Sunday, December 14, 2008

Postscripts to a victory

This was my column last Wednesday, December 12. Late post, sorry.

I received a number of e-mails in response to my column last Monday, which was about the Pacquiao victory, the whole phenomenon of which was described by reader Ed Reyes as “over-the-top media circus.” He was referring to the way media went to town with Manny Pacquiao’s victory over Oscar de la Hoya last Sunday. I have news for Mr. Reyes: Expect the hoopla to reach even more frenzied levels today when Pacquiao gets home.

All the dailies bannered the Pacquiao victory Monday morning, although not all went the way of the Philippine Daily Inquirer which allocated almost half of its front page to a glory shot of the Filipino boxer and a second coming banner “IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY,” yes, all in upper case letters. What can I say occasions for national celebration and jubilation, not to mention events that can be sensationalized, have become so very rare lately; not that it justifies the way media seems to be doing cartwheels over the whole thing. The most minute details about the victory and every possible sidebar to the story have probably already been poked at, examined, and written about.

But was the supposed Dream Match really what it was bruited to be or were we all simply taken for a ride by media hype? This essentially was the gist of my reader’s beef. He is of the opinion that De la Hoya’s supposed invincibility was media creation designed to raise more excitement and anticipation for the event, giving it a David vs. Goliath storyline. I’m not a boxing expert, so I feel am not qualified to offer insights on the real state of De la Hoya’s boxing prowess.
But I do agree that the level of media attention being heaped on the victory has reached absurd heights. Media camped out in the Pacquiao residences in San Pedro and in General Santos City as well as in the residences of his siblings and parents. Microphones and cameras were shoved into the faces of Pacquiao’s relatives including his very young children. If Pacquiao’s dog can talk, I am sure media would have interviewed it too, not that the dog needs any more publicity.

Someone who requested that her name be kept anonymous should I decide to publish her e-mail wrote in to comment on something that the media has made a regular sidebar story every time Pacquaio goes up the ring: The rituals that his mother inevitably stages. My reader’s gripe: The exploitative way in which media “plays up her frailties.” I’m guessing my reader is being nice rather than naughty here although she did ask if the mother also displays the same piousness when her other boxer son (the one that probably needs more divine intercession) goes up the ring.

I’m a little ambivalent about where I stand on this matter. Okay, so Pacquiao’s mother never fails to deliver the required serving of typical Pinoy melodrama when her favorite son goes up the ring. Her behaviors may strike many as overdramatic, perhaps even a tad too theatrical for comfort; but then again who can say that she doesn’t remind us of our own mothers? I also cringed in embarrassment while watching her wail and flail around mainly because I half suspect that my own mother would probably do the same if a television camera were to follow her around. My friends and I have this running joke: We try to steer clear of situations that might land us in the papers for fear that media will find a way to get our mothers to do their thing on national television.

Most of the e-mails I received were, expectedly, rants about the heavy advertisement load of the television broadcast of the match. A certain Lemuel Que e-mailed to seethe about what he calls “blatant display of greed” of television networks. Below are portions of his e-mail:
“Aren’t there rules that govern how much advertisement load is allowed during the broadcast of events of blockbuster events? I noticed that our television stations always put too many advertisements during these events. Don’t our television stations know that it is very annoying and frustrating on the part of the Filipino audience? Instead of patronizing the products, I think the ads produce the opposite effect.”

I empathize with Que. It was a good thing the results of the match were already widely known thus making the ordeal of having to sit through interminably long commercial breaks a little less vexing. But there were still times when I felt like giving up, or worse, throwing something at the television set. Not only were the commercial breaks very long, there were also commercials to announce the commercial breaks and even more commercials to signal the end of the break and the resumption of the broadcast. A voice over would announce that the break was courtesy of a list of products. And then before resumption of the broadcast, a voice over would again intone that the broadcast was being brought to us— more like being hammered on us—by yet another long list of products. I already wrote last Monday about the fact that about a third of the television screen was also taken up by advertisements all throughout the fight.

I asked my officemates what they did to cope with the long advertisements and they said they took the opportunity to do some chores. In other words, they tuned off when the ads came on. This is hardly what advertisers paid for.

A friend of mine wanted me to publish his suggestion to our television networks: “Instead of loading up highly popular broadcasts such as Pacquiao’s fights with copious amounts of advertisements, perhaps our television networks can accommodate only a few advertisers but charge them triple the rates. In this way, the burden is not passed on to hapless viewers who will probably have more appreciation for the ads and will have better reception of the products.” I completely agree.

And finally, an e-mail from reader Andrew Tan offered this profound observation about the fight:

“Many young Filipinos will now aspire to become the next Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao and for the wrong reasons. He will be idolized and many of our youth will try to follow in his footsteps because he is now a multi-millionaire (billionaire is more like it). I fervently hope people will not forget the extreme sacrifice and the risks that boxers like Manny Pacquiao invest in every fight. Boxing is still the cruelest sport in our planet. The damage done to a boxer’s health is irreversible and inevitable. All boxers in the long run succumb to neurological problems shown by the same symptoms such as addled speech, boxer’s shuffle (i.e., inability to walk straight and to drag their feet). Case in point: Mohammad Ali, Rolando Navarrete, etc. The price they pay is really high.”

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