Fair Play: What Gilas can teach us

I WILL never forget that 2002 Asian Games semifinal match in Busan when we lost to South Korea.  I was somewhere where I wasn't supposed to be down South with a lady, while officially, I was in Cebu in the midst of a mid-term preparations.

Up by two, with seconds left and with the trusty Olsen Racela on the line? We're back in the Asian Games finals I thought.

It never happened.

Racela, the guy whom you could bet your life savings to make those free throws, missed both and in the next play, Korea sank a buzzer-beating trey to steal the game.

That's Korea.

And when it comes to Asian basketball, Korea has had the Philippines number for decades.

That's why heading to the office last Saturday, I told my wife--the lady I was with in 2002--So it won't hurt that much, I'm not expecting Gilas to win.

Even with that perfect start, when the crowd rattled the Koreans to back-to-back turnovers in the first quarter, I thought, it won't happen.

When Marcus Douthit hobbled out injured in the second quarter, I thought, this is it. Korea will make their run and silence the crowd.

But the basketball gods had something else in mind.

Against mighty Korea, which routed Qatar in the quarterfinals, 79-52, it was the smallest man on the court who started the run. Jayson Castro,--Jayson William in the Fiba Asia--tore Korea's defense to bits in that third quarter run.

And by god was it apt.  Philippine basketball is full of Jayson Castros, though not at his level.  Take a quick look at a neighborhood pickup game and you'd see a silly guard who'd make that crazy drive, making that crazy prayer of a layup every time.

Nicknamed the Blur. Jason Castro was the everyday Pinoy that day, the one who'd buck the odds to make those baskets.  The one,  whom, when told you can’t do it, simply does it.

And there's Marc Pingris.  This guy isn't gifted, he's not even that quick nor does he have an outside shot.  But this guy has heart. For years, he's been known as the Pinoy Sakuragi, after that anime character but I think after the Fiba Asia it's time to change the perspective.  That Anime character should be now forever known as the Japanese Pingris.

When Korea took the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, I was mentally composing the headline, "Not again!" Yes, I thought it was going to be one of those games.

But thank god Pingris thought otherwise, making that crucial steal against a guy quicker and taller than him.

And isn't that what we keep telling ourselves, no matter the odds--in life or in sports--just keep fighting. Just keep believing that you can do it.

You'll fail, repeatedly, but sometimes, you'd succeed.

Last night, after repeated failures against a foe whom some thought was unbeatable, we succeed.

That's what Gilas taught us.

Just believe.

After the game, I met with Harry, Mark, Gibby, Althene and Daly, high school buddies whom I met when I was but a gangly sportswriter joining those contests years back.  Althene said that I now have a dream job.

It is a dream job made meaningful for moments like the Korea vs. Gilas game, when the whole nation was united for two hours, cheering for that little guy who could.


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