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Gimme The Ball: Love, According to Basketball
Jessica applies lessons learned on the court to real-life relationships
by Gelo Gonzales | Dec 8, 2012
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A year’s worth of coach’s huddles is a lot of huddles. I’ve listened to spirited motivating, blatant blaspheming, and play-by-play instructing from all kinds of coaches. So much so that after a while, even an ignorant non-athlete reporter such as myself picks up the pattern: That no matter what a coach’s system is, there are basic tenets of basketball that a team must abide by in order to win, and win consistently.

That was my Moment of Revelation No. 1.

M.O.R. No. 2 came while I was sitting courtside at Ginebra’s 30-point drubbing of Air 21 (which, as I write this, is still fresh in my mind). I realized that the principles of basketball aren’t so different from the “Top Relationship Rules” that I gorged on off of magazines as a teenager—rules that help young female adolescents in their formative relationship years.

I know, I know. You’re like, "How does a PBA blowout game lead you to think about relationships?" And also, "No way something as awesome as basketball can have anything to do with stupid teen girl mantras."

To answer your first question, it doesn’t. The truth? I was running late on the deadline for this column and had to make a connection somewhere (huli ka, balbon!). But as for your second question, hear me out. I promise this makes sense.

For instance, one of the first words I re-learned for basketball is “spacing.” You want your guys spread out on the court so that the ball can make its way around to the open man, right? Every player should know his role and place; otherwise, the ball stays stagnant and chances are someone takes a bad shot or dribbles off his foot.

Relationships are no different: Both parties need to have their legroom. This is especially true when you’re just beginning to date, and you don’t want to scare off your potential partner by being all up in their space. But it also applies to long-term relationships, when you feel so comfortable with someone that you tend to forget about boundaries. How often do couples fight because one can’t give the other his or her privacy? Respect space—it’s true in basketball, and it’s true in life.

Not bad, right?

I’ve also heard this one in basketball games a lot: Avoid mistakes, but if you do make them, learn to put them behind you. I’ve probably quoted players and coaches about this a dozen different ways, whether it’s because of stupid fouls in-game or a whole conference's lost. As much as possible, you don’t let your temper, frustration, or lack of focus lead you to make forced turnovers or to execute plays badly…but if it happens, don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself or blaming your teammates. Look forward.

Same thing goes for that inevitable prizefight with your partner. You’re both going to make mistakes and bad choices because that’s what people do. But “learn from it and move on,” is always sound advice.

Oh, and this one I love: The little things matter. Sometimes a team wins a couple times and suddenly every player thinks he’s there to make the sexy shots. But everything from diving for loose balls to your attitude on the bench counts for something. If your teammate makes a steal and goes down the court for the fast break, make sure you’re there for the pass or the put-back. More than knowing how to make that ridiculous 360-degree, no-look, tuma-tumbling-sa-ere dunk (that we all love, I know, but that’s beside the point), champions recognize that scoring isn’t everything. And that, to win, you have to have hustle, play defense, and keep the energy up.

Similarly, countless relationships have fizzled in the aftermath of a sweeping romance that couldn’t be sustained over time. Why? Because the guy wants to score, but doesn’t want to listen, or spend on dates, or cuddle. Or the girl wants understanding, but doesn’t believe in compromise or respect her man’s time with his homies (I’ve always wanted to use that word in an official capacity).

I only got halfway through Bill Simmons’ voluminous bestseller The Book Of Basketball, but he must have already said it a hundred times by page 340: Winners do the dirty work. Again, true in basketball and true in life.

One final thing that this sport and your love life have in common: All is easier said than done. It’s why not all teams win championships and not all relationships work out. But in both cases, your effort matters, and how you treat the game determines the result you get.

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I feel so wise right now.

And to top it off, I think I just gave you another reason to get your girl to watch basketball. So, go ahead and tell her, “Baby, I really think our relationship can benefit from a mutual understanding of the sport’s basic principles.”

It might work. Apir

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