Of Class, Character, and Why I don't Write About The PBA

When I was a kid joining neighborhood ligas, like most kids it was our first chance to extend our knowledge of people outside of our circle of friends and family and be amongst people of the neighborhood. At some point, I can’t remember when though, you start to realize that some of these people you’d rather do without.

Essentially what happened was, one summer we neighborhood kids wanted so much to play in a league that we started our own. We did most of the legwork (or rather, the bigger kids did), like hiring refs, renting the court dates and the most important of all – designing our uniforms. Yep, the uniforms were so important almost anything else was secondary to getting good looking uniforms.

At any rate and to make the long story short, the league took off and lots of other teams from different Barangays wanted to join in. Mandaluyong is basically segregated by the Munisipyo, that big oval in the center. We were at Plainview near an enormous plot of land housing the Mental Hospital, and teams all the way from across the Munisipyo wanted to join in. What started out as barely 4 teams ballooned to something like 9 if I recall correctly.

So anyway the league – which didn’t even have a name yet and if it did I can’t even remember it since it changed so often – finished up and my team ended up somewhere in the 3rd to the bottom rung. But it was well attended and fun, and it was decided that another one start on October to end around Christmas. It was out of ‘our’ (the original kids who set it up) hands then, a number of people joined up after and were making decisions already.

And these are the people I want to talk about, the same type of people I think inhabit the offices of the PBA today.

I don’t remember joining that 2nd one anymore, I may have joined another and in the ensuing summers either went to our province in Quezon or whatever, but I remember joining a team to play in that league again 3 years later.

And I remember clearly how awful things had turned out. What started out as an attempt at organizing ourselves for a kid basketball league was now run by men who, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand. Mostly composed of ‘Coaches’, player’s Dad’s and others, they ‘win’ games by fielding talented players from outside Mandaluyong, some even from the provinces. They would cheat player’s ages, adding 20+ year olds to the 14-18 leagues. They would bribe and threaten the refs and even extend or cancel games in the league schedule based on how well it would turn out for them. Once, I actually experienced the famous ‘blackout’, when in a tight game the lights went off and the scoreboard would get knocked out, inspite of the fact that the lights at neighboring buildings were perfectly normal. A few minutes later and guess what? The lights come back and the lead is miraculously ‘transferred’ to the losing team.

The thing is, it was funny at first, because all those things seemed to come straight from a Tito Vic and Joey movie. But later I realized I felt sad that what ‘we’ started, (and I’m speaking very generally here, ‘we’ being a whole bunch of us neighborhood kids), has pretty much gone to pot.

There was no way a deserving team was going to win that league. You can practice all day and all night till your knees give way and it would never ever happen. The whole idea of just having fun was gone. In its place was the ugly sight of teams lead by these guys who do everything they can – with no boundaries – to win. It wasn’t fun anymore. It was stupid, frightening and sad, made even sadder in that there isn’t even any money in it. To this day I cannot imagine what satisfaction they get from fielding an overage or unqualified player to win. What, in their twisted illogical minds is there to gain from that?

And now, the PBA

The truth is, I was all set to write about the PBA. I caught the Air21 – Ginebra game where Air21’s play excited me enough to watch the ensuing Air21 – Coca Cola game, in which they promptly disappointed, getting blown out in the first half towards an eventual loss. I even had an angle and a title ready – “PBA All Filipino Is An Example In Inconsistency” – or something like that, to recognize the fact that no All Filipino Champion has managed to defend its title since 1984-85. I was going to say that the announcers felt this is a sign that the League is exciting, and that the teams are evenly – matched, all of which may be valid, but I chose to say that it is Inconsistent – and make pointers as to why I think that is so. I like doing that. That’s one of the reasons why I started this blog in the first place.

But then these happened:

PBA Chief Picked Today
Salud next PBA commissioner?
Barrios named new commissioner
Salud gives up PBA bid
Webb: Why am I not surprised?
PBA can’t live on a piece of Band-Aid
Democratic headache
Of decency and integrity

To those who haven’t followed (and yes, you’re probably not a very busy person if you follow these things), the PBA needed a new Commisioner after Noli Eala‘s telenovela – like love life was made public.

And so what does the scandal marred league do to improve its situation? Well here’s the three step process:

  1. Call for nominees so the Board can have an election.
  2. Cancel the results of the election for reasons unknown, and then..
  3. Declare someone who didn’t even run, and who doesn’t look like he wants it, as the New Commissioner!

Suddenly, I am a kid again, playing in the 17 and under neighborhood league in Mandaluyong 3 years after we initially set it up. As the game progresses, the opposing coach fields in a 5’11 foot guy from Pampanga who can tap the board with both hands whereas most of us are barely 5’4. In retaliation, our Coach fields in his own 5’9, their ‘visiting’ farmhand from Batangas who looks like a week short of his 22nd birthday.

The game gets tight, with both ‘star’ players scoring 95% of the points, the rest of us trying to look like we think the game is still fair and the crowd jeering like its watching a Tito Vic and Joey movie. A ref call fouls as if from thin air, as someone from the stand gives them a knowing wink. Ten seconds left and the lights go out, coming back on with 2 seconds left and the lead miraculously changing hands.

Someone wins, but it doesn’t matter. The ‘winning Coach’ smiles and pats his own back at his considerable ‘skill’. The losing Coach resolves bitterly to employ even more cunning methods in future rounds.