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Commentary: The last thing this PBA standoff needed was a boycott

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 05:19 PM November 17, 2017

Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

There are so many ways the PBA can heal itself after a major fissure split its Board of Governors into two blocs–purportedly, the drawn lines are the same ones that separate two major conglomerates in the board.

Fire Chito Narvasa? That certainly is an option.

Retain him as steward of an iconic institution? Perhaps.

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Name a caretaker OIC or appoint a new commissioner? Maybe.

There are many immediate solutions that the PBA could apply to make sure that when Dec. 17 rolls around, there will be an opening night for Asia’s first professional basketball league. But that’s exactly what the PBA needs the least right now–immediate solutions. What it needs right now are lasting programs and a major culture change.

The problem hounding the PBA is a political one. Only in some short-sighted manner can this mess be blamed on the trade between San Miguel Beer and Kia for the services of Christian Standhardinger. In reality, the trade is just the fruit of it all. The root? It goes way deeper than what has been already discussed numerous times in all forms of media.

There has been a lot of clamor for the PBA to reexamine its soul. But what it needs in this dire moment of introspection is to look at its heart. And the heart of the league is its fans.

One of the perils of political problems lies in perception. And what is the prevailing perception? That of fans being hoodwinked. But to apply surface-only solutions to the problem leaves the league open to confronting the same crisis in the future–and the same result perception-wise.

True, we can easily lay the blame on the doorstep of the commissioner’s office. It has been the most convenient scapegoat, after all, instead of asking a group of powerful team governors to shoulder some accountability for the decaying fan trust over the years.
But here’s the quick-heal we get by merely replacing the commissioner: In the public’s perception of this ongoing civil war, it becomes a mere transfer of the balance of power. Fans will be wary that the commissioner’s backers will ultimately turn into his sacred cows.

How has the perception of the league sharply dropped to this?

Look at it this way: How many of you really believe that if the commissioner’s office shot down the San Miguel Beer-Kia trade, Standhardinger would remain a franchise player who would turn the Picanto’s fortunes around and make people believe they actually belong in the PBA? If you raised your hand, you have overdosed on naivete.

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The moment Standhardinger declared for a draft class where the top pick belonged to Kia, his career direction was clear. He would be a franchise player for a team that belonged to either the MVP or SMC group. This is what Kia’s mission in the PBA looks like, after all: To build powerhouse squads outside of their own franchise.

A true and deep-healing solution to the problem means creating an authority infrastructure that shields the commissioner’s office from board influence; it means painting over the gray areas of league rules to make sure lottery teams don’t pawn off their basketball future.

You don’t need just a strong commissioner–fans would see him as inept anyway under the same environment. Superman, in his home planet of Krypton, would just be another normal being.

You need a strong commissioner’s office.

Of the many paths the league can take toward healing itself, however, this isn’t–shouldn’t be–one of them: There is now an apparent boycott of some team governors of the annual planning session where the roadmap of the 2018 season would’ve been drawn up.

The absence of four team representatives in Los Angeles–incoming chair Ramoncito Fernandez of NLEX has also skipped the board activity–meant no resolution was forged regarding the status of Narvasa. And it put on hold Season 43’s plans, too. No schedule of games. No import ceiling. No new rules. Nothing. No healing.

Maybe it would be to early to assume it is a boycott, even if the absent governors represent teams who belong to the bloc calling for Narvasa’s dismissal. At the very least, it is disheartening to see how these representatives cannot make time for the PBA at a time when the league needs their stewardship the most. The last dispatch we received from LA is that meetings have already been cancelled and the representatives who did make the trip are now reduced to filling those empty hours with sightseeing tours with their families.

Sure, maybe the presence of the four would have meant a mere 1 percent chance that the board finally settles the impasse that has stalled league operations. But their absence? It obliterates that chance. It wipes out whatever hope of unifying the board during the planning session.

Worse, in the perception play, their absence only reinforced the belief that the league has stopped caring for the heart that beats within it. The fans. The people who shell out hard-earned money for pricey tickets for the chance to see the best basketball in the country being played right before their very eyes.

It turned the current standoff from a driving point for a much-needed discussion on how to improve the PBA into a showcase of its officials’ petulance.

Merely replacing the commissioner won’t start the much-needed healing of the PBA. The way things are going, healing can start at one place, no matter how many different paths there are to take: The board has to treat this impasse with a heightened urgency to reassure the fans that they remain the heart of the country’s only professional basketball league.

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TAGS: Basketball, chito narvasa, Christian Standhardinger, PBA, PBA Board of Governors, Sports
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