PBA Run For A Cause Is A Run In The Wrong Direction

First off, don’t get me wrong. Running is the ‘new black’ so they say, and I’m all for it. Living near Nuvali Laguna, I can’t help but run myself. Every other morning I go over to Solenad, a fantastic up and coming Ayala development and I’m reminded why I don’t miss Manila. There, I run / walk for an hour, and it gives me energy for the rest of my day. The fresh air, beautiful surroundings and low population density (for now), makes the experience quite unique and wonderful.

Running per se is enjoyable enough. I’m happy that a lot of my friends, many who have never taken up a sport in their lives have taken to it so well. It is as cheap a sport as it can get, and offers challenges available to all sorts of people from those looking for something to do, to those looking for a challenge. It is also the easiest sport of them all. All you have to do is put one foot in front the other and you’re literally on your way. I love it, and if we were to give up basketball as a ‘national sport’ in favor of running I’d be all for it.

However, let’s get back to my point.

Actually, several points.

PBA is League First, Business Second

The Philippine Basketball Association is first a basketball league, and second an organization that makes money off of running that league. I make that distinction because judging from its history, it wasn’t initially launched as a money – making organization. It just turned out that way when its games, teams and players became so wildly popular – an organic and forward thinking way to start a business I might add.

Trust me when I say that I find nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Running a league as big as that involves truckloads of cash, and so it needs to earn and earn big time. Earning more money is good because it improves things. With more income you can afford the best people, and the best people will bring better players and teams, better coverage, better officials, better venues, all things better throughout.

PBA Should Promote Basketball, Not Anything Else

Having said above, it makes sense for the PBA to promote basketball in each and every way possible, because promoting basketball in turn promotes the PBA.

Case in point. The NBA’s David Stern was asked last June of what he thought of ‘how important it is to the NBA to be spreading their brand across the world‘, referring to the several NBA teams playing around Europe. Stern made the distinction of promoting the game vis a vis promoting the NBA:

Well, a couple of things. Number one, the primary way we spread the game not the brand, the game, is television, and that has been aided by the Internet, so actually now there are actually more visits to NBA.com from outside the U.S. than there are within the U.S. on many days.

Note how Stern makes a clear distinction re promoting ‘the game’, and not ‘the brand’ (the NBA) – A sign of the foundation upon which I believe the NBA’s success had been built upon.

The NBA promotes basketball, not the NBA, because I believe, promoting the sport gains far more mileage than promoting the NBA the organization. I believe this can be translated as well locally where PBA fans see basketball in the Philippines as the PBA. If they hear of a good local player or teams playing, they assume that game is being played in the PBA, or at least it should be. If you are a ‘basketball fan’, you are automatically assumed to be a ‘PBA fan’ and even to some extent, a ‘Ginebra fan’ or ‘Jaworski fan’. If you are not, you will have to add that footnote whilst describing yourself.

Which brings me to my next point:

PBA Should Give Its Fans What They Want, And Not Confuse Them

The PBA may have literally healthy intentions in promoting a run, but to the average PBA fan that registers as nonsense. If I were Mang Danny jeepney driver keeping tabs on San Miguel, or Ginebra, I have no interest in an event promoting anything else, no matter how ‘healthy’ it is for me. Besides if you check what those teams promote, they aren’t exactly health products.

This particularly stings, to be honest, because your daily man – on – the – street sports fan takes these things to heart. And the ‘healthy for you’ shtick doesn’t hold any water here either, because if the PBA fan wanted to get healthier, then goddamit he’d play basketball.

It Is Not Sustainable

Let’s now approach this run from a business point of view. The run seems to be a success because of all those sponsor logos, indicating that it will earn money. Which is always good, correct?

I disagree completely. Why? Imagine if the run becomes successful. What then? Will they hold another run? Then a bigger one? Then another? Considering it becomes really successful, what then of basketball – which happens to be the ‘B’ in ‘PBA’ and a different sport altogether?

The run cannot possibly be allowed to be held again because plainly, nothing is more important than promoting the sport they are supposed to promote in the first place. Any good business man knows that you do not venture into an activity without the prospect of growth. If that growth means eventually biting the hand that feeds it, then that activity is not worthwhile and ergo, unsustainable.

Sigh.

I hate criticizing the PBA. I really do. Mostly because I have such fond memories of it in the past, and I continue to have high hopes for it today. But clearly, its leadership seems to have lost sight of the foundations upon which their growth is attributed to.

Basketball is what built the PBA, and the PBA must never forget that. It cannot just hop onto whatever popular thing comes around without thinking things through. In fact, the PBA should consider any other sport other than basketball as inferior to it, like how the big kid would treat the new kid on the block – either with disdain, curiosity or a patient smile – but never with open arms. There’d have to be a big fight before he gives up his turf. But in this case, the PBA is just giving it away.

What stings most though is how the ordinary fan may see this as treachery to their favorite sport. The fan out there is dependent on the PBA to feed his weekly appetite for sports. If he realizes the PBA itself considers running as a more worthwhile activity to spend their efforts on, then that speaks little of how they perceive their own sport. Fans would consequently feel it best to look elsewhere.