Friday, August 16, 2013

Gilas Pilipinas: The True Homecourt Experience

Photo owned by copyright owner

It took a while before I got to this first post. Work has been crazy this month, considering it's a "ghost" month and everyone is taking advantage since a lot of their clients are taking a break from spending anything.

Yes, I know it's almost been a week since the FIBA-Asia Championships wrapped up (Congrats Iran! Cooperative training for Spain 2014, yes?) but I want to dedicate this post to the men who made competing in International Basketball viable again: Gilas Pilipinas.

Photo c/o FIBA Asia/Nuki Sabio
As a sports fan all my life, I've never had the true homecourt (or homefield) experience before Gilas. Yes, there's the Azkals, but me and my wife were busy making a living in the "first" home game in Panaad (we didn't get to sit inside even). Never got to watch live any of the games in Rizal Memorial either because of unavoidable circumstances. So when FIBA granted us the privilege (or burden?) of hosting this years FIBA-Asia Championships, I really looked forward to that homecourt experience.

And man, they didn't disappoint.

Most of the sports we follow locally always divides the venue into 2 major fan groups, sometimes into 4 even. Whether it's the PBA, or the UAAP (not just basketball), we will always have a significant number of rival fans inside the venue. The MBA tried the home-and-away format but I was too young to watch any of the games live on my own (even Manila Metrostars games). FIBA-Asia was the first chance in a long time for everyone to root for ONE, UNITED TEAM. Sure there are haters (there will always be haters!), but the experience of one whole arena rooting, rocking, for one team is something we can't experience very often.

I only got to watch 3 games (vs Jordan, vs Chinese-Taipei, and vs Qatar) in MOA Arena, but each game was a unique, and new experience for me. Everyone was on your side, and everyone got into "asaran" mode, but it also taught me to heckle respectfully (no racist stuff). It was classic heckling, but respectful, disciplined heckling. Since it was just 3 opportunities to support Gilas live, I made the most out of it (Jarvis Hayes bano sa NBA!!!! Lin, masyadong malaki logo ng sapatos mo!!!! Jordan, wala diyan si Michael!!!!)

For the Quarterfinals up to the Finals, we watched instead at a friend's house and just hold viewing parties. It was also a new experience for me because this particular group of friends of mine always made sure to watch UAAP games live as much as possible. If this was 2007, maybe we would've watched all of the Gilas games live, but we had things to consider and it was more viable to hold a viewing party instead.

Regardless if it was live or on a widescreen TV at a friend's house, I think all of us would agree that it indeed united a nation, and rallied behind one team, Gilas Pilipinas. Historically, sports has been our main peacekeeper, so maybe it would be wise to raise our future kids to be not just academically excellent, but athletically adept as well. I'm not dreaming of a future where we can host the Olympics, but to send a big enough contingent for a whole nation to make it significant once again would suffice for me (and let's get that damn Gold medal!)

Salamat Gilas Pilipinas! Thank you for this unique sporting experience that you've given this nation.

On to Spain 2014!!!

Ipon-ipon muna pag may time though.
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