For as long as Phil could remember, when it came to the court – Neo and Salle were always at each other throats, especially with basketball. Whether as a friendly or as one-on-one with friends and neighbors, they always took it way too seriously. It was weird that they preferred playing with Phil, more than they did with Tomas, Faye, or even Addie. Phil liked his basketball but preferred his isaw and novels more than anything else.
But after they packed up a game, they found time to hang out. They even went as far as Mall of Asia on more than one occasion. And when they would hang, Phil left it up to Neo and Salle to do the small talk. He’d just step in if the conversation got interesting – about Marxism, labor rights, and law in particular.
But people preferred to talk about and play basketball. Phil played along, just to make his parents and relatives happy. “You’re in the top three!” His titos and titas nagged, “You have to play the national sport!”
“You know that this is a distraction of the elite so we won’t advocate for true social equality, right?” Phil asked.
“Ayan ka nanaman, Phil, you’re so negative! You should just learn how to have fun.”
So Phil played basketball. Luckily, Salle and Neo indulged him.
“This is how you pass!”
“This is how you shoot!”
“Defense! Defense! Fight, Phil! Fight!”
For their other friends, it was a relief during round robin games. When Phil played, it meant that the others didn’t worry about breaking up a fist fight between Neo and Salle. When things got heated between them, it got nasty. In one instance, Neo set Salle’s back-up gym shorts on fire after he won just to prove a point. When Salle’s parents complained, Neo’s parents agreed to go with them to a reconciliation mass, while the rest of Neo’s family muttered something about Salle being a sore loser.
Meanwhile, Phil kept on playing.
“But why?” Some of his other Titos and Titas asked, “Not like you’ll ever make it as a pro, not like Neo and Salle.”
Phil rolled his eyes. Clearly, they would never be satisfied. But he shrugged, “Healthy mind, healthy body.”
And who says that he won’t make it? Just because he loved his books didn’t mean that he couldn’t play. He had done well in dance and track in particular, why not basketball?
He’d show them.
Phil tied up his shoelaces, put on his jersey, and kept on playing.