Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Whining In Unison

Let me begin with several clarifications. I am happy for the Philippine Dragon Warriors for bagging 5 gold medals and 2 silver medals. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the hard work and dedication that the Warriors have exhibited, all for the love of the sport, dragonboat racing. And D has also taken up rowing.

Also, I am neither a big fan of the Azkals nor of soccer. (I am a bigger fan of male players as underwear models, but that’s a whole different story.)

But the recent flooding of tweets and Facebook statuses pitting the Philippine Dragonboat team and the Azkals have made me somewhat wary of the paddlers’ online supporters. It’s great to be passionate, but I just wish their zeal be tempered by some good old fashioned common sense.

My beef started with all of the whining and the woe-is-us attitude that have accompanied the dragonboat press. The local media happily picked it up and made a spin on how the paddlers went into competition with no support and no sponsors. It has gotten to the point that my housemate, when he found out that D had taken up rowing, said, “Di ba yung RP team nanalo? Kawawa naman sila ‘no, hindi sila sinuportahan ng gobyerno.” Even from an average Juan’s point of view, the dragonboaters are better known as the kawawa team who gave the country honor.

Wait a minute here. They had Cobra Energy Drink and Philippine Airlines as sponsors. Sure, those two alone may not have been enough to cover all the expenses of the athletes, but that’s better than none. More importantly, they were still able to fly and compete.

Many of our athletes do not get a lot of financial support from the government, even if these athletes bring honor to our country. The reality is, when you talk of limited public funds you run into the problem of which to prioritize. Sports? The arts? Public utilities? Health? Reproductive health? Military and national security? Transportation?

The dragonboat supporters cry, “Unfair!” when they see how Manny Pacquiao and the PBA are seemingly prioritized more, both by government and private sponsors. Well, tough luck. You mean the three Bs (boxing, billiards and basketball) are more popular and more familiar with more Filipinos? Deal with it. So the Azkals are more billboard-friendly than your athletes? Deal with it. There are just too many sports, too many teams and too many players for the government to subsidize. Deal with it. The world is unfair, but I don’t hear our sepak takraw athletes whining (at least, not yet).

In 1987, President Cory Aquino had the daunting task of rebuilding the Philippine economy after decades of plunder by the Marcoses and their cronies. One of the first things she sacrificed was culture and the arts; in the budget she submitted to Congress, government subsidies for the arts were slashed mercilessly. 

I got a job at the Cultural Center of the Philippines the following year, and I saw first-hand how the CCP tried its best to maximize whatever monies they had. Yes, many of the artists decried Cory’s decision at first. And yet, after all that whining for support and pining for the good old days when Imelda was the patron saint (and primary purse) of the arts, the artists eventually just shut up and worked. They worked on getting corporate sponsorships. They worked on getting subsidies from abroad. And all the while they also worked on their craft. And despite the lack of government support, even up to today we still develop world-class Filipino artists, in ballet, theater, music and visual arts. (And an occasional Mideo Cruz, but I digress.)

If you really think about the bigger picture, a group of paddlers wailing “What about us?” pales in comparison to more urgent national issues. I wish they and their supporters stop bellyaching and crying to the government like a kid dependent on his parents’ baon, shut up and just start raising money on their own.

And as for their supporters, they should be more constructive instead of divisive. If they really believe that the dragonboat team deserves support, then maybe they should stop reposting and instead donate 1000 pesos to the team. Why wait for the government to decide to use taxpayers’ money on the team? It’s our money anyway, might as well give it directly to the athletes.

Support ba ka’mo? Then put your money where your mouth is.


engel said...

have the same post.

just find those fb statuses annoying.

filipinos. sigh.

the green breaker said...

I got to say that I didn't look at it that way. Now, I understand your point.

Nathan Arciaga said...

I think it's a bit convenient when we say, oh you have problem? You're faced everyday with inequality and the lack of resources to do what you want to do? Well, deal with it, life is unfair, ladida. We can take that lackadaisical approach to anything: poverty, crime, drugs, and I don't think anyone would like that. Countries SHOULD subsidize its sportsmen, and legally speaking, we have systems in place. We just wonder kung saan napupunta ang pera at bakit hindi umaabot sa mga atleta (Warriors and Azkals alike).

I don't think that the Dragon Boat team is complaining about the lack of support, nor are they pitting themselves against the Azkals. One quick glance at their FB page McVie would have told you that.

I think ultimately, ang tao ang nakakakita ng irony: on one hand you have a team that gets media coverage like crazy, that gets billboards and corporate sponsorships left and right, that's so popular they even get their own sex scandals and rape controversies, WITH NO SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS in its field and on the other you have a team that wins medals and etches records still unbeaten after 4 years and you don't even know a single member of it.

As for putting where our money where our mouth is, I'm doing just that: I will personally donate a significant amount of money to the Dragon Boat team and refuse to patronize anything that the Azkals are endorsing until they actually prove themselves as sportsmen worthy of the popularity they're getting and start winning something.

ethan h said...

Clap! Clap! Clap! Applause!


I totally agree with you.

Just to add. I hate it when every time I hear the government whine, "kulang ang pondo."

WTF?! Congressmen, Senators, Pork Barrel. I don't see them going hungry. I see them in brand new imported rare sports cars and flying off to Las Vegas to watch the next Pacquiao fight. Geez!

joelmcvie said...

@NATHAN: Yes, you're right. I don't need to visit their FB page to know that the Dragon Warriors aren't comparing themselves to the Azkals; rather, it's their supporters, as I have stated.

Speaking of convenience, I think it's also a bit convenient of you to say that the Azkals is a team "WITH NO SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS."

Nathan Arciaga said...

Then let's qualify their "achievements", why don't we?

Granted, all these are from Wikipedia, so take it for what it is:

"Despite being one of the oldest national teams in Asia, the Philippines has never qualified for the Asian Cup or the World Cup. However, they enjoyed some success in its early years between 1913 and 1934 in the Far Eastern Championship Games."

"Since 2007, the Philippines have failed to qualify for a major competition. They came close in 2008 after missing out on the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup only on goal difference,[10] and the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup with an inferior goals scored record.[11] In 2010, they qualified for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, where they stayed undefeated in the group stage and also went on to beat defending champions Vietnam, becoming one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.[12] The team reached the knockout stage for the first time, eventually losing to Indonesia in the semifinals. In 2011, the Philippines qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup for the first time since qualifiers were introduced in the tournament.

On July 3, 2011, the Philippines recorded their first ever victory in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, beating Sri Lanka 4–0 in the second leg of the first preliminary round. They advanced 5–1 on aggregate, drawing 1–1 in the first leg before winning at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.[13]"

Wins during qualifying rounds and no championships won? Not even an appearance in a final? Hardly aspirational, no? Now if you look at this and look at the amount of media mileage they get...
Honestly, if you don't follow the sport and you just watch the news, you'd think the Azkals won the World Cup or something.

This is not, by the way, Azkals' fault. I blame the media who drools and pants for the first sight of a cute mestizo who drops trou and dons skimpy briefs. In fact, I think all this brouhaha is detrimental to their hoped for success in the sport. Meanwhile you have a team that wins world championships and creates records languishing in oblivion.

Should we just shrug our shoulders and say: oh well, that's life, looks trumps actual talent and skills all the time anyway? It is easy to get jaded in this image-driven world we live in, yes, but I hope people would not.

joelmcvie said...

@NATHAN: If you equate achievements to wins and medals, yes, you are right. But in the history of Phil. sports and specifically football, given that we were never a football country, the Azkals have achieved something that the previous Phil football team has never done: raise national interest in a sport outside the three Bs.

And if we focus on the games themselves, I find it unsportsmanlike to just dismiss their wins and their efforts to win.

And it's a good thing you raised the media's (and connected, the advertisers') role in all this. Yes, the Azkals' looks and early wins got ABS-CBN Sports to take a chance at them, give coverage (and all that hype) to the team and the game. The players' good looks got the advertisers to swoop in and cash in on the hype. Given the marketing landscape these days, celebrity endorsements far outnumber ad campaigns without celebrities. So deal with it.

ABS-CBN and the advertisers cashed in on the Azkals' looks and gambled on the hope that they will win. Well, they didn't, but their showbiz-ready looks can still be useful for their brands. Let's face it, those advertisers wanted the Azkals to win not just because of the honor they'll bring to our country, but also because the wins will raise the value of their endorsers, which in turn will halo onto their brands.)

Meanwhile, I'm sure advertisers besides Cobra and PAL are now scrambling to figure out how to cash in on the Dragon Warriors. That's how the game of marketing goes; while you're obscure, you're not useful as an endorser.

Deal with it. You bemoan, "looks trumps actual talent and skills all the time." That's a hasty generalization; it doesn't trump all the time. But when it comes to celebrity endorsements for particular brands, looks, hype and image may actually be enough.

What you call jaded, I call facing realities.

tonichi said...

In fairness to ABS-CBN, we got to know the sad fate of Philippine Dragon Team through Dyan Castillejo's Krusada report. From then on, the desired awareness was reached and so with sponsorship. As a matter of fact, Cobra entered a pact with ABS-CBN to air those updates, tidbits, stories over Studio 23 with Cobra logo all over and with the 'VJ' calling the team, the Cobra Philippine Dragon Paddlers Team.

I agree with your points McVie. Totally. Whatever sport, even in arts or in any field --- you have to work it, you have to earn it. All the respect, all the adulation, the media attention --- and the billboard and endorsements.

As for government support, there were politics involved in the case of Philippine Dragon. But technically, Azkals didn't get government support either. They worked hard to get media attention, private support (from MVP et al), etc. Because they know that's the only way and good thing, Football is truly popular worldwide. And Philippine Dragon Team also followed the same tact, they used media to get attention and it worked beautifully for them. But still, I don't think they wanted attention to get endorsements and girls like Angel Locsin. I believe the Philippine Dragon Team is clear with that. So to Nathan, chill. People have been ruthless and unfair to Philippine Dragon and investigations and remedies are being done. Now, let's celebrate their victory. But we don't have to stump on Azkals to do that.

Azkals have to prove themselves and so with Smart Gilas, so Philippine Volcanoes. All of these teams --- including Philippine Dragon --- get going because of media and private sector. For me, this is the only way for all other sports wanting to penetrate world competitions. Media. Private sector. But then again, they have to deal with and work hard for it.

ethan h said...

@tonichi: Up Here! A totally correct and agreeable assessment. Lavit! I wish I had written it first, but I can't imagine if I could have said it better. Bravo!