Panes: Risks of fight

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By Joel Panes

Optic Yellow

Monday, July 28, 2014


THE incoming school year has begun. For a good number of schools in the Cordillera’s metropolis (assuming there is one) such as the UP Baguio, University of Baguio and St. Louis University the academic calendar commences this August. Not far off after the students report back to the campus, would be the conduct of the Baguio-Benguet Educational Athletic League (BBEAL) touted by some as Cordillera’s premiere inter-university athletic sports tournament; one which the BBEAL’s ten (10) member-institutions hope would rival NCR’s UAAP and NCAA.

The 28th BBEAL season has yet to begin but from the rumor mill, some defending champion’s championship retention hopes are being threatened by an exodus of some players to a place where the promise of being discovered is greener. If the chatter thread of flight is true, it will be a sad development.

Contenders and opponents on the other end may snicker but not openly rejoice but I commiserate. Genuine sportsmen should commiserate. Having coached before and having nursed (and earned) championship hopes in my brief lifetime, the satisfaction of winning against the best is unparalleled. It is a competitor's ultimate achievement.

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In case you follow good basketball, it is like young Kawhi Leonard trumping Lebron James, the planet’s best basketball player for the NBA’s MVP. The victorious experience is humbling but surreal. Raising the trophy means so much more.

The “iron which sharpens iron” in these local competitions is a stepping stone to prepare highland competitors for the intense heat in the national limelight. More than the intent of camaraderie, it is a “sine qua non” or something absolutely needed. It is an underappreciated pre-requisite.

In its absence or nippiness, many Cordilleran athletes particularly in team sports have wilted under the pressures of quality competition in the national stage. The records hold that, though there are a number who shine these achievers are in the minority. Often, these are individuals, not teams. In the majority, we have wilted.

The decimation of competitive warriors in the ranks for any cause such a transfer to another jurisdiction is anathematic. It was like Michael Jordan retiring from basketball to engage in baseball or Michael Johnson unable to play because of an AIDS affliction.

The loss of quality players in a roster deprives the game or even the league of the essential elements of competiveness and excitement without which the stakeholder interest will fall short of the possible maximum. No one should be exulting.

History will always haunt any victor with the thought that it was won with an opponent’s handicap. Consider Brazil's celebrated victory over USA basketball in 1987 where in the Pan American Games, Oscar Schmidt and his teammates played against a team of amateur American basketball players and Dean Smith, a college coach.

Yes, Brazil got the gold and its achievement is settled in the books while USA settled for the bronze. Yet, I would humbly ask, "Would the stature and achievement of Brazil's championship be more meaningful and resounding had they defeated USA basketball with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, et. al?"

Certainly! Consider Team Argentina in 2002 FIBA. The Manu Ginobli-led Argentina shattered USA basketball's myth of invincibility in the elimination round of the FIBA with a resounding victory against NBA professionals. The Argentinian win, even if they did not win the gold resonated throughout the basketball world in ways more than Brazil's gold medal finish.

A few years after, the same Manu scored 29 points against the Iverson-led USA basketball in the Olympics. Ultimately, Argentina would capture the gold. The award if likened to gold in various classes would be more than 24 carat gold. USA settled for bronze. Since then, the USA basketball philosophy would never be the same again.

While bolting out of a team is not always bad for a talent seeking a better fit, the consequences are not always sweet for those who remain behind. For a coach and an administration with a dedication to winning championships, it is a dilemma. For the members of a roster suffering the loss of a seasoned competitor, it can be an opportunity to step up, fulfill a destiny and re-write the fault written in their stars.

Filling the void vacated by a competitive talent needs a quick address. By this time, the coaching staff should ask, “Do we have someone with potential in our pool to make up for the loss?” The concerned administration should ask, “Did we have a program that develops someone to step up?”

Lacking concern, foresight and such despicable practices such as individual procrastination and delay coupled by management's collective indecisiveness will eventually result to stagnation. The crisis then pushes the roster and the stakeholders identified with the team within the grasp of evil state of competitive irrelevancy. Then in an effort to save face and cover the gap between the high public expectation and a diminished reality, #puso, the widely popular hash tag representing a good fighting spirit or anything similar is proclaimed. The true #puso should be so much more than just a performance-filler or that blue pill you know.

I do not doubt that there shouldn’t be a better place to study and compete.

The Cordilleras is a perfect place. The climate is perfect. Metro-Cordilleras (forgive me for my concept) is blessed to have the city-initiated Palarong Panglunsod, CHESAA, BBEAL, SCUAA and PRISAA. We have an infrastructure. Yet we should allow our eyes to probe beneath the surface.

Perhaps, we can agree that after having seen that this rumor of flight is more than what it really is, we should welcome the prescription of an antibiotic in order to heal.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 29, 2014.

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