The NBA sets the example on how to follow the rules
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-07-05
The US National Basketball Association (NBA) more than just concluded another great season. It showed the world its uncompromising position on preserving the integrity of its rules.

This is an unusual practice for us Filipinos, especially now that we seem to continue evolving ways on how to adjust rules to suit our personal interests.

In the fourth game of the exciting Phoenix Suns versus the San Antonio Spurs Western Conference semi-finals, Spurs’ forward Robert Horry gave Suns point guard Steve Nash a hard foul as Nash drove past Horry in the back court after engineering a crucial steal. Using his broad shoulder, Horry bumped Nash off the court. Nash smashed hard against the officials table. Teammates Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw immediately rose from the Suns bench and rushed to their banged-up fallen teammate.

Ever since the Detroit-Indiana brawl of 2005, the NBA imposed very strict rules on players who leave their benches in reaction to rough plays on the court. Stu Jackson, an NBA vice president, religiously enforces the new rule more sternly than a Spanish Inquisitor of the 15th century.

There was no evidence that would point to the intention of Stoudamire or Diaw to assault Horry for his roughness. From all indications, they rushed to the court out of genuine concern for Nash, the hub of the Suns offense.

US sportswriters argued in favor of a lenient verdict instead of suspending two key Phoenix players which would effectively penalize the team in the face of its already disadvantaged position of having its key player at the wrong end of foul play.

The incident was nowhere like the Detroit-Indiana brawl that ignited between then Piston Ben Wallace and then Pacers forward Ron Artest, a brawl that spilled into the spectators section. That was the worst rumble I’ve seen happen in the NBA and the fact that fans got involved prompted the league officials to clamp down on hard court violence and institute the bench-clearing rule. Having done so, the NBA has adopted a no-leniency policy in enforcing the rule.

Everyone who follows the NBA knows that the Phoenix Suns had been the most followed team of the season. Non-Phoenix basketball fans tend to adopt Phoenix as their second favorite team and for good reason. The Suns play a clean and fast game that keeps basketball fans at the edge of their seats.

Having the Phoenix Suns compete in the NBA finals would have easily meant 20% more ratings than what the San Antonio versus Cleveland finals had subsequently generated. More ratings would mean greater revenues for the NBA and ending the season with a far stronger market position for the next season’s ad spend allocations.

The end of the Michael Jordan and Shaq-Kobe eras left the NBA with a big vacuum to fill. The elimination of defending champs Miami Heat and last year’s runner-up Dallas Mavericks left the world’s premiere basketball league with a profit-dumper lackluster final series.

Only the Phoenix Suns, with their popularity and exciting brand of basketball could salvage what is then threatening to make the finals anti-climactic. Basketball fans and sports writers knew that. The NBA officials knew that.

Despite this, NBA officials uncompromisingly enforced their bench-clearing rule. As an NBA fan, I was one of those who were appalled to see Phoenix penalized despite the fact that they were the aggrieved party, the recipient of the hard foul.

However, when I look at the incident from a larger perspective, I end up admiring the NBA officials for respecting and enforcing their own rules — even if that meant losses in ratings and revenues.

I can only wish that our government, especially our Department of Justice and law enforcers, would apply the law regardless of who gets hurt or stands to gain from it. Indeed, the subjective interpretation and implementation of the law in our country is now becoming more the rule and practice rather than the exception.

There is a law for the rich and another for the poor, a law for those allied with the administration and another for those who are with the Opposition. At times, we even see a difference in how the law is applied between men and women.

In our country, we seem to be more inclined towards seeking exceptions to the rule than enforcing the rule without fear or favor. We are thus paying the high price for not respecting our own rules and regulations.

We spend more time on the road wasting costly petrol because of drivers and pedestrians who do not follow the rules and worsen our traffic situation. We suffer from the cost of excessive corruption because the evil doers amongst us can easily buy their way out of having to follow the rules. We have to pay more taxes because the ones who ought to be paying bigger taxes are able to reduce or evade taxes — thanks to corrupt government revenue collectors.

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A great disservice to P-Noy

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