FTS TBT: How the Crowd Saved Gary David

Birthdays are supposed to be fun. But sometimes with the realities of life, it’s tough to find joy on this special day. 

Gary David turns 39 years old today but his future as a professional basketball player is shrouded with questions. Yesterday it was announced that his contract will not be renewed by the Kia Picanto ahead of the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup. Along with the personal issues that he’s currently dealing with, I wanted to post this as a reminder that even in the darkest moments, there will be people around him who will offer their support no matter what.

Things might look bleak but nothing is unsolvable. Even the deepest cracks could be repaired by the willing.

This article was first posted on GMAnews.tv.

gary-david-puso

It was the night when Gilas Pilipinas lost to Chinese Taipei. Like many Filipino basketball fans, I found it hard to sleep.

Gilas had that game under complete control but little by little it slipped away from their grasp. The loss was painful. Instead of possibly facing a less-dangerous Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals, Gilas looked like it was on a collision course with defending champions China.

Like clockwork, some disgruntled fans looked for someone to blame. Most of them decided to pick on Gary David.

The attacks on Twitter were brutal. I scrolled down my timeline and read all the tweets. Some of my friends, people whom I respected, were some of the ones carrying the proverbial pitchforks, ready to burn Gary David at the stake.

Gary David is not a winner. It should have been KG Canaleta or Arwind Santos or Ronjay Buenafe or anybody else. Gary David should have not been a part of Gilas.

I was ready to call it a night when I got a message on Facebook. It was from Jenn David, Gary’s wife. Sleep came hard to come by in the David’s that night. Gary was apart from his family, lying alone on his bed, praying for sleep to erase the thoughts in his head. His wife could not sleep knowing her husband was so restless.

Jenn told me that Gary was in pain. How his confidence was at an all-time low. She rued how easily people forget the sacrifice that Gary and the rest of his teammates did for the country.

Gary David was advised by his doctors to stay away from basketball for a few months to make sure his left foot would heal properly. Gary knew playing for Gilas would be risky but he did it anyway.

When his wife was pregnant last year, Gary had a choice to stay home and be with her throughout the nine months. Gary knew committing to Gilas meant he would have to leave her behind for weeks at a time, but he did it anyway.

After his youngest kid was born last September 8, Gary could have passed on his Gilas duties. But being the soldier that he was, Gary left with the rest of his teammates for Japan a day after his kid was born. Gary knew preparing for the FIBA Asia Championship meant being an absentee father for months at a time but he did it anyway.

Gary David sacrificed a lot to be a part of this team. This is why it was really frustrating for him when his shot betrayed him. The public opinion on him soured after he struggled against Saudi Arabia. It turned for the worse after the loss to Chinese Taipei.

Against Japan, Gary did not start the game as he requested. He checked into the game in the second quarter where he missed two shots. Gilas was cruising to an easy win over Japan when his number was called again.

With less than four minutes in the game against Japan, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes called Gary. He walked to the scorer’s table alongside Japeth Aguilar.

Jimmy Alapag then drove into the lane late in the fourth quarter for what looked like an easy layup. Yet, after he seemed primed to take the shot, he decided to hand the ball over to Gary who scored just under the basket. The crowd cheered loudly as they realized how big the moment was for Gary.

The crowd that night was not as rambunctious as the crowd in the game against Chinese Taipei. Their cheers of “DEFENSE” were not consistent. Their cheers failed to match the spine-tingling levels reached in the game last Saturday. There were even multiple failed attempts to start waves in the bleachers section.

Yet, this crowd may be the best one so far in the FIBA Asia Championship. It wasn’t that loud, but it was compassionate. It wasn’t wild, but it was wise.

Gary David celebrates his three-pointer versus Japan. In the background is his daughter. Nuki Sabio

With the game nearing its conclusion, the crowd started chanting Gary’s name. The cheers got louder and louder as the play went on. When LA Tenorio found Gary David open, there was a moment of silence. But when Gary’s three-point shot kissed the bottom of the net, the crowd cheered like they just witnessed a game winner.

The people knew Gary David’s confidence was gone and with a few shouts of his name, they helped a broken man feel complete again. With a few repetitions of “GARY” they lifted the spirit of a man and his entire family.

After the game, his teammates surrounded Gary who was still swimming in the sound of the crowd chanting his name. He then went to kiss his wife and his crying daughter.

“Di ko inasahan na mangyayari yun. Alam ko naman kasi na marami na yung nagsasabi ng masasama tungkol sa akin,” he said. “Nagulat na lang ako dun sa lakas ng cheer nila nung naka shoot ako.”

He scored five points in the game but he was the story.

“Yun lang naman talaga yung gusto kong mangyari,” he said. “Basta makatulong lang ako sa team, okay na ako. Di ko naman gusto na ako yung bida o ako yung magpapanalo. Gusto ko lang may maitulong ako.”

Gary was inside a Manila hotel with his teammates getting their usual post-game hot and cold baths as Monday turned to Tuesday. Rest will come easy tonight. Sleep will surely come as the crowd’s support earlier that night already chased the doubts out of Gary’s mind.

The cold and hot baths helped Gary’s weary body recover. But the effects of these baths are small compared to the magical moment that happened earlier when the crowd chanting his name cured Gary’s weary soul. They reminded Gary that even though there may be a few loud ones who want to take him down, the country’s true basketball fans are firmly behind him.

“Makatabang pusu (Nakakataba ng puso),” Gary said. “Marakal pa pala maniwala kaku (Marami pa palang naniniwala sa akin).”

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