BASER Amer has seen all these before: a little trash talk leading to dirty words leading to punches thrown leading to blackeyes and welts. But this wasn’t at the Philippine Arena and definitely not 2018.
This was San Beda Gym and the year was 2011. A perceived racial slur on Ola Adeogun during an NCAA men's volleyball match triggered a brawl so bad it led to two-year bans for Red Lions coach Frankie Lim and San Sebastian volleyball coach Roger Gorayeb.
Amer, too young at that time, joined the mob and was slapped with a one-game suspension for entering the court at the height of the melee, costing him the first game of his sophomore season in NCAA Season 88.
Long story short, the Davaoeño guard has already learned his lesson. That’s why it was no longer a surprise that Amer was the only Gilas player to stay on the sidelines after a brawl broke out between Philippines and Australia.
For him, there are far more dignified ways of reacting to the situation.
The same could be said of June Mar Fajardo and Gabe Norwood, who were both on the court but, by choice, didn't join the fray in that chaotic third quarter that led to the ejection of 13 players, including nine from Gilas.
Fajardo, the four-time PBA MVP, was in fact closest to the action as he was going for a shot when the fight broke out. But rather than swing away, the gentle giant chose to walk away.
He had a compelling reason not to engage — his family, most of all mother Marites, was in attendance. No self-proclaimed mama’s boy would want to disappoint their moms by picking a fight before their very eyes.
"Pag sumali ako dun sa away, for sure pagsisihan ko talaga yung gagawin ko. Kaya umiwas na lang ako kasi mahirap na. Kung tutuusin, kung gusto ko makipag-away pwede eh. Nandoon ako sa gitna. Pero ayoko ng ganun," Fajardo said.
"Isa pa nandoon yung mama ko. Tumingin nga ako sa kanya, namutla yung mama ko," he added. "Yun ang laging nire-remind ng parents ko sa akin, na kung pwede mo iwasan yung gulo, umiwas ka.
"Hindi lahat ng bagay idadaan mo sa init ng ulo. So kung pwede ka mag-walk away, mag-walk away ka kasi yung init ng sitwasyon, mas lalala lang."
Fajardo has grown accustomed to the hits he’s constantly taken both in the PBA and in the international stage. But he knows that it's better to just shrug it off.
Though the Philippines was already down big at that point — 31 to be exact — the Cebuano giant felt there was still a glimmer of hope, and he’d rather play the game until the bitter end.
“Pinaghandaan natin yun eh. Nangyari yung hindi natin inaasahan, pero sa akin, chance sana natin yun para mag-improve kasi pinaghandaan nga natin yun eh,” he said.
Norwood, to no one’s surprise, played the role of the peacemaker as he desperately tried to manage the situation after Daniel Kickert decked Roger Pogoy. But when guys like Calvin Abueva and Carl Bryan Cruz stormed the court, the Gilas captain knew it was too late.
His reason was simple.
“Unfortunate series of events that took place tonight. Heat of the battle and emotions won out, but in the end we strive to show the best of who we are," Norwood said.
Fajardo, Amer and Norwood weren't exactly extolled by Gilas' rabid supporters, but the trio's great restraint didn't go unnoticed.
"Si Amer, si Gabe, at si June Mar, they shared the same emotions, the same anger. But they exercised a high level of self-restraint and it was the highest level of self-discipline," said Gilas backer and Chooks-to-Go head Ronald Mascarinas.
"I would sincerely say na I admire you for that. I hope that we learn from them. Kahit papaano, may tatlong members of the team who were able to control their emotions and finish the game for the country.”