Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sports. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super Bowl

This is perhaps one of the more anachronistic posts you'll ever read. On one hand, it's me talking about, of all things, sports. On the other hand, it's a Filipino talking about American Football. Now I'd like to clarify that last statement. There are lots of Western sports which Filipinos are fanatics about. We Filipinos simply adore Basketball for example. During the FIFA World Cup, Filipinos were excited about Soccer. With American Football... I get more dialogue talking about Ultimate Frisbee than American Football.

That's not to say we've never heard of American Football. We know about it, we just don't play it. I remember during one lunch break, my high school class thought that hey, we should try out American Football. No one had helmets or protective gear, everyone removed their white polo shirts, and I don't really remember anyone getting injured in the tackle (although we did get dirty). Two days later, we forgot about it and went back to playing Soccer and Basketball (heck, even Baseball was more common). I wasn't familiar with the rules at the time (and come to think of it, we didn't really have an accurate method of keeping track how many yards one had managed to traverse) but then again, I was ignorant of the rules of most sports games.

That last fact eventually changed. I have anime and manga to blame. If you thought a Filipino talking about American Football was contradictory, you should check out the Japanese take on it with Eyeshield 21. Anyway, I learned the rules of American Football thanks to Eyeshield 21, just as I learned the rules of Basketball via Slam Dunk.

And then there's the Super Bowl that just occurred last weekend. George R. R. Martin sums up it up quite aptly. I'm reduced to watching footage from YouTube and yes, the entire event makes for a compelling story. The New England Patriots seemed destined for victory. They had a record of 18-0 this season. The New York Giants on the other hand was the underdog the entire time, turning around their game to barely qualify for the playoffs. Time and again, the New York Giants defeated teams that were deemed as stronger than them. In Eyeshield 21, they were easily the Deimon Devil Bats, the dark horse of the competition. And then came the finals, the New York Giants facing off against a team that had the perfect game so far. And it seemed like they would lose, with the New England Patriots gaining the lead with less than three minutes before the game ended. But in those three minutes, the New York Giants turned the game around and made one of the most amazing plays, defying the odds, and showing the determination in its players.

Could it have been more dramatic? Yes but not by much. When the New York Giants gained the lead, the New England Patriots still had a few seconds to score. But their pass was incomplete and the Giants won the game. But that aside, you should see the plays these guys made, everything from evading a near-tackle from three players and the receiver's skill at not only catching the ball but clinging to it like his life depended on it. The game was a huge upset, the type that you think you only read in -gasp- fiction or in comics.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Stories in Sports

My sister taped last night's Ateneo vs La Salle basketball game and perhaps one of the reasons such clashes are highly anticipated is because there's a story behind all of it. Rivalries don't suddenly pop up out of nowhere, each side has its own perspective. Each school has jokes about the other and that only compounds to the university myth. It's either that or we love to put competitions into a context, even if that means establishing this or that faction is the enemy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sports Drama

I never envisioned myself to be a sports fan but lately, most of my anime viewing and manga reading is centered around sports. Lately my big three are Eyeshield 21 (American football), Hajime no Ippo (boxing), and Major (baseball).

What's interesting is that despite belonging to the same genre, the good titles remain distinctively unique. Eyeshield 21, for example, manages to inject slapstick comedy and surrealism yet remain serious during the times it needs to be serious. Hajime no Ippo certainly has its laughable moments but it's serious and down-to-earth all throughout. Major, on the other hand, has this consistently flawed protagonist and for awhile, was concentrating more on human drama than sports drama.

Which brings me to my point. Most (if not all) stories contain drama. In sports anime/manga however, there's two kinds of drama that predominantly stands out. I call them human drama and sports drama. Human drama is when there's something going on outside of the game (whatever their sport may be) -- it could be an injury that prevents them from playing, peer pressure of family responsibilities that prevents them from participating in a game, or even flat-out social relationships. Sports drama, on the other hand, is excitement that's related to the game during a game -- a missed shot in basketball, the psychological pressure in needing to sink the ball into the goal, the support from your teammates that lends you strength to perform magnificent feats, etc. Some titles will balance out the two while others will use one more predominantly than the other.

Captain Tsubasa, for example, while contains human drama elements, is more of a sports drama title. The focus is on the games and the "special moves" the protagonist performs. Slam Dunk usually shifts back and forth, with a few consecutive episodes focusing on human drama before shifting high gear into sports drama (and you know it's sports drama when several episodes/chapters are devoted to one single game). I caught a few episodes of Dear Boys and it's not my cup of tea simply because I found it had too much human drama and too little sports drama (or rather executed the latter poorly).

To those unfamiliar with those titles, I'll use a Western example: TV wrestling (whether it's TNA or WWE). My media class in high school mentioned TV wrestling as a man's soap opera. And in certain ways, it's true because it has lots of drama (and formulaic drama at that). Human drama occurs when there's conflict outside of a match (usually happens when the wrestlers are talking). It could be taunting an opponent, betraying them while they're in the middle of a speech, an off-screen romance, antagonizing the manager, etc. Sports drama, on the other hand, is the reasons why wrestling matches are long and why the wrestlers have "signature moves". It occurs when wrestlers manage to revive before the three-count, or usually breaking out of a submission when the crowd is cheering them on. To me, the sports drama in TV wrestling is a bit lacking. Sure, the wrestlers are performing dangerous stunts but the problem with live television is that you don't have the benefits of cinema, everything from using slow-motion, flashback, or even a simple good close-up. The tools TV wrestling seems to have is the camera rerun and crowd participation.

Of course the other thing I like about sports anime/manga is the fact that the story arcs are finite and easily identifiable. One game is usually a story arc with a beginning, rising action, climax, and epilogue.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pacquiao for the Victory

I'm not really what you'd call a natural sports aficionado. That domain belongs more to my brother who was a basketball jock back in his day. I didn't enjoy watching games like basketball, boxing, or billiards, although I did enjoy participating in the casual basketball games we had in school, as much as a guy who can't dribble and can't shoot can enjoy it.

It was only after exposure to sports anime--and manga-- that I'd develop an appreciation for such sports. Slam Dunk, for example, taught me about the rules of the game (aside from the basics that I already knew, such as traveling) and the dynamics of the team (I didn't even know there were five people on the court) more than my Physical Education classes ever could. And during my college years, I did watch the basketball games of my alma matter, especially as they'd make it to the finals but falling short of winning the championship (except on one occassion when they finally succeeded). Of course nowadays, I don't watch much basketball as I never really followed the sport and what kept me interested in basketbaall during my college years were the personalities I became familiar with.

The other popular Filipino sport which suddenly had a resurgence is boxing. Again, I'm a neophyte in terms of my knowledge of the sport, but my anime indoctrination with the likes of the show Hajime no Ippo has made watching boxing much more interesting. As a spectator, a fight (or any game for that matter) is more interesting if you know what's going on, who's winning, and what the viable tactics are. I mean to someone unfamiliar with boxing, it all seems like people duking it out in the ring, throwing random punches and jabs. But in reality, it can be a complex sport with feints, counters, body blows, and a lot of seemingly unseen attacks to the casua viewer that makes boxing so exciting.

Writer Krip Yuson once wrote that Filipinos excel in sports that begin with B's: boxing, billiards, bowling, but alas, not basketball despite fervent interest in the sport by Filipinos. One of the country's living sports icons is Efren Bata Reyes, a recognized billiard champion, not just here but internationally as well. Yet in a certain way, he has less impact than a Manny Pacquiao fight. Perhaps it's because we've grown accustomed to Efren Bata Reyes, who has dominated the pool scene for quite some time. Efren is perhaps best described as the vanguard of Filipino billiards, the reigning champion and guardian of the sport. In other words, he is expected to win his fights, and is this seemingly otherwordly skilled master of the sport.

Manny Pacquiao, on the other hand, is a boxer that is the complete opposite of Efren Bata Reyes. While talented in his own right, Pacquiao is a protagonist fitting for a soap opera. He has all the elements, everything from a rags-to-riches story to a youth discovering himself to the underdog winning fight after fight. He's the country's black knight, the man whose odds are aren't in his favor, yet he manages to win fight after fight just the same. Filipinos not only empathizes with Manny Pacquiao's because of his common-man roots, but they feel that he's earning each reward with each fight, a very mortal man slowly earning his place as a champion step by step (Efren Bata Reyes, on the other hand, seems like he was destined for his greatness because it's simply been so long that he's dominated the billiards scene).

To the uninitiated, perhaps the best analogy I can give of Manny Pacquiao's popularity is that of Bruce Lee to Hong Kong. Back when The Green Hornet TV show was airing in the US, the Chinese in Hong Kong were watching it as The Kato Show. Bruce Lee inadvertedly became a hero to many Chinese despite the fact that being an accomplished actor, while an exemplary feat, isn't really a unique profession. I mean Manny Pacquiao probably garners more attention than his foreign rivals and counterparts would in their own home country.

Anyway, Manny Pacquiao's third fight with Erik Morales came to a conclusion today. Losing to Morales in their first encounter and making a combat in the second, it seems like fate when Manny Pacquiao won his third fight on the third round--after knocking his opponent thrice, twice during that pivotal round--and establishing himself as one of the world's finest boxers (at least at this point in time). To the casual viewers, this is probably the best fight they've watched of the three matches that Pacquiao's has had, simply because a lot of blows were exchanged early on and there were a lot of knockdowns. Unlike other sports, combat sports (and not just limited to boxing) aren't necessarily the most rewarding shows to watch visually. The problem with fighting is that attacks are usually quick and fast, and depending on the range, don't necessarily have lots of audience appeal. The best example I have are the UFC fights where both contenders are grappling. To a spectator, it seems like two people hugging. It's really difficult to see the strikes going on there (because it's being covered by the grappler's bodies) and the strain it puts on both fighters. That can also happen in boxing, especially when both boxers are in-fighters. That wasn't the case with this fight though as both Pacquiao and Morales were fighting with range, and there were a lot of head blows as well as body blows.

It wasn't a first-round knockout but it was nonetheless an exciting fight. Both warriors slugged it out in comparison to their previous fights where both fighters were more cautious and avoided long exchanges. There were also knockouts instead of depending on the judge's scorecards to determine the winner (and has come to plague a couple of Filipino boxers in our history) although I will applaud Morales for getting up after not just his first knockdown, but his second as well.

Again, I know Pacquiao's previous fights were just as fierce and competitive, but three-round victories and winning by knockout is what comprises drama. It was a pleasant fight to watch and only serves to increase Manny Pacquiao's image as this macho, courageous Filipino.