25 years on the sidelines, part 2By Sev Sarmenta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
In our previous piece, we listed the top five sporting events we have witnessed in 25 years of being on the sidelines. They included the PBA, Manny Pacquiao, the Olympics, the UAAP and the NCAA and the MBA. Here are the next five:
6. The Cycling Tours— Summers are never the same if the cycling tour does not hit the road. I went on the road thrice, seeing how ordinary folk loved the tour and its heroes. They would follow each twist and turn on radio, watch on TV at night and then read about it the next day. The tour only works when a generous sponsor is around because there are cash prizes to be given and a million and one logistical requirements.
In 1997, it was a thrill to cover the tour with legendary cycling announcer Phil Liggett and a British TV crew. The tour’s highlights made it to Star Sports Asia. I learned from Ligett that to win in cycling one needs a pair of strong legs and a smart head as well. It also helps if a team has a strategy to win and its riders are willing to check their egos to allow just one star to shine.
7. The PBL—The Philippine Basketball League had a homespun quality as its main charm. Friends, family and significant others made up the bulk of the audience with a handful of diehard fans. It was compelling to follow the college star players and the new recruits from Visayas and Mindanao.
Championship battles were special treats as the fans came in huge numbers to relish the hoop action.
8. The Shakey’s V League—Who would’ve thought that volleyball would be such a crowd thriller and fan favorite? Volleyball always had the makings of the next best Filipino spectator sport, what with all the action and athletic prowess on display. Having been a part of the sport since high school, it’s a joy to see the game appreciated today. Hopefully one day a sponsor will pick up the equally thrilling men’s game.
9. The Star Olympics—It’s not really your prime athletic event but the passion displayed by our actors and actresses was a sight to behold. Being a movie fan, I was star struck by all the heavenly bodies descending on basketball and volleyball courts as well as track ovals. The fun far outweighed the occasional quirks of the stars who always wanted to do well because they were also performers. It was like covering a variety show, comedy and telenovela all rolled into one event.
10. In This Corner—This weekly TV fight program now on its 11th year was my education on the raw and edgy character of professional boxing. Moy Lainez, Gerry Garcia, Lito Mondejar, Rommel Nazario and the late Rod Nazario exposed me to the hard life of the upcoming fighter.
We tour the country and stage fights in town plazas and sports centers. Together with the big crowds that watch, we search for the next great Filipino champions.
It’s been a fulfilling quarter of a century seeing the best and even the worst of Philippine sports. My sports education continues as I learn more about athletes and those that support them and how the journey to athletic greatness is never, ever an easy one.
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