Tuesday, December 16, 1975

Column: Player fights threat to the future of PBA

Philippines Daily Express sports editor Tony Siddayao opined that the Crispa-Toyota fight that ended the PBA’s first season in 1975 posed a threat to the future of professional basketball.

Player fights threat to the future of PBA

By Antonio M. Siddayao
Philippines Daily Express
Tuesday December 16, 1975

DESPITE rapport from the public and a bonanza at the gates, the fathers of the Philippine Basketball Association are red-faced from embarrassment. Desperate are they about this crisis spawned by the latest player fights. They are aware that these are not only a blackeye on the PBA, but, more importantly, a threat to its future.

No less than the PBA’s commissioner himself grieved over this sudden ebb in the quality of play as the curtains rang down on the PBA’s first season with the victorious Crispa Redmanizers celebrating their All-Philippine title triumph over the Toyota Comets, who had humiliated them all season like no other club had in their entire history.

“It’s a pity,” said Leo Prieto. “I thought we were doing all right until these fights happened. I always thought our clubs were ready for the kind of high-level play of the pros.”
THE CLUBS may have been ready with the players and the logistics but obviously they were not ready with the organization muscle and the whip to exact unflagging discipline from the players, which are needed to keep a self-policing league like the PBA trouble-free.

Because the better referees shunned joining them, the PBA’s officiating had been miserable and undoubtedly was the cause of nearly all difficulties threatening to undermine the association. Although not happy about this the PBA helped the problem little by keeping referees’ suspensions and fines confidential. No help either in earning player cooperation and respect was the hiding of coaches’ suspensions.

Players had felt discriminated on this by securing double standard and they were justified. After all, without the players there would be no games. Their well-being on the court is as much their responsibility as it is the officials.

When the PBA finally brought in Igmidio Cahanding, the crack amateur referee who gets much of his authoritative clout from the fact that he is a cop. the games looked fine. But many things had gotten out of hand before he came and even a competent fellow like Cahanding, despite help from Eriberto Cruz, lost control last Sunday.
BESIDES the inferior officiating, it had been clear even before the season was halfway through that the PBA’s code of penalties needed more teeth. The fights between Crispa and Toyota were only the culmination of a long buildup of tensions in the entire league. Games had been getting increasingly rugged. Bad blood between players had been growing.

Confidence in officiating had been eroded by inept referees. That all this was getting worse only indicated that hitting the players where it could hurt - the wallet - by the fining them wasn’t enough. Suspensions were meted out but they were’nt long enough to be effective.

Nevertheless, the PBA is concerned. As Prieto himself said two weeks ago, long before Crispa and Toyota plunged into their violent best-of-five, “We’re learning.”
THE BENEFICIARY of last Sunday’s officiating was, of course, the Redmanizers, who already had the advantage of a superior attack, a superior defense and a superior Filipino bench that had been driven to its best form ever by a seemingly endless string of humiliations by the Comets.

The Redmanizers may have taken the short end of the brawls but they were the more insidious at getting the other team’s goat and in the end paid in only one players thrown out compared to three for Toyota.

“Officiating was terrible,” complained Silverio, frustrated in his campaign to sweep the PBA’s maiden season in only his second year as a coach. As damaging, he said, was the Comets’ awry offense. “They seemed to have lost confidence in their shooting. This has bee going since the third game of the series.”

“Two championships in three tournaments and close runnerup in the third tournament - that isn’t bad,” said Silverio later on. “I think it’s something we can be proud of.”
TO THE victorious coach Baby Dalupan, who rose from the disgrace of 10 defeats in 16 games with Toyota to send the Redmanizers skyrocketing to a championship they needed badly to restore their self-confidence, the secret of last Sunday’s clinching win was in “tiring out their first team.”

That’s how Dalupan seized a 31-18 lead with a platoon led by William Adornado and Fortunato Co that came in fresh against Toyota’s starters. From then on, it was an uphill  battle for the Comets. They rolled back the Redmanizers briefly, 70-69, but they ran into foul trouble after three minutes and never really had a good chance of pulling out a miracle despite Crispa’s losing its two American players on the fouls after Sixto Fabiosa opened up a 91-84 spread with 3:10 left.
PUTTING a high premium on winning is a way of promoting athletic excellence. Cultivating rivalries between clubs and developing the competitive spirit among players are all of promoting healthy sports. When they get out of hand, then a league is in trouble.

Fights have never killed a sport. But they bring a notoriety of it and can disgrace a league. It was fights that disrupted the NCAA in the early 60s. It was fights that heightened commercialism in the MICAA, driving te clubs closer than ever to their decision to renounce amateurism ad go pro.

Now that the clubs have crossed the one-way bridge, they have no other place to go. Either they purge themselves of the hooligans by adopting tougher measures or be accused of condoning the violence and invite abolition.

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