The author Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote that once one eliminates the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
This statement—call it an epiphany, or a moment of clarity—should help the nation make sense of the Philippines’ mediocre performance at the recent Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.
Let it finally be understood what the Philippine Olympic Committee is trying to achieve, why its officials, led by its president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, keep ignoring calls for a fresher, more vibrant and athlete-centric leadership. Let it finally be comprehended why the Philippine Sports Commission willingly bankrolls a sports program that has yielded poorer results with each passing sporting event.
We have always found it impossible that sports officials seem blind to the Philippines’ ever-declining haul from even a small-scale competition such as the Southeast Asian Games. We find it quite impossible that these very officials would wantonly spend meager resources and callously subject our noble but poorly trained athletes to certain avoidable defeats.
Through the years of watching an ill-equipped Philippine delegation return black and blue from international beatings, we could not find the improbable. Until now.
This is what our current sports hierarchy wants to achieve: that the nation inure itself to the defeat of its gallant athletes so that long-staying officials maxing out the meager financial allocation for sports will no longer worry about public backlash in the future. Do not be surprised that the debacle in Singapore is being spun as an improvement because, yes, the Philippines finished a rung higher than our flameout in Burma (Myanmar).
Cojuangco and the loyalists in his sports hacienda want the nation to celebrate fifth-place finishes in regional meets like the SEA Games so that the nation will no longer dream about being the best anymore.
After all, sell people on a lump of soil long enough and a molehill becomes such a glorious sight that they eventually forget they once beheld mountains.
The nation has never really asked for much from these sports officials other than to rationalize the sports program so it can build on its strengths and do away with the political ritual of sending athletes to major sporting events unprepared because the sparse funds were spread too thinly. The nation would swallow debacles at the SEA Games if these officials would finally admit that the regional meet is reserved for budding athletes to prepare them for the Asian Games or the Olympics.
But these officials still tout the SEA Games as a place to collect medals, and so they must be judged by the medals collected.
And the haul has been truly meager. It’s time to turn the SEA Games into a mere training ground for young athletes that will be sent to larger venues. And funds should be allocated stringently, to make sure that priority athletes, the ones with chances of actually bringing home Olympic glory, get a chunk of the financial support.
It may not sound like a fair proposition but it is a reality that a struggling economy like the Philippines must face. If officials keep complaining that there isn’t enough money, then they should be told—indeed, compelled—to start spending it wisely.
These officials should not forget that the funds they are happily spending are the Filipino people’s, in the first place. When they set standards for every Philippine participation in an international meet, they should damn well be held firmly to those standards.
The nation must always remember that its athletes deserve better officials—officials who will put the athletes’ interests above and beyond their own interests and their thirst for self-preservation. Above all, the nation must always remember that Filipino athletes have an infinite capacity for greatness, that they can conquer the odds, as long as it is not the sports officials who stack the odds against them.
The sports officials want the nation to get used to mediocrity so that it can join them in celebrating molehills and “moral victories.” The nation must never forget the triumphs of past Filipino athletes, and must always be reminded of what its athletes can do.
Remember, always, the majesty of mountains.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.