Talk 'N Text: The pain of defeat and the challenge of rising again

MANILA, Philippines – Sometimes, we tend to forget that our favorite athletes, for all their athleticism, all their incredible abilities, and all their hero-like tendencies, are human just like us. 

They too have emotions. They too go through the struggles of every day life. They too have to pay the bills. They too have to eat, and shower, and do all the other necessities that are required from each living person.

See, we watch these athletes on television, and we become amazed. We see how talented they are, and we at times start to believe that they have the capacity to accomplish what we can’t. And truthfully, sometimes that is the case. I mean, I know I can’t just grab a basketball and throw it down like how James Mays kept on doing last night. I know I can’t just square up, face a basket, and hit a three-pointer from the parking lot like Jimmy Alapag was performing all evening long in Game 4.

But when we watch our heroes perform on the court, or on our television screens, or elsewhere, suddenly, our expectations of them go above the roof. Oh, LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers because he wanted to team up with his close friends, get a better chance at winning a chip, and live in a better city like Miami? Man, he’s such a coward, he’ll never be Michael Jordan like we all thought! Oh, Kobe Bryant got mad at his teammates again just because they didn’t pass him the ball? He’s so selfish and arrogant! He’s not that model persona we all want him to be!

Our favorite athletes, though we don’t always like to admit it, are not perfect. They also make mistakes, and frankly, they should be allowed some leeway as well. Sometimes, they will rise above the challenge and make us happy too, because the simple act of watching our favorite team win a championship can turn a very sour day into a very terrific one. But sometimes, they crash and burn. They fail. Sometimes, maybe the other side was just better – and the Mixers definitely were hours ago at Ultra. 

It hurts. Especially when you just witnessed your club barrage through the rest of the league and win 13 straight games. It hurts because you were hoping to call up your close friends so that you can all scream together, “CHAMPIONS ANG TALK ‘N TEXT!” It hurts because you invest so much time, emotion, and dedication to a team and then they let you down when it was time to win it all.

It hurts.

But here’s what you have to understand: your heroes are hurting as well.

A True Pro

If Ranidel De Ocampo is anything, he’s a professional.

Mere moments after watching his team cease a 17-point lead and let the championship get taken away from their grip by Mark Barroca and company, the Best Player of the Conference runner-up was smiling and posing, taking pictures with Tropang Texters fans at the Philsports Arena. 

Maybe some of them considered the fact that the big man was going through a tough stretch, getting so close to the Commissioner’s Cup title and then letting it slip past. Maybe some of them didn’t care, because all they wanted was to showcase to their officemates, classmates, or friends that they got a picture, locked in arms, with arguably the best power forward in the PBA today – at least, this past conference.

Still, De Ocampo portrayed great professionalism. He took every picture, he gave every interview, he smiled, and he talked. Maybe it was a way to mask the agony of defeat. Maybe he just got over it quick. But who really knows?

They say, “Time heals all wounds.” Some prefer to let their deepest scars remedy as weeks and months pass by, while others prefer to get back in the action right away, hoping to make up for the failures of yesterday. 

For the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, they don’t have the liberty to choose their fate. Surely, some of them will want to start the Governors' Cup quickly, hoping to erase the memories of this past conference and showing that maybe they are the champions we all thought they would be. 

Maybe some of them want to get away from basketball first. Maybe going back to war is too quick. Nonetheless, they don’t have a choice. Not long from now, the final third of this PBA season begins, and with it, new challenges, new endeavors, and new rivalries.

But you know what won’t go away? 13-0, and the inability to win the chip. Not for quite some time, anyway.


Forgetting about yesterday and looking to tomorrow

Kailangan namin ikalimutan yung nang yari,” says De Ocampo.

(We need to forget about what happened)

It doesn’t sound so simple. How can the Texters just let go of a championship they thought was theirs? How can they let go of going unblemished, only to run into a team that turned out to be more desperate for a ring than they were?

No, it’s not simple. But really, is there any other way?

Meron naman bagong pag asa. May chance ulit.

(There’s a new chance. There’s going to be another chance)

Maybe, maybe not. If there’s anything that the PBA has proven to be, it’s unpredictable. Twelve months ago, would anyone have assumed then the events that are taking place today?

Yesterday, it’s hard to guess what Coach Norman Black must’ve told his troops in the locker room where the champagne wasn’t flowing and the party wasn’t rocking. But tomorrow, or Monday, or Tuesday, or any day before the Texters begin it’s next contest against the Meralco Bolts on May 21, Wednesday, the champion head coach will have to tell his boys to have amnesia of sorts. 

Yes, it’s okay to use the loss to SMC as fuel to finish the job the next time around. But going that route could be like opening Pandora’s Box; what if the nightmares of the loss to the Mixers come back to haunt and finish the Tropang Texters for good? What if on Wednesday, against the Bolts, TNT is caught in another close fourth quarter tussle, only to have the macabre memories of Mark Barroca going berserk in the dying minutes push the team to crumble once again?

What if the bad memories come back to patronize the Texters? Like, say, 41-2?

“Masyado marami silang free throws eh,” explained De Ocampo, whose team got only two cracks at the charity stripe in Game 4, after the contest. (They had too many free throws)

41 yung binigay. Saamin, wala masyado. Mahirap manalo pag ganun yung disparity,” (They got 41. For us, not much. It’s hard to win with that much of a difference)

De Ocampo went further, stating that it wasn’t lack of effort that did the Texters in – most especially not from their import.

Kasi hindi naman pagod yung tanong dito eh. Go hard naman palagi. Yung import namin, dapat sana kahit minsan meron foul kasi go hard siya.”

(See, it’s not a question of fatigue. We’re always going hard. Our import, he should get foul calls from time to time because he always goes hard)

Now, Talk ‘N Text will lean on a different recruit. One who’s smaller than Richard Howell – who bagged the Best Import of the Conference award – but a more menacing threat in the perimeter, it seems.

Mabilis siya,” (He’s quick) said De Ocampo of his team’s foreign help in the Governors' Cup, Othyus Jeffers. “Mukhang may energy at sa tingin ko, hardworker siya.”

(It looks like he has energy and in my opinion, he’s a hard worker)

Yet, getting associated with TNT’s new import won’t be the toughest obstacle the franchise will have to face. In all likelihood, it might not even be a physical challenge, though the squad will take as much rest as they can muster before putting on their pads and heading out to battle once again.

Mentally, will they be ready for another few months of non-stop grind?

Sa tingin ko, mahirap din yun kasi galing kami sa talo, tapos meron kaming sobrang ikli na break,” explained the guy whom some like to call “Rani-Dirk” due to his combination of height and floor-spreading abilities.

(In my estimation, it’s going to be hard because we’re coming off a loss, and our break is really short)

But at the end of it all, to bounce back and win the Governors' Cup, short-term memory might be necessary. While it’s easy to get caught up with what could have been in the past, the present is coming for the Tropang Texters like a raging bull. And that present I speak of is a conference where other teams – with the exception of the Mixers – are well-rested, ready to unleash vengeance on TNT for sweeping past the competition in the Commissioner’s Cup. The ordeal the team is about to face, believe it or not, is going to be an even more taxing journey than last conference.

Yun lang talaga kailangan gawin eh: kalimutan yung nang yari, go forward, at subukan ulit namin,” stated De Ocampo.

(That’s what we really have to do: forget about what happened, go forward, and take another swing at the title)

Yes, but doing so will not be easy. However, the Texters still have the line-up that pretty much dominated the PBA over the past few weeks, with the exception of the import slot. Though if reports of Jeffers’ talents are true, then TNT may have another best import of the conference candidate at their disposal. 

Maybe the Texters can win it all this time.

Maybe their loss to SMC wasn’t the final chapter.

Maybe history will not look at Talk ‘N Text only as the team that went unbeaten and then succumbed at the end; maybe they’ll be known as the club that bounced back from tribulation.

Maybe it was not all for nothing.