Where have all the heroes gone?
Young people, mostly those of Generation Z or born about 1996, must be wondering what their elders and millennial siblings are complaining about regarding our paltry 24 gold medal collection in the recently concluded Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
They might ask “what’s the big deal about our sixth place finish? Haven’t we always been clumped together with the other also-rans of the Games like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and the others who can barely send participants to the regional meet?” As one who teaches in a university, I often hear the voices of these young people, who cannot be blamed for not knowing what cassette tapes, VHS, lasers discs or old TV programs are.
Sadly many of the young generation have no idea of how great Filipino athletes were. All they’ve mostly seen are debacles and have come to accept that it’s just the way sports is in the country. There are a few victories to cheer about but there are mostly heartbreaks.
They probably haven’t heard of the 1954 bronze-medal winning Philippine basketball team in the world championships in Rio de Janeiro, Lydia de Vega, Teofilo Yldefonso, Miguel White, Lolita Lagrosas, Elma Muros, Ral Rosario, Paeng Nepomuceno and countless other champions who won in major international events.
Chino Trinidad’s Pagpupugay (Tribute) a few years ago for Filipino athletes was appropriate and timely. It should have been done by the sports associations but they didn’t have Trinidad’s can-do spirit. Trinidad believed that we can find new champions if we honor those who came before us. The role of heroes is to inspire new heroes.
While other countries are breeding new sports heroes, we still seemed trapped in hoping that the natural skills of the Filipino will carry them to athletic glory. It doesn’t happen that way anymore. Other countries have spent for world class coaching, exposure in tough tournaments and strengthening cultural layers that emphasize teamwork, cooperation and nationhood.
We simply need to work harder and together in the years ahead. It’s not enough to blame sports leaders but all of us in media, the private sector, government, the academe and other institutions have to contribute in even small ways. Our country needs a new generation of sports heroes, those that Generation Z can emulate and post about in their social media platforms.
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