Monday, October 08, 2007

Cheering violence

A friend who was desperately —and I must add, unsuccessfully—trying to get everyone to come to a lunch party yesterday pretty much summed it up when in a fit of exasperation, she exclaimed: “This country has become crazy over a sport where one wins by deliberately injuring another.”

Almost everyone I know stayed home to watch the pambansang kamao battle it out with Marco Antonio Barrera yesterday. Pacquiao won, of course. I can’t imagine the kind of pressure that must have been weighing heavily on the poor guy. Somewhere along the way, Pacquiao’s fights have stopped being simply a boxing match—it has become a matter of national honor.

Yesterday’s papers were full of speculations about the state of Pacquiao’s readiness for the fight. His overall appearance during the weigh in was subjected to so much theorizing, some people began to worry about the fact that he looked gaunt and ghostly.

That’s all water under the bridge now as Pacquiao prevailed and won by unanimous decision.
There is no doubt about it. Pacquiao has made boxing very popular in the Philippines and has made most of us instant followers, if not fans, of the sport. As a result, boxing gyms have sprouted all over the country. I know a number of very young people who have taken up boxing as their sport of choice.

It is difficult to make an issue out of boxing as a sport at a time when we are all basking under the glow of Pacquiao’s latest triumph. Pacquiao won again, hurray!

But really, do we want to encourage boxing as a sport in our country? Put another way, is boxing something that we want our children to take up as a sport?

Don’t get me wrong. As a firm believer of the multiple intelligence theory, I do believe that boxing in general is an activity that requires a lot of talent and competencies. I have very high respect for boxers and athletes in general. It is important to point this out because a lot of people still cling to this belief that sports (yes, including boxing) does not require thinking skills; that these are activities that people lacking in intelligence go into.

Many academics and behavior experts have already submitted proof that sports require a high level of intelligence. Gardner calls this kinesthetic intelligence. One noted expert has even gone to the extent of analyzing, for example, the kind of thinking skills that accompany each game that Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods plays.

So for the record, I do believe that boxing requires more than just physical strength, grit and gumption. It is a sport that requires analysis and mind-body coordination. Boxers do not just go into the ring, exchange blows and pummel the hell out of each other for the sake of proving physical superiority.

I am also convinced that boxing is a great form of exercise. There is no doubt that all that running around, trashing, and pummeling are great ways to work out a sweat and shed extra poundage.

My reservations about boxing is that all the science and safety regulations that has gone into professionalizing the sport does not take negate one basic fact: It is a sport that is built on one of the most inhuman intent of all—the intent to hurt another person.

Oh sure, people also get hurt in other sports. The casualties in other sports such as rugby or even basketball probably outnumber those in boxing, mainly because these sports require more players, are held more often and are probably more popular. But it all boils down to intent. These sports do not pit athletes against each other for the purpose of physically demolishing or annihilating each other.

Boxing is one sport that makes violence and physical aggression look cool; perhaps even glamorous and financially rewarding. Pray tell, how can hitting someone else and reducing him to a bloody pulp qualify as a competitive sport in a supposedly civilized world?

A number of medical associations such as British Medical Association have been calling for the total banning of the sport. These doctors oppose boxing because of the serious damage the sport brings to the boxers. One Filipino boxer recently lost his life in Thailand after a boxing match. At least 10 boxers die due to boxing-related injuries every year.

Boxers became rich and famous and bring honor to a country for hitting and hurting other people. Is this the message that we want our children to get?

We rile against wrestling. We rant against hazing. We rage against violence.

But we bask in the glory of Manny Pacquiao’s successful bid to pummel Barrera into a bloody pulp. We cheered each blow Pacquiao sent into Barrera’s body. We screamed in jubilation when Pacquiao sent Barrera crashing against the ropes.
Something is wrong with this picture.

***

And just as Filipinos have become boxing fans by happenstance courtesy of the deflected glow of Pacquiao’s triumph in the ring, so have we become instant critics of the various ways in which the Philippine National Anthem can be performed. Because boxing matches begin with the singing of the national anthems of the countries where the boxers come from, intense attention has been focused on who gets to sing “Lupang Hinirang” in Pacquiao’s matches.

This honor has been bestowed on local celebrities or singers. It has been reported that singer Kyla, who sang the national anthem at yesterday’s match, was Pacquiao’s personal choice. Other celebrities who have sung the national anthem in Pacquiao’s matches in the past include Lani Misalucha, Geneva Cruz and Sarah Geronimo. All three singers’ renditions of the national anthem were heavily panned by critics because they deviated from the prescribed manner in which Lupang Hinirang was supposed to be sung.

It is a little exasperating that something so basic as how the national anthem should be sung is still a subject of a contentious debate. For crying out loud, it is our national anthem, we are supposed to know how it is supposed to be sung. Of course there is a standard way in which the national anthem should be sung.

Misalucha, Cruz and Geronimo (and even that other singer whose name escapes me at the moment and who unfortunately sang the last note of the national anthem off key) interpreted the national anthem their way, i.e., they put in their personal touches to the anthem. There’s a better and more proactive way to address this problem rather than simply going into an uproar after the performance. There is no need to file bills, take out ads in the papers, or even accuse people of being unpatriotic.

The singer may be the person onstage, but he or she is not the sole person responsible for the performance. The television network sponsoring the performance, the managers, the coaches, and the singer should be mentored on the right way to sing the national anthem. It’s as simple as that.

1 comment:

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