Did Smart allow itself to be outsmarted?
In college, one favorite taunt among gin-swigging school pundits goes thus, “If you’re smart, why ain’t you rich?”
That word, smart, has come to be regarded as magical, associated with corporate nobility, hereabouts.
It’s no coincidence that Smart is now the flagship of the business empire headed by the super tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, he with the Midas touch.
How and why?
Well, MVP just happens to be rich—and quite smart!
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Anyway, if you followed developments involving Smart Gilas, the national basketball team powered by hand-picked mainstays from abroad, it’s easy to suspect Mr. Pangilinan has not been getting the honest input on the national squad.
As reported here previously, fans all over the country, including OFWs in America and Europe, believed and stuck it out with the national team again following an auspicious start in the Wuhan Fiba Asia championship last week, where the Philippines managed to break into the exacting semifinal round.
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Once again, the dream of returning to the Olympics, where we last competed in Munich 1972, had appeared within reach.
But, in a tormenting twist, Smart Gilas dropped back-to-back games—against Jordan, which it had beaten in the classifying stage, and South Korea.
There was, as expected, a cry of dismay among fans who clearly suffered another national sporting heartbreak.
These frustrated fans, who first tried to take everything with a grain of salt, however felt deeply slighted after Smart obviously took the debacle lightly.
In fact, the morning after the Smart team’s fall from grace, there came out a full-page advertisement that appeared more like a pat on the back for a job well done.
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Pardon this, but practically all basketball lovers I next talked to felt that was not a very smart move.
Said one grizzled fan from Pangasinan, a former national cycling marathon king:
“If MVP indeed was glad enough with that shameful stand, then let’s all forget about basketball.”
Of course, it was his money Mr. Pangilinan was squandering, he added. We have no business meddling with his whims.
Another fellow took it more philosophically.
He suspected Pangilinan was behaving like an athletic masochist, basking in the mud of mediocrity and defeat.
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The honest truth is that Smart again crushed and dampened the hope and spirits of countless fans.
The unpatriotic foldup against Jordan these fans were willing to forgive, if not forget.
What they could not stomach was the cavalier manner the shamed imported coach, Rajko Toroman, tried to sweep the debacle under the rug.
He offered assorted alibis, like everything went against their expectations.
Toroman, meanwhile, all too conveniently avoided the real issue.
Team apologists went as far as console Toroman, claiming the ultimate shame against Korea all resulted from a jinx.
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Anyway, if team backers, headed by Mr. Pangilinan, could dare Toroman to make a review of the last three minutes of the Korea game, they should not be surprised that luck hardly played a role in the sensational win.
At least three of the final five baskets were all launched through the so-called wrong foot; and Toroman obviously could not make head or tail of what was slamming them in the gut.
Plainly put, this wrong foot, initially branded voodoo by one self-styled expert (may he rest in peace) was the exact unorthodox pull-up jumper—taking off with the left foot, if the shooter is right-handed) popularized by Shin Dong-pa, much later by Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, before being utilized to championship perfection by Dirk Nowitzki.
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No, Mr. Pangilinan, smart as he is, cannot be expected to know all about that splendid, often uncontainable jump shot.
But I find it my duty here to report to him that majority of those who sank with the Smart Gilas team were one in asking for Toroman’s neck.
They said he should have at least tendered a courtesy resignation, after he failed to creditably explain how and why they lost.
Toroman did point to all available alibis, all too conveniently shrugging off the anomaly that he had not been up to the task.
Did Mr. Pangilinan allow himself to be outsmarted by his failed coach?
That would be hard to believe.
Unless, of course, he had agreed to play the masochist game in advance.
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