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Echoes of Banaue

By Julie Y. Daza

Because basketball is a physical game and there will always be players who are bigger and smaller than others (no level playing field here), because boys will be boys, a “misencounter” like the one between Australia and the Philippines is “bound to happen again.” Apologies have been exchanged and accepted, but it doesn’t mean that players driven by passion or patriotism will behave on the court, on the bench, even during warmups, now and forever.

“We were bullied,” Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes was reported to have said. Some people blamed him for starting the fight because they had heard him telling the team, “Hit somebody!” Wrong, Coach, didn’t you say, “Hit back, somebody!”?

It was strange that the winners – ahead by more than 30 points – chose to play rough. They were stronger and larger, they were picking on losers who were smaller and shorter, and for all the psychic power unleashed by their crunchy trash talk on the hardcourt, those were racist remarks, they had crossed the line. With their aggression that combined martial arts, boxing, kick boxing, and football, they had so dominated the chaotic scene that the three referees, who were older and slower, vanished from sight.

Back when NCAA was much more noisy and rah-rah-rah festive, the big story of the season was how the mother of La Salle’s Kurt Bachmann jumped from her seat to chase after the referee with her umbrella for not calling a foul on her son. This happened a hundred years ago, but that’s basketball history for you (me).

Basketbol, basketbrawl, it’s only a game, but when the stakes are high for team and country, it’s a whole different ballgame that could lead to jingoism. Fortunately for us, Gilas cadet Troy Rike saved the day by standing guard over a fallen “enemy” to keep him from being trampled as he lay on the floor. That’s more than Filipino hospitality, it’s kindness from the heart.

Basketball is the most popular, most important sport in the Philippines? A TV5 reporter went out of the studio and asked four guys on the street to spell basketball; only one got it correct. Marc Logan asked a man and a woman to explain “goal tending” and “rebound.” The girl said, “Trending is when something becomes popular.” The man said, “Rebonding is what you do to your hair.”

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