Greatest of all time
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2012 - 12:00am

Today, a rare exhibit of sports memorabilia will be held at the SM City Fairview’s Activity Center on annex’s upper ground floor. Called Meralco “Greatest of All Time” sports memorabilia exhibit supported by LBC, Bayad Center and SM City Fairview, it celebrates the world’s greatest and most popular athletes, Filipino and otherwise. But in the light of heroics outside the playing fields, it gains a new meaning.

This writer and the exhibit staff will also be accepting donations for victims of the monsoon floods earlier in the week. All donations will be forwarded to selected charitable and relief organizations. It is a small echo of what the basketball and sports communities have been doing to help their countrymen who have been displaced and hurt by the raging rains and unabated floods. Sports heroes took on the role of real-life heroes the past few days.

Athletes who are part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines put on a different uniform, that of a concerned and responsible countryman, and threw themselves headlong into rescue and relief efforts. Having experienced it firsthand, I can tell you that it is unpredictable, endlessly exhausting work, and one can easily succumb to despair. But not our countrymen.

Many athletes, also students and caring neighbors, manned relief distribution centers, lent their resources, donated food and did whatever they could to help out, sometimes at risk to their own safety. Entire teams and varsity squads put aside their workouts to band together and make an impact on their communities. It was inspiring, needless to say.

Over social networks, sports personalities used their clout to bring about meaningful change. Smart Gilas head coach Chot Reyes posted on Twitter his idea for everybody in the PBA community to donate P5,000. He said if everyone in the over 200-strong PBA family pitched in, more than P1,000,000 could be raised painlessly. This was followed by an offer from the MVP Sports Foundation (of which Reyes is one of the top executives) to match the amount if the P1 million is reached. Hours later, the PBA Itself weighed in with a heft donation of its own.

Other basketball personalities also waded in. In today’s exhibit, Meralco Bolts center Asi “The Rock” Taulava’s jersey will continue the long history of sports excellence begun in the early 1970’s in the MICAA by Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz, Jimmy Mariano and other local hoops legends. Taulava will be holding a benefit game called “Built Upon The Rock” on Aug. 26 a the Ynares Center on Shaw Boulevard. 

Meanwhile, Ateneo Blue Eagle sophomore Kiefer Ravena is also putting together another charity game, with details to follow. In the preliminary game, a group of my colleagues in the sports broadcasting profession will gladly lace up our sneakers and risk embarrassing ourselves for the amusement of fans and to raise donations for flood victims. One of the last times we got together was almost a decade ago, unbelievably, to raise funds for an ailing colleague. My right leg still trembles at the memory of a pro-style knee to the thigh dealt by a former Ginebra player (now a college coach). Oh, well, it was for a good cause.

There are many athletes considered greatest of all time in today’s exhibit: Manny Pacquiao, Paeng Nepomuceno, Efren Reyes, Django Bustamante, Pele, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bruce Lee, Michael Jordan, Horace Grant, Jaworski, Nonito Donaire, Dwight Howard, the NBA, PBA, ABL and many unforgettable sports teams. But the real flesh and blood heroes in and out of the sports world who have stepped forward to help our countrymen add a greater meaning to the world.

For me, those are greatest of all time actions.

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Follow this writer on Twitter @billvelasco.

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