Isaac Reyes, the lead trainer of
No disagreement with supporting the other sporting events. It's no secret that much of our token success in the world sports stage has come from areas that aren't basketball. The Philippines has produced arguably the best ten-pin bowler of all time in Rafael "Paeng" Nepomuceno, a four-time world champion, as well as other Filipino bowling
In chess, the first grandmaster of Asia came from the Philippines—the legendary Eugene Torre, the one guy who made chess a mainstream hit in the country. Today, we have Wesley So, a former No. 2 player in the world (ranked ninth overall at present) and now playing for the United States Chess Federation. Weightlifting has also given us a world champion in Salvador del Rosario, who annexed the world flyweight title in the World Weightlifting Championship held in Columbus, Ohio back in 1970. We shouldn't forget our new national hero in Hidilyn Diaz, who after winning the silver medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro became the first Pinoy athlete to win a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games.
Golf has also given us success in the past, producing heroes like Celestino Tugot, Luis "Golem" Silverio, Frankie Miñoza, among many others. But how can we forget the exploits of the likes of Ben Arda and Rudy
None of these though would approximate our success in boxing. With more than 40 world champions since the time of Pancho Villa back in the 1920's, the sport has given pride to Filipinos all over the planet. From the 10 Olympic medals (three silvers, seven bronzes, no golds), half of these, including two of the three silvers, came from boxing. While boxing didn't win a gold in the Asiad, there's no denying this is the sport that has given us the brightest spot and the best chances. In 1994, three boxers—Elias Recaido, Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco, Jr., and Reynaldo Galido, won all the golds for the country in the Hiroshima Asian Games.
So why give so much attention to a sport that, accomplishment-wise, has only given us a bronze medal finish in the 1954 Basketball Championships? Why focus on a sport where the premium is height, a physical trait Filipinos have never been known for? Why channel our resources into a sport that has given us so much heartache and pain?
The simplest reason is its popularity. Basketball has been part of the Filipino culture dating back during the American colonization period and peaked in the '50s when we became a world powerhouse. There is no other sport that generates advertising revenues and media attention quite like basketball. Networks and producers who have covered the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in the past have practically ceded their primetime rights to the game as it provided them with the best opportunity to gain ad sales. It wasn't uncommon, especially back in the '80s, that basketball was the most viewed show on television, beating out the telenovelas and sitcoms of competing networks. And while the PBA doesn't rank as high anymore today, there are still occasions, particularly with Ginebra in the Finals, when they give Coco Martin and Dingdong Dantes a run for their money in the
The fandom for the support is not without basis. It has become part of the Filipino culture, with Nike saying the Philippines is its third largest market, just behind the United States and China. There is only one country in the world, other than the Philippines, where basketball is the No. 1 sport, and that's Lithuania, regarded as a basketball superpower. Filipinos generally recognize the NBA stars, and cable subscriptions increase tenfold when the NBA season begins.
The other reason is its sheer simplicity. As a child, one gets to play his version of basketball using a discarded piece of paper being thrown into the wastebasket. A goal can be put up anywhere and all you need is a ball and five other players for your usual "
The closest perhaps to basketball when it comes to generating the same fervor, interest
And so, the question is, should we Filipinos forget about basketball? It's not that easy, really. Until we find a sport as dynamic as basketball (and yes, volleyball), getting rid of the sport from our collective systems isn't feasible. But it also shouldn't mean that we should channel all our resources towards the sport and forget about the others.
In 1980, then President Ferdinand Marcos instituted the project director concept, where a business crony of his was tapped to handle a particular sport and provide it with the funding that would make our athletes
Unfortunately, our priorities for other sports appear to have been mixed up as well. The two richest medal sports in the Olympics are athletics and swimming, two sports where we didn't fare well in the Asiad. Athletics and swimming have produced two bronze medals each in the Olympics, won from 1928 to 1936. Some big names have come up—the likes of Mona Sulaiman, Lydia de Vega, Elma Muros in athletics and Ral Rosario, Billy Wilson, Christine Jacob, Eric Buhain, etc. in swimming—but none have come close to winning an Olympic medal. And with politics besetting the sports leaders of swimming, interest has likewise plunged, unlike before.
In the end, it's not basketball which is at fault. But priorities also need to be established to determine which sports need more support. We're fortunate to have an Enrique Razon (golf), a Manny Pangilinan (boxing), or a Jean Henri Lhuillier (softball) providing aid, but we also need to engage in
Even while we continue to love basketball just as much.