Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On basketball, brotherhood, and the Blue Eagles

In my last blog post, I quoted from Travis' blog where he wrote about Game 1 of the Finals series between our alma mater and our arch(er)rivals from Taft. He has since replied to the comment I posted with something that got me thinking (and blogging):

I think the old and new squads are distinctly different. It depends what you like.

Basketball as Art or Science? Offense or Defense? Individual creativity or Collective brilliance? :)

What follows is my response in turn:

I've always considered myself someone who puts more stock in Art than Science. But now that I think about it, I tend to admire athletes who are known for precision more than creativity (the sole exception perhaps being Michael Jordan, who is arguably the embodiment of both). It's like Roge versus Rafa, in some ways.

But in the case of our team this year, I guess the swing factor for me is the collective brilliance, emphasis on collective. I love how our boys work as a unit, how our passing is so fluid, how quick they are to spot an open teammate, how unselfish they are in their plays, how well they read each other. To even use the word "teamwork" sounds trite. In the closing seconds of the game against LaSalle, as Jai was taking his free throws, Chris, Rabeh, Eric and Nonoy huddled together near center court, either sharing a celebratory group hug, or already plotting their strategy for Game 2. They looked focused, but at the same time they looked relaxed, and I attribute that to the kind of faith they have in each other. And that goes beyond teamwork. That-- to rip off Adidas-- is brotherhood. :)

After sleeping on it, I woke up still contemplating the Art versus Science question. And it came to me that it's not even a matter of choosing between style and substance, for Art and Science can have both. It's a matter of spirit, what lies at the heart of Ateneo basketball: HOW, WHY and FOR WHOM they play. Granted, it's not always the right how, why and for whom; each batch of Blue Eagles has its own methods, motives and motivation, and I try not to be the kind of die-hard Atenean who justifies deplorable behavior from our team (it's "win or lose", not "right or wrong"). But this season's Eagles have a positive energy about them that I like and admire, a quiet self-assurance that comes from knowing, valuing, and staying true to their how, why and for whom.

I don't know if we're looking at a championship team, and I don't know if we're looking at the best line-up Ateneo has seen in recent memory (as Travis says, it depends on how you like your basketball). I do know this much: our boys don't only "win when it matters". Every game matters, because they give it everything they have... they give each other everything they have. Every game matters because they understand that they're part of something bigger-- a team, a fellowship, a community. Every game matters because they matter to each other. And there are just some things that matter more than winning.

One Big Fight. Emphasis on ONE.


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