Asian Games Hoops Pullout: (Hopingly) A Sign of Maturity!

(Ed Note: This piece was made before the announcement of SBP’s  reversal of its original decision of not sending a basketball team to the games. The country’s basketball leaders did announce that they are sending the Rain or Shire core that is reinforced by players of other PBA teams and Gilas Cadets. Yeng Guiao will coach the team.)

Whenever I hear athletes in various fields state how they consider participation in sporting events, where the best of the best compete, as already an achievement in itself, I figurative shake my head in disbelief.

True, this axiom may apply in other facets of life but it should not in sports.

It’s has been my stance that (1) it is a “cheap” way of consoling oneself when they fell short of the main objective and (2) it shows that the athlete is showing lack of thirst for excellence.

If one thinks that wearing a team uniform, or reaching the Palaro Games, or reaching the Olympics is an achievement in itself, chances are that person will not bring home any championships or medals, which is the real achievement.

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Act of the ambitionless

Happy just to be there

Here is a fact: The Philippines have only eight Olympic medals despite participating in 22 editions of this quadrennial games, none of these are golds.

And this “happy just to be there” mentality might be one of the biggest factors of this failure.

The recent Jones Cup was a perfect example where the Philippines was represented by the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

A lot, including me, liked how the Blue Eagles performed in the tournament. They did the Philippines proud with their performance, with the knowledge that they were just a collegiate team. I believed they overachieved by almost making it to the podium.

But seriously, did anyone entertain the idea that they have a decent shot at winning that cup before the first game was played? If one ever did, what were the odds? Is this what we really wanna see, a team with a chance to get a bronze medal?

And who really losses in this case? It is really us, the Pinoy fans, because we were watching a team that was “just to be there”.

As a Filipino fan, it was difficult watching this Ateneo team, to see them fought very hard to win but resigned to the fact that even with their optimum performance every game, the realistic place they could land is somewhere in the middle of the pack and probably can only have a decent shot at taking home the title if some pieces were added to their core.

No offense to anybody, but whoever was in charge of sending Ateneo to this competition alone was kinda “selfish” to the fans who devote time and effort to watch games and support the team, knowing what they were up against.

Was that the way they want the Philippines to be represented?

While the Blue Eagles are the kings of the UAAP, they were far from being the best representatives for the Philippines in the Jones Cup, if the main objective of joining was to win the whole thing.

How about stacking their line-up to 12-man deep by adding players from their championship rival La Salle? From the other UAAP teams or the NCAA teams? What about Kobe Paras or Bobby Ray Parks as considerations?

I’m quite sure any of these additions will put the Blue Eagles in a better position as contenders for the title.

This is what I’m saying about this “just happy to be there” attitude.

This is what probably what NLEX coach Yeng Guaio is talking about when he refuses to go with just the Rain or Shine team to the Asian Games.

No offense to the Elasto Painters. They are a fine ballclub who can really contend in any competition. And watching how they play in the PBA, they, without a doubt, would have poured their hearts out to top the field had they been sent to the games.

But without Reggie Johnson in that current line-up, their best post threat and one of their consistent outside shooters is lost. Truth to be told, Johnson was the main reason why they were the top seed of the Commissioner’s Cup.

If June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger, Greg Slaughter, and/or other available centers, couldn’t join this team, there is no inside presence to go with when going up against Asia’s tallest.

And how would their offense be rated if Guiao could not add Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, or any other shooter/shotmaker to suit his system? What happens when the team is in sudden need of buckets and he has limited options on who he can set up for a shot or who he can go to that can create his own shot?

A backlash pointed out by lots of those who criticized the pullout move was that the fans will be the ultimate losers and that the Philippines should have participated with whatever team it can assemble, win or loss.

I think otherwise.

In the end, the fans won because they were not forced to watch a team for a sport they dearly love join a tournament just to participate.

Mine is just a wish that if we, as a country, are to go there, we go there, not just to show up, but to win the whole thing.

And also hoping our basketball leaders are now above this “happy just to be there” attitude. They should go with an “all out to win” attitude whenever the Philippines is invited to participate in prestigious tournaments like the Asian Games.

As a fan, I always wanted my idolized athlete not be contented in reaching a goal that is not the highest one available because even if one may not be successful all the time to top the field, at least that person is not checking out of the competition even before the actual game starts.

By: ARMANDO BOLISLIS

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