Beyond The Brawl: How The Australia-Gilas Game Was Toxic Masculinity At Its Finest



Coming off the heels of an embarrassing display of sportsmanship (or lack thereof), we dissect the aftermath of the Australia-Gilas game and zero in on the real culprit behind the brawl—toxic masculinity.

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A full disclaimer: While I am fairly athletic, I do not in any way consider myself a rabid sports fanatic. At least not since about the third grade when I stopped attempting to get feign interest with basketball beyond that of my valuable collection of basketball cards. However, as questionable as my offensive shooting skills are, I do know one thing that requisite in whatever physical grandstanding you pledge allegiance to—sportsmanship.

Broadly encompassing fair play, honor and respect, it should be basic etiquette ingrained in the hearts and minds of athletes competing in any regulated sport. However, and most unfortunately, this time-honored code of conduct that has morally and lawfully guided players since time immemorial has been seemingly thrown out the hard courts last night at the most disgraceful display of unsportsmanlike attitude at the massive brawl that erupted from the heated Australia-Gilas FIBA world cup qualifying game held at the Philippine Sports Arena.

Now, verbal and physical taunting and subsequent altercations are nothing new in the world of sports. From chucking safety helmets and hurling it at an untoward direction, forceful (and sometimes dramatic) pushing and shoving, and even biting off human flesh (remember that Tyson vs. Holyfield fight?), the world has seen its fair share of athletes, coaches and fans coming unhinged from the heat of the game. Well, by the looks of things, as well as all accounts considered, the Australia-Gilas arena fiasco has quickly shot up the list as one of the most massive and concurrently, embarrassing sports brawls in recent years.

BIG BAD BRAWL

Okay, if you’ve been living under a rock, let’s quickly run down what went down at the Philippine Sports Arena in what was already a tense athletic situation to begin with.

With 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the game got heavy-handed between Gilas Pilipinas and the Australia Boomers when punches, kicks, as well as plastic bottles and chairs being thrown at the court and players. As seen on many playbacks, RR Pogoy of Gilas Pilipinas was seen shoving Christopher Goulding before the latter fell to the ground. What happened next was a succession of physicalities involving Australia’s Daniel Kickert, a flying Jayson Castro and a kicking Thon Maker. It wasn’t long before all hell broke loose and the likes of Andray Blatche, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Carl Bryan Cruz, Matthew Wright and Allein Maliksi were seen throwing themselves into the Neanderthal-like free-for-all.

While Coach Chot Reyes of Gilas Pilipinas agreed that the bench-clearing brawl was severely uncalled for and unacceptable, he did defend his players shedding light on earlier taunts and defacement from the Australian players. “It’s absolutely unacceptable but the reality is that Kickert [was] hitting our players during the warm-ups. He hit Carl Bryan Cruz, he hit Matthew Wright, Pogoy and he hit Calvin Abueva during the warm-ups,” Reyes recounts to Rappler. “We already told them ‘huwag niyo ng pansinin, focus on the game,’ but you know, after that when he did that in the 3rd quarter, it’s hard to restrain them anymore,” he adds. Senator Juan Edgardo Angara also chimed in agreement: “It was an unfortunate event but I stand by the Gilas team on this. One may criticize how the game ended, but the true test of a fan is to stick with his team win or lose, through thick and thin.”

Meanwhile, Anthony Moore, Chief Executive of Basketball Australia apologized for the incident, as well as the unbecoming of the Australian athletes. “This is not the spirit in which sport should be played and certainly not in the spirit in which we aim to play basketball. “Basketball Australia deeply regrets the incident in tonight’s match between the Boomers and the Philippines in Manila. We are extremely disappointed with what happened and our role in it,” he says. “This is not the spirit in which sport should be played and certainly not in the spirit in which we aim to play basketball. We apologise to our fans and will await the penalties to be handed down.”

As if things cannot get any more swimmingly odd, Gilas’ Terrence Romeo took to Twitter to air out his frustrations. “‘Dun sa mga kapwa namin players na nagsasabing embarassing kami wala kaming paki alam sa inyo. Kami mag kaka teammate sa loob kailangan namin mag tulungan. Hindi namin pwede pabayaan yung isa’t isa. Kung embarassing kami sa mata niyo bat di kayo mag convert ng Australian.” Smooth, real smooth.

Ladies and gentlemen from Australia, the Philippines and the world, welcome to the dawning of a new (albeit dark) age in modern sports. Round of applause? Okay, no.

TOXIC MASCULINITY

Sure, you can chalk this outburst and untoward behavior as an offshoot of the heat-of-the-moment, as well as that of an unapologetic tipping of pride and passion (#puso anyone?), but it doesn’t discount it being a pure and utter disgrace to the beloved sport and to a greater deal, humanity.

No, this isn’t it merely a case of holding down the fort and defending one’s honor. This was toxic masculinity at it finest. A sickening to the gut display of machismo, this brawl perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong with society today. A hairline of an offense, invoke the entire world in your pity party and incite a mob to go after the other party in your defense. Sounds classy alright.

But really, this misplaced sense of pride and passion shows the world that we are in no way different from classless degenerates eschewing pain, guilt, grief, fear, anxiety in place of rah-rah-rah aggression. Once again, emotions and feelings are the enemy, because men have to act like men—brusque, brash and belligerent. (Look it up.) Essentially, the incident is divisive, with some defending the circumstances that unfolded as a man dealing with it the best way he can and as he should—by being dominant, strong and powerful. Wait, did anyone miss rational and moral thinking? Right, of course that isn’t part and parcel of their overriding definition of masculinity.

Toxic masculinity is an archaic stereotype that has gnawed at many a young boy who aren’t naturally predisposed or gravitated to the ideals listed by very, very, very old men. “It teaches young boys to be embarrassed about their emotions and hide them, or avoid communicating them–unless it’s anger. So, a typical rebuff to an upset boy would be to ‘man up,'” reads an article on Inews. “If it has to come out at all, let it come out as anger. You’re allowed to be angry. It’s boyish and man-like to be angry,” Robert Webb writes about this lingering way of thinking.

NOT A FIGHT

“A man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as he’s raging against his bonds. Especially as he’s raging against his bonds,” says Tim Winton of The Guardian. “When you’re bred for mastery, when you’re trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, they’re simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, it’s not a game, and it’s not a fight.”

Yes, it is very easy to put the blame on anyone, or well, everyone involved at that numb-skull display of toxic masculinity. It was savage, easily akin to the prehistoric accounts of our history textbooks. But perhaps in the exercise of looking at things from a bigger picture, perhaps these men didn’t know any betterat least that much we can assume. Both sides were pressured, angered and provoked to react that way because that was what they were accustomed to. It doesn’t make it right in any way, of course. But it should force us into a corner of introspection: Are we really raising our boys right? Sure, there are strides made in the ongoing democracy of genders, but why are we still subscribing to the binaries of how one should or shouldn’t act? Look, it isn’t just blue and pink here.

Men don’t have to man up by the standards of an age-old society. They don’t have to be replete of emotion and understanding, having to act all square and tough in the face of adversity. They can be tender and a feeler of feels; empathetic, affectionate, emotionally available and vulnerable. Men can be supportive and kind, because they are human beings and not just their prescribed chromosomes.

If there is anything to learn from the Australia-Gilas is that there is much to be done in ridding the world with the dregs of toxic masculinity. As evidenced by the physical altercation, men are still defined by a standard that is lopsided and grossly uninformed. While we can all grandstand and hop on our moral high-horses, we can also relent and incite a dialogue. Make these men accountable for their actions and ensure a conversation about sportsmanship and gender stereotypes. No one is off the hook here, us included. It is inexcusable, yes. But the case isn’t hopeless.

We are much better than this. It’s time we own up to it and stop this childlike regression—stat. 

Oh, and that post-brawl selfie? That is not even worth a dent in the discourse, because that is just pure stupidity. This isn’t the time to act up, but rather, a challenge and an opportunity to act right, before the game gets pulled out from our hands.

Photos courtesy of newshub.co.nz and mlive.com