Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ozil’s resignation, basketbrawl & racism in Philippine sports

Ozil’s resignation, basketbrawl & racism in Philippine sports
by rick olivares

The news of football player Mesut Ozil’s resignation from the German national team citing racism as a result comes at a terrible time.

Most recently, there was that now infamous basketbrawl between Australia and the Philippines; one of the ugliest fight scenes in sports history. Some Filipino players called out the racist taunts by the Australians.

While that may be possible, that in my opinion was exacerbated by getting blown off the court and that caused many a fuse to shorten.

Furthermore, we as a race aren’t so squeaky clean as we like to believe we are. That happens in local playing fields and doesn’t excuse the Filipino athlete who also engages in that kind of talk whether miniscule or not.

During last summer’s Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup, the College of St. Benilde and the Colegio de San Juan de Letran nearly came to blows over alleged remarks made by players from the latter team towards the former’s Clement Leutchu and Fil-American, Yankee Haruna. When asked if they would like to file a formal complaint, CSB team officials decided not to push through with it.

While it is entirely their right, even the way it was swept it under the rug, is disconcerting. This attitude of not offending anyone even if one was actually offended is off-putting.

The Australia-Philippines fight might not have been precipitated by a racist taunt, but it was allegedly part of it.

Prior to that, the last big brawl on domestic soil regarding something of that sort was when San Beda basketball players mauled San Sebastian volleyball coach Roger Gorayeb. At that time, then Red Lions player Ola Adeogun went after San Sebastian men’s volleyball players over alleged racists remarks – inside San Beda’s own campus. Gorayeb, who at that time was coaching a women’s match in a nearby court, rushed to the defense of his men’s team and was assaulted.

Incidentally, Gorayeb sued the people who assaulted him and won an out-of-court settlement.

Are these isolated incidents?

Last January, during a heated match between the San Miguel Beermen and NLEX, Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao was alleged to have said racist slurs in the direction of SMB’s Chris Ross.

No. Not at all. It happens a lot locally and I have witnessed a lot of it. I saw how it drove Adeogun and Bright Akhuetie, then playing for the University of Perpetual Help really crazy. Whether opponents used it as a tactic is beside the point (hey, the Australians can also claim that if they really did say it as well). It was used and not more than once.

Wasn’t it not too long ago where a television commentator noted that the Fil-foreigners who suit up for the Azkals weren’t Filipino? And didn’t a former coach also deride to the locals? I heard that personally from many a player yet when pressed for an official comment they chose not to. For what – fear of reprisal? Team management?

Yet when Filipinos watching that now infamous game with Hong Kong during a football match in 2013, we were showered with so much racist abuse. It really does go around.  Having said that, racism is clearly a problem. And in these dangerous times we live in when populist leaders and extreme nationalism has reared its head, it demands cooler heads, respect and understanding which are all in short supply nowadays.

We hush when it’s a domestic concern but speak out when hurled by other people towards our direction.

Worse, is a double standard in “race”.

I also recall similar attacks levied against Fil-Hungarian decathlete David Bunevacz who after he failed to win any medal in any track and field competition, was decried as a “foreigner”. However, upon his arrival, he – like any Filipino of mixed descent – is tagged as “Filipino”.

In fact, over 80 years ago, scientist Albert Einstein also said something identical: “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German, and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

And thus, Mesut Ozil’s remarks about being German when they win but an immigrant when they lose isn’t far-fetched. All one has to do is read the chatter surrounding it to see how terrible it is. In this day and age of multi-culturalism with extreme forms of nationalism at its borders, it’s a damn shame. In fact, it is disgusting.

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