I can’t believe in 2019 where we have so much access to information that people still love to play the genetic victim card or some other excuse why the only country on Earth with basketball tunnel vision is so inept once they leave the country:.
- “Other teams are taller”
- “Height is might.”
- “There’s no question the Gilas players are highly-skilled and talented athletes. Gilas’ inconsistency is a result of lack of chemistry and preparation.”
- “The Italian Team is a National Team honed for FIBA, ours are professional PBA player put together a few weeks prior!”
- “We are the only SEA country, or even in the whole Asian region, that is so fixated to Basketball. It can be traced back to our history. As a former colony of the west, we identify ourselves as westerner than Asian.”
The Gilas team (or Team Philippines as the rest of the world calls us in the few times the rest of the world sees us ) went winless in the recent FIBA tournament. What also went down in flames is local interest in the tournament . Remember this is the one team sport that the locals care about regardless of pinoy participation or lack of it. Maybe some people should watch other teams that actually got a win to see how they play. Other teams that don’t succumb to the height excuse. Other teams that actually play like a team.
There is no I in Team but there is an I in “pinoy”
Pinoys are not known around the world for team sports. Nobody cares how we play team sports or why. The few times I find myself exposed to PBA marketing I am reminded of the pinoy values they exploit to attract fans. It’s always about being “astig”. There are the muse contests. The one value I don’t see the pinoys cherishing is teamwork.
It is all about pinoy culture and not about pinoy genes. Pinoy culture is about being “astig” as their PBA markets and their local hip hop reminds us. So the pinoy is vain and that is so evident in their TV , songs, movies and their basketball. That is the culture these athletes grow up in. Somebody please remind pinoys that basketball is a team sport and there is no “I” in team. Pinoys grabbed basketball and projected their own image into it and are so shocked when it wilts overseas. In what passes for research for this blog I stumbled on an instance of rare honesty and perspective from a different pinoy source . Of course I reproduce some of their caps here.
Enthusiasms, enthusiasms… What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork… Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don’t field… what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I’m goin’ out there for myself. But… I get nowhere unless the team wins.
Al Capone in The Untouchables ( 1987)
Pinoys will tell you they don’t care about other team sports because they are boring. Well Physics and Chemistry are boring to anybody who has not graduated from high school or worse not capable of graduating from high school. Anything can be fascinating to the educated and boring to the ignorant. Dana White (former head of MMA) once said the reason why combat sports are popular everywhere ( I paraphrase) is it is so easy to understand 2 guys getting into the ring and the possibility of one of them ending up on the floor. Pinoys fascination with team sports begins and ends with ball goes into hoop. That fascination fuels their playtime and their consumption and unfortunately their comprehension.
The NBA is the only sports league outside our shores pinoys care about so in a way it is kind of responsible for the way pinoys see the outside world and sports itself. Remember that chaos theory most of us heard in Jurassic Park . Butterfly flaps its wings and causes a hurricane halfway around the world. When I was a young boy discovering sports the NBA was a much different animal. In the 70s the league had a cocaine problem and possibly worse, the NBA Finals were broadcast nationally after the 11 PM news.
The NBA is still not the dominant sport in the two countries that it plays in but their turnaround since the 70s is nothing short of amazing. Commissioner David Stern had a simple strategy, market the back of the jersey and make it more important than the front of the jersey. This strategy obviously worked when you look at the present state of the NBA. The Bible says if you live by the sword you die by the sword. The NBA’s strategy had it’s pros and cons.
The NBA’s emergence from its dark days did correspond with what was left of the careers of Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as well as the emergence of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. MJ last won a championship in 1998. Despite all the quality stars that were just getting started around that time ( Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson , Kobe Bryant) TV ratings for the NBA Finals did not reach the MJ level until 2017. The NBA ‘s popularity was not dependent on superstars. I call it the Sharon Cuneta effect. The NBA seemed to reach it highs on a megastar.
The National Football League on the other hand is the big FU to the rest of the world. America is home to the best hockey, baseball and basketball players / leagues in the world. Yet the NFL dominates their ratings and big time NCAA football is very competitive with all other sports leagues that play in the US. Americans with their love for their own brand of football does not care about what the rest of the world thinks about their passion. As I wrote before the NFL is the most popular program in five different networks.
The NFL did experience a bit of a dip in ratings a few years ago. It was a dip and not a downward trend. Even with that dip , it is not like any other sport came close to catching up. The reason for the consistency is the NFL is very secure with its product on the field. It never had to resort to singling out its superstars the way David Stern did. The NFL is all about “The Shield”. It did not matter who retired , life went on. As a result even if a game is lopsided or played by cellar dwellers the ratings are still great.
So what does the NFL’s popularity have to do with the lack of fortunes of Filipinos in all team sports? It helps stress the paradox of the Philippines approach to team sports. The Philippines believes complete devotion to basketball and only basketball is their road to medals, riches and that most coveted commodity of our culture: pansin. American Football more than any other sport is the ultimate team sport. You can have all the talent in the high profile positions yet if you don’t have talent on either line of scrimmage then your team will be going nowhere. You will be surprised how much an excellent left tackle makes compared to the rest of the team when fans and even the TV camera will rarely focus on their play.
Another paradox I love to hammer home whenever Gilas or the Azkals inevitably come up short is the “leftover ” theory. Other teams that beat the snot out of Gilas are not playing their country’s favorite sport. Gilas brings in an import because it is already an admission that legitimate Filipinos are not enough. Any import on the roster will close the opportunity for a Filipino who actually cared about representing his country his whole life. Any import who cares enough to represent the Philippines I guarantee you was not close to making the team of the country he really belongs to. This applies to both Gilas and the Azkals. You are taking the court / field with players who are not in demand by the best in the world. So being competitive with the best in the world is just a fantasy. Yet Gilas coach Yeng Guiao felt slighted when the coach of the Serbian team mentioned the Philippines lacked quality. It should be noted that the score between the two teams almost resulted in Serbia outscoring the Philippines by double ( 126-67 ). Philippines, you devote yourself to your favorite sport and you have an import and that is the best you can do?
Lost in all this discussion about the lack of results or even competitiveness in FIBA is the lack of results of pinoy athletes in general. Nobody abroad cares about pinoy athletes in team sports or individual sports. One boxer/ senator in a country of 100 million is not enough to sway my opinion on this. One Olympic medal in 20 years? Japan had 41 medals in 2016 alone. Now why is that? The Japanese are taller?
Take everything you know about pinoy culture. If you need a refresher GRP will gladly remind you of the various facets of the inner workings of the pinoy mind.
Pinoy culture is about:
- short cuts/ singit
- not following rules
- not enforcing the rules
- choosing baduy ( cheesy) over intellectually stimulating / dignity
- personal glory/ swapang
- inconsideration for others
- excess noise makes up for lack of intellect
- pwede na yan
- familiar family name trumps personal achievements
Every pinoy competitor grows up in this environment. Its up to you if this environment is conducive to success in team sports. Do these values lead to success when facing the world’s best? Joaquin Henson ( @thedeanquinito ) on Twitter loves to tweet as if the world is missing out on the joy that is pinoy basketball. He even RTs people who compliment his broadcasting. Maybe those same fans had nothing good to say about the team he was covering.
I find it weird that none of the people who feel so left out that the pinoys have had no international basketball success since before the time of the Beatles do not question why basketball is all the country has ? No other country puts basketball on a pedestal the way the Philippines does. It is just one of their sports , it is not THEIR sport. The basketball team is often the second or third team in the pecking order so they feel they have something to prove. Not only are countries whose locals participate in more than one team sport externally competitive , they are also internally competitive . But we all know people who are proud to be pinoy already won the genetic lottery and are winners by birth so no need to be competitive.
I also find it weird that pinoys are solely occupied by the one team sport that caters to their swapang (selfish/ vain) tenancies ( everyone can score) yet are so befuddled when teams abroad who understand team dynamics better (since they grew up playing other team sports) run circles around them. I am sure you all know Einstein’s definition of insanity. Pinoys since birth take up a team sport but bring into it individual values. They can never comprehend a team sport that does not reward every position with the equivalent of a lay up opportunity. They will never appreciate the beauty of a sacrifice fly , running out a ground ball or moving the man over. As Al Capone says ” I get nowhere unless the team wins”. Chalk that up as another paradox. A prohibition gangster says so clearly what is not even on the radar of basketball crazy pinoys.
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