31 years
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2017 - 4:00pm

Has it really been 31 years?

In 1986, a month after EDSA, our class graduated, full of hope and promise in a new beginning. The new regime stepping out of the shadow of Martial Law brought with it an explosive expansion of media: newspapers, tabloids, TV networks and radio stations springing to life, a new grounds for us to make our own. From our vantage point, there seemed so much opportunity.

We were young twenty-somethings who felt we could conquer the world, and some of us soon succumbed to it, instead. It was a harsh lesson: the world you wanted to take a bite out of, bites back. Many of us weren’t equipped to handle it. We ran headlong into the entrenched, older people who were old-fashioned, closed-minded, or simply did not like having young whippersnappers tell them how to do their jobs. We, on the other hand, were so confident that what they knew from experience, we had learned from books, and that would be enough. Boy, were we wrong.

So where was sports broadcasting in 1986 and the rest of the decade? There was the PBA, and everything else. The Tour of Luzon was the centerpiece of summer, along with the Palarong Pambansa. Darts, billiards, golf and bowling provided monthly stories. But it still wasn’t enough for a young cub to be assigned to a young buck as a regular beat. And how does one write a story to begin with?

I remember my very first big story. AC Green, then the power forward of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, flew to Manila as part of a Christian group of basketball athletes. We even had him on our morning show. This was a time when a few of the more daring men also wore shoulder pads on occasion. I cringe at the memory, but I once interviewed Pres. Cory Aquino dressed that way, so I can’t really complain. And it took me two months to learn to tie a full Windsor knot. For a segment host on a daily show, that’s an eternity.

But because there was so little competition on the beat as a broadcast journalist, we rubbed elbows with the more seasoned newspaper reporters, who often looked sideways at us when we showed up. They expressed the sentiment that we were overpaid and underworked. This, while they sat sipping iced teas in clubhouses waiting for golfers to come in, while my cameraman, the late Rey Teodoro, and I baked in the sun trying to catch the winning drives and putts. And just where could you pee in the middle of a gold course in 1987?

There were so many sports coming up, it was fun to learn so much. Boxing was an early favorite, though I didn’t enjoy being splattered by the blood and sweat of Pretty Boy Lucas’ opponent at ringside. Eventually, one would add more and more sports to one’s arsenal. In the last decade alone, I’ve had the privilege of covering international competitions (in the Philippines and overseas) in new sports like rugby, windsurfing, physique in bodybuilding, mixed martial arts, tarung derajat, motocross, lawn bowls, pétanque, orienteering, cup stacking, mixed martial arts, American football, cheerleading and, just this year, tchoukball. That’s 14 new sports, not counting the new sports the decade before that. And I’m sure I’ve still left something out.

Multi-sport competitions like the SEA Games, Asian Games and Olympic Games alternated between PTV and other networks. Silverstar Communications’ visionary Louie Kierulf invested in a struggling collegiate league called the UAAP, while the NCAA basketball finals weren’t even being televised. Save for our news reports, no one saw the brilliant display of scoring by little Eugene Quilban of San Sebastian against Perpetual Help, as he lit them up for 101 points in the three-game series. And before the birth of the Philippine Sports Commission, the golden age of Philippine sports was spearheaded by Project: Gintong Alay. With no TV coverage from the Philippines, we were the only broadcast team in the 1989 SEA Games, where the Philippines was cheated (sounds familiar) in Kuala Lumpur.

All this hard work pounding the beat did reap its rewards: a weekly sports show entitled, well, SportsWeek, with the late Frankie Evangelista; SCOOP president Sim Sotto creating the Broadcast Sports News Agency of the Year Award; and a special citation from Gintong Alay for ABS-CBN News’ SEA Games coverage. Funny, none of those awards exist anymore. Seems you got a lot more done before the Internet and traffic slowed down our lives to a crawl. We routinely logged 100 kilometers a day on city streets on weekdays, much more on weekends.

And when you hit the ground running, you’re bound to bump into some walls. Inevitably, sports broadcasting became big business. Until the late 1990’s, merit was a big player in how much you got paid, and if you got any perks at all. Before long, favoritism and politics seeped into the picture, and talents who showed the loyalty and professionalism everyone preached were being shoved aside for the newer, younger, cheaper inexperienced favorites. No tenure, no benefits. 

As in sports, in time you learn to evolve, find work, create, leave things behind. People move on to other work, leave the country, die, or all of the above. The best of times and the worst of times all come to pass. Pain fades, people drift apart, adopt new beliefs, seek their place in the sun. Sometimes, you don’t know if you’re just making a living or truly building a life. Some people, actually many people, will decide you don’t matter; a few will stay. Make their choice matter, since both are part of the Divine Plan. Be thankful for the blessings, seen and unseen.

Do I have another 31 years? Strange how the game gets more frantic after halftime. More so when it’s the game of your life. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with