When Are You Being Wise, When Are You Being A Jerk?

I’ll try to be succinct here, as given the emotions brought about by recent national events, it’s hard to concentrate on basketball. Nevertheless, a situation happened the other day which I feel I must, I MUST write about. Unfortunately it’s one of those situations which cause a hundred thoughts to run in your head, and that hostage drama didn’t help, so it took me awhile to get to it. Anyway, here is my attempt:

NU beat UP the other week, with the Bulldogs handing over to the Maroons their 10th consecutive loss to 0 wins in the UAAP. It was the previous game to the ADMU-DLSU 2nd round matchup but I watched with interest just the same, knowing how UP is bleeding for a win and besides it was getting interesting at the end.

With NU ahead by a point with 2 seconds remaining, NU’s Jewel Ponferada was shooting FTs. He scored the first and intentionally missed the second. Now here’s the amazing and sickening, despicable, horrible, stunning part: Coach Fernandez was instructing his players to intentionally cause successive lane violations in order to ‘force’ Ponferada to sink his 2nd freethrow, a ploy to neutralize the missed freethrows. After an unbelievable 5 intentional lane violations, and when it looked like UP would keep at it ad infinitum, the refs didn’t call the last violation. Ponferada missed, UP lost time on the inbound, NU won the game, Fernandez went ape-shit and to add to the hilarity and as if he didn’t embarrass himself enough, UP protested the game.

When I said a hundred different thoughts are rushing in my head, I’m not kidding. For example:

  • Kelan ka madugas, at kelan ka mautak? How do you differentiate between being a clever basketball tactician and a slimy, opportunistic, pathetic, rule – bending, excessively win-obsessed loser who takes advantage of holes in the rules to win at any cost? A lot of people may not agree, but I insist there is a difference in being smart and being calculatingly devious. Although I admit it’s occasionally as hard to distinguish the two as finding appropriate adjectives.
  • Is there no ruling, even ‘in spirit’, in effect in the UAAP which prevents this? Here’s something I’ve always wondered about – does the UAAP / NCAA have a mandate? A mandate is essentially a piece of paper indicating the league’s very reason for being. In other words, it would state there (if it exists) what the goal of running the league is, and how it intends to pursue that goal. I would imagine therefore, that it would say motherhood statements like ‘in the spirit of sportsmanship’, ‘to uplift the human spirit’, ‘to impress morals and values upon member schools student body’, and other things like that. In other words, each and every one indicating the complete opposite of telling your players to intentionally and repeatedly perform lane violations just because there isn’t a rule in the book that says that isn’t ok. Which segues me to my next point:
  • Why is that not a technical foul? So let’s take the technical road in lieu of the high and morale. Do the refs not have the prerogative to, if they see fit, call a TF when a situation merits it? When a player gets too rowdy, he gets called for one, doesn’t he? Even if there isn’t a written specific rule that says he should. It’s a judgement thing. So if a coach goes nuts and instruct his players to repeatedly and intentionally perform infractions, shouldn’t that prompt a ref to think ‘Enough of this shit – this guy is making a mockery of the game, his players, myself and the institution I represent (and which happens to pay me by the hour too).’ Isn’t that justification to call a motherfucking TF?
  • Now let’s go back to the ‘spirit’ part. You might argue (and I assume a lot of Boyet Fernandez types will), that it’s perfectly ok to find and abuse holes in the rules. There is no rule for example, that says ‘you must sink every freethrow’ basically because everyone assumes that’s exactly what you’re trying to do out there, so it’s ok to overlook how players miss FTs intentionally for their team to maintain a time or inbounds advantage . In that case, you can argue that you tried to shoot it and missed, and no one would ever actually know if you’re telling the truth, even if the whole stadium knows you’re intentionally gonna miss them. But intentionally violating the lane? You cannot justify that, because Jesus H. Christ, your feet are planted right where the refs repeatedly said you shouldn’t, and what’s more you keep right on doing it over and over again. The ‘spirit’ of the lane violation rule is that you’ve got to stay in place so the FT shooter can freely shoot his FTs, and no particular player can have advantage for a rebound. The spirit of that rule, like all the other rules in basketball, is to facilitate sportsmanship. SPORTSMANSHIP: where I define as one team should not have undue advantage over the other, in order for the contest to be fair and equal. And lest it be forgotten, ‘fair and equal’ is the very basis, the fucking FOUNDATION of what makes sports interesting, worth watching, hell worth doing. The lapse of which encourages mediocrity and eventually the love of its fans. Just check out the PBA (yes I went there, PBA fans)!
  • And finally, what of the UP Maroons? – Fernandez was waving his arms around like a maniac trying to get Magi Sison to violate the lane. Sison, if he was serious about it, could’ve planted his feet right in front of the goddam ring if he wanted to (his coach certainly wanted him to). But instead he looked tentative, with just one foot in not knowing exactly what to do. Which is what you expect, really, from amateur players who aren’t used to kadugasan the way the Pros do it. At least not at that level I’m sure. So let me speak the obvious here: If the UAAP was created to instill sportsmanship, then the exact opposite was achieved that day.
  • And Congratulations to Eric Tipan and Randy Sacdalan for turning a blind eye! – I couldn’t believe my eyes, and at the same time, couldn’t believe my ears as well when these two settled for making jokes about how the game ‘might last until 6pm’. Jesus Christ man, a GODDAM CRIME was happening right in front of them, couldn’t they at least point it out? Maybe at least say how things had turned a hundred times worse for UP than it would if they had merely lost the game? I’ve often wondered if court announcers were even allowed to opinionate, and if they aren’t maybe, just maybe I could forgive them. But if there would be any opportunity for an announcer to make a mark for himself, to stand above and be different from anyone else, this was the time. Instead we got exclamations like ‘Wow, I’ve never seen this before!’. No shit, Sherlock.

I could go on, and to be honest I am. Since that event not a day had gone by that I did not remember in my mind the image of Boyet Fernandez telling his kids to repeatedly, intentionally violate the lane. By doing so, either by intent or delinquency he brought about a wave of thoughts and opinions, the length and breadth of which made my writing this difficult. This had been in draft for a week because I wasn’t sure I was properly going to get everything I wanted to say and besides, I wasn’t sure I had everything I wanted to say set in my mind anyway.

In the end however, there are two main thoughts that keep coming back to my head.

First (and the hostage crisis attest to this), delinquency and stupidity happen. Being Filipinos, we are optimists, and as such like to look at the good of life, the tiny plant that survives amidst lahar, for example, or the Pinoy who succeeds abroad. We like to point that out, we like to celebrate that. But what we do not notice, what we’ve come to accept as the norm, is that idiocy and ineptness happen all around us. It happens so often that we’ve learned to ignore it. The government official who plasters his ugly mug all over town. The drivers who counterflow the other lane the moment traffic gets tight. Drivers who cut corners. The pedestrians who cross anywhere they want, not waiting for the green light because everybody else is doing it and he doesn’t want to look like the one idiot following the rules. The people who won’t form a line getting onto a jeep because if no one else will, like hell will they be left behind. And yes, the basketball coach who finds loopholes in the rulebook to get a win. None of these things, we tell ourselves, is ‘evil’. We’re not stealing, aren’t we? No one’s getting hurt! Just a little ‘variation’ of the rule, right?

But in the process, in our ignorance we produce something ugly. By bending rules we violate them nonetheless because the people who created those rules weren’t focused on the rule itself. The rule itself is a tiny part of what they really want – and what they really want is for you to play fair. And if we cannot be fair – let me repeat this – if we cannot be fair, then we should not play the game.

Second – It all boils down to this. Coach Fernandez was asking his boys to break the rules. By doing so, he has taught these kids that ‘it’s ok to find a way around rules’. Before we know it, they will grow up to take posts of responsibility such as teachers, policemen, basketball coaches, Congressmen, jeepney drivers, etc. which in turn will teach what they know, and so on.

Further assuring that we will have another generation of people who cut corners. Who find nothing wrong with plastering their ugly mugs all over town. Who pad budgets to get kickbacks. Who cannot cross at the proper pedestrian lane. Who cannot form a line to get onto a jeep. A jeep that’s on the wrong side of the road to get ahead of everybody else.

Each and every person, ‘bending the rules’ a little. Because no one gets hurt. Because no one’s ‘evil’. Because it’s just a little ‘variation’ of the rule.

I wish I could be finished with this but I’m not. I wish I could just talk about basketball but I can’t. Sports, by God, by its’ very definition, should be the tool that would save us. That should teach us fairness and equality, that should motivate us. Those who mar that definition should be pointed out. Consider this my ‘pointing it out’.

I am just disgusted.

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