For so long, sports has always been trivialized as a mere game, as a mere show made only to excite the fans watching from their comfortable sofa chairs as they relish over every victory and taunt every loss. But now, it has been made perfectly clear that the career of an athlete is something way more than that.
Redefining human limits may perhaps be one of the most relevant features that defines what it means to be an athlete. Their accomplishments therefore are not just theirs for the taking. They also share the glory of their herculean task as they bring humanity one step closer to a stronger, more empowered stature that inspires generations to challenge their very own obstacles using the glint of hope in which these athletes enshrine. They are a testament that we can push ourselves to our limits as we continuously yearn for the best of achievements, bearing nothing but sheer grit, discipline, perseverance, and an unwavering spirit.
The path of an athlete is also one filled with struggles that are often taken for granted, and it is high-time that sports fans address this tendency.
Being an Olympian may be considered as the prime achievement for all athletes. And of course, the fans get to enjoy this summit as well, venerating their champions as heroes borne out of sacrifice, making the merit more admirable to the populace.
However, we are guilty of how the athlete’s nobility has been reduced to a commodity through certain privileges enjoyed by spectators. And because of that, our perception towards sports has delineated from the principle behind the career of today’s athlete.
Philippine athletes share the experience of scarcity in resources whenever they are bound to compete in games both locally and internationally. Disappointingly, we often neglect these calls for help and instead resort to the cruel remark of “keeping at it.” Knowing that we have the privilege of being a spectator, we have this arrogantly hypocritical sense of taunting struggling athletes, mocking their hardships and gas lighting them into thinking that their material limitations are the price they have to pay along with their intense training sessions.
Basically, we just want our athletes to deal with their travails silently as we bask in the luxury of waiting for their sacrifices to bear fruit.
Just like a TV show, we prefer to see our athletes as bereft of any hint of harsh reality and unadulterated authenticity. We unconsciously deny them of their right to free expression because we can only view them based on the sport they are playing.
This usually leads to their dehumanization as they become mere entertainers – jesters of our very own self-righteous courts. We tend to fixate too much on the tolls of being a champion and deem it necessary because we think that such experiences make athletes more worthy of the glory in triumph. However, this only proves that we only value sacrifice at its end point, never in the process. This only goes to show that we lack the maturity to view their struggles as valid and recognize them in its truest, most brutal form.
The fact that the sports industry is now calling for government support means that along with every single one of us, they recognize that verbal praises are nothing but empty and often times come with a double-standard. Athletes believe that it takes material support to deliver material results, and it seems that the government doesn’t really understand that very well and instead chooses to assume a delusional sense of pride and expect athletes to struggle quietly.
The worst-case scenario is when these woes coming from athletes are met with utmost animosity, concluding that they might be a part of insurgency efforts aiming to “attack and dismantle” the government.
And sadly, a lot of us ended up believing this state-driven narrative.
Anyone in their right mind and conscience would agree that it pains them to see athletes receiving offensive remarks that often lead to disbelief in their capabilities. It is downright demoralizing for athletes to have the very people they represent boo them as they labor through their intensive trainings, putting in the grind in order to make sure that they are in tip-top shape when they compete.
It is typical for a results-oriented government to focus solely on results and not sustainability, which is why it seems to be impossible for today’s bureaucracy to nurture our athletes and provide them with the material tools that they will be needing to overcome a material obstacle.
Frankly, a politician’s “words of encouragement” often end up as press releases to heighten their political influence, placing them in an opportune moment to appear in the news and become the talk-of-the-town. They do not even find shame in making the entire narrative all about them and not the athletes that they support – and this is highly hypocritical and shameful of them.
It takes a lot for an athlete to become an Olympian medalist, much less an Olympian contender. It takes years of dedication, passion, and persistence for them to reach where they are now today. And the fact that we have numerous athletes bringing home Olympian medals of varying levels of achievement proves just how our athletes are worth supporting.
What’s different from this generation’s Olympic win is the fact that the victors and competitors today are not what most would expect. Women are proven to be capable of dominating what used to be a male-exclusive sport, and men are starting to present their capacity to be elegant in a sport that requires sophisticated form. Aside from the fact that the Philippines has now managed to end its 97-year gold medal drought, this was a time for the Filipino identity to declare itself as a nation that’s willing to conquer stereotypes and overcome culturally-fossilized boundaries.
Today’s generation of victors are rebels in their own right – rebels to the human limit, rebels to old and dying standards. They are as modern as they come.
Today’s Filipino athletes have defied all odds and led the entirety of Filipinos toward international recognition. And along that, it inspired and encouraged millions and millions of us to grow past our limits and become the best versions of ourselves.
If a government fails to sustain and support this historically progressive momentum, then perhaps it is not modern.
Perhaps it is fine and used to mediocre performance.
And perhaps it is afraid of what Filipinos can achieve when they give it their absolute best.
About the Author
John Thimoty Romero is a licensed professional teacher, a graduate of Philippine Normal University – Manila last 2017 as Bachelor of Secondary Education – Major in English. Upon his graduation, he received the Gawad Graciano Lopez – Jaena Co-Curricular Award for Campus Journalism.
He is the founder of Essays Against Mediocrity, a website dedicated to support independent authors, poets, and other content creators.