Pipe dream

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Monday, August 18, 2014


ANOTHER season of university games is about to unfold in Baguio and Benguet.

The BBEAL, which stands for the Baguio-Benguet Educational Athletic League, will have its opening rites on August 30. The CHESAA or the Cordillera Higher Education Sports Athletic Association will have theirs on September 5.

Interestingly, the gymnasium of the Cordillera Career Development College (CCDC) in Buyagan will be the venue for the opening rites for these two distinct collegiate leagues. Will there ever be a day that these college games among existing Metro-Cordillera universities ever be merged and played as one university league?

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Most will likely say that a merger is a pipe dream, contextually meant to refer the speculative thought of adding free agent Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks to the Miami Heat's Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade during the offseason. This possibility which caught the attention of NBA aficionados presented significant and insurmountable constraints.

There was a stringent team salary cap, the necessity of individual million dollar pay cuts, the corollary demand for playing time and the management of every star's ego. Are there such like elements present to discourage the possibility of concretizing this pipe dream here?

Standing plainly against the wonder of a regular and annual unified collegiate sports event in Metro Cordillera are not the out of the world salary caps, pay cuts or demand for playing time but perhaps, only primordial egos and even, the imposition of stringent membership and financial requirements.

By egos, I do not refer to hallowed institutional competencies which should be compromised for the sake of accommodation. These core values which their managements have developed over time in order to give advantages to their existence deserve maximum strategic protection.

Perhaps, the BBEAL has become sort of a big boys' club, a fraternity of elitists by their own taste, protecting their parochial interests and installing stumbling blocks for the other institutions less in student population and limited in revenue. Hence a few years ago, it was a big for the Baguio College of Technology formerly of the CHESAA to seek membership in the BBEAL which meant the payment of a hefty membership due. This year, BBEAL's youngest member is the institutional host. With the Atoms, the BBEAL hardwood had been spiced up with excitement. They would not roll over easily against the big boys.

Yet even with BCT's integration into the BBEAL, some member institutions tread in uncertain waters, some suffering financially because of the lower than usual enrolment turn outs. In times past, some universities have even withdrawn participation in certain events. Also, there is the fact that a few member institutions have long contemplated pulling out from this big boys' club not because of their financially incapability but because in a collegiate sports league where the games of the athletes should speak for themselves, some of the big boys of the big boys' club or the distinguished representatives of the universities on the field distinguish themselves by twisting the rules of the game to their advantage while others on the other side, even those who hold high positions and proclaim great responsibility, acquiesce the error as right in a display of sheer ignorance.

Perhaps, it is not a really a big boys' club but boys pretending to men still in search of an identity. This year like the UAAP, the 28 year old BBEAL took a cue from big brother and moved volleyball to the 2nd phase.

Are the reasons behind the motion the same? Has BBEAL volleyball become equally stellar as basketball having an audience of its own and be financially self-sustaining? Or are we in the final analysis merely a copycat after all?

The question is, can Cordillera sports take the lead? Or do we have to wait for UAAP to merge with NCAA before BBEAL and CHESAA can be merged? Comparatively, I believe the situation and the conditions are not equally placed. Both UAAP and NCAA in the NCR have independently huge stakeholder bases. As of now, that cannot be said of most of the BBEAL and CHESAA members. Some institutions do not even pay their coaches' allowances on time. Perhaps, the weaknesses should compel its managers to look at a merger as a necessity, the union having the ability to instantly create greater interest with a wider captive audience.

Certainly though the increased numbers of schools will not guarantee game after game excitement. A unified athletic event for Metro Cordillera universities and colleges will not be immediately wonderful but it will be interesting. To the end that participation among existing institutions is optimized, serious consideration in removing impossible obligatory constraints should be the first positive step - reduce the membership fees.

Furthermore the league management must be creative, constructive and innovative. Oh yes, the competition will be initially ho-hum. The small will be bullied by the strong as is the case with most participants presently but innovative measures to increase stakeholder interest and promote community involvement can bring about a change in the balance of power.

Somewhere down the line, this could be a precursor for a Cordillera wanting to be politically autonomous. Sports sans political interest and under a good administration can be a genuine unifier. In addition, the creation of a unified sporting event among higher educational institutions could be an attraction in the region and collectively benefit these highlands which pride itself as the educational center of the north, the conduct of sports as such being inextricably bound to the process of education. Hence from the grave, Juvenal's "mens sana in corpore sano" or a sound mind in a sound body resonates still and instructs clearly. To have had it conversely or some other way has been one of the misfortunes of today's education.

By way of an obiter dictum, we in sports suffer because for one, you never truly played. This part isn't a pipe dream.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 19, 2014.

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