Green and blue clash in UAAP 79

No rivalry in Philippine sports rivals the confrontation between La Salle and Ateneo.

In academics, they wage mental warfare. In business, one school brags that Danding Cojuangco started kindergarted in 1940 and finished high school in a green-colored campus; the other school boasts of Manny Pangilinan graduating cum laude (Economics). In the halls of power, Michael Dino and Bong Go finished management courses from DLSU while Carlos Dominguez III and Silvestre Bello III received diplomas whose leather covers are colored blue. But above all, the tug-of-war is best exemplified in the arena called sports.

Yesterday at 3:30 p.m., the dream finale that both campuses envisioned became real. (I did not have time to write this piece chronicling Game 1 but will focus on their history.)

The first La Salle-Ateneo skirmish happened in 1939. In the final of the NCAA men’s championship, La Salle won, 27-23. Yes, no wrong typing there; the score in that contest 77 years ago was that low. Since then, the duel has flourished.

Since 1939, the two schools have taken turns winning. The next time they met in the NCAA finals was in 1958; on this occasion, the game was high scoring (105-103) with Ateneo claiming victory. In 1974 (the last time they’ll meet in the NCAA Finals), it was La Salle’s turn, 90-80.

When the battle shifted to the UAAP, they met four times in the championship. In 1988, ADMU bested DLSU in only one game because they held the twice-to-beat advantage. Three years later, La Salle recovered the trophy, winning the Game 3 decider, 93-88. The following year (2002), it was another third-game thriller but with Ateneo victorious, 77-70. And finally, in 2008, it was a clean two-game sweep as the Chris Tiu-led Blue Eagles (with Rabeh Al-Hissaini, Nonoy Baclao and Ryan Buenafe) won with Norman Black as head coach. It would be the start of an incredible five-year winning streak for the Blue Eagles.

The next year, in 2013, who would dethrone the champs to claim bragging rights? Who else but the Green Archers. In all, both squads have won eight UAAP men’s collegiate basketball crowns. How closer can this rivalry get?

With the 2016 season, La Salle dominated. Led by the MVP (and former Cebu cager) Ben Mbala, the green team were unbeatable. In the first round, they not only demolished all their opponents but embarrassed the blue squad, 97-81. That was in Oct. 2. Then, it looked like La Salle was en route to a clean sweep of the eliminations… before one team slapped their daydream and woke them up. It was, of course, Ateneo who scored the lone upset (83-71).

Who’s favored to win the trophy? Ateneo has the momentum. They won the last time they met and have won their last six elimination games and, including the escape over FEU last Wednesday, they’ve won six of their last seven. Plus, maybe the Archers are rusty after a 10-day gap before yesterday’s Game 1.

La Salle? Heavy favorites. Prior to the Final Four, they finished with a 13-1 slate. Ben Mbala is unstoppable, playing with these regular-season averages: 20.6 PPG, 16 RPG and 2.4 BPG — all first in the league. When you study the team statistics, La Salle leads in all but one of the nine departments, including points per game (88.1 average) and rebounds (52.3 per game).

My pick? It’s hard to bet against the university located along Taft Avenue. Plus, I’m biased. I studied eight years in La Salle Bacolod and suited the green jersey as we won the city-wide elementary title. Also, my uncle Rey Pages, my dad’s younger brother, played for the Green Archers in the 1970s before he turned pro with Crispa and Utex.

My head (analysis) and history (past schooling) go with La Salle. But times have changed… since our only child Jana Marie has enrolled in the campus along Katipunan Avenue, my green mind has turned blue-blooded.

The return of golf’s almost-greatest

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(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tiger, who? It’s funny how, back in 2008 after Eldrick Tont Woods won his 14th major crown at the U.S. Open in Torrey Pines, the sporting world was sure that he’d break the all-time record of Jack Nicklaus.

Nobody saw his demise. Nobody saw that club-smashing wallop from Elin. Nobody predicted, eight years forward as he returns to competitive golf after a 15-month absence, that Tiger Woods is forgotten, balding, winless in 40 months, irrelevant.

Today at the Hero World Challenge tournament in the Bahamas, TW returns to swing his TaylorMade M2 driver and to caress that Bridgestone ball using his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter. Tiger’s back. But he’s not supposed to join. Ranked a lowly 898th in the world (if my research is correct, our top-ranked Pinoy golfer Miguel Tabuena sits at 156), Tiger is playing in a field who’s lowest ranked player is No. 38. And when he last joined two years ago, guess how he placed? Last place. But, hey, he’s Tiger Woods — and so he’s playing.

How bad are Tiger’s injuries? Hobbled by a back injury that required two operations, he hasn’t competed since August last year. Prior to that, his physical maladies were unfathomable. Here are excerpts of a piece I wrote entitled, “Tiger Woods, diagnosed by Dr. Tony San Juan:”

“Golf isn’t like MMA. It’s not like football or basketball where injuries abound. It’s not Pacquiao punching Bradley. Golf is a gentleman’s game. It’s a sport of leisurely walks, effortless 9-iron swings, soft putts, gingerly handshakes. Golf is not a sport of injuries. That’s what I thought. But Tiger Woods has suffered repeated injuries. Consider these afflictions: Surgery on left knee to remove fluid inside and outside the ACL. Arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. Two stress fractures of the left tibia. Surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee by using a tendon from his right thigh. MCL sprain. Lower back spasms. And, just last March 31, surgery for a pinched nerve.”

That article was dated April 2014. After that, Tiger’s physical woes did not improve. When asked if the possibility of retirement loomed, he said recently: “Not being able to get out of bed, not being able to move, how can I expect to come out here and swing a golf club at 120 miles an hour and be ballistic when I can’t even get out of bed? So, yeah, there was a lot of trepidation and times where I thought… was it realistic?”

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JACK NICKLAUS. Yesterday, Nicklaus was interviewed by BBC Sport and asked about Tiger’s comeback.

Ever the optimist, he believes that Tiger has at least 10 more years of competitive golf ahead of him. What’s troubling Tiger, he was asked, apart from his injuries?

“That probably is the five inches between his ears that is the part that he’s having trouble with,” Nicklaus said. “(Tiger) has got to re-evaluate… and find out what’s going to happen to him and how can he mentally get himself back into the idea of playing golf again.”

Golf is mental. Most of sport is mental. But golf is the most mentally-challenging of ballgames. Steve Elkington once said, “The mind is your greatest weapon. It’s the greatest club in your bag. It’s also your Achilles’ heel.”

How about the possibility of Tiger breaking Jack’s record? Nicklaus won his 18th major at the age of 46. (He won his 16th and 17th at 40 years old.) Tiger turns 41 on Dec. 30 and he has amassed 14. Can he win five more at this late stage to surpass The Golden Bear? The two-letter answer is No. If he does triumph in one more major or accumulates a few more, it will be akin to Donald Trump’s improbable upset over Hillary. But if there’s one human being who can do it, it’s TW.

“I don’t think anything is safe,” Nicklaus said, of his record. But first, the 76-year-old Nicklaus said, he’s got to prove it.

“I think Tiger has got the physical and the mental ability to be able to handle that but then he has got to go out and do it,” he said. “We’ll see. I wish him well.”

A sportsman who is unsportsmanlike

And the winner is… ?

Lewis Hamilton. Yes, the 31-year-old British Formula One rider won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race last Sunday. It was his fourth straight pole-to-win triumph (including Texas, Mexico City and Sao Paulo) and he amassed 10 victories this 2016.

So, Lewis Hamilton is the champion, right? Wrong. To me, he’s a selfish, me-alone person who’s engrossed only with himself.

Here’s the story: Nico Rosberg and Hamilton are teammates in the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team. In the March 20 until November 27 season, there are 11 Formula One teams. How many members are allowed per squad?

Only two. And these teammates are expected to be friends, partners and should collaborate, right? No. In fact, if you secretly ask Lewis who he despises the most, chances are he’ll whisper the name of someone who’s just five months younger than him and someone with whome he’s raced with in go-karting since they were teenagers. That’s Nico. On paper, Hamilton and Rosberg are allies under Mercedes; in reality, they’re villains.

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The 2016 Formula One season has 21 races. Entering the last event in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg was leading his teammate by a measly 12 points. The only way for Hamilton to win this third consecutive F1 World Champion title was to finish first (and get 25 points) and for Rosberg to finish in fourth place or worse.

I don’t have space to elaborate on the blow-by-blow drama that I saw on TV two nights ago but here’s the summary: Towards the end, Hamilton purposely slowed down not because he wanted the second-place running Rosberg to overtake him, but to draw Seb Vettel, Max Verstappen and the others closer with the hope that they’d overtake Rosberg so he’ll drop to fourth place. It wasn’t meant to be.

Rosberg, criticized in the past for being a perennial runner-up to Hamilton and for succumbing to pressure and losing, placed 2nd. In the end, Hamilton won the fight but Rosberg won the war.

“It was a tricky situation at the end with Lewis playing dirty tricks,” Vettel said over the radio as he finished third.

During the race, Hamilton was repeatedly instructed to speed up. Instead, he slowed down to defy team orders — including a final-lap dilly-dallying move where he was 9-seconds-slower (than his pole lap).

“Right now, I’m losing the world championship,” Hamilton said. “So I’m not bothered if I’m going to lose the race.”

Now, I understand this is sport. It’s a winner-take-all arena where all the accolades never go to the “first loser.” As Bobby Unser, another race car driver, once said: “Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second.”

And the ultra-competitive 3-time world champ that he is, losing does not run in Hamilton’s blood-thirsty veins. And this is F1, a venue that has witnessed countless dirty antics played since its first season in 1950.

Still, what an act of defiance. Even the Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was disappointed.

“I need to form an opinion, which I haven’t yet,” Wolff said. “Undermining a structure in public means you are putting yourself before the team.”

Hamiton’s actions were ugly. Yet, despite his colleague’s self-centered actions, what did the new 2016 world champ say after?

“You can understand the team’s perspective, and you can understand Lewis’s perspective — so that’s it,” Rosberg said, ending the controversy and refusing to say bad things about Hamilton. What a classy act, Nico.

Reminds me of someone who watched live the Abu Dhabi race last Sunday.

That’s Roger Federer. Of all the great athletes that have sweated on this planet, Roger would rank high up in the “Best and Most Humble Sportsman” award. (The 35-year-old was voted by his colleagues to receive the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for a 12th time!)

One of my all-time favorite quotes — and one that I hope Lewis Hamilton will heed — were these words uttered by Roger: “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.”

NBA Power Rankings: Who’s on top?

If you think the two finalists from last season — the Cavs and Warriors — are tops after three weeks, you’re slightly wrong. Cleveland, no thanks to LeBron sitting out in their defeat to Indiana, lost twice and won 10 times. Golden State sports a similar record. Impressive.

But not as remarkable as the Los Angeles Clippers. Is the team owned by billionaire Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, for real? En route to their 11-2 record, they obliterated the Trailblazers, 111-80, humiliated the Spurs by 24 points and against the hapless Kings yesterday, the Sacramento squad was hopeless.

Wrapping up Week 4 of the season’s 82 weeks, it’s the Clippers at the No. 1 spot followed jointly by Kevin Durant’s team and Kyrie Irving’s group. Sitting in No. 4 is the Spurs, winner of their last five and sporting a 10-3 scorecard. Fifth spot is handed to the Atlanta Hawks (9-3). No surprises in the Top 5.

With the Clippers, you may ask, what’s different and better this season, other than the triumvirate excellence of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan? The addition of Marreese Speights. Wrote Andrew Sharp and Rohan Nadkarni for SI.com: “Mo Buckets is a solid 98% responsible for the Clippers’ hot start. Who else can give you such a perfect combination of mean mugs and line-drive threes off the bench? … Seriously, I have no clue why Golden State let Speights walk, especially considering he signed for the minimum.”

As hot as the Clippers are, we know that they are less glittery and popular compared to the other Los Angeles squad. This belongs to the “over-performing” Lakers.

Who’d have expected that the Lakers would win three of their first four games, including a 20-point drubbing of their California neighbors, the Warriors? While they lost yesterday to the Spurs (mainly because D’Angelo Russell, with his 16.8 PPG average, was out with a sore knee), the Lakers are still carrying a surprising 7-win, 6-loss clip.

Kudos to our Filipino-American star Jordan Clarkson. The 6-foot-5 guard whose mom Annette is half-Filipina is averaging 15 points per game. Without Kobe Bryant in the spotlight, this youthful team has blossomed.

“We’ve kind of moved on,” Clarkson said of the post-Kobe era. “It’s almost like breaking up with your girlfriend. It’s kind of weird without them around and stuff. But it’s just us. We’re in our own space now. We’re creating something new.”

DEROZAN. Moving to the individual statistics, who have performed best?

For points, it’s the Raptors’ shooting guard DeMar DeRozan with 33.3 PPG, followed by Russell Westbrook (31.8) and Anthony Davis (30.5).

With DeRozan, what’s fascinating is that he’s accumulating points (including two 40-point games) minus the use of 3-pointers. Beyond the arc, he’s only made six shots in 11 games! So unlike last year’s top-scorer, Mr. Curry.

“I don’t shoot 3s because I choose not to shoot 3s,” DeRozan said. “If I shoot them, I know I can make them. I feel like every time I get the ball I can get to the rim or I can get fouled. That’s just what my mindset is.”

Paul Flannery of SBNation.com added: “DeRozan is one of my favorite players because he’s A) a really nice guy and B) he makes everyone so damn mad with his style of play. It’s like they take it personally when he pulls up from mid-range. How dare he!”

With Anthony Davis, while his Pelicans are the second-to-the-lowest team in the West (3-10), he’s tops with 2.91 blocks per game. And while you’d consider Russell Westbrook as a ball hogger and selfish I-can-do-it-all player, his 31.8 PPG average is complemented by a league second-best in assists, 9.8 APG. Not bad, especially after somebody said this of him earlier this week: “I am truly a fan of his. If you can ever say – being as we’re so many years apart – that when I watch him play, I see a lot of resemblance of his passion for the game of basketball, the way I played the game of basketball.”

The man complimenting Westbrook? Michael Jordan.

Like Duterte and Trump, change in tennis

As shocking as incoming Pres. Donald John Trump’s victory yesterday is this fact in men’s tennis: Roger Federer is out of the Top 10 — the first time it’s happened since 2002.

R. Federer is acknowledged as history’s greatest men’s tennis player. He’s won 17 grand slam singles trophies, ranked world No.1 for a record 302 weeks, has pocketed $100 million in prize money and, on a personal note, is such a sharpshooter that he is the father to two sets of twins with wife Mirka (Myla Rose and Charlene Riva then two boys named Leo and Lennart).

Federer is ranked 16. That’s astonishingly low. Same with Rafael Nadal, the 14-major winner, who’s ranked eighth. For those who follow the sport, the Swiss and the Spaniard ruled tennis for 211 nonstop weeks from July 2005 to August 2009 — the duo taking turns at the No. 1 spot.

Federer is out; so is Nadal. Same with the 29-year-old from Belgrade, Serbia named Novak Djokovic. While we had grown accustomed to one of the Big Three standing at Tennis’ Mt. Everest, now they’ve been supplanted. For the first time since Feb. 1, 2004 — that’s 666 weeks — not Roger nor Rafa nor Novak is No.1.

It’s Andy Murray. Thanks to an incredible run — seven trophies in eight finals out of nine tournaments — Murray has overtaken his childhood friend Djokovic. This is shocking. First, because of Novak’s collapse. After he won the year’s first two majors — the Australian and French Opens — his game collapsed, losing both Wimbledon and the Olympics.

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For Novak, who’s been so consistent the past years, this might be a case of “What more can I achieve?” After the career grand slam (in Paris), he may have lost his invincibility and motivation.

With Murray, the combination of Djokovic’s defeats and his triumphs have elevated the Scot. How elusive is that top spot? Since 1973 when the ATP rankings were developed, the 29-year-old has become only the 26th player to achieve that feat.

“To get to No. 1 isn’t about today, but it’s about 12 months of tournaments to get to this stage,” Murray said last week.

The No. 1 ranking has been Murray’s ultimate goal. He’s been No. 2 and hovered among the top four since August 2009. You can say he’s been the perrenial groomsman, winning only three grand slam titles after being in the finals 11 times. (This, too, is a double family celebration because his brother, Jamie, held the top spot in doubles earlier this year.)

But Murray can’t rest for more long. This Sunday, the year-ending Top 8-only event commences and if Djokovic goes undefeated, he’ll reclaim the top ranking.

“It might only be for one week, so I might as well try and enjoy it,” Murray said, “because I could lose it at the (ATP World) Tour Finals and never be there again.”

KERBER. On the women’s side, there’s a similar transformation. Serena Williams has been dislodged as the top female netter. In Wimbledon last July, Ms. Williams won her 22nd singles major— tying her with Steffi Graf for the most majors in the Open Era.

But like her co-No. 1 Djokovic, after that accomplishment, her game dipped. She lost in the Olympics and the in U.S. Open. Already 35 years of age, Serena has suffered knee and shoulder problems and decided to rest after New York. Two weeks ago at the WTA Championships in Singapore, she skipped the year-ending tourney.

Angelique Kerber is tennis’ new No. 1. And what a 2016. She reached the finals at the Olympics, in Wimbledon, and in Singapore last month and won the three majors of the year: in Melbourne, Paris, and New York. Ms. Kerber, a muscular and ultra-fit left-hander, hails from the same country as the wife of Andre Agassi.

“For sure, when I was growing up, Steffi was my idol,” Kerber said, “and this is also special that she is German.”

Talking about change, like our Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and the newly-crowned Mr. Trump for the nation that Duterte despises, tennis has its own change-has-come version: Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber.

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SuperMan Pacquiao

Scanning the headline news just five hours after Manny Pacquiao’s victory, you’d think it was somebody else the Philippine senator faced on Saturday night. Of the two dozen articles that emerged from Philboxing.com, at least 10 of them plastered the words “Floyd Mayweather.” Sporting a 49-0 record that has matched the great Rocky Marciano’s spotless number, is there any boxing fan who believes that Mayweather won’t emerge out of retirement and target Fifty-Oh? Why would he salivate at ringside if not to pique our interest and titilate the bloggers with his comeback?

“Not bad,” said Mayweather post-fight, flashing a thumbs-up on the Pinoy’s performance.

Who gave Floyd tickets? “I invited him to be here tonight,” Pacquiao admitted, smiling and waving a fist at the American just moments before the bout as if to tease him and say, “Watch me.”

Will he or will he not do PacMay 2? This question is as unpredictable as that organ which serves as the center of the nervous system called Mayweather’s brain. As brash and loudmouth as he is, he’s reclusive; only he knows which gambit he’ll conjure. But forget Mayweather (who’ll turn 40 this February) because this fact is undeniable: Pacquiao is still our real-life superhero named SuperManny.

“His speed surprised me at the beginning, and that knockdown woke me up,” Jessie Vargas said. “He has tremendous speed, and sometimes you get caught with those quick shots you don’t see and it knocks you down.”

Haven’t we heard those words uttered by MP’s swollen-faced, battered and defaced opponents right after their skirmish? Think about these facts: Pacquiao will turn 38 on Dec. 17. He has five children. He is the playing coach of the PBA team Mahindra Floodbusters. Professionally in boxing, starting with his first bout against Edmund Inting Ignacio in Jan. 22, 1995, he has climbed the square arena, been punched in the jaw and abdomen and nose 1,001 times — and 22 years after his pro debut, he’s still the same restless, energetic and indefatigable human being.

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(Isaac Brekken/AP)

“I thought Manny performed extraordinarily well,” Arum said. “When he’s moving and punching like that, disappears around a guy and comes out on the other side throwing punches — that’s great craftsmanship.”

Watching from the beautiful home of Mario and Emma Siao and together with our close friends from the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), the man we saw two mornings ago was possessed.

In the 11th and 12th rounds, when Vargas’ long legs wobbled and his smile turned sour and his shoulders dropped, Pacquiao was the same spitfire that he was in Round 1. He didn’t tire (he never does, not in the dozen or so times that I recall). It was the youthful champ 10 years his junior who got tired. Pacquiao’s footwork, dancing and hopping endlessly with those brick-wall legs; his head, weaving and bobbing like an unhitabble target; his arms, protecting that face and insulating that chest while pummeling and jabbing.

Who wants to see this guy retire? Not me. While we all believed his “I’ll retire once I’m a senator” talk and wished that he’d quit this game called the “Sweet Science,” now I’m convinced otherwise.

Who else will entertain us? Anyway, we know that there’s no better juggler than Pacquiao. Remember his old sinful days, when he’d gamble and womanize at night, sweat in the morning at the gym, pet his fighting cocks at 3 p.m., sing the Karaoke before dinner, play basketball, court Ara, shoot billiards, flick his wrist at darts and sign documents as Sarangani congressman?

Manny is a multi-tasker and he can jockey the work as One of the 24 and as Welterweight Number One.

“He was really busy with the senate and all of that, but he was training really hard every day,” Freddie Roach said. “We are going to have to get used to this because he’s going to be a senator for the next six years and he’s not done fighting yet.”

Money, Manny, Money

Jessie Vargas will pocket $2.8 million (Php 140 million) today.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao? The math has changed. While he was previously handed guaranteed fees (say, $20 million), now, his income will be determined mainly by the pay-per-view proceeds. Asked how much Pacquiao’s guarantee is, Bob Arum replied, “I don’t know.”

Pacquiao is taking a risk. If the PPV numbers are low, our GenSan Pinoy Pride will receive a “small” salary.

Here’s what happened: The major TV networks have declined their usual involvement with Pacquiao. While they used to collaborate and handle the PPV distribution, this time they said no. HBO and Showtime — the “middlemen”— used to earn 7.5 percent on the net proceeds. This time, Top Rank is independently producing and distributing the pay-per-view mechanism. The only way for Pacquiao to earn plenty is if the PPV numbers go high.

“We’re going to put a low number on the contract because he has really no guarantee,” Arum said. “We’ve upped his percentage of the take. He’s fighting on a percentage. We can no longer afford the tremendous guarantee he was getting based on the results in the Bradley fight. Rather than going in with a huge guarantee, we’re giving him an upside. We played it safe.”

What are the PPV predictions? Not good. Largely because Pacquiao unretired after saying he’s done with boxing and because Vargas is unknown, the hype has been muted.

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If you remember the Pacquiao-Mayweather bout, that generated a whopping 4.6 million PPV buys at $89.95 or over $400 million. Add the gate receipts and other revenue and the total exceeded $600 million. Manny pocketed over $100 million while Floyd was said to have received double that.

Here’s the problem: The hoopla for that long-awaited fight on May 2, 2015 was exaggerated. When the fight turned out to be boring and lackluster, everybody felt downtrodden. In a way, boxing suffered a letdown. So much so that the PPV numbers of the succeeding fights of other boxers may have been affected.

Take Canelo Alvarez, the Mexican star under the stable of Oscar de la Hoya. Last Sept. 17, Canelo faced the undefeated Liam Smith (who had KO’d his last eight opponents) for the WBO light-middleweight crown. While Alvarez won via a ninth round stoppage, he lost in the earnings game. Though 50,000 spectators cheered inside the AT&T Stadium in Texas, you know how many PPV buys were made? A disheartening 300,000.

Back to Pacquiao-Vargas, the PPV price in the U.S. is pegged at $59.99. Will the numbers be good? The analysts are not too optimistic. Vargas is a 1-6 underdog against Pacquiao and boxing fans seem to have wanted a clash with Terence Crawford, who sports a 29-0 (20 KO) record.

One man who is forever optimistic is the still-energetic 84-year-old Bob Arum, whom my dad Bunny and I had the chance to meet two years ago in Macau.

“A hundred million homes are going to watch this thing,” Arum boasts. “This is a worldwide event. We think so small in boxing. We don’t really capitalise on how popular globally boxing is.”

Arum was referring to the outside-America market. That’s why he enlisted China’s two-time Olympic gold medalist Zhou Shiming in the undercard.

“It’s the same as a stadium’s importance in a soccer match,” he said. “Yeah, you want the people there and you need the atmosphere.. Our arena seats about 19,000 people, it will be filled, but it’s really the millions and millions of people we’re going to reach on this telecast. This will reach more people than the Super Bowl.”

Let’s see, Bob. As to us, Pinoy fans, our hope is that Pacquiao wins for the 59th time in his pro career — despite Vargas being 10 years younger, five inches taller and with a four-inch reach advantage.

With the crowd advantage, we know who’ll have the loudest cheers. Our forever generous senator has splurged by buying 2,000 tickets for his family and friends to watch him in Las Vegas. The cost: $1 million. Exorbitant? Nah, that’s miniscule for the man Forbes magazine says has career earnings of $500 million.

Tour de Cebu drives to Bohol

I asked Chris and Chris (Aldeguer and Tio) to comment on the third staging of the Tour de Cebu — a car rally that spans three days and 1,000 kms. and was held last October 14 to 16.

Chris Aldeguer, the chairman of PACE (spelled in full as Performance and Classic Enthusiast of Cebu), said: “The Tour de Cebu 2016 was successful. The Rally brought all of us to witness and experience so many amazing roads and places we never even knew existed. It was satisfying to see the participants have a great time. It is a goal of the event to have an element of competition while enjoying the drive and the camaraderie. The beautiful island of Bohol and our host BE Grand Resort made the whole experience spectacular.”

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Co-organized by the Manila Sports Car Club (MSCC), the tour only accepts cars that are dated 1972___ or older. The first two Tours required the enthusiasts to drive not only aroud the Cebu island but also to Bacolod, Dumaguete and San Carlos.

Chris Tio, a founding member of PACE and this year’s Grand Marshal, explained at length this year’s Tour (all quotes by Chris Tio):

What made this year different? “The biggest difference was the route as we decided to do all 1,000 kms. in Bohol. We chose to have a host venue for 3 days and 2 nights in the breathtaking BE Grand Resort. This changed the atmosphere completely as it allowed a home to return to and encouraged families to come. This can also be seen in the participating teams as there were married couples, fathers and sons, and even a father and daughter. Bohol is just so beautiful. They have roads that crisscross the island allowing us a different scenery and discoveries. The people are very friendly and welcoming.

“The technical team led by 5-time Formula Asia champion Pepon Marave also did a fantastic job of auditing and preparing the routes. This led to a very competitive atmosphere. The field was impressive as the Tour attracted several Historic Racing veterans: the current hill climb champion as well as the current GT Champion of the Philippines. We were also honored to have a veteran of the world’s toughest classic car rally, the East Africa Classic Rally with us. Another change was the debut of the Tour De Cebu Champions Cup, a more than two-foot high vintage racing trophy wherein the grand champions are permanently etched into the trophy.”

What makes this event special? “This is the only classic car rally of this type in South East Asia. Largely patterned after the Mille Miglia, the Tour De Cebu prides itself also on its role as a touristic rally, showcasing the beauty and scenery of our side of the world as well as the ease of accessibility and dependability of our RORO system. Hopefully, we encourage more visitors and incentivize investments in modern RORO vessels. For the participants, the camaraderie of like-minded enthusiasts as well as the opportunity to drive competitively in a controlled environment their precious classic cars.

“For the public, it’s the opportunity to see restored classic cars in full motion and not as a static display. To be able to see these magnificent machines run, hear them rev and smell the gasoline is quite an experience. A case in point: it’s different reading about the Toyota S800, the smallest car with a tiny 2-cylinder air-cooled motor. It doesn’t comment the most respect to the general public, but seeing it attack the curves and showcase its maneuverability made a lot of new believers and fans.”

What “new” cars joined this year? “We had several very interesting cars: an extremely rare Matchless GT, a Triumph TR6, a trio of Datsun 240 Zs and of course the Grand Champion, Toyota S800. In total, we had 33 participants with the vehicles ranging from Porsche 911, Porsche 914, MGB, MGB GT, Pontiac GTO, Morgan Threewheelers, Mercedes 280 SL, Mercedes 350 SL and more.”

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My brother Charlie with Chris Aldeguer

Is this event a competition? “It’s a competition based on Sampaguita Rally rules. It is a Time Speed Distance (TSD) accuracy test of man and classic machinery. To complete 1,000 kms. in the correct time, per minute early, penalized 2 points, per minute late, penalized 1 point. The winner is the most on the time all the time with the least penalty points.”

What’s the plan for 2017? “We will be returning to the BE Grand Resort in Panglao and we are finalizing several international participants, as interest has been generated. We are planning to increase the field to 50 participants. We hope to develop this into a world-class international motoring event that makes our country proud.”

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Sports in Danao City

Oscar “Boying” Rodriguez is the chairman of the Danao City Sports Commission. I asked him a few days ago if he was happy for Danao to host another major sporting event.

“When Sunrise Events approached me six years ago, they wanted to hold it in Danao,” said Boying of the off-road triathlon race called XTERRA. At that time, he said, Danao was not ready. Considering the hundreds of competitors, foreign athletes and their families who’ll congregate at the site, Danao did not have sufficient resort rooms to house everyone. Plus the venue needed to be at least half-an-hour away from the resort host, Crimson Hotel.

Boying suggested Liloan. Thus, for four years, Liloan hosted XTERRA. “I suggested the swim be at Amara,” he said. “The bike route had to pass by three lighthouses and the run around Papa Kits.”

First with Liloan (2011 to 2014), then with Albay (2015 and 2016), XTERRA is back to where it originally belongs: Danao City.

Thanks to the sports-loving family of the Duranos — Mayor Nito Durano and his son, Congressman Red — XTERRA will host the open-sea swim/mountainbike/trail-run event next year on April 23.

MTB. Danao City is a mecca for mountainbiking competition. Nearly 20 years ago — back in 1997 — Danao organized the 3rd Asian Mountain Bike Championships participated in by 13 Asian countries. Four years later in 2001, it was the 1st South East Asia MTB Championships plus they co-hosted the SEAGames by holding MTB Competition.

And as recently as last year, Danao City co-hosted with Cebu City the Batang Pinoy Cycling, Triathlon, 3X3 Basketball and Softball.

Mr. Rodriguez is the executive director of the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP). Given his position, he was tasked to organize the Visayas leg of the National Age Group Triathlon (NAGT) series.

“If you remember right, I have held it for many years in Plantation Bay Resort where the likes of Matteo, Justin, Yuan (Chiongbian) and others started their triathlon careers,” he said. “I moved it to Danao because the traffic situation in Mactan was getting worse.”

To add to Danao’s list of events, this year they hosted the National Mountainbike Championships in Danasan Eco-Adventure Park. Also, the Philippines won the bid for the 2018 Asian Mountainbike Championships and three places (Tagaytay, Ilocos, and Danao City) are vying for hosting honors. This will lead to big prize — the South East Asian Games — which the Philippines will be hosting in 2019.

PALARO. I asked Boying about Danao’s chances of bagging the hosting rights for next year’s Palaro.

“We are three to four years away from being ready to host the Palaro,” he said. “Although the other municipalities of the 5th District would be co-hosting, we still lack the facilities. Our stadium, built nearly 15 years ago and where we previously held the CVIRAA, is scheduled to be resurfaced and rehabilitated. We need at least a month of continuous sunny weather to have it resurfaced. The municipality of Carmen, which is also building a track and field oval and an Olympic-size swimming pool, might not be ready in the few months left.”

It was the Danao DepEd Division that bid for the Palaro — without much consulation with the city officials. (Given this pronouncement by Boying, it looks like Iloilo City is a shoo-in as host for the 2017 Palaro,)

As to Danao’s long-term plans for sports, one goal is to build a swimming pool beside the track oval. The Cebu Province has allocated funding but the amount is not enough, said Boying. He’s hopeful, though, that it will be built soon — together with a handful of world-class tennis courts.

“Mayor Nito’s thrust,” he added, “is to have a comprehensive grassroots program for sports. We’re targeting the schools and we hope to excel in sports that bring in the medals: Taekwondo, table tennis, badminton and gymnastics, to name a few.”

In three to four years, said Boying, expect Danao City to make another pitch for the Palarong Pambansa.

I hope Vargas loses and Vargas wins

One is first-named Jessie and the other is called Ricky.

Let’s start with Jessie. He’s 27 years old, was born in Los Angeles, California, stands 5-foot-10 and will weigh 147 lbs. when he climbs the ring next weekend against Sen. Pacquiao.

Jessie is 10 years younger and four inches taller than Manny. He has fought 28 times and won 27 — the only loss in his career was, coincidentally, against the man Pacquiao last defeated: Timothy Bradley. In Jessie’s loss to Bradley in June of last year, the duo danced all the way to the 12th round before Bradley won by UD. Right after that loss, Jessie fought Sadam Ali and won a 9th round TKO last March. That victory handed him the WBO welterweight crown.

With his fight against Pacquiao next weekend, it’s not surprising that among all of MP’s recent fights, this one has garnered the least hype. After promising to quit boxing, Manny — like most politicians do — reversed course and reneged on his promise.

“Every day I was able to run in the morning and then train after the Senate session,” said Pacquiao. “The gym is very close to the Senate.”

Given Pacquiao’s impressive showing against Bradley in their fight last April, many are expecting a straightforward win for our Pinoy hero.

“I don’t want to underestimate him,” said Pacquiao. “People say it is going to be an easy fight for me. But it is my experience that whenever I underestimate my opponent it is trouble for me.”

This is the first Vargas: Jessie. Obviously, we want him to lose.

The second Vargas? He’s Ricky. He, too, is a fighter but he’s waged his battles in the corporate world as a top executive of Manny V. Pangilinan’s group of companies that include First Pacific and PLDT. So when MVP asked Mr. Vargas to spearhead the Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP), he said yes.

One of the privileges of being the head of a National Sports Association (NSA) like ABAP is that you can vie for the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) presidency.

Ricky has decided to challenge Jose “Peping” Cojuangco for the top position of the POC. I’ve written in this piece before and I’ll say it again: It’s time for Peping to go. I concur with the stand of my sports editor Mike Limpag.

Peping Cojuangco has had three terms as POC head and he wants a fourth? What accomplishments — especially in the Olympics — can he show?

So, like Pacquiao-Vargas, we have the Cojuangco-Vargas fight.

The only problem? Vargas — the good one, the Pinoy — has been disqualified from challenging Peping. Former IOC representative Frank Elizalde headed the three-man election committee that decided against Vargas. The reason: he was unable to attend the prerequisite number of POC meetings. (What makes this even more “political” is that Peping’s daughter, Mikee Jaworski, is an IOC member.)

Ricky Vargas is crying foul. The term “active participation” (the basis) is a debatable term that can mean sending representatives in behalf of ABAP to attend the meetings.

PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez said this in an interview: “I don’t question the wisdom of the Comelec of the POC, but for me, in the spirit of sportsmanship, it could’ve been a source of understanding, unity, discipline, value and integrity. Those people should have been allowed (to run) especially if the rule says active membership.”

Ever the gentleman and polite sportsman, Ramirez is correct. What happens next is this: Vargas has vowed to challenge the ruling. He has until Nov. 2 to submit his protest and the ruling can go all the way to the POC membership for decision-making.

If my counting is correct, there are 42 NSAs that will vote for the POC leadership. I’m not even sure that Vargas has the numbers to supplant Cojuangco. As sad as it it, politics is embedded with sports and, in elections like these, political weaponry is at work. Ricky Vargas said: “Give election a chance. Give sports a chance. Give democracy a chance.”

Seven reasons to run the 42K

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Exactly 90 days are left before January 8, 2017. That’s the morning when the starting gun will be fired at 3 a.m. to commence a looong 42 kilometer adventure for those running the 2017 Cebu Marathon.

Why, you ask, should someone be crazy and idiotic to travel that far a distance with no bike wheels or car wheels but just one’s God-given leg wheels? Why run the marathon, you ask? Valid question.

As someone who’s been bitten by this running bug the past 10 or so Octobers, I offer a few reasons.

One, because it’s there. That’s not an original phrase. Those are the same words that Sir Edmund Hillary uttered when asked why climb Mount Everest. Because it’s there, he proudly exclaimed.

Same uncomplicated reason why you ought to strive and finish a full 42.195-km. run called the marathon. Simply because the challenge presents itself. Simply because very, very, very, very few have achieved it. Simply to absorb the pain, to endure the training of that dawn-to-sunrise footslog, to sweat endlessly for six hours with legs cramping and heart pounding and knees aching. Because the marathon is there.

Two: to get slimmer. I’ve tried all types of sports and exercise and I tell you with all comprehensive analysis and honesty that nothing beats running. You burn more calories per minute on the road, pounding those calf muscles and swinging those arms and bobbing that head with running than any other sport.

I guarantee you: Want to lose those 24 unwanted pounds? Enlist for a marathon. Given the volume of training that you’ll endure, it’s but natural that your body fat will evaporate and those excesses will disappear.

Third reason: You’ll gain friends. Running long-distance is tough to do by your lonesome. It’s also not advisable as you wouldn’t want to be running (in the dark) from 3:30 a.m. onwards by yourself— I’m talking of your physical safety. If you’re training long, enlist a group of friends to trek with you. Those one, two, three, four hours of running will be most enjoyable when you’re talking to a buddy, sharing how your work and week went, conversing tsismis while touring Cebu’s city streets.

This is what our Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) group does on Sunday mornings and this is what dozens of groups do. They run together. They forge better relationships.

Fourth, I quote Theodore Roosevelt: “Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.”

This means that the greater the effort, the greater the achievement. It’s the same with running. Almost weekly, a Fun Run is offered for anyone to join. Mostly, the distances are 5K and 10K. These are good distances to cover. But if you really want to aim for a difficult yet achievable grand target, go for the full length. It will require more time and more sweat and more willpower and more fighting spirit — but once you’ve crossed that 42K finish line, you’ll be rewarded with an inner joy and the widest of smiles.

Fifth reason: You’ll sleep better. No kidding. It’s proven that the more tired you are physically, the better your sleep. And who doesn’t want that deep and relaxing rest at night? When you run, let’s say four times weekly, your body will be more fatigued than usual — which will give you a better sleep.

Six: You’ll inspire others. I’ve met so many marathoners who were previously sedentary individuals. When their relatives or office mates look at their physique now, they’re slimmer. But more than appearance, when others realize how far they’ve run, they stand amazed and marvel at the effort and dedication. If you can inspire others to run and to turn healthy… kudos! You’ve not only helped yourself but also others.

No. 7: You’ll develop a good habit. What’s so laudable with running is you need very little equipment or baggage to do it. When you travel, just bring your Saucony shoes and off you go. (You can’t do this with the Vellum road bike.) As your love for running grows, it will infiltrate your life and become enmeshed with your lifestyle. Your mind and body will look for that daily sweat.

Tri-city marathon of Cebu

Back in the 1990s, the most celebrated footrace of our province was called the “Tri-city Marathon.” Though it wasn’t officially a marathon (whose strict definition involves a distance of 42.195 kms.), it was the most looked-forward-to and exciting race of its time.

Foreigners landed in Mactan to join. The elite long-distance stars from Manila arrived to compete in the 32K. Ordinary folks dressed to impress while wearing sneakers. Organized by Joy Augustus Young, then (and now) Cebu City Councilor, it was festive and encouraged the participants to dress in loud, colorful and fun costumes. It was a mardi gras and run merged into one carnival.

Come January 8, 2017, we hope to revive this “Tri-City Marathon” with our very own Cebu Marathon. Why tri-city? Because it will involve the three largest cities of our island: Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Cebu.

The Cebu Marathon had always started and finished at the Cebu I.T. Park. Back in 2008 when it was the Sinulog Half-Marathon, runners started their trek and finished all-sweating in Lahug. Ten years later — for the 2017 version — we’re still in the Ayala-owned property but this time it’s at the Cebu Business Park (CBP). The space inside the Cebu I.T. Park is congested with high-rise buildings and restaurants. There’s no more room for a marathon event there. The new start/finish area will be along the Negros and Bantayan roads of CBP, near the gleaming and tall MSY Building.

MARCELO FERNAN BRIDGE. For the 21K and 42K participants, it will be a brand-new route. The half-marathoners will depart CBP and run towards the Mabolo Church and turn left at the SM City Cebu. From there, it’s a nonstop path along Ouano Avenue and Jose Briones St. until you turn right at the U.N. Avenue before climbing the bridge, descending into Mactan, and making a U-turn and running back to CBP. It’s an out-and-back 21K course.

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21K Route

With the 42K, we’ll ask the runners to meander along the main Cebu City streets first — to view the Sinulog lights and sights — before heading towards Mandaue and Mactan.

Why the change of route when the Cebu Marathon had always traversed the SRP and Talisay City? Well, as the slogan “Change is coming” is propagated all over our 7,107 islands, this event might as well join the mantra. Second: the smell. The headlines scream about the foul odor near the SRP and Talisay portions and we wouldn’t want our international visitors to inhale this air while huffing and puffing. The sport of running is difficult enough; imagine the extra suffering by breathing the foul smell? Most of all, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge is a symbol of Cebu; and what better destination to surmount and climb.

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42K Route

Since the Cebu Marathon falls under the Sinulog week, the usual loud music and drum-beaters and entertainment will uplift the runners. There will be at least 14 hydration stations for the marathon — complete with Gatorade drinks and Nature’s Spring water.

Registration starts today! Just visit the website www.cebumarathon.net and you’ll have your choices of four categories: 5K, 10K, 21K and 42K. For those who want to register in person, the onsite registration will commence on Oct. 10 at the Active Zone of Ayala Center Cebu.

RUNRIO. For the thousands who joined the Milo Marathon race last Sunday, it was another very well-organized event. I ran alongside our Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC) president Steve Ferraren and, in terms of safety, hydration, entertainment and overall management, there is no better organizer of foot races in the Philippines than Rio de la Cruz. The RunRio team — who also organize the Condura Marathon and the Run United Trilogy, among others — is a big group of professionals that include Franco Bambico, JP Aranda, Rommel and Allan Balester and many more.

And, like the 14 or so Milo races all over the country, RunRio is once again helping organize the Cebu Marathon. In partnership with the CERC, which founded this event a decade ago, RunRio will put their experience and expertise to good use come January 8.

Peping and Buddy

I agree with Michael Jerome Limpag, our SunStar Cebu sports editor, in his piece last Friday, “It’s time for change, replace Peping in POC.”

Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. turned 82 years old last Tuesday. It’s time for him to relinquish his throne and turn-over the baton to somebody else.

It’s funny how people want to cling to power forever. Isn’t this being selfish? Instead of thinking of one’s self, isn’t the greater good — Philippine sports — more important than a solitary person’s quest to hang on for life… like Peping’s mission atop the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC)?

Peping hasn’t even accomplished much. It’s not like our 100-million-strong nation has produced gold medalists. If not for the silver medal achieved by Hidilyn Diaz last month, we were zero for zero in Sydney, in Athens, in Beijing and in London.

He has been POC president since 1994. It’s been a dozen years of despondent Olympic success and he wants another term?

The same I-want-to-cling-to-power scenario is happening in tennis.

Salvador “Buddy” Andrada, one of Peping’s closest buddies and who’s nearly the same age, also wants to return to head the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta). Andrada headed Philta from 1986 to 2006. That’s 20 very, very, very, very long years. He eventually stepped down as president of Philta and later because a commissioner at the Philippine Sports Commission.

Now 81, Andrada wants to return as Philta president.

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing but praises and love and respect for those who are older. My Lola Bebe Alcoseba is turning 96 next month and we still text each other and she still sports that infectious smile and laugh. Same with my dad’s mom, my lola Bing Pages, now 93. The grandma of my wife Jasmin (Corazon Gayanilo) is 105 years old! And I love them.

But, like the saying goes, there is a time for everything. And clinging on to power forever is unwise and awful.

With tennis, here’s what happened: It started last July when Edwin Olivarez, busy with his concurrent duties as mayor of Paranaque, asked to step down as Philta top honcho. Now, like in any organization, once a president steps down — and as stipulated in the Philta rules — the Vice-President takes over.

The VP is Randy Villanueva — the most active of tennis practitioners. (Randy heads the Davis Cup team as administrator and brought the Davis Cup sorties to Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Cebu five times.)

But, no, like Peping, Mr. Andrada wouldn’t allow the 41-year-old Randy Villanueva to head Philta. Andrada supposedly called for a “special board meeting,” unanticipated to several board members, and had himself voted as president. It was a slick, dexterous and ludicrous move.

Here’s a funny but true story. Back in 1986, I was a newbie in tennis and I flew from Cebu to Manila to join my first tournament at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center. The Philta president then, when I was a 14-year-old? Buddy Andrada. Fast forward to today, I have a beautiful and bright 17-year-old daughter named Jana who joins national tournaments in Manila. The person who still wants to head Philta.. 30 years later? Same guy.

My guess is that Peping must have called his buddy to return to Philta so the latter can vote for him anew in the POC elections this November. (The National Sports Association or NSA heads vote for the POC president.)

Prior to our country’s presidential elections, wasn’t this country’s mantra: “Change is coming?” We have a new president. Manny Pacquiao is now a senator and brilliantly asks simple yet sharp questions. Win Gatchalian is in; so is Risa Hontiveros.

With Philippine tennis, three weeks ago I attended the first-ever Philippine Tennis Summit.

Jean Henri Lhuillier, the largest benefactor for tennis in the country and a Class A netter himself, was in attendance. So was Bobby Castro, the CEO of Palawan Pawnshop, which sponsors dozens of tournaments around the archipelago. Coaches, parents, sponsors (of all the major sporting brands), champions (like Christine Patrimonio) were all in attendance. Randy Villanueva presented a new vision for Philippine tennis that got the hundred or so in attendance very excited.

As for Peping and Buddy? It’s time to rest, go on vacation, spend time with their grandchildren, take hour-long naps and surrender their selfish desires to new sports blood.

Change isn’t coming. Change is here.

Who’s happier: the silver or bronze medalist?

The above question sounds preposterous. Of course, you’d say, second is much better than third! Well, that’s true. But as to who’s “happier,” the answer might surprise you.

During the Rio Olympics, plenty of post-race footages were snapped and, obviously, the gold medalist grinned the widest smile; but when they examined the faces of the 2nd and 3rd placers, oftentimes the one who took bronze beamed a more jubilant face.

“Winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games brings glory, but a bronze makes people happier,” wrote Stefan Klein in “The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy and What We Can Do to Get Happier.”

Mr. Klein continued: “While the runners-up imagine themselves on the top step and are upset, having missed their goal by a few tenths of a second, the bronze medal winners feel terrific, as the social psychologist Victoria Medcec discovered at the Barcelona games in 1992. Those in third place were happy that they won a medal at all and made it into the record books, whereas the silver winners were mainly aware of what they’d just missed.”

Makes sense? Yes. Back in 1995, a study was conducted by the psychologists Victoria Medvec and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University and Scott Madey of the University of Toledo. They asked their students to evaluate video footages of athletes who joined the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

From a score of 1-to-10 (“1” being “agony” and “10” being “ecstatic”), the students ranked the happiness level that they perceived the winning athletes scored. The result? Those who won silver scored 4.8 while those who got bronze scored 7.1.

Stunning result! Isn’t this why they often refer to the 2nd placer as “the first loser?” Based on psychology — a topic that I relish and enjoy reading a lot about — the term is called “counterfactual thinking.” In simple words, it means that people compare their achievements to “what might have been.”

A silver medalist thinks… sayang, I missed being No. 1. A bronze medalist realizes.. salamat, I won a medal!

This happened in the 100-meter race in Brazil. After crossing the finish line first, Usain Bolt exhibited the happiest of smiles. He then uncorked his “Lightning Bolt” pose. The third placer Andre de Grasse looked equally overjoyed. The sad one? Justin Gatlin, silver medalist.

William James, the philosopher, wrote these words in 1892 and they still hold true today: “So we have the paradox of a man shamed to death because he is only the second pugilist or the second oarsman in the world. That he is able to beat the whole population of the globe minus one is nothing; he has ‘pitted’ himself to beat that one; and as long as he doesn’t do that nothing else counts.”

In Rio, this also happened in golf between Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar. All the way to the 18th hole, Rose and Stenson were tied. But when Rose birdied the final hole to triumph, Stenson was downtrodden. He lost, Rose won Olympic gold and Kuchar celebrated his bronze.

“We are not suggesting, of course, that finishing second or coming close to a cherished outcome always leads to less satisfaction than a slightly more modest performance,” the study, led by the psychologist Medvec, continued. “Finishing second is truly a mixed blessing. Performing that well provides a number of direct benefits that increase our well-being: recognition from others, boosts to self-esteem, and so on. At the same time, it can indirectly lower satisfaction by the unfortunate contrast with what might have been.”

China has one such example: her name Fu Yuanhui. The Olympic swimmer is now world-famous not because of her achievement last month but because of her reaction after the 100-meter backstroke. Minutes after her Olympic swim — all captured in YouTube and with views exceeding a million — you can see Fu Yuanhui completely ecstatic and happy. The reason? She won bronze.

What’s the lesson for us non-Olympians and mere mortals? The meaning of success often depends on one’s expectations.

Golden boy of swimming

schooling-win(Photo: Reuters/Dominic Ebenbichler)

Singapore is tiny. Based on land mass, it has an area of 719 sq. kms. — that’s one-sixth the size of Cebu province or a little over double the size of Cebu City. Singapore is diminutive — but in terms of economic prowess, it ranks third worldwide in per capita income!

In sports, because Singapore’s population is a measly 5.5 million (of which only 40 percent are permanent residents), they have not achieved as much glory as, say, Japan or South Korea. This is understandable because Japan, with its 130 million residents, is huge. Japan has accumulated 142 Olympic gold medals and 439 total Olympic medals. South Korea (population: 50+ million) is equally impressive; it has garnered 90 gold and 264 total medals in the Olympics.

Back to Singapore: Prior to the Brazil Games last month, our ASEAN neighbor had won a meager four medals: three in table tennis and one in weightlifting. Their four Olympic medals were nothing to brag about compared to the nine that our Philippines won and the six that its next-door neighbor Malaysia won (prior to Rio).

But what a difference one event makes. All it takes is 50.39 seconds to change everything. That’s because, last August 12 during the 100-meter butterfly finals, Joseph Schooling became its nation’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist.

Today in Singapore, Joseph is a national hero. If Brazil has Neymar and the U.K. has Andy Murray and Australia once boasted of Ian Thorpe (and we, obviously, have Manny Pacquiao), the Republic of Singapore has their hotshot.

What makes his achievement even more astounding were numerous things. He defeated Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian ever, handing the American his only loss in Rio. And his time of 50.39 was not only an Asian record but also an Olympic record.

Three days after his golden performance, he arrived in Singapore to a welcome never seen before. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took a selfie with him, saying “Usually people ask me for selfies, but today I felt so proud to ask Joseph for one!” He was exempted from the mandatory four-year military service. He received one million Singapore dollars (or P35 million) as monetary reward. 

Hundreds of fans waited for six hours at the airport last August 15 to welcome him. The TV screens at Changi Airport changed from showing flight schedules to announcing the words, “Thank you for making us proud.” Hundreds carried flags, signs and banners.

And Joseph Schooling is only 21.

Schooling was born and raised in Singapore. His amazing story started at the age of six when he was told about the story of his grand-uncle Lloyd Valberg — who happens to be Singapore’s first Olympian (1948 London). Inspired by that revelation, he tells his dad Colin that he wanted to be in the Olympics.

He trained in Singapore. A life-changing moment in his life happened in 2008. That’s when the US Olympic team visited Singapore and he had an iconic picture — the then-13-year-old boy beside a shirtless, off-the-swim Michael Phelps.

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The next year, at the age of 14, he moved to the US for more extensive training. His high school: Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. (I have fond memories of that school because two Decembers ago, when I joined the Jacksonville Marathon, it was in that campus where we started and finished the 42K race.)

After Florida, the six-footer moved to the University of Texas, where he now studies college (incoming junior).

Speaking of college and prize money, there’s an NCAA ruling that prohibits their collegiate student/athletes from receiving prize money because of their amateur status. But there’s an exception for Olympic medalists: if the athlete’s country of origin rewards the prize. In this case, it’s one million (Singapore) dollars — the largest Olympic prize money offered by any nation.

Congratulations, Singapore. I can’t wait until our Philippines, an Olympic participant since 1924, wins its first Olympic gold.

Wow-rinka! Stan stuns Novak

Sep 5, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland hits a shot to Illya Marchenko of Ukraine on day eight of the 2016 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
(Source: Reuters)

In tennis, when you say “Swiss champion,” you refer to one and only one person. That’s Roger Federer. No male human being has accumulated more Grand Slam singles trophies (that’s 17 major titles) — and is as venerated and esteemed worldwide — as the Swiss Federer Express.

In summer of last year, my wife Jasmin, our daughter Jana and I had the privilege of traveling to one of the world’s richest nations that’s located at the heart of Europe. Thanks to the incredible hospitality of Fritz Strolz, we got to traverse most of Switzerland in three full-packed days.

As soon as Mr. Strolz — who’s now based in Cebu and is married to the dynamic and pretty Pearle — picked us up at the train station in Zurich (after treking by train from Milan), our activities ran non-stop.

We toured Geneva for a day and visited the IOC Museum. We ascended Mt. Rigi, watching from a distance the Swiss Alps capped with snow. We visited Lucerne and Lausanne and were able to see the headquarters of such giants as FIFA (football) and FIBA (basketball). Would you believe, a total of 45 international sporting associations house their headquarters in Switzerland.

A highlight of our Swiss trek: When I disembarked in the Tennis Club of Basel — the venue where Roger Federer practiced his backhands and volleys as a child. The club has multiple red clay courts and, inside the clubhouse, photos and memorabilia of Roger (signed by the tennis artist himself) adorned the walls.

You see, in this land famous for many things world-class — Rolex watches, Swiss chocolates, pharmaceutical companies, Swiss banks — when you mention tennis, the automatic response (much like Philippine boxing equals Manny Pacquiao) is Roger Federer.

Not yesterday. Not when RF is injured and is recuperating from a knee injury. Often relegated as the groomsman of Swiss tennis because he’s always overshadowed by the Swiss maestro, it was Stanislas Wawrinka who triumphed at the U.S. Open.

Thanks to the live, two-week-long telecast of the ABS-CBN Sports + Action HD channel 701, I arose before 6 a.m. yesterday to witness the men’s final.

How did Wawrinka defeat the almost-unbeatable world no. 1 Novak Djokovic?

First, he’s not afraid of Novak. While Roger and even Rafa Nadal seem to have a mental inferiority against Novak (of the last 12 times they’ve played, Nadal has lost 11), the same is not true with Stan. While he’s only won five of the 24 times they’ve played, those victories have come at the biggest of stages.

French Open 2016. Last year, Djokovic was set to win the only major title that has eluded him. Who stood in defiance to beat him? Wawrinka. At the 2014 Australian Open, it was Stan who not only upset Novak but also beat Nadal in the final to win his first major.

Second reason why Stan’s The Man: his backhand. That one-handed topspin is glorious. Even if he’s 12 feet behind the baseline, he can wallop that shot and hit a down-the-line winner. John McEnroe calls it “the best one-handed backhand in the game.” I agree. And so does, I’m sure, Novak.

Three: He serves big. Not a 6-foot-11 behemoth like Ivo Karlovic, this Swiss still has tremendous power, often exceeding 132-mph with his serve. In the final, he served nine aces to the six of Novak.

Four: He won the bigger points. In break point chances, Stan saved 14 of 17. That’s an incredible statistic (and Houdini-like escape) against the world’s top netter. At the opposite end, he converted on six of 10 break point chances. This contrast spelled the difference in the match. Had Novak converted on his chances.. he might have won his 13th slam.

Instead, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, a new champion was coronated in New York.

Milo Little Olympics and the Palarong Pambansa

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The world-famous brand Milo, owned by the largest food conglomerate in the world (Nestle, employing a staggering 339,00 people and grossing $91 billion a year), is sponsoring the 21st edition of the MLO.

I was there in the first meeting when the Nestle executives flew to Cebu to introduce this major sporting event for the youth. Councilor Joy Young, with Ricky Ballesteros and a host of other sporting enthusiasts (including Bidoy Aldeguer) were present. If my recollection is correct of that meeting long time ago, it was held at the Ecotech Center.

This weekend, over 4,000 girls and boys from the Visayas are gathered to compete in the elementary and high school divisions.

Milo? Yes, we know the name to be the energy drink but, after a quick research, I found out that it traces its roots from a 6th century BC wrestler named Milo of Croton. 

The encyclopedia Britannica says Milo was a “Greek athlete who was the most renowned wrestler in antiquity. His name is still proverbial for extraordinary strength.”

Milo was said to have joined six Olympic games and seven Pythian Games and won 32 times. “According to legend,” it continued, “Milo trained by carrying a calf daily from its birth until it became a full-sized ox. He is also said to have carried an ox on his shoulders through the stadium at Olympia.”

In this regard, Milo is literally putting its money where it’s drinking (Milo) mouth is by sponsoring these sporting events.

Two nights ago, I visited the SM Seaside City and the giant mall was the venue for multiple MLO events: gymnastics, karatedo, table tennis, chess, arnis, scrabble and taekwondo.

This is an excellent idea for several reasons. One, the comfort of the athletes and parents inside SM. Two, you’ve got seven events housed in one venue — perfect for officials and for the general public who want to watch. Three, you’ve got all the dining and recreational options after a stressful game for the athletes.

Which brings me to think: The mall can actually be an avenue not only for movies and restaurants and shopping — but also for even larger sporting events (think of the inclusion of the bowling alleys and the skating rink).

Looking ahead to the Palarong Pambansa in 2017, it’s a toss-up, I hear, between Bacolod and Cebu. I’d say the big advantage goes to the land where Lapu-Lapu killed Magellan.

First, Monico Puentevella — a major player in Philippine sports — lost in the elections for Bacolod City mayor to Bing Leonardia. Second, we last hosted the Palaro in 1994 while Bacolod hosted it in 1998. Which means that we ought to be given a slight edge for this, right?

Expect the SM Seaside City to be busy next summer if Cebu hosts the Palaro.

Brazil: spectacular victory or catastrophe?

Only 33 days remain before the August 5 to 21 contest in Rio de Janeiro that’s called the Olympics. Over 10,500 athletes representing 207 countries will be flying to Brazil for this once-every-four-years spectacle. The Olympics will feature only 28 sports — including golf and rugby sevens — with a total of 306 sets of medals.

Rio de Janeiro is the main stage with 33 venues but it’s not the only city to welcome the athletes; there will be five others, including Brasilia (the country’s capital) and Sao Paulo, the nation’s largest.

What makes Rio special? First, it’s the inaugural Summer Olympics to be held in South America. When the final decision was announced in October 2009, Rio bested three other world-renowned cities (Tokyo, Chicago and Madrid) for the prize.

Second, Brazil’s hosting means that it is organzing two of the world’s greatest tournaments one after the other. Back in 2014, the FIFA World Cup football games of 32 nations were played in 12 cities scattered around Brazil. Now, just 26 months later, it’s an even grander gymnasium: the Olympics.

Which brings me to ask this query: Is it too much-too soon for Brazil, the world’s fifth most-populated nation with 205 million residents?

Maybe. While the allure of hosting the World Cup and the Olympics just two years apart was appealing many years back, now, with so many issues involving their financial woes, the Zika and dengue virus, the political turmoil that suspended Pres. Dilma Rousseff, the security breaches, the unfinished Olympic venues — is Rio headed not for gold but for a stumble?

The problems just keep on rising. Days ago, CNN reported that human body parts were found on the shoreline fronting the Olympic Beach Volleyball Arena. The Zika virus has prompted Rory McIlroy and Jason Day to back out; this is sad because golf is making an Olympic comeback since its last showing in 1904.

Money problems? A mammoth headache. Brazil has been struggling with its worst recession since the 1930s. They rely on oil revenues and we know how this commodity’s price has plummeted. Their economy, Latin America’s largest, shrank 5.4 percent in the first quarter.

How much did the World Cup and the Olympics cost Brazil? Roughly $15 billion was spent for the WC while next month’s 16-day tournament is estimated to cost $10 billion — not including cost overruns (which, as any good builder will tell you, is sure to happen). They may have overspent. Remember Athens? They hosted the 2004 Games. Now look at Greece.

Worse, protests have sprouted. The police staged demonstrations over unpaid salaries and a banner read: “Welcome to hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.” Reports have surfaced that robberies increased by 43 percent in Rio because of the lack of security services.

Scary. This is the bad side. But, like what has happened in Beijing and in several other cities of major sporting events, at times, this negative press is exagerrated. Let’s hope this “low expectations, high aspirations” mantra of the Brazilian organizers unfolds.

As to our beloved Philippines in Rio? There’s Eric Shauwn Cray, the 27-year-old Fil-Am and SEAG gold medalist, who’s slated to hurdle the 400-meter hurdle event. In boxing, our best chance of pocketing that elusive gold medal, we have two entrants: Charly Suarez (lightweight) and Rogen Ladon (light flyweight).

We have Ian Lariba for women’s table tennis — the first time that we’ve entered a competitor for this game we call ping-pong. Kirstie Alora will fight for our nation in taekwondo. She’s entered in the formidable women’s heavyweight division. In weightlifting, our two representatives are Hidilyn Diaz (women’s -53 kg.) and Nestor Colonia (men’s -56 kg.)

Lastly, our pride and joy: Mary Joy Tabal, whom we hope will hurdle all obstacles so she can join the 42-km. race — to be held at 9:30 a.m. on August 21, the very last day of the Olympics.

We have eight athletes going to Rio. Do we add Gilas Pilinas? Let’s watch next week.

Happy Father’s Day

When I was a Grade 7 student in La Salle Bacolod, we were asked to inscribe a short message in our graduation book. My motto read: “To be like my father.”

Those five words, 32 years later, still hold true today.

Above all things, our dad Bunny has shown us — my siblings Charlie, Randy, Cheryl, Michael and I — how to love unconditionally. He spends time with us. He listens. If we have projects or concerns that need assistance, he’s there.

He’s present. And isn’t this the best present fathers can give their children? To be there always?

From as far back as I can remember, my dad was always present. During basketball or tennis games; in Sunday family dinners or birthdays — all we need to do is ask and he’d come.

My dad is generous. Both outside and especially inside, he is a good man. He is always looking at the other person’s viewpoint, not being selfish. His temperament mimics Barack Obama’s compared to Donald Trump’s. He is fair, honest and is a positive force who motivates others.

He is a lover of sports. And since I’m “obligated” to tackle this subject in these back pages, my dad Bunny has taught us to the importance of sports. To dribble; to swing that forehand; to exercise daily. I’ll never forget our trip to watch Serena Williams and Andre Agassi win the US Open. When Manny Pacquiao fought in Macau, we did the same. And ever the boxing fan, he flew to Las Vegas and witnessed the Manny vs. Money.

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person,” Jim Valvano, the late basketball coach, once said. “He believed in me.”

Dad believes in us. He believes in others.

We thank Our Father above for giving us a father like dad.

Sweep 16 for the Cavs and LeBron?

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(Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

Like Boston and LA, or Crispa versus Toyota, or the Red Sox against the Yankees in baseball, or La Salle-Ateneo, or the Spanish neighbors Barcelona and Real Madrid — we all crave for rivalries.

Are we en route to seeing another mega-clash when Cleveland meets Golden State in The Finals starting June 2? Yes. While the Game 1 shocker of OKC was an aberration that will be corrected this week, all hopes and bets point to a repeat of last year’s final.

Here’s the interesting narrative: While Golden State shattered the record of Michael Jordan & Co. by winning 73 this regular season, it’s not them but Cleveland who’s been spotless in the playoffs.

Ten-oh. Will be it 11-0 this morning when the super-confident Cavs play in Canada? I wouldn’t bet my dog Bolt against it.  All season long, we doubted the Cavs. Kyrie Irving was absent for the first 23 games, recovering from a fractured kneecap. They fired David Blatt in January — and it’s never a good omen when you terminate a head coach midway through the intramurals.

It turns out — possibly like our political scene — that change is good. Since Tyronn Lue assumed the coaching honors, the team from Ohio has become, like the Olympic motto… faster, higher, stronger. They’re obliterating the East with a winning margin of 13.4 points per game. Their 10-zero record is the third-longest ever to begin the playoffs.

One major reason, scribes have written, was because in the beginning of his stint, Lue confronted LeBron James to “STFU.” If you don’t know what that means, experiment with an expletive-laden line that begins with “Shut the…” The coach meant to set the tone early with the 4-time MVP, as if to tell him, “Hey, ‘Bron, you may be the orchestra’s star violinist, but I’m the conductor.”

With Kevin Love healthy and Kyrie’s injuries healed, the Cavaliers have transformed themselves not only as challengers but as true title-holder contenders (the latest odds by pollster Nate Silver still puts GSW on top with a 44 percent chance of winning the trophy against 30% for the Cavs).

Now 10-0, can the Cavs go all the way and win 16-0? There’s a funny story of how LeBron’s “prediction” is coming true. Six weeks ago, he was asked by ESPN if the Cavs are ready to do battle for 20 to 25 games in the playoffs.

LeBron turned to his seatmate.

“Tristan (Thompson), how many games do we need to win in the playoffs to win a championship?” James asked.

“Sixteen,” Thompson said.

“Exactly,” James told the reporter. “Sixteen.”

Ha-ha. Almost impossible to “Sweep 16” but it’s not improbable. (Just a far-fetched thought: If they win their next six, they’ll steal this record-breaking season from GSW. The best-ever playoff run belongs to the 2001 Lakers who went 15-1.)

The main question amidst all these queries is this: Can Stephen Curry stay healthy?

Everybody but the Ohioans hope so. It would be a pity if he’s hobbled and not 111 percent. Thus far, Curry has missed six of 12 playoff games. And, if the ankle injury and the MCL sprain weren’t enough, he jumped into the stands in Game 2 against OKC that resulted in a “tennis ball” knot on his right arm. Ouch.

SC’s painful response? He inflicted pain on OKC; the league’s first unanimous MVP scoring 15 points in two minutes. Curry has to stay healthy. In the same way that LeBron went solo 12 months ago when he dribbled without Love and Irving, the same thing can’t happen to GSW. To fans of both squads, the perfect scenario would be having both teams injury-free in the finals.

(If you think I’m getting ahead of myself by discounting the Thunder, yes, that’s what I’m predicting. Based on the most forecaster Nate Silver, the Warriors have a 59 percent chance of advancing to the NBA Finals.)

Back to our assumption… A Warriors-Cavaliers finale will be one of the most exciting sporting events (not limited to the NBA) this decade. With no offense meant to OKC, I hope Durant and Westbrook don’t silence Golden State’s thunder.