Sport in The Philippines – All Hoops and Pugilism

As a New Zealander, sport and the love of sport, is in my DNA. From a very early age, most Kiwis are indoctrinated into the rewards and pleasures of playing and following sport. As a youngster, I played many sports; rugby, cricket, soccer, softball and athletics. Like most youngsters growing up in New Zealand in the 1960’s, I dreamed of one day pulling on that “Black Jersey”, of reaching that God-like status of being an All Black. Also like most New Zealanders, I realized fairly early on I wasn’t going to make it to the top. In my case it was a two-fold reason: 1/ I just wasn’t good enough, 2/ I lacked the commitment to train the hours needed to get to the top, or to be fair, I was just too damn lazy. Regardless, a child-hood spent playing sport would translate to a lifetime of following and loving sport.When I first moved to The Philippines, just under six years ago, one of my first thoughts was what sports can I watch here? If we had cable television, this would probably not have been such a dilemma. With the sports channels available on cable, I would no doubt have had access to a wide variety of different sports to choose from. Without cable, the choice was limited to free-to-air television. So what could we watch?When I first looked around The Philippines it became clear that sport played a much smaller part of life here than back in New Zealand. Whether it was because the Filipino has enough to occupy his or her life, just trying to survive and get ahead I’m not 100% sure, but one thing I was sure about was that Filipinos were not as passionate about their sport as we were. Or were they?BASKETBALL: It didn’t take me too long to discover that there are certain sports every Filipino was intensely passionate about; basketball and boxing. Now, I’ve never been particularly enamored with the game of Basketball. It probably has something to do with being only 5′ 5″ tall myself, but the sight of these enormous giants lumbering up and down a basketball court has never grabbed my attention. There was a time when I followed the Otago Nuggets and went to their games fairly regularly, but I never really felt it was a universal sport. Oh, I know there are successful short players. In the game, especially point guards, but it always seemed that if you weren’t at least close to 7 feet, you didn’t really belong in the game. Filipino’s love of basketball probably stems from the American influence in the first half of this century, but for whatever reason, they love it with an absolute passion. The local professional league, the PBA attract wide live audiences and great television ratings. Similarly, the inter-collegiate basketball leagues attract just as much, if not more passion than the professional leagues.Filipinos are intensely loyal to their Alma-Maters and nothing is more likely to stir up rivalry than a basketball game in the UAAP between say De La Salle University and Ateneo University, or Far Eastern University against The University of Santo Tomas. The finals of the PBA whether they be held at the traditional home of basketball, The Araneta Colliseum, or the newer and flashier Mall of Asia Arena, are guaranteed to play out in front of full houses of in excess of 20,000 people and then add to that the millions watching on live TV at home. What amazed me was that inter-collegiate basketball was also capable of drawing similar crowds of rabid fans, even for a game during the round-robin section of the tournament. Yes, Basketball is big stuff here in The Philippines and its fans are every bit as passionate and loyal as Otago, Canterbury or Auckland rugby supporters back in New Zealand. also get a lot of NBA games from America and most Filipinos have their favorite teams and favorite players. The Filipinos love to watch the NBA and root for their teams. I sometimes find it quite amusing that they can get so pass

Source: Sport in The Philippines – All Hoops and Pugilism


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