The Gilas Pilipinas national team scored its second straight win in the ongoing FIBA Asia Cup held in Lebanon by soundly defeating Iraq, 84 to 68, late Friday night (August 11). Coming on the heels of their emphatic win over China two days prior, the local media naturally covered the news in a jubilant tone, though one newspaper apparently took the gloating way too far.
The Philippine Star‘s Rick Olivares inexplicably likened Gilas Pilipinas’ third quarter pull away to the “shock-and-awe” strategy that the United States used in 2003 to start the so-called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” that eventually succeeded in toppling dictator Saddam Hussein.
“It’s a term Iraq knows all too well. After the intense Allied bombings that signaled the start of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 — a military doctrine known as “shock and awe” — 14 years later, their national basketball team got a Philippine version of it,” Olivares wrote in his lead.
Of course, military and war-related metaphors have been used in sports coverage since time immemorial. Regular season games have been compared to battles, championship series have been likened to wars, while players have been described as “soldiers,” among others.
However, Mr. Olivares’ article for The Philippine Star makes fun of Iraq’s long history as a war-torn nation. Saddam Hussein may have long been executed, but the instability caused by the sectarian violence has never subsided.
Iraq to this day is still suffering from the scourge of terrorism because of ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The existential threat posed by ISIS has forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to flee their country to seek refuge elsewhere.
If anything, Iraq must actually be commended for being able to develop a national basketball team that can play competitively against well-established squads like Gilas Pilipinas.