The rough brand of PBA basketball
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2013-01-13

When it comes to primetime TV viewing, my wife Mey and I watch different programs and so I watch from our bedroom TV set while she watches from the TV set in our library. She’s addicted to the inane teleseryes (telenovelas) of ABS-CBN while I have a preference for documentaries on the History, National Geo and Discovery channels and US movies and series like CSI New York.

Just to demonstrate how inane these teleseryes are — I brought to the attention of my friend Bong Osorio, Corporate Communications Head of ABS-CBN, that their teleserye ARYANA insults the intelligence of viewers. I get to watch about 5 minutes of ARYANA while waiting for TV Patrol, which follows it. Cops in ARYANA were hell bent on arresting the mermaid, the heroine of the teleserye. The writer failed to rationalize this in the light of the fact that there’s no law against mermaids in the Philippines!

Not to digress, last January 3, I was surprised to see Mey leave her TV set in our library and join me in bed in watching the game 6 of the Rain or Shine versus San Mig Coffee best of seven semi-finals of the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association). When I asked her why she suddenly abandoned her teleserye addiction, Mey replied that the PBA game seemed more interesting. She earlier had a glimpse of the rough and dirty plays in that PBA game.

I kidded her that in the PBA games, she gets to watch not only basketball but also boxing, wrestling and in several instances, acting demonstrations as when a player tries to sell a flop to the refs. Quite frankly, it’s high time that these rules of the PBA are questioned in the interest of the life and limb of its players and the impressions these rough and dirty plays make on the public mind, especially our youth. PBA Commissioner Rudy Salud must be called to task over the evolution of such rules and how players and questionable referees glaringly abuse these.

Sure, basketball rules have been relaxed on fouls — from being a no-contact game to the allowing of incidental contact. However, not even the FIBA games nor the NBA games tolerate such dirty or rough plays, as practiced in the PBA. If PBA players who will represent us in FIBA tournaments play the same way they do here, they’ll be fouling out in the first half of the game. I’ve been watching basketball since the playing days of the legendary Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga of the Yco Painters. In those days, there were dirty tactics but the refs did not tolerate these and neither were these as brazen as what we see now. In the NBA they promoted the concept of no-harm, no foul. In the PBA these days, the practice is moderate harm is no foul.

Nowadays, in the PBA, no-calls by the refs are encouraging more rough and dirty tactics to be applied. Some say that the relaxed PBA rules on fouls — that translates to “You’re free to hit the other player” just don’t make it flagrant — were desperate measures that the PBA had to adopt in order to arrest the decline in following and TV viewership. If that was the reason, in a way their solution worked — as seen in getting my wife Mey to abandon watching her primetime teleserye.

However, we all pay a big price when we distort the rules in order to arrest basketball following and TV rating decline. We get used to playing with rules that will make us lose games in international tournaments. Watch the FIBA games and you’ll see how much rougher and dirty our PBA brand of play is. We condition young peoples’ minds that rough and dirty tactics are good methods to adopt in order to attain a goal. No wonder they correctly placed an MTRCB Parental Guidance notice before the telecast of PBA games.

Several games of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semi-finals would offer the best proof of just how dirty and rough this league had become. In one game, three players were thrown out and sent to the dugout. Even coaches were also thrown out. One of the AKTV TV annotators correctly observed that how come with the benefit of TV review of the game — the refs still maintain their wrong calls? Really, what’s the point of reviewing the game if a ref will just sustain a wrong call?

While we’re at it, we might as well include in this discussion the persistent whispers in basketball circles about game fixing. Review the most questionable PBA games and you’ll see that the most controversial calls are in those games where the underdog team seems to be loaded for a win. The big money is made when an underdog wins and it’s natural for game fixers to protect their “investments” by bribing some refs. In some instances, these controversial calls get the protesting coach thrown out of the playing court.

With rules like these that allow excessive rough and dirty tactics, it’s just a matter of time when a team or a player will sue the PBA for damages. Why not? A firm invests a lot of money to maintain a team only to find that it’s best shooter has been maimed and could no longer play. The PBA player who will become a victim of rough and dirty tactics can rightfully claim damages from the PBA for allowing such harmful rules to be adopted in the pro league, especially if the injury is a career ender.

Have you noticed that there is now an unusual increase in the number of injured players? Team owners should be alarmed because they could find their most prized players — the usual target of dirty tactics — rendered inutile because of a severe injury. If the PBA had a players association like that of the NBA, players would be justified to boycott the pro league until more acceptable rules are promulgated and enforced. After all, they’re only paid to play basketball, not to get maimed.

At the very least, the Senate committee on sports should look into this. There is public interest involved here.

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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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