Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The real score

Last weekend, our national basketball team dubbed Smart Gilas (are we the only country in the world whose team has a corporate sponsor's name attached?) lost their 2 final games in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, winding up with a disappointing 4th place finish. During the same weekend, our national football team, the much-ballyhooed Azkals, was defeated by the UFL All-Stars in a friendly match, mere weeks before the Azkals are set to face Sri Lanka in the World Cup qualifiers. Needless to say, it was not a good weekend for Philippine sports.

On Tuesday, the Philippine Star put up an online poll asking "With its recent performance in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, do you think Smart Gilas can make it to the 2012 London Olympics?" Seriously, should that even be asked? They didn't even place 3rd in a tournament featuring only minor Asian teams (powerhouse China did not compete, nor did Japan and Korea). Realistically, logically, based on empirical evidence, Gilas stands a snowball's chance in hell to qualify for the Olympics (sorry Chris Tiu). But of course the Philippine media, like a bunch of delusional sports fans, blithely refuses to admit it, or even consider it. Instead of doing their jobs as sports journalists to report objectively, analyze what went wrong, and provide constructive criticism, they pepper their pieces with plaudits (deserved or undeserved), make excuses for vanquished national athletes, and sour-grape when results don't go our country's way.

Perhaps these journalists think they are helping our players by being kind and supportive instead of kicking them when they're already down. I think this mentality is actually detrimental to the development of Philippine sports as a whole. It's one thing to be optimistic and encouraging, but it's quite another to be in denial and turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of not only our athletes and coaches, but also the sports programs and governing sports bodies of our country. Moreover, it does not help to set unrealistic expectations (the Olympics! the World Cup!) when our national teams are still struggling to get their act together in so many ways. But no, the media creates all this hype and lets the public believe that our teams are way better than they really are, practically invincible. This gets everyone's hopes up-- even the athletes themselves get carried away by the hype-- and when the rude awakening hits them, the media jumps to the defensive and comes up with alibis or commence finger-pointing.

It's a sad, destructive cycle, made sadder because some of our athletes do have the potential to excel in international competitions. But the "support" they're getting from the media is hampering them from maximizing their potential. It is not right to perpetually focus on the positives and gloss over the negatives. Sometimes a pat on the back won't work when what's really needed is a friendly shove in the right direction.

Joaquin "Quinito" Henson is a prime example of what's wrong with Philippine sports journalism. Heralded as "The Dean" of Philippine sports (read: he's an insufferable know-it-all), the man knows his stuff. But he also tends to spew BS that deviates from the meat of the matter. Take his column in the Philippine Star yesterday. Reviewing Gilas' performance in their last 2 FIBA Asia Champions Cup games, he pretty much blamed the first loss on bad officiating (always a favorite fallback of Filipino sports writers), and the second loss he attributed to Gilas' "lack of energy" (another favorite). However, it was his last line that made me really roll my eyes:

Gilas didn’t win the Champions Cup crown but it earned the respect of the Asian basketball community as a serious contender once more for regional supremacy.

The funny thing is, Henson's piece was titled, "Missing the point", and it seems he was the one who missed the point entirely. Earning the respect of our opponents is all well and good, but let's not kid ourselves, winning games is what counts. Manny Pangilinan isn't funding Gilas so they can be "respected" by other countries, he's investing in them so they can BEAT other countries. A sharp businessman like MVP doesn't just throw money down the drain; he believes this is a team that has the potential to win, and he and the rest of the country shouldn't be content with "respect". When our national teams don't win, when they FAIL, it should be regarded as exactly that, a LOSS. Full accountability and acknowledgment of failure are essential in order to move forward and grow-- no excuses, no sugarcoating. By touting Gilas as "a serious contender... for regional supremacy" after 2 losses, Henson is patronizing them, and pandering to a basketball-crazy nation with delusions of hoops grandeur.

Such is the state of sports journalism in our country today. Even relatively straightforward news pieces like this Inquirer article on the Azkals sneak in something for "pampalubag loob" like this absurd soundbite from the Azkals' coach:

“Some players in the defensive line didn’t have their best day,” Weiss said. “It may sound ridiculous but I think we clearly dominated the match.”


Let's not cushion the blow of defeat with all that "they gained experience" "they showed improvement" "they tried their best" crap. Both Gilas and the Azkals lost because they still lack experience. They lost because they need MORE improvement. They lost because their best isn't good enough. So we should stop coddling them with platitudes and consolations and start urging them to train harder, adjust their strategies, and hone their skills. Yes, we should cheer them on, we should be proud of their accomplishments, we should support them in their efforts. But loyalty should never be blind. Besides, these are grown men representing our country, not little boys playing in a Milo basketball or football clinic. They are tough enough to face defeat, and afterward they can handle the heat. The media who are so quick to help them lick their wounds actually diss them by NOT giving them a hard time. Treat them like warriors, not wusses, and we'll see how far they can really go.


At Sunday, June 12, 2011, Blogger docpepo said...

Nice blog!

At Monday, June 13, 2011, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Thank you. :)


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