Sunday July 22, 2018

Uyboco: Hero Worship -- Manny and Money

I HAVE never really been a boxing fan.

Last Sunday was the first time I watched a Manny Pacquiao fight in full and on live telecast. Before, I just relied on spoilers that people would text or post on Facebook. I watched only the highlights and replays on Youtube. But my wife and I got free tickets to the fight (Thank you Eastwest Bank!) so instead of sleeping in my Sunday morning, I found myself sitting and watching not just the Pacquiao fight but the two pre-fights as well, trying to get a feel of a boxing match.

Days before, I had listened to many people echoing the general sentiment of the Filipinos, how they wanted Manny to beat up Floyd. I observed the hype building up -- replays of the Pacman’s previous fights, Bob Arum declaring Pacquiao’s future presidency (which, if there really is a God who loves the Philippines, shouldn’t happen), and jeers of “Gayweather.” I found the last quite telling of people’s lack of maturity and sensitivity in relating to our fellow humans in the LGBT community -- equating “gay” with cowardice -- which is so off the mark. I have gay friends who are anything but cowards.

I also heard from around five people (who were either boxing enthusiasts or martial arts experts) who went against the common grain, and said Mayweather was “too intelligent” and too much of a defensive expert for Pacquiao and the only way Manny would win was if Mayweather was having an off-night.

I must admit that I went into the match expecting Mayweather to win -- a few expert opinions weighed more than a thousand emotional ones, I suppose. And I must admit to being more than slightly irritated that Pacquiao was using the God card too much -- saying “I believe, God will deliver him into my hands. His defeat would make him realize that fame, money and material possessions are nothing without God in our life.” So 7,000 people died in Nepal a week before the big match and God’s going to sit in your corner and give you magic powers to win? Trainer Freddie Roach had more sense when he declared “Manny, God doesn't give a (expletive) who wins. He's got bigger things to do.”

But after the match was when things got really out of hand. The “Gayweather” jeers intensified, along with “Kentucky Floyd Chicken” and remarks of “I thought this was boxing, not dancing,” and so on. Yes, I get “Filipino pride” and that this was a way for people to deal with their hero losing the match. It was a way for those believing “God was on their side” to somehow rationalize the defeat. It was hero worship to the extreme and that is dangerous, because if you start idolizing your heroes too much, you tend to expect they can do no wrong and that everything they do should come out right.

Aside from his abuse to women, people tend to criticize Mayweather because of his materialism and love for money, as if Pacquiao is some poor underdog who isn’t materialistic as well. The guy now owns several properties, including a US$9 million (around PHP400 million) house in Forbes Park and another house in Los Angeles. He owns a fleet of luxury cars including a Porsche, Ferrari, etc. And he stood to make US120 million (PHP5.4 billion) from that one fight alone.

Sure, Mayweather stood to make more, but someone better do some hard convincing to me that Manny wasn’t in it “for the money” as well. Now, if Manny had donated 100 percent (or even 90 percent) of his winnings to the country, I would be more inclined to believe him. But until then, all this talk of “fighting for the country” and “fighting for God’s glory” is just that -- talk. Yes, Mayweather is materialistic (and quite vocal and obnoxious about it), but that doesn’t mean Pacquiao is not. He has just mastered the glory-to-god-talk (incidentally utilized by many dirty politicians as well) that makes him seem oh so humble, and plays so well to the emotional and religious nature of Filipinos. We have to rid ourselves of binary thinking (good vs. evil, rich vs. poor) and start looking at things from a wider perspective.

Now, I am not bad-mouthing Pacquiao or saying he doesn’t deserve his money, not at all. As a boxer, he is up there in the upper-echelons, a hall-of-famer, and certainly a champion many times over. He is no less an inspiration to many who look up to him, who draw strength from his amazing rags-to-riches story. This latest defeat does not take any of those away from him. He deserves every accolade and every cent he has ever made because of his hard work and dedication to the sport, and he has every right to spend his money as he wishes.

That being said, we should avoid the tendency to worship our heroes too much and to think they can do no wrong. I admire Pacquiao as an excellent boxer, and an inspiring human being, but that doesn’t mean I should be blind to his faults. He lost that match because he didn’t have a clear plan to defeat Mayweather’s strategy (one he has employed all throughout his career), and he is being a sore loser about it by using his injured shoulder as an excuse. Manny failed to penetrate it, therefore he lost. Pacquiao is an excellent boxer but he is also a mediocre singer, a laughable basketball player and a lousy, absentee congressman.

It is good to have heroes, but always remember they are as human as we are. It is never a good idea to always put them on a pedestal, lest they think themselves capable of doing everything right, and lead themselves (and us) to ruin.

And if that’s not obvious enough, please, Manny, don’t run for president.


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