Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nitpicking after the victory

This was my column yesterday, March 19.

“Sana magkaisa na tayo!”

This was newly-crowned WBC super featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao’s message to the Filipinos after he won last Sunday’s grueling match against Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez by split decision.

For a while there, it did look like the Filipino people were indeed united—all for the whole duration of the fight. A couple of hours later, everything was back to normal. And surprise, surprise—people couldn’t even come to an agreement regarding the wisdom of Pacquiao’s victory.

I had to drive from San Andres Manila to Noveleta, Cavite, last Sunday to attend a gathering of friends. The trip usually takes an hour-and-a-half on a really good day when everything’s all right with the world. This time, we were in Noveleta in less than 30 minutes. Malapit lang naman pala. It’s easy to forget that many places seem far only because it takes forever to get there due to heavy traffic.

This was because the streets were literally empty as most everyone obviously stayed home to watch Pacquiao pummel Marquez—or at least, that was the general expectation. It was almost eerie driving around the Metro and around Cavite and not feeling like being part of a funeral procession that was taking its own sweet time. I half-expected children with blank expressions on their faces to suddenly emerge from out of nowhere like in my favorite horror film.

A friend caustically remarked “so this is what Aguinaldo Highway really looks like without the congestion and the traffic!” It was also my first time ever to see Aguinaldo Highway; Oh, I’ve driven on that road more times that I care to reminisce but I don’t remember ever seeing anything else other than the exterior of other cars and buses that tended to box you in as you fought for every inch of that highway. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the actual highway—as in the cement and asphalt— before. But as usual, I digress. Lets go back to the Pacquiao-Marquez fight.

I listened to the live radio coverage of the fight and I realized later on that most everyone did the same because, as usual, the promised “live” satellite television coverage of the event did not materialize. By the time the fight was shown on television everyone and his dog had already received text messages announcing the results of the fight. I have totally forgotten how thrilling an experience it can be to be able to use one’s imagination to picture events being narrated in great detail by a hyperventilating announcer.

Television has made us lazy and many among us have surrendered control of our ability to conjure visual imagery to what television directors want us to see.

Pacquiao fought hard. Really hard. I haven’t seen him struggle as much as he did last Sunday. And it looked like he was going to lose the match not only because Marquez looked stronger, more prepared and more agile as the fight took longer. Although Marquez fell in an earlier round, he was able to recover and dominate the middle matches. Marquez was also the very picture of grim determination. There was just too much at stake for Marquez in that fight and it showed. This is not to say that I think Pacquiao wasn’t as determined; just that the hunger was more visible, perhaps even more palpable, in the case of Marquez.

Still, Pacquiao prevailed at the end of the fight. It was a very close call and as seen on television, everyone including Pacquiao was unsure about what the decision of the judges would be. The uncertainty was also apparent in the faces of the people who watched the fight live and therefore didn’t have advance knowledge that Pacquiao would win. So, as many analysts have said—it was close and the victory could have gone to either.

But Pacquiao won. It wasn’t unanimous as one of three judges chose to award the fight to Marquez. But Pacquiao did win. Thereupon, millions of Filipinos screamed in jubilation and jumped up and down in glee. For a grand total of 10 minutes. And then the usual nitpicking and the crab mentality of many of our own people took over.

One had to watch the newscasts to believe it. Many so-called experts said Marquez should have won. Of course they prefaced their assertions with the usual gabble about how they were proud of Pacquiao, how it was a great fight, and all that gibberish. But in the end, they concluded that Marquez was cheated of the title.

A noted sportswriter from the daily renowned for its sensational coverage of the Senate hearings even demanded that—prepare yourself—an investigation be conducted on how Pacquiao won! I couldn’t believe he said it, but he did say it, even repeated it. The conspiracy theory forwarded was that Pacquiao was made to win because of commercial considerations. Pacquaio’s fights are best sellers; making him win would translate into sustained revenues for the long term.

Pacquiao’s stellar status as a crowd drawer is not disputed. That game fixing happens is also a fact of life. But why should it automatically be presumed that the two are related, particularly in that last fight? What kind of a person automatically presumes that any person with an opinion contrary to his is simply a paid hack? Why can’t people just agree to disagree and leave it at that? Better still, why can’t people just express their personal reservations in a diplomatic and tactful way, while conceding that it is also possible that he or she may be wrong?

But then again, I suppose there’s no fun in that. And many among us do think of ourselves as infallible. When we disagree, we do so with the sole objective of proving the other person wrong. We don’t want to debate, we want to annihilate. We don’t want to listen, we just want to be listened to. Those who disagree with us are simply wrong.

I am not even trumping yet the patriotism bit because I think that is a discussion minefield that is best left alone for the moment. I know that we shouldn’t take anyone’s side simply because of a shared citizenship, but then again, what does it make of us if we can’t watch out for our own kind? And even if we can’t support our own because of personal or professional conviction, do we really have to be crabby about it and pull everyone else down?

I wish we Filipinos can reduce our tendency to indulge in self-flagellation. When things go well, we do tend to sabotage ourselves and shoot ourselves in the foot as if there is some scripting in our national psyche that’s says we don’t deserve progress, or global renown, or happiness. Maybe it is time for us to believe that we truly deserve to be victorious.

3 comments:

janettetoral.com said...

Hello Bong. Great insight there. I think those who doubt whether Manny deserved it or not should try to get a copy of the fight and watch it again. In the end, Manny deserved it.

We should at least try to be happy when people succeed, like Manny Pacquaio, especially if they played it fairly.

deuts said...

For me it was really a close fight, in a sense that if Marquez won otherwise, I wouldn't feel cheated, just like what happened to Espinosa decade ago.

Nevertheless, Pacquiao did really show a heart in the match. You just can't deny him that victory, because he really fought hard for it, and fought good! He deserved the win!

Pedestrian Observer GB said...

Pacquiao should stick to boxing where he excels and stay away from politics that was the reason why he lost some peoples support. Its a free world after all and why should it be a 100% support in a commercial sport enterprise at that is asking for too much.

Crab Mentality, Self-Flagellation, & Pacquiao