During the Month of April to July, I was busy writing the manuscripts of the Christian Living Textbooks that I had co-authored. I had co-authored a total of three books for three year levels. In the span of those months of writing, I was also pre-occupied with my classes, chores at home and graduate studies. In doing those tasks, I had music and basketball to get me by especially on late nights. It was a struggle writing in the middle of the night and it was but helpful to have music on your background.
In two nights between the end of June and the start of July, while writing the last manuscripts to be submitted to our publisher, I wrote while watching our Men’s National Basketball Team (Gilas) play in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Serbia and The Dominican Republic in Belgrade. Gilas, who was fresh from a successful campaign against South Korea and Indonesia in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifying tournament in Angeles, Pampanga two weeks prior, carried that positive momentum going into the OQT games in Belgrade. But even before flying to Belgrade, news about the injury of Gilas’ new hero and face Dwight Ramos came out, with Dwight eventually sitting out the rest of the tournament.
Gilas pushed Serbia (ranked 6th in the world), which was led by ace point guard Milos Teodosic and NBA veterans Nemanja Bjelica and behemoth Boban Marjanovic to the limit losing only by 7 points, 83-76, to the hosts and eventual finalist. Gilas even had the chance to win the game leading in the last two minutes. Yes, it was a loss, but seeing our young guns like the highly improved Justine Baltazar, Kai Sotto, and RJ Abarrientos go toe-to-toe against one of the world’s best teams and players is something to be proud about.
In this game, we as fans saw that we had arrived; that even in the youth of our team, we could give them a run for their money. We had a glimpse of the future, which is bright, on the way these young men held themselves against one of the world’s best. We saw that if we can have these players together with some missing pieces for the next year playing in the system of Coach Tab Baldwin, we’re in for a good ride come the 2023 Basketball World Cup which the Philippines will co-host with Japan and Indonesia.
The next game saw our boys lose to the Dominican Republic, 94-67, a game which was close in the first half. But the physicality and experience of the Dominican Republic prevailed as they dealt our young guns a beating in the second half to snatch the win away. In the point of view of a teacher like me, that lost by Gilas is not considered a failure. In the classroom, we call that a teaching moment. It was a moment to learn more the system being implemented by the coach and also a moment to learn from your adversary. Cliché as it may be, we say that experience will always be the best teacher.
But then again, just as those games were played in the middle of the night, it was like a dream and its hopes remained a dream because two weeks ago, Gilas, now with the majority of players coming from the pro-ranks again and under a new coach, was thrashed by New Zealand, 88-63, in front of a home crowd at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum. A few months ago, we were already playing with the big boys and giving them a hell of a fight. We, the fans, are now eager to dream and hope for a good showing by 2023. Our young players, the core of this team – Thirdy Ravena and Dwight Ramos – playing in the Japan B. League among others is a step in the right direction for our team to have a good showing in the upcoming world basketball showcase.
But it was all a dream.
The loss to the Tall Blacks of New Zealand woke us up from the beautiful dream and brought us back to the stinking reality of an insular basketball league, lots of dribbling, and individual plays from players and the drama and toxic positivity called “PUSO.” Apologists and PR specialists will hail Gilas’ succeeding win against India but what the heck, India is not a basketball nation and cricket is its main sport. A collection of our local college basketball standouts will beat that team handily.
We the fans are tired of being told to always be patient with the team that we’re watching. During the tenure of Coach Tab Baldwin as coach, we did not need to appease ourselves even if the team lost because we saw the team was playing the game correctly. It had a good system in place, and that system bred the right attitude for development. And we fans do not deserve to be silenced. We will talk. We will say our piece because we love the game of basketball more than the officials running it. The game is our constant. We already had “utak” and “gawa” working for us to belong with the big boys on top. Now we’re back to the drama of “PUSO” and the “bara-bara” brand of basketball. May God help us. May God save Philippine Basketball, the game that each and every Filipino loves the most.