Desperate because of dwindling attendance at its games and the lack of public interest, the PBA Commissioner and some of his officials have conspired to help improve revenues by making sure that the league’s most popular teams – Ginebra and Purefoods somehow find a way of getting into the semi finals.
Purefoods has the talent to beat Rain or Shine which has problems closing out what often seems like a won game but Ginebra, considering its depleted line-up due to injuries, clearly needs some help to get into the semis so the PBA coffers will ring.
What better place to get it than from the game officials whose supervisor is a weakling, whose consultant had ties and perhaps still has ties with the San Miguel Corporation and referees like Trongy Aldaba who thinks he is God’s gift to officiating but whose calls favoring a chosen team stink like a sewer. We recall that some years ago Red Bull coach Yeng G uiao and his team walked out precisely because of the officiating of Aldaba in a – you guessed it – Ginebra game.
We have through the years openly admitted to being a fan of Ginebra from the days of the “Living Legend” Robert Jaworski. But we could never stomach flagrant cheating even if it helped Ginebra because it undermines the very foundations of the sport and of the league that was indeed a part of our life..
For months we have stayed away from the PBA and not even followed its games despite the regular appeals from our respected and longtime friend- former Pasig Mayor Mario Raymundo to join his forlorn figure along Commissioner’s Row.
Since we have been involved with the PBA from its inception in 1975 but were treated shabbily by the PBA over the Japeth Aguilar case and told bluntly by some uneducated slob of a functionary in the Commissioner’s Office that we could no longer sit in the Commissioner’s Row in a seat we had occupied for over 20 years, we did the respectable thing and stopped watching the games and even stopped following the action on television.
We know for a fact that our friends from Solar Sports are bleeding because they offered too much for a product that has almost totally lost its attraction and its drawing power with plunging TV ratings and poor attendance figures compared to the glory days of the Crispa-Toyota rivalry and the Jaworski-Mon Fernandez era when the PBA became an integral part of the everyday lives of millions of Filipinos.
Even the game photos emailed to various newspapers and sports internet sites these days often show rows and rows of empty seats demonstrating not how poor our people are but how much the PBA product has degenerated and to what extent the league’s integrity has been sullied.
When three teams owned by one corporation are in contention for four semi final berths you can understand to what extent the league’s integrity has been undermined. On top of that when it becomes patently clear that the dice are being stacked against teams vying to get the better of them, you certainly cannot expect the public to support the league. Filipino basketball fans are among the most discerning and knowledgeable in the world and they can smell a fix when they see one, no matter how PBA officials strive to deodorize the stink.
Emotions aside, lets look at the statistics for, after all, statistics play a vital role even in the determination of the various player awards each year. And for this we must commend coach Chot Reyes whose straightforward presentation on television was telling in its effect especially after our good friend Jong Uichico, the Ginebra coach who is a truly decent individual appeared more embarrassed than anything else
Read and be properly amazed.
In the series between Purefoods and Rain or Shine, Purefoods was awarded 79 free throws and Rain or Shine 73. Fine. In the Ginebra-Talk N’ Text series, the Tropang Texters were awarded 80 free throws in three games and Ginebra 126 or a difference of 46 free throws in three games which meant more than 15 per game!
In the first ten minutes of Game 4, Ginebra was given 18 free throws to 5 for Talk N’ Text. Amazing? Not yet. In total, in three games and ten minutes Ginebra got 144 free throws to 85 or a difference of 59. Unbelievable but true.
The hack argument that Ginebra players love to drive to the basket and therefore get fouled won’t wash because Ginebra took 25 more three-point shots in the three games. In the aborted Game 4, Ginebra had already taken 4 more three point shots than Talk N’ Text. Logically you cannot be fouled driving to the basket if your are attempting triples.
How in the name of sanity can Barrios and his officials explain this? No way!
We were writing a Pacquiao story when we received a call asking us to watch TV to find out what happened in the PBA. When we tuned in we were subject to a pathetic effort to defend the call and to criticize Talk N’ Text for walking out with claims that the people paid good money to watch the games. Damn right. But they paid good money to watch a game played with the highest standards of integrity not to watch the PBA referees fix the game in favor of a chosen team, apparently blessed by the gods of the PBA!
The throwing out of Ranidel de Ocampo was scandalous. We watched the replay a couple of times and at the very most it could have been a Flagrant Foul 1. Certainly not Flagrant Foul 2. And to think that the referees review the action on a TV monitor, assisted by their supervisor Ramil Cruz before deciding on what the call should be. To have reviewed the tape and then called a Flagrant Foul 2 which meant the ejection of De Ocampo who automatically cannot play in the deciding Game 5, was obscene. If that call alone was not loaded with an element of game fixing we don’t know what is! Based on this alone Cruz and the referee who decided the call should be fired. How we wish Rudy Salud was Commissioner or even his son, Atty. Chito Salud. Such travesties would never have been tolerated. But then, the PBA board of governors made the choice and now have to suffer for their blunders.
It is interesting to note the criticism leveled against Talk N’ Text for the walkout. To us – and we could be wrong – it seems intrinsically more honorable than continuing to play and to be a willing victim and party to a crime. Let the PBA officials now gloat over their success in finding an easier way to gift Ginebra with a victory which they, the PBA, wanted so badly because the bottom line means more money for the league whose resources are rapidly being dissipated.
Its worth remembering that Ginebra did the same thing years ago in a championship series against Shell at the Ultra and then manager and La Tondena governor Bernabe Navarro effectively said to hell with the fine, a walkout was the honorable action to take.
The walkout will have a price which Talk N’ Text will probably have to pay, depending on how Commissioner Barrios feels or how he may seek to justify his actions. But the bigger price will certainly be paid by the league itself in the further erosion of its credibility.
The only way the PBA board of governors can salvage the situation which is spiraling out of control and into the depths, is to undertake a top-to-bottom revamp. Fire the wimps and the incompetent if not corrupt officials. Recruit men of integrity who will stand up for their rights and what is right, and not individuals who will play favorites or compromise.