It comes down to a single Filipino word that encapsulates everything that could be gleaned from the now viral footage of the brawl: pikon.
In that melee was exhibited a representation of how Filipinos represent their country and the renowned lack of a sense of proportion applied to their collective notion of “national pride”. Perhaps there is truth to what is being said about the Australian players — that they said and did things that provoked the players of the Philippines’ Gilas team. But the response of the Filipinos was disproportionate. It was shameful. Worse, it showed the unsportsmanlike way Filipinos fight. The style of fighting that went on display said a lot: punches coming from behind, ganging up on a fallen adversary, throwing chairs (also from behind), attacking then running. Real class acts.
The bigger fight that flew above the heads of the Philippines was a challenge to take the high road even in the face of provocation — with dignity and class and a resolve to play better. Instead, the Philippine team and their fans opted for the smaller, easier fight — the one with lower, even negative, returns to the game and to their country.
Indeed, the brawl was justified by some as a defense of the motherland. Instead it came across as a quaint national tantrum. It was a display of pent-up frustration over a profound feeling of helplessness and inadequacy at a national level that found a convenient and easy space on the hardcourt to vent. No need for billion-dollar naval fleets and top notch technology to show off one’s national chops to a foreign power. Just a predisposition to throw punches that any corner tambay could deliver will do to prop up national pride. The easy fight.
It was, of course, evident that even before the brawl, there was no national pride on exhibit for Filipinos in this disastrous game. Gilas were being flattened by an Australian B-team. This is, after all, Filipino basketball’s pride. And they were being crushed by a no-star Aussie team. This is the bigger tragedy in this shameful incident that will go down Filipino sporting history in infamy — a shamefully-played game followed by a shamefully-fought brawl. Filipino pride suffered a double death today.
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