This appears in the Wednesday, April 13, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
It’s a child’s game all right.
by rick olivares
Franco's team just won a game. But Franco (not his real name) was far from ecstatic. You see, he only scored eight points.
Sounds selfish, right? That he’s looking out for personal gain rather than the sum of the parts?
The truth is… he’s scared of his father. Inside the joyous locker room, he’s subdued to the point where he seems to be troubled. There’s a slight shiver. Because of fear.
When Franco gets home, he knows he’s in for a beating. Yes, a beating from his father.
The father expects him to score in double digits every game. He’s the meal ticket. To the big time. To the pros and the multi-million peso contracts. The endorsements that will set them up for life. Or so the father believes.
So you’ll have to forgive Franco when sometimes, he drifts out of the offense and goes for the stats. That pisses off his coach who has no idea of what is going on. However, Franco is a starter on his squad so he’s given just a little bit of leeway. Scorers gotta score, the coach reasons.
Franco? He thinks that basketball used to be fun. It was except now he feels like it is a curse. It’s fun when he’s hitting double digits. It isn’t fun when his guns go dry or he’s in foul trouble. Worse is when he’s benched because there is nothing he can do about his situation. So when he sits for longer than usual he mentally checks out. Sometimes, it messes him up and he gets mad at a teammate who came out of nowhere to become a star. It isn’t that Franco is jealous. His life depends on it.
Or else, he’s going to get tenderized by the father like beef steak. The bruises. You know Suzanne Vega’s song “Luka?” Yeah, he walked into the door again he tells teammates. Just don’t ask why it happens often enough.
One thing you should know is the father… and it's shocking… he’s a pastor. Just don’t ask why.
How about Mark (not his real name too). He’s on television doing analysis. He’s as smart as they come. He works as an assistant coach to a basketball team. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant. His players? They think he is full of crap. He operates using smoke and mirrors.
During games where his team is playing he yells, shouts, insults his charges like they aren’t people at all. Let’s be clear, it isn’t the angry words, it’s that every sentence is started and punctuated with an expletive and an insult to the boy’s intelligence. For some, the anger is fine although not every player looks at it that way. Words can hurt but what hurts more are when they get slugged. Mark doesn’t slug them. It’s the other assistant coach whose mouth is just as foul if not more. But Mark knows what’s going on and he does nothing.
After one time, a loss, the team lined up as if they were headed for the confessional box. One by one, they took their penance — the traditional scolding and a punch to the gut so they’ll not commit the same mistake. That is until the next. Some of the players have since transferred to other schools. The parents? They don’t want to say anything because they are afraid of the coaches.
Alex (yes not his real name) was looking forward to playing for this team from the U-belt. Many of the players who went to this school and have since gone on to the pros are his idols. Except when you say “U-belt” it means something entirely different as he was lashed by a coach using his belt with its brass buckle. It left a huge mark on his back one time that Alex tried to conceal it from his parents. However, his parents saw it one time. Now they are filing a lawsuit not only against the coach but the school.
A parent asks, “What is going on today? What is this win at all costs mentality? Because some players keep quiet, it’s like they accept this as real life and an everyday occurrence. We are teaching our children the wrong values and it becomes a vicious cycle. And this is supposed to be a child’s game.”
Apparently, it’s not. It’s a livelihood. A meal ticket. Or even the means to a championship.