Basketball? Or Football, Soccer, Association football (whatever)?

I’ve heard about this, a million times (okay, that’s exaggerating a bit). Basketball should not be the Philippines’ favorite sport.

Some people think that we should not put too much time and favor on this sport that requires height, strength, and skill to win because well we are a nation that’s not too tall or strong enough to compete with world #1 USA (a team that said would feature in the upcoming 2011 Olympics NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant, 2-time MVP Lebron James,  5-time NBA Champion and past MVP Kobe Bryant to name a few). That the focus should be on Football, a sport that our South East Asian neighbors thrive in.

Should we?

Height means a lot in basketball, let’s admit it. I know this to be true. But sometimes wit and skill can give a shorter player an advantage on other taller players. But, you may ask, what if you have to contend with a tall skilled player? Then, more likely than not, you are against the USA or world # 2 Spain which means you are screwed.

Look at our national team. We need a naturalized player in Douthit just to give us some teeth in terms of height. Not to deride the man’s skills but the main reason he’s playing for the Philippines because he’s not good enough for his home country. There have always been injections of Fil-Am’s (Filipino-Americans) in these teams, the latest were Lutz and Lassiter, since these people bolster the team by having the some semblance of height and strength of Americans while having the skill and heart of the Filipinos.

Our built are said to be more suitable for a sport that does not require height and strength but rather speed and cunning, skills we definitely have. That would be football, or soccer.

How did we Filipinos develop this crazy love for basketball? Maybe the fact that America ruled the country as a colony in the early 1900’s and developed the game by establishing various YMCA’s in the country. As the years grew, the love for American culture, which of course includes the NBA (the most popular league in the world, LAKERS!!!), cultivated this to the frenzy it is now. Probably also, the early success of the national teams (being the best in Asia, winning a bronze medal in the 1954 world championships, a fifthe place finish in the 1936 Berlin Olympics) added fuel to this flame.

But since then? Our strongest finished have been 4th place finished in Asia. Asia sucks when compared to Europe and Americas anyway so that means nothing. Oh, we dominate South East Asian basketball, although our competitors probably do not even care that much. But we still love the sport. Our passion for the game has even led Harper’s Magazine editor and Fulbright scholar Rafe Bartholomew to right a book about it entitled: Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin’ in Flip-Flops and the Philippines’ Love Affair with Basketball. A picture of kids ballin’ in the flood became viral.

So should we drop our reverence for basketball and instead focus on football? I mean, look at the PBA, it is dominated by half-breeds. Oh, wait! So is our football team the Azkals! Hmmm. In fact, the national team for basketball has more full-blooded Filipinos than the Azkals, and what’s the result? The basketball team is ranked # 45 in the world (according to http://www.fiba.com/pages/eng/fc/even/rank/p/openNodeIDs/943/selNodeID/943/rankMen.html) while the Azkals are a lowly # 148 in the world (http://www.fifa.com/worldranking/rankingtable/index.html). The closest national team with a world ranking of # 55 in the world (http://www.irb.com/rankings/full.html) is another team of half-breeds, the Philippine Volcanoes.

So maybe, for now, the praise we give for basketball is correct. Maybe football fever will actually grip the country even if the players are not entirely debonair looking but actually skilled and know how to play as a team. But still please do root for out national teams and support athletes from other disciplines as well. Peace 😉

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