Football and 20 Questions

Bartolome, a former faculty member of the Psychology Department of the University of the Philippines, is a TV-movie writer and a manager for a major TV network.  This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, July 17, 2006 edition, page S1/5.

I love sports—both as player and spectator.  Although I truly enjoyed playing football in college, I never really got into it the way I was involved in baseball in elementary, basketball in high school and beyond, or running and biking.  As a spectator sport, I find football boring, even silly—twenty-two players, desperately trying to kick a ball into a goal using their feet and barely managing a goal in almost two hours! In basketball, turnovers are highly correlated to a team’s defeat.  In football, the ball gets turned over to the opponent every few seconds.  That’s because human feet do not have that much control of a ball the way hands do. Unlike dogs and cats, people have a much differentiated pair of hands, capable of very fine motor skills.  Why is the world crazy over football?

I tried watching part of the games.  I tried waiting for the final match. Hindi kaya ng powers ko. (My powers just couldn’t handle it). I had to go to work the next day.  But I saw the crowds, inside the stadium and I marvelled at all the people who took to the streets in their respective countries. Grabe!  Ibang klase! (Wow! This was something else!)

Why isn’t football popular in the Philippines? Because we take after the Americans—so why isn’t the sport as popular in the US?

What makes basketball so popular in the Philippines, even if we’re vertically challenged? If we take our cues from Americans, then why aren’t we into baseball, or American football?

If football doesn’t have the height requirement that puts Pinoys at a crucial disadvantage in basketball, should we as a country “invest”in football?  Will our proficiency or competence at the game ever keep pace with countries that have been in the sport way ahead of us?

If, indeed, the Philippines goes all out for football, how do we catch up when the sports hierarchy reeks of politics and is run by politicians?

What has a better chance of success?

a) The Philippines getting into the World Cup.
b) No systematic and organized cheating in presidential elections.
c) Congress passes a genuine anti-dynasty bill.
d) Garci tells all.

If Angola made it to the world cup, why not the Philippines—especially if the bishops allow their vast real estate to be used as football fields and spend the donations they got from Malaca?ang for the players and coaching staff?

But what is it that we are looking for in sports, or sports programs? What is the priority:  Olympic medals? Titles in international competitions?  Physical fitness?  Sportsmanship? (for former Senator Sonny Jaworski, is there really such a thing as sportsmanship?) Or an effective deterrent, so the youth will stay away from drugs and other vices?  (But with liquor and cigarettes brands sponsoring a lot of sports events, not to mention the kind of image they portray in their ads, is this really possible?)

In other words, are we looking for a sport where our chances for winning international competitions are bigger? Do we concentrate our efforts and resources on athletes who have good chances of winning abroad? Or do we prioritize efforts for the greatest number of Pinoys all over the country in sports that they like and enjoy?

Why does the Olympic gold medal seem so elusive to us, Pinoys?  Yet, we have our world champions in boxing, bowling and billiards—and international beauty queens, of course.

Paeng Nepomuceno, Manny Pacquiao, Efren “Bata” Reyes.  Bowling, boxing, billiards… but not basketball.  We used to be very competitive in basketball, at least in Asia but now, it seems that a gold in basketball in the Asian Games has become an impossible dream.  Because the other countries have already “invested” in the sport?

Can the Philippines only win individual titles but practically never win in team sports?

We have had multiple champions in bowling, boxing and billiards. Why has this been possible in these sports but not in others? Nature or nurture?  What have been the keys to their success in these sports?  Is it innate talent on their part? And the training and conditioning? Are these the same principles behind the success of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and now Dwayne Wade?

Going back to football, I noticed that a large number of fans are not really watching the game.  They are busy painting their faces, chanting slogans and making the world notice them.

Is football such a popular sport because it’s so easy to remember the score (0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 1-1). Do they really watch the almost two-hour game?  But nothing happens for most of the time except millions of turnovers and some blocked attempts and a goal or two that are replayed on the screen a zillion times, anyway.  The fans have all the time to engage in all sorts of activities, including rumbles and stampedes—even an honest-to-goodness war between nations!

So, is football worth considering as a national sport?  Can we really qualify for the World Cup? And if we do get to play in the world cup, would it help our economy or just be a reason for politicians to celebrate them in the streets, hoping to cover up scandals and other issues they want the public to forget?

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