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BODY AND SOLE: FIBA and the lost worshipers

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MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 5 Sept)—Given a chance and another lifetime, I’d willingly play for the flag, in any sport I may excel at, incentives or no incentives. Only a few individuals are fortunate enough to do that, and I do envy them.

Yet, such an honor and privilege carries with it certain obligations, including a commitment to serious training. This involves discipline, which means making personal sacrifices and submitting to the wisdom of the coach even if it means going against your better judgment. After all, coaches are hired for their supposed expertise as tacticians.

Unfortunately, during this year’s FIBA World Cup where the Philippines lost four of its five games the Filipino fans announced to the whole world their disdain for coach Chot Reyes by booing him. The public show of contempt, which had started on social media months before the competition, was so vile that it left the players perplexed.

Utah Jazz star Fil-Am Jordan Clarkson, who joined the team as a naturalized player, said he found it rather weird that the fans booed Reyes. He admitted though that he did not know the context behind it.

Critics may have valid arguments in saying that Reyes wasn’t the best choice for the job. The close games with the Dominican Republic, Angola, and Italy in the group stage could be cited as proof that he simply failed in making the right adjustments and player rotation. Add to that the fact that the final 12-man lineup was only formed a few days prior to the opening of the World Cup.

I, too, had doubts about Reyes, another guy should have steered the team. Nonetheless, I believe that booing him for all the world to hear and see did more harm than good. It wasn’t just him who was affected but the players as well. Only Clarkson has spoken out so far, but the fans’ behavior surely left the rest of the team perturbed as well.

Clarkson mentioned context. The context is that basketball is religion in this country. As such, the fans clung to unrealistic expectations. They ignored the reality that even in Asia itself the Philippines is no longer the Holy Land of the sport. Even Africa has leveled up vis-a-vis the rest of the world. Did we not bow to Angola and South Sudan?

We do have players who can match up with the world’s best, for example, big men Junemar Fajardo, Dwight Ramos, and AJ Edu. And they did perform well during Gilas’ short-lived appearance in the tournament. But, overall, we have lagged far behind.

So, for the fans, here’s my unsolicited advice: the next time we qualify for the World Cup, manage your expectations. Don’t act like it’s the same cup from which the Messiah drank during the Last Supper.

(Body and Sole is the author’s sports and fitness column. He can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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