THIS school year’s La Salle Ateneo UAAP basketball showdown created a wildfire across all sectors, a fire that even engulfed more important national issues.

For several weeks, the clash between these two “sports titans”, was the national issue. This shows us three things.

First, it shows how as a people, we emphasize something which we cannot really excel in for several reasons. In this case, we see basketball as our national sport, one which we cannot really be proud of since it is something not ours historically, but was introduced to us by colonizers, particularly the Americans.

Our fanaticism with basketball merely shows our tendency to fall prey to external influences. We continue to dream about superiority over our foreign counterparts by beating them in their game, to the death of our identity, not to mention the development of other sports, which could very well tell the world who we are and what we can excel in. The Indonesians have badminton. The Chinese have table tennis. Filipinos, on the other hand, chase after a sport that has them forcing the basket, so to speak, against nations for whose more robust physical traits basketball was made.

Which leads to the second point. Has anyone seen how badly we have fared in foreign basketball tournaments lately? Basketball so draws our attention that we fail to give due recognition to athletes excelling in other sports. Basketball has become the sport for Filipinos, so much so that everyone’s heart falls at the news of a basketball defeat.

Take the UAAP, for example. As far as most students are concerned, the UAAP starts and ends with the basketball season. No one realizes that sports supremacy in the UAAP consists of excellence in the most number of sports played. After the UAAP basketball wars, little or no attention is paid to the school who eventually wins the general championship trophy, the symbol which declares the school’s wholistic sports program, enabling it to produce quality athletes, not only on the hardcourt.

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Finally, the La Salle-Ateneo basketball final shows how elitism has found its way into a sports program that is supposed to instill camaraderie and goodwill. True, they are good schools academically, more or less. But the passion for basketball victory which both schools’ students and alumni alike have shown shows of a twisted sense of loyalty. The La Salle-Ateneo contingents cleared some things, primary among which is the “stigma” of being non-Atenean or non-Lasallian. The La Salle-Ateneo show virtually pushed everything and everyone else into the background.

The media have fanned the flames of basketball fanaticism by its non-coverage of other sporting events. The media in fact have fostered the elitism and class divisions that have made Philippine history one sorry story in social iniquity. To the media, only the “beautiful” people who go to schools that charge high tuition are worthy of public spotlight. Its twisted notion of celebrityhood and social prominence explains why it inordinately focused on the La Salle-Ateneo rivalry at the cost of accuracy, objectivity, and fairness. Even columnist Teodoro Benigno, who was a veteran sports columnist in his younger days, gushed that the La Salle-Ateneo rivalry was a “battle of the titans” (the proper metaphor should have been “clash”, really). Titans? Neither school has won a general trophy. As for basketball, UST and the University of the East have the most number of trophies at 18 apiece.

Let’s face it: until we realize our folly, and give due recognition and appreciation of other sporting events—events in which we can display our native abilities—our attempts at the proverbial crucial basket will always be denied.

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