Love Begets Respect in Playing the Game of Basketball

In that widely-documented VisMin Super Cup controversy that shook the Filipino sports community, we learned that the love of the game should give rise to a high level of respect in playing basketball.

I love basketball.

I love to watch it. I love to play it. I love to read about it.

I’m not good at it, though. I never made it to the varsity team in any year I was in school. I was on the bench in an exhibition game where my five teammates on the floor were breathing from their mouths, but they never even considered putting me in the game.

But still, I love it.

It led me to meet a bunch of interesting people. It helped me adjust quickly to a life overseas because I met people who love the same game. No matter how much I love it though, it never really led me to a consistent career.

The most important buzzer beaters I’ve made are when I count down by myself in a mall with an imaginary ball and court.

Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. Of course you’ve done that.

As a person who was born in the basketball-crazed nation of the Philippines, I know I’m not alone in all these feelings. This week, we watched people step on that love with such disdain like it was a cockroach that sneaked up on you.

The Siquijor Mystics and the Lapu-Lapu City Heroes figured in a VisMin Super Cup game marred by serious game-fixing issues. (Photo via Tiebreaker Times)

Breaking down the VisMin Super Cup controversy

The teams of Siquijor Mystics and Lapu-Lapu City Heroes managed to insult the game of basketball in an incredible fashion despite the little coverage they have. They missed layups even 7-year-olds are castrated for, blatant fouls fit for MMA, and unforgivable missed free throws filled the two quarters of “basketball” that they played.

They can chalk it up to a “bad day” all they want, but as professionals, they can do better than that.

You, dear reader, might shoot a better free throw than any of the guys in that particular game. People have been suspended and banned because of the incident, but we have yet to find answers as to what motivated them to do what they did.

Remember the guy who shot the left and right handed free throws?

His name is Rendell Senining.

While the league handed out sanctions, no one addressed the incident directly yet, except for this guy. Senining sat down with former UP Fighting Maroon Mikee Reyes so that he could air out his side in the latter’s podcast.

I’ll save you 30 minutes of your time (sorry, Mikee) by giving you a brief summary of what was discussed.

  • Senining repeatedly claims he loves basketball. (About 50x probably, but who’s counting?)
  • He said he hasn’t been able to sleep since everything went down.
  • Reyes tried to establish that this guy is a legit player with strong mentors in Coach Olsen and Nash Racela as well as Joel Banal, among others.
  • Senining claimed that they noticed Siquijor not taking the game seriously, and lost interest playing the game.
  • He claims that there’s no game fixing involved.
  • They “trained hard” and “prepared well” for the game, but the opposition gave them uncontested layups and easy shots, making them “feel bad” because the other team is “disrespecting the game.”
  • They wanted to stop the game, but felt that walking out would make them look bad.
  • Coaches had “no instructions” for them but players decided to act by themselves and “give back to them what they were giving us” which was basically nonsense basketball.
  • They thought the best way to stop the game was to play it the same way as the other team.
  • He admitted that he was wrong in shooting free throws with each hand. He said it was because he was too emotional.

With no due respect, I firmly believe that his appearance in the podcast was his poor attempt to save face.

Kudos to Mikee Reyes for trying his best to be diplomatic during his interview, but how do you explain to someone who loves the game of basketball that the “best” way to deal with a team deliberately playing crappy is by playing with the same disinterest and blatant disrespect?

These are men who are paid to play basketball – a dream for most of us – and they decide that playing crap for crap is the “only” way to “stop” the game.

In a boxing ring, if your opponent drops his guard and asks you to punch him, you punch him. You don’t drop your guard to ask him to punch you as well.

On the court, if you’re given a free lane to the basket, you take it. If you can beat them by 200 points with six players getting a triple double, you, by all means, should go for it. You don’t match stupid basketball with even more stupidity.

Considering the work you put in, and the preparation you made, isn’t it an insult to your work ethic to just throw a game like the nonsense your opponent is playing?

Their actions are disgusting for the game, and an insult to anyone who appreciates basketball.

Senining was fined Php 15,000 and was suspended for the season for his actions.

However, without the interview, he’s just a guy who attempted to shoot with either hand on both his free throws. After giving an interview, we learned that he “loves the game” and is a “competitor” who “wants to win” but was fully aware of what he did in his free throws.

In either case, does that kind of thinking warrant a spot in any basketball team, professional or not?

He wanted to clean his hands by being apologetic, but no amount of crocodile tears and admissions of “love” for the sport can mask the disrespect that everyone involved in that game showed.

At just 25 years old, I hope he has other skills apart from basketball because I don’t think he’s going to earn anything significant from the sport in the future.

It could be argued that it’s “just one mistake” and he should be given a chance. However, considering the pedigree of the coaches he played for and how he reacted in “the heat of the moment,” I lean to the belief that he is either:

  • Fully aware of game-fixing norms, hence was acting accordingly – a bad look for any of his coaches.
  • A betting man himself, and bet on the +22.5 or under 140 points that was allegedly the line for that game.
  • Not very smart or loyal, as it didn’t seem like a “team idea” for him to find a way to air his side of the story. His interview didn’t even help make him look better, making it a not-so-smart move.

As that Parokya Ni Edgar song goes, “binabasura ng iba ang siyang pinapangarap ko.”

Not all of us were blessed to be skilled enough at basketball to be paid to play it, and yet these guys who are making some money for it are deliberately messing it up.

If their actions are what “love for the game” look like, then do we, as a collective basketball fanbase, not understand what love is?

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