Good Sportsmanship: will we see this after tomorrow?

Out of the 10 presidential candidates, only one will emerge as the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Nine will lose. Out of eight vice-presidential aspirants, seven will be defeated. Of the 61 vying for the 12 senatorial slots, 49 will go home millions of pesos poorer and become, like you and me, an ordinary Filipino mamamayan.

Here in Cebu, either Tommy Osmeña or Atan Guardo will lose. Same with Mike and Alvin and Georgia and the seven others vying to be Cebu City mayor: only one will smile 40 hours from today while the beaten candidates will sulk and cry foul. Jonas or Nerissa? Pelaez vs. Radaza? Tining or Benhur? In each contest, only one wins. Plenty lose.

It’s like sports. One is awarded the Olympic gold medal while dozens, sitting below, dejected, look up at the podium where the smiling champion stands tall. In sports, like politics, there’s no second place. “You don’t win silver,” someone once said. “You lose the gold.” That’s life. That’s politics. That’s sport.

The question is, after tomorrow, will these multitude of beaten candidates for councilors and congressmen and vice mayors and governors—will they, like good sports, accept defeat?

Sadly, the answer is often NO. It’s easy to complain. To say that you’ve been cheated, that your opponent did this dirty-trick or that vote-buying or this smear-job. Nanikas siya, plenty argue. Sure, sore losers do that. My interest is this: Who can accept defeat like John McCain? Or Hillary Clinton?

If you recall, the U.S. elections in November 2008 was one of the fiercest. Out of near-obscurity, this neophyte black senator from Chicago named Barack Obama had the temerity to run for president. He had the guts to attempt becoming the most powerful man in the world! And Obama dared battle against the seemingly-unbeatable Mrs. Clinton, the former first lady. Obama won. Against John McCain, we know who won.

My point is this: In both contests, first in the Democratic primary, as soon as Hillary lost, promptly, she faced CNN and the worldwide audience to accept defeat. Though the battle was long and ruthless, Hillary congratulated Barack and vowed to support him. McCain? The same. In less than 30 minutes of Obama’s victory, the former POW hero stood before his Republican base to proclaim Obama’s greatness.

That’s greatness. That’s fairness. That’s being a good sport. That’s in America, not in the Philippines.

My wish is, like good sports who’ve fought hard but came in second or third or seventh place, tomorrow’s losers will possess the same poise and class.

Remember MVP? Manny V. Pangilinan was disgraced last month when it was uncovered that parts of his Ateneo graduation speech were copied from, among others, J.K. Rowling and Oprah. MVP promptly resigned as Ateneo chairman. He returned his honorary doctorate degree. That’s class. That’s accepting a mistake and moving on. That’s being a good sport. MVP’s move reminds me of my all-time favorite quotation: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, lost almost 300 games, missed the game-winning shot 26 times. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” Who said that? Michael Jordan.

Losing is painful. Though I’ve never been a political candidate—and, in all likelihood, never will be one—I can imagine the suffering of the loser: months of campaigning are now history, all that hand-shaking, the pulong-pulongs, the non-stop smiling. Losing is dreadful. Nobody wants to lose. But, in this earth and since we’re not yet in heaven, this is reality. Though inhuman, it’s being human. Only one wins. In politics. In sports.

That’s why to me, as much as I’ll be impressed by tomorrow’s winners—for their political acumen in victory—my loudest applause and proudest salute will go more to the losing candidates who accept, quickly and with humility, defeat. As basketball coach Harry Sheeny once said: “It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser.”

One thought on “Good Sportsmanship: will we see this after tomorrow?

  1. Might this be that politics in the Philippines is just about the most profitable enterprise one can get into….

    …. if one wins?
    Either way, it’s a big gamble for all the marbles.

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