We are a basketball crazy nation, that is a given fact. Ask any Filipino to name a sport and, chances are, basketball will be the first in mind.
In the farthest corners of the farthest places in our country, you can always expect to find, if not a full basketball court in the barangay center, then, at the very least, a basketball ring attached to a coconut or some other tree.
This is the reason why, among all the sports, basketball has always received the most attention and, with it, support from all sectors. For example, the amount of money poured by fanatic alumni of basketball-centric schools for their collegiate teams is unbelievable. The money involved in running commercial teams in national level leagues approaches the ridiculous.
Simply put, among all the sports played in our country, basketball receives a huge piece of the pie. Most of the other sports have to contend with the budget appropriated by the government as well as token endorsements from the business sector.
Personally, I’m one of the few Filipino males who do not know how to play basketball. From elementary school to early college, my primary sport had always been football, aka soccer. Pele and Diego Maradona were my sports heroes growing up.
I’m not saying I do not like basketball, I do enjoy watching it from time to time but, as an outsider of the sport looking in, I have never really understood our people’s fascination for it particularly considering that we will always be at a disadvantage in the game in the international arena.
Let’s face it, height is a major factor in basketball and we, as a people, are simply not tall. Yes, we do have six, and even seven, footers among us, usually by genetic happenstance which is why most of them have foreign sounding names. However, it is nonetheless true that our national pool of unusually tall, yet naturally agile, people is relatively shallow.
Watching some of the games being played in the 30th SEA Games, one cannot help but realize that there are so many other sports that our people have a more natural aptitude and ability for. Ms. Agatha Wong’s performances in wushu, and those of Carlos Yulo in gymnastics, were mesmerizing.
For homegrown sports, and as a martial arts enthusiast, I truly appreciate the fact that arnis has become part of the SEA Games. Few Filipinos know that Filipino Martial Arts, in its various forms like kali, eskrima and arnis, are very popular and are taught worldwide. It was a little funny though that it was easy to realize, by listening to the announcers during the arnis tournaments in the SEA Games, that it is a Visayas dominated sport. “Adelante Arnisadores!”
The point that I am driving at is the fact that it is time for our people and our government to take a short step back to take a deeper look at Philippine sports in general and, maybe, take the necessary steps to achieve a more equitable distribution of support and attention for all the sports that we, as a people, have a natural inclination to excel in.
Again, I would like to be very clear, lest my basketball crazy friends might lynch me, that I am not saying that we should stop supporting basketball. This is probably impossible.
What I am saying is that maybe we could pour a little more national attention, and financial support, towards less popular sports where we also have a chance at getting international stature.
This is my hope or maybe just my wishful thought of the possibility that the Philippines might qualify, and even place, in the FIFA World Cup someday.