Celebrating the power of the human spirit
Many of us love sports. When I was in my teens, I got hooked on volleyball and years before that, on patintero and Chinese garter. I loved the speed, flexibility and mind games that patintero required, while I was challenged by the agility and daring that an odd sport—which involved a long garter pulled apart by two people—required. Several years later, yoga beckoned a little belatedly, and new challenges, and even fears, had to be conquered.
Such personal experiences allow me to watch other sports (although yoga is certainly not a sport but a personal journey) with keen interest and excitement, never mind which teams I root for. They also allow me to look at games as being no different from life’s experiences.
In the weekend UAAP collegiate contests, for instance, the Adamson Falcons beat the La Salle Green Archers 68-66 after leading all the way by as much as 22 points. The Falcons slackened in the fourth quarter, while the Archers charged full steam ahead, with player Almond Vosotros confidently shooting the hoops and reducing Adamson’s nine-point lead to only one at 63-64.
With 15.8 seconds remaining, Green Archer Luigi de la Paz hit a three-pointer after Adamson’s two-point jumper, tying the score at 66. With 0.8 seconds left, Falcon Alex Nuyles sank a two over the stretched arms of La Salle’s Maui Villanueva, to make it 68-66. The game could have gone to overtime had de la Paz sunk the final basket.
At the very least, that game showed that seconds in basketball can seem like an eternity. But more
than a reflection on the relativity of time, it also mirrored the power of the human spirit to will what seems to be the impossible. Nuyles wanted the final basket badly enough and he nailed it.
The day before, on Saturday, the Blue Eagles too had their share of a near-loss and coming-from-behind game. Trailing by as much as 16 points and never leading, they made an awesome turnaround in the last quarter. Rookie Kiefer Ravena played like he had been playing basketball even while he was in his mother’s womb, and tied the game with a little over eight seconds remaining.
But before that, the height-doesn’t-matter player, Emman Monfort, stole an inbound pass of the Tamaraws and glided for a game-changing lay-up shot. Costly errors by the Tams in the remaining crucial seconds of the fourth quarter allowed the determined Eagles led by Ravena to surge from behind and tie the score, forcing the game into overtime. It was only in overtime that the Eagles led for the very first time.
Less experienced teams would have given up and just thrown in the towel. It’s easier to think that it’s a Bad-game Day, one that can just be surrendered to UAAP basketball history. After all, a sweep of the first round of the 74th UAAP season is achievement enough; what’s one loss anyway? But no. The game’s never over until the final buzzer sounds.
Beyond basketball, the Philippine dragon boat team displayed in no uncertain terms what spirit is all about. Beset by infighting, politics, lack of resources and support, members of the team (many of them formerly with the national team) surmounted obstacle upon obstacle to show muscle and superiority in an international competition. They brought home five golds and two silvers, a feat that has yet to be equalled this year by a local sports team.
In typical crab mentality fashion, some detractors still couldn’t help but pull them down. Perhaps they had not experienced training in the polluted waters of Manila Bay—waking in the wee hours of the morning when less driven mortals were still deep asleep, or maybe they had not experienced using wooden and heavier paddles that easily leave deep, painful imprints on the skin. Or it could be that they had not experienced being distracted by intense politicking when the sole focus during competition training should be winning the gold for honor of country.
Heading home victorious, the dragon boat team probably couldn’t help but wonder, “Why can’t a team’s unquestioned victory be celebrated, plainly and simply? Why can’t greatness be savored and exalted by fellow Filipinos?”
Looking back, both sweet and bitter experiences build character. In sports, as in life, nothing is ever certain, whether you have the odds stacked against you or whether they are in your favor. The way difficulties and trials are ably handled is determined partly by luck. But a large chunk of it is determined by grit, tenacity, and even a stubborn persistence. The final outcome is defined only by the spirit that moves and pushes you beyond what you may have originally thought was your limit.
Perhaps more than the skill involved, many sports enthusiasts will say their passion for a particular sport is driven by their awe and admiration for the human spirit that shines forth from the amazing victories or even the heart-breaking losses. There is, after all, human greatness behind every such feat.