Lessons for Filipinos from the FIBA World Championships
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-09-16
They were belittled even before the games started. The public perception was that the United States sent their “B Team” to the recently concluded FIBA World Championships in Turkey. The “B Team” public perception was promoted by the absence of the top NBA (National Basketball Association) cage stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and “King” Lebron James. 

Compared to their rated top rival teams, they were smaller and basketball as you know is a game where height is might. The height factor was also accentuated by the fact that in the Team USA roster — they only had one legitimate center which is Tyson Chandler. Lamar Odom and Kevin Durant, the most notable American player in the tournament, were more comfortable as forwards. 

Given all that, Team USA proved every Doubting Thomas dead wrong. The last time that your Chair Wrecker can recall when an underrated USA “B Team” had won a major international basketball championship was in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

Like this Kevin Durant-led team, the Spencer Haywood and Jojo White et al 1968 USA Olympic basketball team was a substitute for the “A Team” that Lew Alcindor (later to be better known as Kareem Abdul Jabaar) was to lead but was depleted by the then fashionable Black American boycott. Like this Kevin Durant-led USA team, the 1968 USA Olympic cage team was also small. Center Spencer Haywood stood at only 6 feet-9 inches.

Like the most victorious basketball teams in the world — defense won the FIBA World Championships title for Team USA. Until they met the USA cage team, Lithuania looked invincible. Team USA simply smothered the Lithuanian offense. Team USA defense created the offensive opportunities, especially the fast breaks.

Watching the Turkey hosted FIBA World Championships reminded a long time basketball follower like your Chair Wrecker of several lessons we Filipinos have yet to learn. Foremost of these lessons is that we Filipinos should rethink our passion for basketball and start developing other sports where we can excel in international competitions.

Watching the USA, Lithuania, Turkey, Spain, Serbia, Russia cage teams play — it should occur to us that there is no way we can beat these top world teams, not in the next decade or so. They’re simply taller, faster, heftier, better coached, better trained and better fed.

It is only in the Old Testament, which is tainted with fiction and propaganda to begin with, where the Davids defeat the Goliaths. History will show a different pattern. The law of nature tilted the odds in favor of the bigger predators — on land the elephant dominates while on the sea, the Great White Shark is the top predator. In geopolitics, the US and China will easily crush the Philippines.
In sports, Filipinos have better chances of becoming the “top predators” in boxing and other individual sports where height and weight are not the determining factors. In basketball, we cannot even top Asian Games basketball tournaments anymore. We do excel in the SEA (Southeast Asia) Games cage wars but that is because our competitors there are focused on soccer and other sports.

We found ourselves in this basketball rut by pandering to our preferences instead of what our better judgment would have prodded us to do. The popularity of basketball corners the top public attention and the bulk of business sponsorships. Corporate investment in sports is market driven and hardly altruistic. All those corporate sponsorships of basketball could have already produced a Filipino Olympic gold medal winner in an individual event.

It is said that poverty is the absence of choice, that the poor person has very few options in life. However, the Information Gap which is greatest among the poor in society can also be traced to the pandering to personal preferences instead of heeding one’s better judgment.

If you talk to the poor, they will admit that they suffer from lack of information and knowledge — and yet they will opt to watch TV programs like Wowowee and The Buzz instead of knowledge enriching programs like Ating Alamin (Let’s Learn) and Shop Talk. Considering their problems with the Information and the Education Gaps, the poor should be watching the government NBN-4 TV network which is more informative and will be more so under the President Noynoy Aquino administration. Have you seen how poorly NBN-4 programs rate versus The Buzz?

The instilling of media habits that promote development is one of the big missed opportunities of the Marcos dictatorship. When President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law on September 21, 1972, he also closed down all media outlets. Those which were allowed to reopen had to operate under strict guidelines. On television, the dictatorship even imposed mandatory across the board programming. All TV channels showed a government program at a certain timeslot, usually early primetime.

Total media control during martial law would have been the golden opportunity to promote new and more productive Filipino media habits. The British BBC and American PBS models would have served this objective. However, propaganda instead of development became the media order of the day. Instead of bridging the Information Gap, Marcos dug for himself a wider and deeper credibility gap.

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