Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Who wins the Gold in Assault?

Manila is hosting the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, and boy are they doing a bang-up job. Only one of the countries participating has accused them of cheating so far, and it's not those pesky East Timorians. Leave it to a salty Thai to try and rain on your gold medal parade. Will the people of Thailand ever understand that they'll always be second to the Philippines in athletics and prostitution? It's hard to tell from their half-hearted apology, but one way or another, the games must go on.

It's a wonder that so many people have actually found events to attend in the first six days of the competition. The organizers thought of everything, it seems, except publishing the times of specific events. The online schedule only includes the day and location of a sport, thus giving spectators the generous window of 24 hours in which to guess when the event starts. My first roll of the dice came up snake eyes, so when I arrived in Pasig City all pumped for the Badminton medal rounds, I was greeted with the news that the matches wouldn't begin for another five hours. But while the masters of competency behind the SEA Games didn't bother posting the times of events, they did manage to create a Web page full of ever-so-cute illustrations of the Philippine Eagle participating in all the events.

Here are a few of my favorites:


Winner of the gold medal for vaguenessCute picture. Too bad FIBA refused to sanction basketball at the games.Dragon boaters of the world unite! All six of you.
I guess this is why we need a separate "athletics" competition.Featuring judge of honor Chayanne, star of "Dance with Me."Even birds look dainty when holding foils.

Despite the Philippine Olympic Commission's best attempts to bamboozle and mislead me, I found one arena where an actual sporting event was taking place. Well, kind of. It was men's gymnastics, and although the competitors were capable of contortions and flips I couldn't execute in my wildest dreams, my old-school conception of masculinity depends mostly on one's ability to win a game of Dead Arm, and I don't think these guys had the heart.

Still, it was thrilling and tragic to watch a Malaysian gymnast slip and obliterate his balls while warming up on the parallel bars. I laughed; I cried; his human drama inspired real empathy among all the male onlookers.

I spent a lot of the rest of the time imagining how much cooler the events would be if they incorporated elements from the American Gladiators playbook. If the athletes are going to be flipping around on the horizontal bar, why not force them to dodge tennis balls shot from a cannon on the other side of the gym? They could bring in the skeet shooters, give them some rubber bullets and combine the events.

There's so much downtime in gymnastics between the ever-shuffling judges for different events, the actual judging process and the finalists' "traditional march" set to a karaoke rendition of the Survivor theme song at the beginning of each event. Why not let spectators amuse themselves with Tasers or some other tossable projectile? Javelins would be nice.

For the vault event, they could steal a gag from The Eliminator from American Gladiators and force the gymnasts to jump through one of three paper doors, not knowing which one has a 'roid-raging NFL tryout veteran behind it?

Laser, a failure at pro football, but the spitting image of success with a tennis ball cannon.

This is all so ridiculous. I feel like I should have more respect for world-class athletes, but the truth is I had a serious hankering for a jumbotron showing Gladiators reruns during my SEA Games visit. In terms of artistry, watching Dolph Lundgren lookalikes named Laser and Nitro chase witless former high school varsity athletes up a rock-climbing wall receives pretty low marks, but it's right up there with World's Strongest Man competitions, lumberjack trials and Oktoberfest home videos in the pantheon of pure entertainment value.

Maybe it's time to start thinking about changing the title of this blog to "Insensitive American Nitwit."

1 Comments:

Anonymous OLD NYC BUM said...

Hey, exactly how much did it cost you to get into these GAMES anyway?
I mean, from your past posts, you might have got a front row ticket for 50 cents. And for 50 cents, what do you expect? Nitwit!
On a serious note, let us all say a prayer for the gymnast fella w/ the injured nuts. On the other hand, what the hell would possess a man to run and jump on some bars with the good possibility of it becoming a nut-crushing experience?
Talk about nitwits!!!
Scheduling? Sure, everything is scheduled. Why publicize it? This is a damn good question, assuming they actually wanted to attract an audience for the GAMES. Do you think it was just a THIRD WORLD bureaucratic oversight? (undersight?) I mean, have the Southeast Asian Games, Sporting and Board Games, Too, but never announce the exact time? Yikes! Hell, I got buddies here on the Bowery who can keep better time than those guys. And half of them got "wet-brain" from the decades of boozing, for crissake!
About all the American Gladiator stuff, maybe you're on to something. Especially your idea of mixing that particular show with the GAMES. You could have real Asian athletes getting creamed, then organizing little cabals, attacking the American Gladiators in gangs, and get some real blood-letting going...no, that won't work, networks won't like it. Have to keep it organized, as you suggested. Mix events together, pingpong balls badmitton birdies, arguments about scoring...some kind of ensuing chaos...TV program as 3rd. world metaphor...I think I need another drink...

9:30 AM  

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