Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ESPN's Scott Van Pelt Describes Azkals Bandwagon Kind Of

"Well, that's me. I'm Superman.And France was like Krypton. You know, on Krypton everybody was Superman. You make a nice sauce, everybody makes a nice sauce. You say hello to a woman with your French accent, everybody say hello! But here, here on Earth, this is the place where I knew I had special powers. I tell the bankers about my little village in France, and they all say, how brave and amazing you are, Anton. I could read the phone book to a woman and they become hypnotized, wet as morning daisies. " from the movie Addicted to Love (1997)

Listen to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt talk about all the fans on the soccer bandwagon. You can listen to it here. He may as well have been talking about the Azkals fans. Having fervor is one thing if it's consistent but it's not. This Azkal mania is a fad because 95% of their fans did not watch soccer even two years ago. If you are in the 5% I have no quarrel with you. Van Pelt also talked about American fans and their sense of entitlement. Like they were supposed to beat Mexico. Soccer means more to Mexicans than it does to Americans and Filipinos combined. The two countries that are the most apathetic to soccer are America and the Philippines. I talked about last year here.



Van Pelt in his five-minute opinion piece might as well have been talking about Filipinos instead of the Americans. The similarities are all there. The Americans went nuts about the women's World Cup team. The Filipinos went nuts about the Azkals. The Americans do not care one lick about the women soccer teams that play every year. The Filipinos also do not care about any kind of soccer played within their shores not involving the Azkals. When it comes to soccer both the Americans and the Filipinos are not exactly known for their devotion. Which makes the hysteria of the Azkals even more mystifying to me.

In the words of Van Pelt "Irrationally Exuberant. "There is one difference though between the Americans and the Filipinos. The Americans won the women’s World Cup in 1999 and were in the finals in 2011. The Filipinos beat a team whose only mention in Google was that they lost to the Azkals. I should know. I tried.

Van Pelt puts it very simply. Soccer is #1 in Mexico and no one cares in the US. Why does the US feel let down by losing to Mexico? Just like all the Pinoys who know nothing about soccer because they never did care yet expect heap unprecedented celebrity on the Azkals. One big difference with the US though. Van Pelt mentions seven different sports leagues that easily get more attention than soccer. Filipinos only love and only know basketball in terms of team sport. That is their universe and sole sport. Nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is the sense of entitlement to a different sport that knew nothing about even two years ago. Listen to the 4-minute mark of the clip I provide of Van Pelt. The key phrase he uses to describe the American fans 150% applies to Filipino fans " You are new to pretending you care". That describes Filipinos. Pretending to be something they are not.

First of all let me ask how can you be crazy over something you had no interest in two years ago? The promoters and the sponsors salute you for your fickleness. Like I said the Azkals are perceived to be Filipino and perceived to be good. That is why you watch. The problem is they are neither. Nationality and sports are a bad mix anyway. US and Philippines deserve International Soccer success the least.

I remember being in a baseball diamond in North Vancouver. This was a Sunday afternoon and outdoors. Suddenly there was this spontaneous motorcade. Iranian flag flying. Iranians so proud they beat the US in some World Cup match. Americans to my knowledge were not reciprocating in terms of grief.

Americans are peculiar that way. They don’t care about your sports leagues. They know you will still watch what is theirs way more than they will watch what is yours. The World Series, The Super Bowl and the NBA Finals are broadcast everywhere.

This is really about love. No other way to put it. Everybody else is passionate about soccer. 7 days a week 365 days a year. Sorry to break it you pinoys but that passion produces world-class players.

If there was a gradual ramp up of fanaticism and expectations for the Azkals then that would be ok. The bandwagon just went from to empty to full in such a short a time. Like I said many times before it's because of KSP (Lack of attention in English) . And KSP is the root of all-evil as far as I am concerned.

The “Basta Pinoy Da Best” mentality excludes work and determination. It only takes ethnicity into consideration. Am I saying that mentality is both self entitled and racist? You are smart enough to answer that question. Does that mentality lead to world-class results? I believe no. That's just me.

To every action is a reaction. This editorial is my reaction to the Azkals fans sense of entitlement. The world loves soccer, the Philippines does not . They love the Azkals not soccer. There is a difference. They love the Azkals but even then not for very long. There was no boyhood inspiration to inspire our youth for generations to excel in soccer. As a result there was no effort to be any kind of soccer power even in South East Asia. We expect to be significant globally?

Pinoy fanboyism is a topic I explore in this blog time and time again. Like most other places in life. Fanaticism and rationality are rarely companions. The guy beside me loves to looks at some local discussion forum. One active participant used as his signature “ the Azkals will rule the football world.” well if being clobbered by a team that is not a World Cup staple is his idea of ruling the football world then he is 100% correct. Go Azkals. You rule.

Proof that our soccer love is so superficial is that even to get on the field with other countries we have to resort to coaches and players born and trained elsewhere. Not here. National team indeed. We are cheering the symbol of the flag on the jersey and not the substance behind the jersey. A substance devoid of anything organic to the Philippines. Yet we cheer. People who were not trained here. People who don't converse like we do. People who don't learn from the schools we learn from. People who can't sing the national anthem. Yet we all identify with them . Does not make sense to me.

All of us at one point has either represented their high school or cheered for an entity from their high school. That sense of belonging comes from some common experience. You had the same history teacher, ate at the same cafeteria and went to the same social functions. That team that kicks around the soccer ball that you cheer for are strangers in a strange land. Your land. They cant relate to you, yet you so willingly lend your enthusiasm unconditionally. There is a difference from true spirit and mercenaries. A lover and a whore. However you justified this gulf of disconnect in your mind all for the sake of the illusion of world attention. The country is so fixated they ignore the gulf of disconnect.

The criteria for country eligibility in the World Cup. Designed more for commercial interests and more diversity but not indicative of representing a nation as you can see by the makeup of the Azkals squad. FIFA fabricated nationality for you. And you bit.

Look at the Azkals roster. Lots of Fil- Danish, Fil -Ams, Fil- Spaniards, Fil - Germans. There is a reason why there is no significant player who is Fil-Fil. Because we suck. Like anything else in life you will suck if you don't care. We don't care so much that we have to resort to hyphen Filipinos. Guys who I guarantee you did not take the jeepney going to school growing up. Yet the Pinoy identifies with them. How many pinoys do you know with a surname of SHROCK? You guys would cheer Donkey if you thought he got you guys attention.

Allow me to question national identity since that to me is the fuel that runs this bandwagon of the Azkals. It sure as heck is not an intrinsic interest in soccer/ football since it is none existent here.

You want me to answer the question what would happen if we fielded a team of homegrown talent in International competition? Among countries that eat, sleep and breathe the sport? In the vernacular “palpak”. Based on our culture we prioritize basketball and we can't even excel there when faced with international competition. And these are all countries that prioritize soccer over basketball.

It's obvious FIFA has very liberal rules who can represent a country. That's why our “national “ team is not really representative of this country. Not one of them went to a local public school at any level. Soccer is the world's most popular sport except for here. The World Cup is a huge money making event. Not just on the year of the actual tournament but also the qualifying tournaments as well. The league will make more money the more countries vie to get into the actual tournament. The big boys like Italy, Germany and Brazil will be fine. It's the little guy whose money FIFA could use and does use but without liberal roster rules many of the little guys will not be part of the process. This country has not been able to field of homegrown players that could hold their own in true world completion. But FIFA has given this country hope by compromising national identity. This perceived patriotism is merely an illusion. You all want to cheer for the Pinoy. This Azkal experience should at least make you question what really is a Pinoy? What qualifies one to bear the Philippines name in international competition? Shouldn't there be some cultural correlation to the inhabitants of the Philippines? Or are you just cheering for the name on the uniform regardless what is inside that uniform?

FIFA's definition of what is a Filipino I suspect has more to do with commercial considerations than cultural ones. Yet you all fall for it. You rather have minimal success even if the team has very little to do with the country they are representing. Are the Azkals made of patriots or opportunists? You be the judge. This team has little in common with you yet they represent you. Is your national identity for sale? I am weird, I am different. I rather fail with whats truly mine than to succeed with something that is barely mine.

FIFA stands to gain more (make more money) the more hope the little guy has. Without hope there will be no Azkals mania. Without hope there will be very little chance of filling up the Rizal Coliseum for a sport pinoys care little about. The hope generated by the hyphened pinoys runs the bandwagon. And FIFA could not be happier. It is in their best financial interest that the stadiums here are full. You can claim to be patriotic but the true test of that is will you stand for your country if it's a true representation on the field and they are getting slaughtered. Its the pinoy proclivity for short cuts that allows them to bask in what little glory there is in beating Sri Lanka even though the country has not locally and remotely paid the price it takes to be great. Its the pinoy proclivity for short cuts that prevents them for seeing the situation for what it is. Us taking what little glory there is to be had be beating Sri Lanka using ringers. What are ringers?

The dictionary defines a “ringer” as a contestant entered in a competition under false pretenses. It takes three things to be really good in anything. Discipline, Attitude and Consistency. You can not convince me a guy who is so used to following sports for over 30 years that the Philippines has applied that to soccer.

Are you too wrapped up in the pinoy label to see that the team representing you is not representative of you? It is a fabrication more on marketing lines than national lines. The Dragonboat team is a totally different story. They not only represent you but they SERVE you. The team is composed of people trained from our own military. Too bad none of you cared about Dragonboat racing two weeks ago.

Twenty years ago George Will wrote a book called Men at Work. The subtitle was The Craft of Baseball. What he meant by that was the attention to detail the best put in what they do in order to be the best. How Tony Gwynn approached hitting. How Cal Ripken Jr. approached fielding. The minutia is fascinating. Pinoys don't care about soccer. That's why they suck as a soccer nation. That's why they have to drag in all the Fil Hyphens internationally to give the illusion that 1) we care 2) we are good.

Big fish in a small pond. That's what the Fil Hyphens are. Not significant as soccer players in their real country of origin but come over here and they are dating Angel Locsin. They could not in a million years crack their real national teams because they take the best of the best. They come here where soccer is not taken seriously and they are celebs. There is a vast difference between passion and a fad. Soccer here is a fad. The country as a whole did not care about the World Cup in 2010. Yet the nation feels entitled to quality. Read that quote again from the top about Superman and Krypton. It is not actual "fact" since Superman gains his powers from a yellow sun. That’s what you get reading the blog of a nerd. Attention to detail. Details like the Azkals are not pinoy. Details that the Azkals are not good.













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