BY NOW, we’re used to those snippets of wisdom from Philippine Sports Commission Chair Richie Garcia.
But let’s think for a minute that Richie’s scraps of smarts, however well-intentioned, may be counterproductive.
Recently, he ran the risk of turning the Philippine National Games (PNG) into a bigger deal in the minds of greenhorns in the national training pool.
To show that government money is well spent on the national sports associations, Richie directed the elite players in 10 select sports to compete along with the rookies in the PNG, or else.
His point was if you are a top echelon athlete enjoying the gravy train, you should be able to stand up in front of the whole sports family and act out your part.
And you don’t argue with the guy who holds the purse strings, either. So the choice force took time off from its daily grind, joined the PNG and performed as expected.
Overall, the priority athletes, particularly in boxing where mismatches occurred in the preliminary bouts, passed Richie’s lifestyle check. Meanwhile, the message to the national newbies has been unintentionally reinforced. They have more bumpy miles to go before they make the grade.
The excitement doesn’t stop there. Garcia also made public his aversion to funding team sports for the Southeast Asian Games.
That’s commendable since the PSC and the Philippine Olympic Committee have always batted for a small but competitive contingent to the Myanmar (Burma) SEAG set Dec. 11 to 22.
But then, while sustaining his streak of sagacity, Garcia switched his petulance for team sports to passion for the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team. Richie is adamantly suggesting that it’s a must for the team to play in the SEA Games.
Formed by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas led by tycoon and sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan, the squad will see action in the Fiba Asia Championship Aug. 1 to 11 at Mall of Asia Arena.
Gilas took the Easy Street en route to the preliminaries. The team of Philippine Basketball Association millionaires is an automatic qualifier as Fiba Asia host.
Yet, even its coach Chot Reyes, known for the sound and fury of his quotable quotes, is tempering everyone’s expectations. Reyes hopes the team hammers out a third place finish to book a ticket to the 2014 World Championship in Spain.
Let’s wish for Gilas to land in the Worlds. If it doesn’t, is the stint in Myanmar a consolation prize?
Richie says by text message that “the only reason (in opting for Gilas) is that if you are to represent the country in any competition, you should send your best athletes if possible.” He adds that “there is no sure thing in any tournament.”
One of Richie’s biggest fears is the probable presence of seven footers or players with foreign lineage in other teams.
We have ruled SEA Games basketball since 1977, (except in Kuala Lumpur in 1989 where we placed second to host Malaysia) with teams cobbled together from the amateur and collegiate leagues.
I asked Richie if the Gilas team’s presence in Myanmar—overkill by any stretch—was his way of saying we need to preserve the last pocket of our faded glory in Asian basketball.
“It is not for me to decide,” said Richie in another burst of insight.” The POC, SBP and the PSC will still meet on this.”
“What I am asking is only for the good of our country,” Richie assured. “(I have) no intention to make anyone feel that I am meddling in the affairs of the (basketball) NSA.”