It’s 1:15 AM and I just watched a Gilas team compete hard against a veteran Argentina team. At this point, I’m weary: I spent the last 3 hours commuting from work to home just in time to eat dinner before the match. This was after hours of laboring at work and with just 4 hours of sleep coming off that Greece game.

I’m weary, I’m tired and I’m downtrodden. After this game, I’m also heartbroken and I’ve almost used up my last reserves of energy praying to God while clapping, slapping, shouting and cursing. In a couple of hours, I have to wake up again (if I ever get to sleep) and I have to go through the motions of the day. Most of us have to.

That feeling that you’re getting? Triple that feeling and that’s what this Gilas team is feeling right now. Two close games that went down the wire. No wins to show for and 2 giant Ls on the standings. We all have to understand: although most of us are happy that our tiny 34th ranked team took two basketball powerhouses to the wire, these men are not. They didn’t travel thousands of kilometers, spend months away from their beloved families and work tirelessly through the day to get their asses handed to them. No, these players came here to compete and win. There is no other way for an athlete to thrive than when he has that unquenchable thirst for glory and victory. So to almost taste that victory twice, to smell that win twice and then not take them? That’s awful. It gives you an unbearable, truly gut-wrenching feeling of void that sticks on you. Truly, there is no glory in losing.

Don’t get me wrong, I want these players to feel like they’ve earned our respect as basketball players and deserve all the glory that comes with being the first Philippine National Team to compete in the World Cup in decades. That’ll be written and re-written till it sounds like a broken record.

But I want these players to remember this feeling. That gut-wrenching feeling and own it. Empower them and be their source of strength through this weary times and against Puerto Rico and Senegal. I want them to make it a part of who they are. There may not be glory in  losing but it doesn’t mean it’s a lose-lose situation. As the great Michael Jordan said:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” 

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

I’m brimming with pride and adulation for these players. The fight they showed through 3 games is remarkable and tragic in its tale. But we have to remember, a loss is a loss and these competitive players have to wake up in two days, with an 0-3 slate and 2 more talented teams ahead. No rest for the weary, I guess.

It’s 2:12 AM and I’m dying to get some sleep. But I can’t, I just can’t. It truly is mind numbing working out all the “if only”s. In about 7 hours, I have to summon the strength to go about my day with the weight of a game I just watched and never played in. In about a few hours, the Gilas team, with a heavier burden and a lot more time to kill, will have to do the same. The only difference is that while I have a distraction that is work, these Gilas players don’t have one. It’s their (well deserved, but ill-timed) rest tomorrow. And while I never actually played in the game, these players do (or did). And it’ll haunt their day. But I’m not worried. If there’s one thing I know about Filipinos it’s that once we own up to our defeats, we rise up way better than anyone expected.

Glory may escape those who never tasted victory but proud and resilient losers like ourselves are never out. We may be down now but we’re never out.

So yes, Gilas lost. Again. In a close one (it still hurts). But tomorrow, all of us, including our guys, will rise with the stench of defeat and the prospect of a better tomorrow built by a hard-earned today.

Own that pain and make it your own. As they say, no pain, no glory.

Through the ashes of defeat we will soar

Through the ashes of defeat we will soar.