Basketball heaven

Aldo Avinante - Philstar.com
Basketball heaven
Members of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) pose at the conclusion of the PSA Cup at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium Monday night.
Angelica Castro / PSA

Thank you, basketball.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

Late last year, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and persistent depressive disorder. Embarrassment, shame and guilt — these emotions dominated my thoughts every day. I have a loving family — and two beautiful and healthy kids — what more can I ask for? It took a long time for me to accept that I needed help finally.

It's been a wild ride for the world the past few years — the pandemic, lockdown, and getting back to normal. Wars erupting left and right, and countless tragic stories of poverty; racism, economic meltdown, inflation, and everything else in between.

And to sadly add to that, we also live in a "perfect world" where everybody shows the good, the better, and certainly best versions of our lives online — a double-edged sword for everyone in this digitalized world.

I am sharing my story not to ask for pity; I am writing hoping that somehow I can give someone the courage to speak out and acknowledge that sometimes we need help. Because we all do.

My therapist shared that we needed to find something to look forward to again, outside of family life. We need to take care of ourselves.

And thanks to the Philippine Sportswriters Association basketball tournament — a weekly gathering of the Philippines' sportswriting community — these past few months of my life were injected with vigor and happiness.

After working abroad for almost three years, not knowing I was going through mental problems, I compounded it by shutting myself out from the world, mostly focusing on my kids and nothing else.

But in this tournament, I reconnected with old friends, especially my former boss Dino Maragay, and made new ones, especially with the brotherhood we have built with our team, the Capital1 Solar Boys.

Feeling out of place in preparation for the tournament because of so many new faces, we approached the competition. I slowly got to know our team, week in and week out. Despite me being out of shape and past my best athletic years, the team always encouraged and believed in me.

The author works his way through the opposing team's defense.
Angelica Castro/PSA

I was a bit timid in going back because I have not been in the circle for many years. But the seniors and founders of Philippine sportswriting in our team, who I looked up to, gave mentorship every step of the way. It felt like I was welcomed back with open arms.

I looked forward to this slice of basketball heaven every Tuesday night, my sanctuary for as long as I can remember. The best part of it was being able to bring along my son for him to watch me play the game I love.

Sadly, the tournament is over, and we also were not able to accomplish our goal of winning the championship after getting to the finals as the top seed. It hurts me to the core because I was able to be on the most selfless team I have ever been on — genuine, sincere and supportive of each other every step of the way.

Despite the heartache, I shared with the team the struggles of what I was going through, in our last dinner for the season — I was able to express my gratitude to the team, for helping me get back to my feet and get better for another reason and most importantly, for the family we were able to build together. I do hope we get another chance to battle with each other and accomplish our goals as a team because in my eyes, we deserve the opportunity to celebrate each other.

The 2024 PSA Cup is a tournament to remember. Thank you to the PSA President Nelson Beltran, Commissioner Ramon Bonilla, and the PSA family for allowing us to play the game we cover on the sidelines.

And to the game of basketball, thank you for being the one constant thing in my life.

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