THERE are times in sporting contests that losers emerge as the heroes if not the winners, at least in the hearts and minds of the fans, no matter whether it’s in basketball or even in boxing.
We recall how Manny Pacquiao was unceremoniously robbed of victory in his first fight against Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, but set an example for others to emulate when he never complained and criticized the judges for their decision, which the whole world ripped apart as a travesty.
All Manny said was, as he did when he lost by a crushing sixth-round knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez was, ‘you win some, you lose some’ and that’s what a sport like boxing is all about.
However, in the rematch, he avenged his defeat in dominating fashion and therein lay the satisfaction of knowing he was able to right a terrible wrong.
The Alaska Aces may have lost their epic seven-game struggle against an obviously stronger San Miguel Beer team, but their heroic comeback in almost every game demonstrated the character, resilience and fighting heart of a team that, by their incredible performance in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, won the hearts and minds of genuine basketball fans as differentiated from the regular diehards that flock around their favorite teams.
To be honest, Alaska is a lone franchise in a league dominated by San Miguel Corporation and the group of businessman-sportsman Manny Pangilinan, who together own 50 percent of the teams in the league.
In ownership terms, Alaska is a minority, which we believe impacted on Calvin Abueva not winning the Best Player of the Conference award, when he was decidedly the best player, considering his all-round ability, his tenacious attitude and his unbelievable heart, while SMB’s June Mr Fajardo, a nice young man we must admit, was a dominating force in a game, where much of the time size matters.
We don’t wish to deny Fajardo his accolade or take away the euphoria of San Miguel Beer, coach Leo Austria and their fans of the championship victory, but if ever a loser radiated the character and qualities of a champion, it had to be Alaska and coach Alex Compton and assistant Louie Alas.
Alex and Louie were a combined revelation. Compton’s refusal to panic even when his team was way behind and the cool, measured tone of his voice as he diagrammed plays was as refreshing as it was unusual in the context of the PBA roster of mentors. His admonition to his players not to play rough, but to concentrate on playing basketball was worthy of this fine young man and despite occasional differences we’ve had with him, reflected the class and the character of Fred Uytengsu.
In various international sporting competitions, not every individual or team can hoist the trophy or win a gold medal. But we must applaud those who gave of their very best in striving for victory.
As the Bible reminds us, there is “a time for everything” and it was San Miguel’s time and not Alaska’s.
The PBA Finals was a time for Asia’s premier basketball league to provide huge crowds with a series that was gripping in its excitement and one that obviously drove the passion of Filipino fans for a sport they continue to embrace, to even greater heights.
It was a championship series that will long remain as part of our cherished memories.