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There’s the Rub

Underdog

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Like all other Pinoys, I’m all praise for Gilas-Pilipinas despite its loss to Iran last Sunday. The squad members have been a revelation, exceeding all expectations. The night before, they sent their countrymen into rapturous delight with a win over heavily-favored Korea after a titanic battle whose outcome was never in sight until the end.

I watched last Sunday’s game on TV with my head waging a titanic battle against my heart. My head told me this was a David-and-Goliath thing, and though Davids tend to win in the Bible and Hollywood, they lose most of the time outside of them. Iran was the easy Goliath, not least in the literally Goliath figure of Hamed Haddadi who had just finished a stint with the Phoenix Suns. He might not have shone brightly in the NBA sun, where towering figures and middling talent just huddle in the shade, but you knew, or suspected, he’d do so in constellations with less brighter suns.

My head said this would be a massacre. But my heart said, no, this would be a miracle. Stranger things have happened, and this country being a land of miracles, or a land of people who believe in miracles, who knew? Maybe at the end of an arduous climb we’d find ourselves at the top of the world.

Alas, things didn’t go the way of the Bible or Hollywood.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. The half-full way is to see this as a sign of the rekindling of our prospects of becoming a basketball power in Asia. We haven’t done this well in a long time. Not since Danding Cojuangco brought in all those imports during Marcos’ days—Chip Engelland, Jeffrey Moore, Ricardo Brown et al.—who allowed us to win the Asian championship at one point. Today’s second place isn’t so bad with only one import, or naturalized citizen, who wasn’t there anyway in the end due to an injury. The second place qualifies us to play in the Basketball World Cup next year in Barcelona, which is going to generate more excitement and anticipation among us.

The half-empty, or even three-fourths empty, way is to wonder after the cheering and toasting and celebrating have died down what madness has persuaded us to make basketball the stuff of our dreams, the apex of our aspirations. I do like basketball and watch the NBA passionately. I used to watch the PBA until the NBA came to cable TV and hammered home the tragedy, or battiness, of our national preoccupation, or obsession, with the game. The coming to cable TV of the US NCAA nailed it completely: The finest selection of PBA, or national, players will be hard put to avoid a slaughter by any of the Final Four or, hell, any of the final 16 teams, there.

It’s a lesson in humility, but a lesson we ought to learn, if indeed we have not done so already.

We cannot become an Asian, let alone a world, power in basketball. That is almost a given. The long-term prospects are not bright, they are dim. We can always have bright days like this, which can spark a wild belief that we are experiencing a renaissance in it—I worry that that is exactly what our appearance in Spain next year could spark—but the rest of our days will be stormy. More than any sport, basketball is about height. You might argue that there are other factors involved—speed, dexterity, athleticism—but between two players who have these things, the taller one will always be better than the shorter one.

You need not go far to see proof of it. The fact that Iran, China, Korea and the Arab countries have progressed rapidly in basketball shows so. Once they learn the skills, their height will make the difference. And they have been learning the skills over the years, ironically no small thanks to our coaches whom the Arab countries have been hiring for the purpose. Indeed, they have been making all these strides despite the fact that basketball is not their national passion. Football is. Iran is a football powerhouse, China is a football powerhouse, and Korea is most certainly a football powerhouse.

We’ve managed to snag silver in basketball? Well, against a field that’s preoccupied with other games. Basketball is all we do.

Which brings us to a reality check we should be making. Silver isn’t bad, the heroic efforts of our boys against Iran, playing their hearts out before an admiring and adoring public is a joy to behold. But I cannot look at these things without also feeling awed by the cost of all this. That cost isn’t just the fortune we pour into basketball, it is also the fortune we deny our other sports. (Except, of course, for boxing, which is quite another sport in itself.) Sports where we have at least the chance to excel given the limits, or potential, of our innate physiology. Football, where Asia and Japan are excelling, is one of them.

Unless you propose, as some people have actually done, that we adopt a regime of growing taller players. What, practice genetic engineering? Just so we’d play better basketball? Talk of the tail wagging the dog. Well, that’s our other favorite sport.

At some point, you must wonder if our dogged, and profligate, pursuit of basketball excellence is not a case of relishing the role of Sisyphus walking up the mountain while being doomed to fail. Or for those who do not like classical references, banging our heads against the wall.

It’s nice porma , of course, to cut the figure of an underdog bucking the tide, and no one loves porma more than we. But it is one thing to buck a tide not of your own making and quite another to buck one you have artificially created for yourself. It is one thing to fight your way through obstacles you’ve accidentally found yourself in and quite another to fight your way through obstacles you’ve gleefully put up in your path. In the first, you are an underdog.

In the second, you need to see a doctor.


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  • AlzheimersC

    Playing basketball is not like going to war and getting killed..Basketball pa lang naduduwag na si CDQ…minsan may pagkaEWAN din itong si CDQ!

    Kahit anong tangkad pa niyan kung MAITUTULAK mo siya palayo sa ring e kailangan pa rin niyang ipuntirya ng husto ang bola para mai-shoot…
    so kung shooting na lang ang labanan, then it become an even field to us, di ba?
    Natalo tayo dahil wala si Douthit pero malaki ang CHANCE na manalo tayo dahil mahusay naman ang shooting natin kaya lang NAPAGOD lang sila sa depensa kaya dumami ang sablay…Kung nasa harap mo ang bantay, husay sa dribbling lang ang katapat niyan to go around and find an open space to shoot or hanap ng kakampi mo na libreng tumira.

    Nakita na iyan ng mga coaches natin kaya balak na nila na kumuha ng hefty at 7 footer na naturalized center natin…

    Tama na iyong size ni Fajardo at Japet bilang Power Forward at madagdagan pa ni Slaughter medyo hindi na tayo gaanong dehado diyan sa gitna…

    KUNG NANANALO ang Gilas malamang NGANGA itong si CDQ.

    At saka akala nyo be e hindi tayo dehado sa football? sa LAKI ng hakbang ng mga European teams kesa sa mga local players natin na katulad ni Caligdong e hirap din tayong lumaban ng pabilisan ng takbo! Ilang beses na bang nagchampion ang Malaysia at Indonesia dahil matagal na rin silang naglalaro ng football? haaaa?

    • poltergeist_fuhrer

      nice one!…haha

    • IsipPinoy

      Kung puro manunulak ang gagawin ng team natin baka mauubos sila sa foul at kung magagawa nating manulak gagawin din nila sa atin yun so dyan palang sabihin na natin equal lang. You admit na kaya natalo ang Gilas dahil wala yung matangkad na si Douthit. Dapat sa mga Pinoy kumain lagi ng mantekilyang Star para tumangkad.

      • AlzheimersC

        Marunong mag-box out ang mga players natin gamit ang katawan at kamay(lalo na kung kasinlaki nila) ng hindi sila ang unang nag-iinitiate ng contact kungdi iyong offensive team lalo na iyong center player…

        Besides hindi ka pwedeng tumambay sa shaded lane ng matagal or else tatawagan ka ng 3 sec. violation…

        Kaya nga dapat 7 footer din ang LAST DEFENSE natin sa ilalim at syempre magaling din sa offensive…pero doon sa last game natin against Iran, zero, nada, wala tayong defensive nor offensive option sa sentro.

        Alam mo naman may oras ang bawat galaw sa court so harassing the opposing team to delay his offensive option to let him shoot in a hurry and eventually miss his shot(kasi nauubusan ng oras) ay isa sa feature ng basketball kung saan pwede tayong “mabuhay” sa paglalaro ng basketball…kamay at katawan ang kailangan diyan which is kayang i-provide nina japet at Fajardo kung may capable na sentro tayo…because of their athleticism sa pagbabantay…pero ang pinakaimportante hindi makalapit ang kalaban natin sa ilalim ng basket ng basta-basta…kahit malaki ang mga iyan, hindi naman pwedeng “sagasaan” ka lang nila na walang foul kung hindi ikaw ang unang nag-initiate ng contact…breaking passes to their center player with “our” long arms to cover any attempt…better sa ilalim ang pasa kesa hayaan ang kalaban na pumasa ng alley-ops sa kanilang sentro(kasi at least itataas muna niya ang bola bago i-shoot at baka maagaw pa natin)

      • bbguevara

        Apply kang coach Sir, mukhang mas magaling ka kay Chot.

      • AlzheimersC

        Hindi, kay coach Chot din iyan at iyong iba inaanticipate ko na magiging adjustment niya pagdating ng araw…

        Kuha lang iyan sa panonood ng laban ng Gilas…hehe

  • AlzheimersC

    Practice nila ang QUICK RELEASE sa shooting na may SUREBALL ewan ko lang kung anong bantay pa ang magagawa ng kalaban…hindi naman siguro ALL THE TIME e tantyado ng bantay mo kung kailan ka titira…

    • IsipPinoy

      Quick release na may sure ball is a skill that can be learned. It is not something that we have monopoly of as we have witnessed in the tournament. As CDQ said considering all other things equal – speed, dexterity, athleticism – the taller team will always prevail, which is true.

      • AlzheimersC

        E baka una tayong matuto or hindi nila mahalata ang style natin at mabulaga na lang ang mga kalaban natin sa world cup…malay mo baka hindi iintindihin ng mga kalaban natin sa world cup ang mag-praktis ng quick release(faster than they had at the Asian Fiba championship) kasi kompiyansa na ang mga kalaban natin sa world cup sa current skill nila para manalo.

        At saka kung ang kalaban e nag-rerely na lang sa shooting that means mahusay ang depensa natin sa ilalim ng basket kaya even field na ang laban dahil mahusay din naman tayong tumira, di ba?

      • IsipPinoy

        HIndi ka ba nagtataka na dati tayo ang siga sa basketball sa buong Asia ngayon SE Asia na lang ang dominated natin? Ang ibig lang sabihin nyan natuto at gumaling yung mga tulad ng Iran, Korea, China at Taipeh sa kabila ng ang basketball ay hindi nila national sport. Gumaling na sila mas matatangkad pa.

      • AlzheimersC

        Kaya nga hindi na pwede iyong dati nating taktika…kailangan natin mag-step-up din ng ating laro sa basketball.

      • IsipPinoy

        Kaya nga all other things equal – dexterity, speed at athleticism – talo ka kung mas matangkad ang kalaban mo. Ang problem we are short people by nature. Maybe after an evolutionary period of a thousand or so years matatangkad na tayo nun.

      • AlzheimersC

        Basahin mo na lang uli iyong ibang posts ko kung ano ang gagawin natin para maging competitive tayo sa basketball…

        At hintayin mo na lang ang mga LABAN natin sa FIBA world championship…alangan namang i-forfeit natin ang ating chance na makapaglaro doon or PAGBAWALAN mo iyong mga kabataan natin na maglaro ng basketball. :))

      • IsipPinoy

        No, I’m not saying that we forfeit that chance to play in that competition but hoping to win the championship will be too unrealistic. But the experience can be of use in later regional competitions to maintain our position as the 2nd or 3rd best in Asia or best in SE Asia.

      • AlzheimersC

        Grabe ka naman, manalo matalo SIGURADO maglalaro pa rin tayo sa regional o ano pang international competition sa basketball…

        At saka BILOG ang bola maaring MATALO rin tayo sa regional hindi ba? Ang importante naglalaro tayo ng basketball na binibigay natin lahat ng makakaya natin, simple lang di ba? Medyo paranoid ka or cynical…bawasan mo ang pag-inom ng kape pwede?

      • IsipPinoy

        I’m not paranoid and I don’t drink coffee like you do. If you read my comment carefully I didn’t suggest that we stop playing in major competitions like FIBA or Olympics. The experience we gain from playing there, although we have zero chance of becoming champion, can be used to cement our claim as the 2nd best in Asia or best in SE Asia. Hoping to win the championship in FIBA World Cup or the Olympics is purely wishful thinking because realistically we will never be able to beat Spain or Argentina, let alone powerhouse USA. In life bawat tao ay may mga bagay na gustong makamit but we are careful na yung ating goals are achievable given the resources that are available to us. Otherwise puro frustrations lang ang mararanasan natin. Same thing in basketball.

      • AlzheimersC

        “cement our claim as the 2nd best in Asia or best in SE Asia.”

        Even if we always end as second best in our LIFETIME, the basketball hierarchy doesn’t end there in the FUTURE…please enjoy basketball as long as it lasts… :)

  • poltergeist_fuhrer

    there are a couple of ways to see this CONRADO…

    first, thank God because the team Gilas is no longer controlled by the government..it is controlled by MVP group, a private entity…

    IF it is controlled by the govt like POC or PSC, led by COJUANCO…the UNCLE of your BOSS PENOY…the team will not reach what it is now…

    can u write something why the uncle of your boss decided to have smaller contingent on the upcoming SEA games…SHOULD U PRAISE HIM???i wonder CONRADO…

    • bbguevara

      POC is supposed to be a private organization, like the World Olympic Committee. PNoy had nothing to do with Cojuangco as head of the POC, he was elected by the different private sports association despite the political differences now between PNoy and the Cojuangco couple.

  • DaniloD2D

    That Saturday night, many Filipinos were so ecstatic and proud of their country. They were on top of the world. Why in heaven’s name can’t they be allowed to bask in the glory of that one shining moment without all these mambo-jumbos about the glass being half-empty? Let it go, Mr. Quiros.

  • Adam_d_langgam

    bravo conrado. you once again proved you’re one of the best. teddy benigno started as a sports reporter and ended as one of the best ever.

    if only your talent is nor for sale.

  • bbguevara

    CDQ forgot to mention that even in soccer heft and height, which the Filipinos don’t have,is a very strong advantage. Soccer players from China, Middle East and even have Korea have those physical attributes. But Filipinos just happen to love basketball, let them enjoy it, with or without any chance of having an Asian or World championship trophy.

    • oso

      @bbguevara:disqus obviously you don’t know anything about soccer/football. the world’s number 1 player today, Lionel Messi is 5’7 and weighs 147 lbs. The next future world number 1, Neymar, Jr. is 5’9 and weighs 141 lbs. Before Messi, the world considered either Pele or Maradona to be the best footballer ever. Pele is 5’8 while Maradona is 5’5.

      • Adam_d_langgam

        whew … kabayan, your knowledge of football is so minute. out of millions and millions of people who play football, the names you mentioned are one in a million.

        crouch stands 6’7″ and the defenders of germany and the top euro squads are over 6 ft. giants play the game of soccer today. have you seen how the native azkals look like pygmies ranged against the great soccer nations of the world?

        of course some lilliputians once in awhile manage to crack the elite circle. pele and maradona were moons ago.

      • AlzheimersC

        At saka ang designation yata ni Maradona eh attacker kaya medyo malapit siya sa goal kaya technically he needs more savvy like in dribbling to get his kick ball inside the goal rather than more speed…

        Kaya nga mayroon tayong mga Fil-foreign na players sa ASKAL to provide us the speed…Kasi kung purong Pinoy ang naglalaro di ba ni hindi man lang tayo makawala sa pinakadulo ng standing NOON…

      • Adam_d_langgam

        maradona and pele were players to behold. maradona’s only 5’5″ but the guy’s explosive. you’re right. maradona was front and centre the focal point of the argentine attack. pele was of course. the pearl will not be equalled in our generation. players like maradona and pele are rarities. messi too. still these players were surrounded by brilliant defenders and forwards.

        the tisoys in our azkal squad are not that good. they won’t crack the first division of euro clubs. reason why they’re playing in pinas. like the imports in the pba who won’t get a sniff of the nba, they are all mercenaries. of course they’re good (compared to our natives) and they also bring in the “girls” …

        so let’s enjoy them. natives and mercenaries. pero me pag-asa pa ang pinas sa football kesa basketball.

      • AlzheimersC

        Weh? Ikaw na rin ang maysabi na indispensable ang mga Fil-foreign players sa soccer…

        So just the same, isang naturalized foreign player lang ang idagdag sa basketball team natin at baka lumusot pa tayo sa taas ng mga elite players sa mundo…

        Besides ilang STEP na lang tayo sa world cup ng basketball samantalang milya-milya pa ang tatakbuhin ng soccer team natin para mapalapit man lang sa inaasam na korona…di ba? :))

        Hindi man ang Korona ng basketball at least RESPETO man lang na hindi tayo basta-basta sa paglalaro ng basketball…NA MAIPAGMAMALAKI NATIN ANG PINOY BRAND NA PAGLALARO NG BASKETBALL SA WORLD STAGE!

      • Adam_d_langgam

        kabayan, mukhang sablay ang interpretation mo. both nba and football, we should enjoy kahit meron mga imports. except that these imports are not the cream of the crop. latak ang mga dumadating dito.

        respectability in basketball? never will happen. the iranians and chinese were/are laughingstock of the international game of basketball. just can’t compete. the pinoys? the african teams will tear them to shreds.

        the international teams that qualified for the worlds are just too good. we’re fortunate fiba reserved 3 teams from asia.

      • AlzheimersC

        It remains to be seen yet…iyan na lang ang masasabi ko sa ngayon… :) At saka hindi makapaglalaro sa NBA ang IILAN sa mga Chinese at Iranian player kung wala silang talent sa paglalaro ng basketball…kung katawa-tawa nga lang ba ang mga ito… :)

        Let me correct, I mean elite BASKETBALL TEAM ang mga pinoy…

      • Adam_d_langgam

        bro, sablay na naman.

        si yao sikat sa nba. si haddadi bangko.

        ang usapan natin national teams. masyadong huli ang asians pag dating sa world stage. makakahabol kaya? not in my and in your lifetime kabayan. japeth aguilar cannot even crack an ncaa team.

        like you, tataas siguro ang pangong ilong ko kung mananalo ang mga pinoy sa world stage.

      • AlzheimersC

        Injured si Yao at saka si Haddadi BAKA makapaglaro pa uli sa NBA…

      • Adam_d_langgam

        si yao kabayan tapos na ang career nyan sa nba … retired na. si haddadi pwede of course. bangko nga lang.

      • AlzheimersC

        Pwede tapos bangko si Haddadi? hehe manood ka muna…

      • Adam_d_langgam

        kabayan, masyadong kulang ang alam mo sa nba .. haddadi with memphis 2 yrs 2011-2012 .. aveg sc 1.5 played 48 games out of 82. traded sa raptors hindi man lang nakalaro … tinapon ng raptors sa phoenix .. played 17 games .. 82 games ang regular sa nba … waived after this season. waived means let go … bye bye bye … me kukuha kaya? ikaw na lang manood kabayan kasi chances are hindi na mapanood sa nba yan .. enjoy ka na lang ng mga basura ng nba at nagiging sikat sa pinas

      • AlzheimersC

        Puro ka latak…ang sabihin mo masyadong malaki o marami ang pool ng pagpipilian kaya iyong IBA hindi na nabibigyan ng chance na makapaglaro sa NBA…

      • Adam_d_langgam

        finally nadale mo din kabayan. malaki ang pool ng players sa u.s. seriously, ang pool sa pinas grabe. wala kang mapuntahan na walang court. kahit sa barrio me ring sa puno ng niyog. milyon ang naglalaro ng basketball sa pinas kung pool din lang ang pag-uusapan. kesyo malamang mga unano.
        pool kamo? ba’t nilalampaso ng iran ang pinas? mas kaunti ang population ng iran. bro ang israel wala pang 6 million. and i guarantee you tatambakan ng israel ang pinas.
        latak lang talaga ang mga foreigners na naglalaro sa pinas.

      • AlzheimersC

        Iyong puntong pinaglalabanan natin eh iyong talent ng nakukuha nating FOREIGN reinforcement sa ating national team…hindi komo TAYO ang kumuha e LATAK lang talaga ang mga ito at walang ibubuga… :) sumuko ka na lang kung ililihis mo lang ang usapan… :)

        At saka 5 lang ang naglalaro sa basketball court hindi MILLION ok? :(…malay mo tama na iyong line-up nina Fajardo at Japeth plus FOREIGNER na sentro…manood muna tayo ng laban natin sa world cup at saka na tayo gumawa uli ng adjustments…KAILAN MO BA NAKITANG LUMABAN TAYO SA WORLD CUP HA?

        Malay mo baka gumaling na ang Iran kumpara sa mga Europeans ngayong tournament…AT maging tayo man… :)

      • oso

        @Adam_d_langgam:disqus Kaya pala crouch is bouncing from team to team kasi napakagaling nya. 7 teams in 7 years. Yes count them Stoke City, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Southampton, Norwich and Aston Villa. Anyway, the players I mentioned are considered the world’s best in the history of football. how can I name a few dozen. the world’s best nga. in the history of football nga. syempre iilan lang. And four out of the four i mentioned are around 5’8. Yon lang naman.

      • bbguevara

        Obviously you are ignorant about the line-up of the world class teams. Out of the 11 players playing the field on the average only 2 or 3 are below 6ft. The players you mentioned are exceptionally rare.
        Thats why we had to import foreigners with Filipino blood to enhance Azkals heft and height as well as skills. Without these imports we could hardly compete even in the Asean level.

      • oso

        Wrong again! The average height of almost all “world class” teams is below 6 feet. Brazil? Argentina? Spain? Korea? Portugal? US? England? Italy? All below 183cm or 6ft. Same goes for other teams like Japan, Saudi, Ivory Coast, Mexico and many others. Check it. Meanwhile the team with the tallest ave height, Netherlands, has never won the World Cup.

  • SoulEdge

    If you love football then go for it, if we love basketball then you have nothing againts it, Its a Democracy! We dont have to insult our selves in the mirror telling that we are not gonna be like One. We can and its a character building. Basketball is our passion and the longer we lose, the more we strive. Blood, Sweat and Tears!!!

  • Lakan Kildap

    Why do people assume we would be good in football just because height is not required? You need talent for everything, even for cooking or flipping burgers in a fastfood store. Have you seen the Azkals results, CDQ? Cost vs. benefit?

    I remember several years back when we had a mini badminton craze, and then I saw Malaysians, Indonesians, Taiwanese and Chinese players, and they’re not just wizards with the racquet, they’re super athletes. They may be short, but they’re explosive. Meanwhile, our national players move like they have molasses in their joints.

    Kailangan may hilig din yung laro sa iyo.

  • walapadintatalosaalaska

    sabi ko naman sa inyo eh pang PE nalang yang basketball.



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