Gilas Last Home Stand that never was [Arab News (Saudi Arabia)]
(Arab News (Saudi Arabia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)
GRACE B. CASTILLO
The fiasco that happened on Tuesday night in what was supposed to be the first of two tune-up matches for Gilas Pilipinas against a crack NBA selection certainly left a bad taste in the mouth.
People shelled out huge sums just to be able to get inside the Araneta Coliseum to see the likes of James Harden, Damian Lillard, Demar DeRozan, etc., trade baskets with the Philippine National Team.
Some tickets were priced as high as P23,300 with the lowest going for P750, only for the fans to be informed that the show, billed as "Gilas Last Home Stand" would be a show of drills, fancy dunks and some giveaways for the fans.
Filipinos are probably the smartest and most loyal basketball fans this side of the globe, and they would sacrifice a whole lot just to see what could potentially be a great game.
That's why jeers and boos reached a crescendo at around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, when it became evident that there wouldn't be a game at all because the NBA did not permit its players to play the unsanctioned exhibition game.
But, can we fault the NBA? I don't think so.
Can we fault Manny V. Pangilinan, the godfather of the national basketball program for the past five years or so who doesn't want anything but the betterment of the sport in the country? Definitely not.
Who exactly is it that we put the blame on?
PLDT, the flagship of Pangilinan's vast conglomerate, is definitely the one to blame.
The telecommunications company went into an agreement with a third party to bring the group of players to the Philippines for those two exhibition games, and that third party certainly was responsible for delivering what it had promised.
That third company is East West LLC or something, which was supposedly the same group that brought Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose to the Philippines back in 2011 when there was still a lockout in the NBA.
Apparently, that third party made a killing three years ago that it thought that it could pull off the same trick again, even without Kobe, Durant and Rose.
It failed, and gave Pangilinan the embarrassment he doesn't deserve.
* * *
The event was being drummed up as early as a month ago, at least, when tweets coming from national coach Chot Reyes and Pangilinan announced the coming of the NBA stars.
Included in their initial tweets were the names of Paul Pierce and Blake Griffin, and later on, the sleek Paul George of the Indiana Pacers.
So, getting something like that is indeed mouth-watering. Who wouldn't want to watch the trio play on local soil, against local stars?
Ariel Fermin, a vice-president for one of PLDT's products that sponsored the entire thing, even had the gall to tell media that the "Last Home Stand" never really mentioned anything about a game, or games, happening, between the Nationals and the NBA stars.
It just amazes me to hear this Fermin guy say something like that, which literally questions the intelligence of the Filipino.
Who, in his right mind, would pay P23,300 just to watch players do drills? They can see that on youtube and can do so over and over again. For free.
An official NBA statement even said that the third party was turned down for its request for the games as early as April. April, that was a good three months before it happened, and the group still went on with it.
Fermin said that the event was for charity, that's why they charged exorbitant fees to be able to help victims of Typhoons Yolanda last year and just recently, Glenda.
Fermin even appealed to the fans not to get refunds for their tickets because the event was supposedly for charity.
If it was charity they wanted, they could have foregone the act of inviting the NBA players and paying them a reported $150,000 each and given that amount to the typhoon victims.
They could have invited the Taiwanese national team to play at the Araneta and would have gotten strong support for Gilas and they wouldn't have charged that much and made the country even happier.
What was admirable after all that brouhaha was Pangilinan stepping out to tell the media that he was sorry, and that he was holding himself accountable for all the mess.
That was indeed the right way to go. That is the mark of a true leader, the mark of a real man. Unlike Fermin who was feeding the media crap by saying that there wasn't a game originally scheduled.
I really think that the popularity of Gilas in the country did not diminish one bit because of what happened, but the image of the country internationally was certainly tarnished because of that.
The NBA itself went on to issue a statement regarding that and it certainly was read by millions who would go on inquiring what the heck it was.
The Philippines, Pangilinan's Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, is even bidding to hold the World Cup after four years and another Fiba-Asia Qualifying next year.
Chances are, those bids will be affected by what happened.
And if Fermin did admit right away that they were at fault, maybe it could have eased the tension somewhat. Maybe the people would have forgiven them after giving the fans a refund.
But his statements made it look that the Filipino fan didn't know the difference between black and white. And that will stick in the consciousness. Not only in the Philippines, but in other parts of the world that also hold basketball as religion.
(c) 2014 Arab News All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
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