Fair Play: Unusual tales from the sports beat

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Sept. 27 edition)
WHEN I started in sports writing back in 1997, while splitting time as a sophomore at USC taking up BS Electronics and Communication Engineering, I never expected to be in this position now, heading the sports desk.

Back then—heck, rare is a sophomore engineering student who plans beyond the weekend binge—life was simple. I rushed to the office after school to file my stories, or during weekends, I’d go to the venues to cover my beat.

No Internet, no social media, no cell phones. You had to be there where the story happened.
(CIRCA 1997. That's me in the middle with from left Banat Sports Editor Yoyo Abayan and then correspondent now Freeman Sports Editor Manny Villaruel.)

It’s funny. Sometimes, we hear veteran journalists complain that today’s writers have it easy with the advancement in technology, but when I started, I also heard that line, how easy it was for the then “new generation” of journalists to file stories because of the computer, and not write it with a typewriter.

Of course, aside from covering sports tournaments outside Cebu—the Azkals in their first World Cup qualifier home game in 2011—there have been other memorable moments.

I’ve long forgotten some, but I do remember most of the comical stuff.

Like that one time when two women’s football teams in Cebu got into a brawl. It was not that near-fracas that involved shoving, it was a good old-fashioned brawl and being the lone reporter in the event, I got the major scoop.

Both teams visited me the next few days, and I even got a call from one of those involved, who questioned where I got the facts. When I told her I was there, she proceeded to give me a lecture on football and writing, to which I politely listened.

One time, too, while new to the golf beat, I gave a lucky schmuck the break of a lifetime by elevating him from third place to champion, which of course, pissed off the champion.

Aside from getting a good ribbing from my former editors, who made me call the real champion, they taught me one important lesson— “Mistakes happen, what is important is what you do when you realize there’s been a mistake.”

Another memorable mistake—most likely deliberate—also led to a memorable boxing event in the Southeast Asian Games in Bacolod City. While the local hero was pummeling his Thai foe, the scores piled up for the Thai and an incensed crowd pointed out that

After the local hero lost, pandemonium broke and coins, water bottles and somebody’s dinner flew to the court side, while I sat in the media row admiring the chaos. Oh, before that, I had to play referee to a local radio reporter and a Thai journalist who got into a bit of a squabble.

A couple of days before the boxing match, something flew too, in the direction of the Younghusband brothers—Phil and James—who were seeing action for the first time for the country. While scores of women were screaming at them, someone threw a pair of men’s underwear at them.

I don’t remember if it hit them but I and a couple of guys who saw it got a good laugh.

But nothing beats the story of our photographer Ruel Rosello’s weird experience after yet another Azkal game. He had his face towel, which he used to wipe off his sweat.

While placing it down, an Azkal walked past him and two star-struck girls saw the player and the towel—and assumed it was that of the players.

Ruel said he was so shocked to see two girls fight over his towel, with the victor raising it to her face and smelling it.

I still wonder, up to this day, if that girl kept her “souvenir.”

Why the reminiscing? Today marks the culmination of the annual Cebu Press Freedom Week and it shows that the media community has it right by starting the final day with a run and capping it with a party sponsored by San Miguel.

I’m sure a lot of tales and ales will be shared.


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