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2020 was the year of the athlete-frontliners

During the holiday break, this author’s eight-year-old son Ignacio Javier randomly asked me who my favorite superheroes were?

Out From The Box’s answer was a generational thing. This author enumerated three — Superman, Popeye the Sailorman, and Hulk Hogan.

Growing up, it’s close to impossible for a young boy not to idolize Superman. He is strong, smart, and charming. He can almost do it all except in the presence of kryptonite.

As for Popeye the Sailorman, he would always save the day for his beloved Olive Oil with a can of spinach unleashing his hellish strength against perennial nemesis, Brutus. But again like Superman, without those cans of spinach, he’s just an average dude.

And boy, Hulk Hogan, we who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s would always cheer our hearts out whenever the Hulkster would come from behind with that patented leg drop to finish of his opponent.

Then we grew up and found out that everything was for show.

The year 2020 created real-life heroes no thanks to COVID-19 which claimed lives and forever changed the way we do things.

Instead of pointing to Superman, Popeye the Sailorman, or Hulk Hogan, this author introduced my son to the names like Eric Acuna, Ria Nabalan, Jopher Custodio, Kungfu Reyes, Jovelyn Gonzaga, Dhon Reverente, Ging Balse, Honey Royse Tubino, and Mar Villahermosa among others who braved the frontlines in serving the nation and their fellow – Filipinos during this crisis.

In the medical field, there were former Ateneo Blue Eagle Dr. Johan Uichico, WNBL draftee Dra. Fille Claudine Cainglet, Perlas spiker Dra. Kathy Bersola, MPBL barker and nurse Top Juliano, among many, many more.

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There’s also Jesse Bustos who returned to his first love photography, documenting the ravage caused by the pandemic.

Their battlefield shifted from the hardcourt to the real-life frontlines where the enemy can’t be seen and from killer cross-overs, dagger-three-pointers, service aces, and sharp spikes, their super powers are now love, empathy, and selflessness which no kryptonite nor lack of supply of spinach can overcome.

These ordinary athletes became forever heroes because they rose up to the occasion when it mattered the most. They are real human beings who risked their lives so that others will be safer and live and with that, thank you very much for offering your lives to the service of others. In a crazy year like 2020, these heroes gave us something to be hopeful for.

A snappy salute to our super athletes!

Chris King De La Cruz is a basketball coach/ teacher. He teaches sports journalism at UST-IPEA and Fundamentals of Faith at UST Senior High School.

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