Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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Losing gracefully

One of the most dramatic and inspirational sporting events in the history of basketball was the recent National Basketball Association (NBA) championship series between the defending champions Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. In a hard-fought, seven-game series, the Heat outlasted the San Antonio with LeBron James proving to all that he is the greatest basketball player on the planet.

Our readers may have seen the games or read the numerous accounts about the seesaw battle between the two teams. Let me provide additional information on some of the key individuals involved.

About the coaches.


Gregg Popovich, 64, of the San Antonio Spurs is a 1970 graduate of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He was the basketball team captain during his senior year and eventually became the captain of the US Armed Forces basketball team that won the Amateur Athletic Union championship in 1972. He joined the Spurs in 1988 as an assistant coach and later became head coach, leading the team to four NBA titles.

In 2008, he returned to the Air Force Academy to receive the Academy’s Distinguished Graduate award. Despite his four NBA titles, he considers the Academy award as the most meaningful he has ever received.

Erik Spoelstra, 43, the head coach of the Miami Heat traces his roots to the Philippines. His mother, Elisa Celino, is from San Pablo City, Laguna. He is the first Filipino-American head coach in the history of the four major American sports leagues (basketball, baseball, football, and hockey) and the first Filipino-American head coach to win an NBA championship.

Although relatively unknown in the world of basketball coaching, he was named head coach of the Miami Heat in 2008. In selecting him, Pat Riley, former head coach and now president of the Heat organization, said: “This game is now about younger coaches who are technologically skilled, innovative, and bring fresh, new ideas. That’s what we are getting with Erik Spoelstra. He’s a man born to coach. A lot of players want the discipline, they will play hard for Spoelstra because they respect him.”

Spoelstra will surely be visiting the Philippines again. His pursuit of excellence, his ability to rise to the challenges when everything seems lost, serves as an inspiration for our people not just athletes. Now if we could only get the right leadership in place, perhaps a gold in Rio de Janeiro come 2016 can finally be achieved.

* * *

In winning his second Finals Most Valuable Player award, James showed how a champion carries himself in victory. “I can’t worry about what everybody says about me. I’m LeBron James from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here. Every night I walk into a locker room. I see a No. 6 with ‘James’ on the back. I am blessed.”

Perhaps Pat Riley said it for most of us. “We live in a world of immediate blame and immediate praise. And they’re always going to take a shot at the guy at the top of the mountain. LeBron is the greatest player in the world, one of the greatest leaders I have been around.”


The losing coach, Popovich, who had victory in his hands in game 6, had this to say: “It was a great series. I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the right word but in all honesty, even in defeat, I am starting to enjoy what our group accomplished. And you need to do that to put it in perspective. So, it’s no fun to lose but we lost to a better team. And you live with that as long as you’ve given your best and I think we have.”

Well said! When shall we learn to accept defeat or disappointment graciously instead of blaming the referees or accusing everyone of cheating?

* * *

My recent column on the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program and a citizen army elicited a number of comments from our readers. All favor the revival of the ROTC program as a source of leadership for the Armed Forces. They saw the benefits of some friendly competition between Philippine Military Academy graduates and the products of civilian educational institutions.

One of the possible reasons for the lack of enthusiasm of our political leaders for a fixed term of office for the AFP chief of staff and major service commanders is the fear of a military organization under a strong leadership. The revolving door scenario which provides short-term appointments to key leadership positions provides politicians with extra leverage in terms of patronage opportunities that allow for the promotion of favorites. This situation is exacerbated when most appointments are products of one single institution.

Retired Brig. Gen. Joel Hinlo mentions that there have been many studies favoring the revival of the ROTC program in colleges. The program consists of a two-year basic course that is mandatory followed by another two-year advance course that remains optional. Graduates of the basic course are given noncommissioned officer rank, while those who finish the two-year advance course are commissioned second lieutenants in the reserve force. It is possible that those with outstanding performances in the program are sometimes given direct commissions in the regular force.

Hinlo says that “ROTC develops and trains college students to be responsible. Discipline is emphasized aside from giving a chance for our young cadets to excel and show leadership qualities. I am a product of the ROTC advance course, having graduated as corps commander from UP Iloilo, ROTC in 1955.”

From personal knowledge I can say that Hinlo is an exemplary product of the ROTC program. He joined the Air Force and took up personnel courses in the United States and graduated from the Air Command and Staff College in Spain.

Another outstanding ROTC graduate is Maj. Gen. Jose Magno who served as head of SouthCom and later, served as national security adviser. He was also chair of the Government Service Insurance System during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos.

As I mentioned before, perhaps the finest product of the ROTC program anywhere in the world is Gen. Colin Powell, a City College of New York alumnus. As an ROTC cadet, he learned that being in charge meant making decisions no matter how unpleasant. In ROTC drill competitions, he realized that you cannot let the mission suffer or make the majority pay to spare the feelings of an individual. Many years later, he would keep a saying under the glass of his table at the Pentagon. It read “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

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