Issue of July 8, 2018
     
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Respect

Whether or not you are a basketball fan, you must know by now what happened to the qualifying game between the Philippines’ national team known as Gilas, and the Australian national team known as Boomers, at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan last July 2. It was a riot!

During the sixth minute of the third quarter of the game, Roger Pogoy shoved Chris Goulding. Another Australian player reacted violently by throwing an errant elbow to the face of Pogoy triggering a bench emptying brawl on both sides. There were punches and kicks thrown all around. Quite prominent as caught on television were the closed fists thrown by Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo right smack on the faces of taller Aussies. There was also the scene where Gilas Assistant Coach Jong Uichico was seen beating up a player sprawled on the floor right behind the goal. The crowd mildly participated thereafter by throwing bottles, coins, and other debris toward the direction of the Australian players.

It was reminiscent of the Crispa-Toyota days when Robert Jaworski and company would have rumbles inside the court against Johnny Revilla and company. Boy, it was entertaining, but at the same time, frightening.

We have not seen an occurrence like this for quite a while. Yes, there were fights and brawls inside the basketball court, it being a game of physicality. However, it did not involve an entire team. Maybe one or two players at the same time, but never a whole team from the coaches to the water boys.

In the melee that marked the Gilas-Boomers game, even their officials participated, resulting in the ejectment of nine players from the Philippine team and four players from that of Australia. If at all, the ejection of the players from either side provided a comedic relief to an already tense situation. It was five versus three from then on. Jun Mar Fajardo and Gabe Norwood were disqualified due to fouls, leaving just one player, Baser Amer, on the Philippine team. While the score was lopsided, it officially ended with the Australians winning by forfeiture.

The fight that marred the ballgame took away the luster of Australia’s victory. But are the Filipino players to blame?

Some of the criticisms in the aftermath of the competition were severe while some were sympathetic. Jimmy Alapag said it was embarrassing. One Duterte critic sought to inject a political angle into it, or probably, just to humor us, by tweeting that the violent tendencies of the President is rubbing on to the basketball players of the Philippines, or words to that effect. Ronald Tubid said that it was just right for the Gilas players to defend one of their own. Coach Chot Reyes shed his mild manners by blaming the Australians for the fight.

Regardless of what you think about the fight, it was a welcome sight to see that the Filipinos got the upper hand in it. Sure, it did not project a very good image of restraint, but Terrence Romeo was correct when he said in no uncertain words that brothers do not abandon one another in times like this and only they, who are in the battle field know how it feels to fight the war. We owe it to Terrence Romeo and his Gilas brothers to support them all the way. As much as we have savored and enjoyed their wins, shouting “puso, puso” every time they take to the court, we must at least sympathize with their current plight. Let them know that they are not abandoned.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas said that by virtue of the violent manner by which the game was concluded, there will be consequences. One is that the Philippines’ hosting of the 2023 World Basketball Tournament is in jeopardy. Oh come on, this was farthest from the minds of our basketball players when they took to the court against the Australians. What were they supposed to do? Stand idly by and allow foreigners to degrade our identity? That we are a bunch of cowards? No wonder, we are the laughingstock of the world because some of our people would opt to stay silent against an attack on our pride as a people.

True, it is just basketball. Nevertheless, the players on the court carry with them the honor of a whole country. That is why the Philippine nation rejoices in their victory and sulk in their defeat. Did the act of our Gilas players reflect our incapacity to show restraint? I do not think so. On the contrary, it shows how we value our dignity. It shows that we, too, are worthy of being respected as a people.

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