Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fair Play: The John and Joel show

LAST Tuesday, I watched Paolo and his dad Joel, Pao’s sister Carmel, aunt Joseli Mahusay and teammate OJ make a bunch of footballing kids happy by donating 21 footballs for an under-supported but overachieving football program.

A few hours later, I watched Paolo and his dad Joel whip the butts of a pair of brothers who thought they could beat an Azkal who hasn’t played tennis since he was an elementary student and his dad, who last held a racquet when going online meant queuing.

Paolo was quite a revelation. After just a few hitting lessons from coach Dodong Ruelan, he was mixing it up with Palaro veterans Princess Dawn Felicitas and Sally Mae Siso, and holding quite well.

John Pages, our SAC president who organized the tennis clinic, said it simply, “Grabe si Paolo, dali ra kaayo niya nakuha ang strokes.”

OJ, too, was amazing. The guy who never held a racquet was whipping forehands after a few minutes. But if Paolo and OJ were amazing, Joel was a class above his son and I had a glimpse of where the young Azkal got his athleticism.

I’ve played tennis for a bit and can hit rather fairly when I was on the court on hours at end. But it took me the better part of two hours in our first session to rediscover how to hit the ball just over the net, and just inside the baseline.

Joel needed about just three hits.

And about the fourth whack, he hit a one-handed backhand so strong that I swear the ball was screaming, “No mas,” as it got past me. I still can’t hit a backhand even if it means winning a Maria Sharapova date.

And Joel’s serve? I had a fairly good serve about 11 years ago, when I was practicing regularly. I still haven’t recovered it. Joel got his serve back, in his first serve.

These Polomolok guys, they sure are something. And Paolo is reaping the benefits of having a father who played tennis, football, golf, and almost all the other sport.

The brothers who faced the Pascuals learned it the hard way and lost, 8-3. They only won those three games because of Paolo’s errors and because John extended a six-game contest to eight.

John, though he didn’t play a match, also showed why Jana, like, Paolo is so good at what she does—because of the dad.

I’ve hit against John, and even if he says, “Ako kusgon ha,” I’ve always known he held back. That Tuesday night, against Nino Siso, John didn’t hold back and I can say this without being accused of being biased, this guy can whip it. Not weekend-warrior-powerful shot, but one that belongs with the country’s top players.

Aside from that, I noticed something John and Joel both have in common. They’re not stage fathers. Sure they are almost always there when their children play but they stay in the sidelines.

I was reminded of that because of a book I’ve read recently. It was about a basketball phenom, whose teammate’s father was a bit “loud.” In one game, that teammate took the bench, and the father, who was on the other side of the court, bellowed, “GET A DRINK!”

The son ignored him but the father kept shouting. Finally, the son grabbed a bottle, stared at his father, then placed it on his feet.

He didn’t drink.

Paolo and Jana are sure lucky to have Joel and John as their dads. These guys have been there, done that so now, they don’t relive their dreams through their son or daughter.

I hope tomorrow, they, and the rest of the athletes out there, return the favor to the dads. No, expensive gifts aren’t necessary. For guys like Joel and John, a day with with their son, or daughter, is already a gift.

Happy father’s day, John, Joel and to my favorite writer since high school—the guy to my left—and to all the fathers out there.

Of course, a special greeting to the guy who’s the reason why so many people confuse Max the runner with Mike who runs away—the original Maximo Limpag, the original Limpag writer.

P.S. The brothers said the 8-3 score against the Pascuals would have been closer if the Casino Español court had the Hawk Eye Challenge. Though they admit they lost, they are challenging the Pascuals to a rematch—in billiards.

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