Politics hijacks Philippine basketball (Business Mirror (Philippines))

Ray RoqueroCOULD anyone fault San Miguel Corp. (SMC) for what some extreme fans now call a sabotage of the national team?

Is it club mentality, the myopic view of business-corporate branding that has hijacked Philippine basketball?

Or is it because Gilas has emerged as its own brand? In the process, Gilas has not only become bigger, better and worthier in the eyes of basketball devotees than the fountainhead of its cast of national players, the PBA.

But it appears to have outgrown its original impulse, no matter how noble, even patriotic, it was.

A man with a huge opinion to share, did so in Facebook. Writing under the alias Maxi Green, he gives us a glimpse into how the national team was organized in the pre-Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) days to show who should bear the onus of shame in this current imbroglio.

The late, lamented Lito Puyat, the last strongman in the amateur Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP), had in his heart the goal to form the strongest possible national team.

Without a doubt it was patriotic and high-minded (we could hear the background applause of fans), but his manner was heavy-handed, something that team owners in the Micaa (the amateur equivalent of the PBA) came to deeply resent sometime in 1974.

Puyat’s regrettable mistake, writes Maxi Green, was not allowing the national team members to play for their mother teams while training the whole year round in 1974 for the national team.

That was some vision raised by Puyat, a super team backed up by a super human effort, but demanding as well a sense of extreme sacrifice by the club owners.

Sometime during that year, after the Philippine team had returned from the Mundo World Basketball Championship in Puerto Rico, something snapped in the club.

Their patience. They could no longer put up with a one-man show.

The revolt led to the revolutionary impulse that took away power from Puyat and put it in the hands of club owners. It became the Philippine Basketball Association. Puyat’s vision was crushed.

It democratized public credit as well as power-for it has a board of governors for setting policies. One would represent every one.

But it also created responsibilities to the public-like making that extreme sacrifice that Puyat demanded.

Now Maxi Green, who I think was a member of that Philippine team, offers a sobering view that should alert us to the tendencies of power to exceed itself when the original impulse that spawned it is forgotten.

Now it’s politics and greed, he writes. One group from the PBA wants to grab credit and make money out of the national team.

His thesis leads to a horrible vision that darkens the horizon and should make basketball devotees recoil in horror. That is why the branding GILAS, he writes.

Has it boiled down to this: Basketball as a business proposition? Gilas as a brand? If we probe the thesis deeper, the conclusions are far more surprising.

The man who has been plunking time, effort and most of all resources in the pursuit of his own vision to resurrect Philippine basketball may or may not be aware of this.

But certainly MVP could stomp his foot down on the men who are running the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas of which he is the top honcho.

They, not him, bear the greater responsibility, for coming out with the docus and the coffee-table books, as Maxi Green writes without sentimentality and rancor.

But his prose and views get nasty at some point. In the smaller, concluding part of that statement, he bares his knuckles.

But what about the other groups [in the PBA]? Indeed amid the glory of Gilas, few realized how big a part they played too in this patriotic enterprise. Or were they even recognized?

How did, or do, they fit into the big picture? It was no longer a question of who benefited from the docus by how much, but it is about who shares in the credit? It is about everyone getting in with his own voice.

If the PBA as one was not the group behind the documentary and the coffee-table group, it could only be the SBP, the powerful body behind Gilas. Pagpasok ng mga sipsip ni MVP, nagkawindang-windang na.

It seems the Puyat syndrome has come back, and it is more viral in its resurrection. It is back to a one-man act.

There has always been tension in the PBA, but one associated only with title scuffles that bruised egos more than physically hurt overstrained bodies.

The tension these days hurts the PBA. It is because many have painfully perceived some sad truths in this regrettable episode.

It is a view of many, but one best expressed by Maxi Green in his Facebook post.

There is perception by fans that Gilas is the victim of its mild success, or the success of the man who conceived and propelled its program.

Had MVP kept the original stakeholders that broke away from the BAP, who knows? Wala sanang gulo!

Because it is the wellspring of all the good and not-so-good things that has happened in Philippine basketball the past 40 years, the PBA kept our basketball hopes alive.

When one club owner starts walking off into a separate vision and direction, we, the basketball devotees, are crushed.

About the change of heart of Marc Pingris, I cannot share in his sudden show of enthusiasm in the team he has already spurned.

I admire him. He is needed by the team. I love his work ethic on the floor, especially his courage.

But may be, when he said no, it was not him who was really talking.