over Senegal in two overtimes—a feat we treasure like gold.

Now, here’s the catch:  In order for us to march to the next round in China, we need two wins against Italy, Serbia and Angola.

Italy and Angola can be beatable—with a little help from God.

But against Serbia? 

God must be a game-fixer if he’d allow us to upset Serbia.

Let’s just enjoy?

The circus is in town.

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