Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mico Halili's Blog Entry Number One

Although basketball is a much tender game to play than baseball, neither in my small experience is half as tense as rooting. The basketball player, my kind at least, was much too busy running around stopping leaks, or turning on faucets that didn’t work, for tension to build very much…there is always something to do, something to keep you busy…the fan meanwhile, can do nothing.
- Wilfrid Sheed

I am a fan. Not an expert. Not a critic. Not a genius. Not a skeptic. Not a psychic. Not a coach. Not the one who claims he can break a full-court press. Not the one who dares to take the winning shot. Not the cure for all the ills in sports. Just a fan. Of course, in this day and age, as part of a generation trained to multi-task (and speak its mind), a fan can actually be all of the characters I just mentioned. And then some.

So I simplify. I am a fan because I grew up as one. Cheered when Toyota won. Cried when they lost. Even if I had no clue how games were played. I started my sports vocation younger than most. The PBA and Transformers (the original cartoon, not the Michael Bay mash-up) on television, for instance, was always a toss-up. Unthinkable for my age group. So I clapped for Abdul-Jabbar, applauded the Raiders' Silver and Black, admired Paras as a UAAP/PABL beast, celebrated when Ateneo won in '88, followed Rolando Navarette's ups and downs and dropped homework to watch Anejo versus Purefoods without fail. And the addiction never waned. Not for an instant.

Watching sports as a serious hobby turned into covering sports as serious work. Well, not so serious work. But I took it seriously enough to make it last this long. 15 years in the sports biz have taught me this: credibility means the world. I also learned how perspective keeps one's head in place.

When one goes from covering games to taking part in games, suddenly knowing the startling difference between a) losing a twice to beat advantage in the Final Four as part of a team and b) simply watching - from a very safe distance - another team squander such an edge, a fan develops a kind of sports-conscience. The pain of losing is no longer a sorry sight on television. It's no longer just a reason to be grumpy the next day. The pain is inexplicable.

Fans and the players they support can have the same grotesque wounds, share the same heaven-sent jubilation. Players invest time in training. Fans invest their adulation. I don't doubt this. Still, when fans cross over, finally get to experience championship moments and blown 20-point leads from the unforgiving geography of a team bench, their views change, in my case, views were enhanced tenfold.

The fan becomes an open-minded observer. A keeper of stories. A purveyor of winning ways and losers' attitudes. I've seen some of the cheats. I've known some of the greats. But the aforementioned sports-conscience programmed in my brain prevents me from judging athletes without a fair trial, protects me from supporting teams with blind allegiance.

Nevertheless, I am still a fan. I know the frustration. I can identify with the excitement. Hence, I understand passion even if displayed sans perspective. Sports is like that. People watch a Sunday showdown in Araneta from 20,000 vantage points. The worst we can do is rip each other to shreds. The best we can do is enjoy a pulsating overtime game as a community. Hopefully, we respect each other's opinions the way the Red Sox and the Yankees, Ali and Frazier, Mac Cardona and Larry Fonacier, Magic and Bird, Duke and UNC, Toyota and Crispa, The Big J and El Presidente openly or not-so-openly respect each other.

So I'm an observer. A professional storyteller of the games we love, if you will. And this is where I'm coming from. A spectator who sees what you see but may not share in the extremes you suffer/enjoy. I am not a genius. Far from it. I am still a fan. Albeit with a distinct point of view. MH

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