The Philippine Basketball Association, the country’s and Asia’s pioneering professional league, is a house divided. This is the first time in the league’s 42-year history that its very foundation is being threatened.
Barely a week after the league registered a record 54,000 plus crowd that witnessed Game 7 of the championship series between eventual champion Barangay Ginebra and Meralco at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan and a little over a month before the opening of its 43rd season.
This is because while the pro-play has endured and survived many controversies, almost yearly since it was organized in 1975, this is the only time that the man who is supposed to solve each and every such controversial situations – the commissioner – is himself involved and is, in fact, being asked to step down.
A majority group of seven, made up of representatives of Talk N’ Text, and its sisters teams NLEX and Meralco, Phoenix, Rain or Shine, Blackwater and Alaska, in a meeting last Thursday, decided not to support any move that to renew the tenure of commissioner Chito Narvasa.
The seven, led by incoming chair Ramoncito Fernandez of NLEX, came up with the call for Narvasa to resign in the wake of his controversial decision approving trade between San Miguel Beer and Kia involving Fil-German Christian Standhardinger.
In a separate meeting held on the same day, a bloc of five of the 12 member of the PBA board, came in support of the beleaguered Narvasa, citing only a two-thirds vote of the board membership can oust the commissioner. The bloc is composed of Robert Non of San Miguel, sisters teams Barangay Ginebra and Star Hotshots, Globalport and Kia.
How this controversy is going to be solved and who will are the big questions now being asked by the PBA followers. As I mentioned somewhere at the start of this piece, controversies like this are normally being thrown at the office of the commissioner for solution. But because it is the commissioner himself who is involved, in whose shoulder the problem will now be tossed?
As vanguard of professionalism in a mass-based sport as basketball, which happens to be the nation’s national pastime, it has to contend to with a number of first time situations.
Aware of these, the founding fathers of the PBA combined their local know-how with that of the tested methods of the US National Basketball Association. It is thus that in the PBA setup, the commissioner is vested with a very wide range of powers, running the show an answerable only to the board of governors. Such is the most successful system evolved by the American professional sports.
The PBA is not new to problems and controversies since its inception. He biggest problem, in fact, that confronted the young league was the players fight that occurred right in its first year when tension brought about by the intense rivalry between Crispa and Toyota exploded in the face of founding commissioner Leo Prieto in the fifth and final game of the Third Conference.
It took only a prick of a pin to set off the explosion, which Toyota’s Oscar Rocha and Rodolfo Soriano of Crispa provided. A slight provocation at each other sparked free-for-all in the second quarter with both Soriano and Rocha getting the heaviest load of punches. Both went out of the game with lumps on their faces.
Near the end of the game, Redmanizer Philip Cezar and Comet Ramon Fernandez took a swing at each other and in the ensuing melee stopped the contest for the second time. Cooler heads prevailed after a few minutes.
The violence merely stalled the Redmanizer’s way to their greatest triumph ever. They emerged from it all with a 96-91 win for the most prestigious of the here conferences in hat inaugural year.
The violence that marred that final game had far reaching repercussion though. Four days later President Marcos placed the PBA and other professional sports under the control of the Games and Amusements Board. That and the subsequent incarceration of the players involved ended the first and turbulent year of the pro-league.
There were many more controversies and turbulence that followed like the game-fixing scandals, problem on HIV among players, referees’ calls, imports, drafting of amateurs etc. but Prieto, Rudy Salud and those who followed their watch a commissioners, thinking the welfare of the league first and the fans and especially the players survived them all.
What differed those problems to this one though is that this concerns the teams themselves and the win-at-all cost syndrome prevailing among them.