THERE are only two sides to it: those who believe that Barangay Ginebra is still the most popular team in the PBA and those who can’t accept it.
The sentiment was the same during the height of the Ginebra frenzy in the ’90s. Fans were either for Robert Jaworski’s crew or weren’t. There were those who adored the Big J and there were just as many who couldn’t care less about him.
But there’s no doubt about it. Ginebra, the basketball team, is an engaging hoop conversation regardless of where you are on the fence. There are still legions of followers who consider themselves members of the only barangay not registered with the Department of Local Government.
The aggressive, if not swashbuckling, style of the team has been a joy to many. The popularity may have waned a bit since Jaworski established the mystique or myth of the team but the fame was sustained somewhat at the turn of the century by Mark Caguioa, Eric Menk, Jayjay Helterbrand and Ronald Tubid. The team’s following cannot be ignored. Even if it fares badly, Ginebra’s loyal faithful are in the bleachers, carinderia or offices defending their team.
That’s why it isn’t easy to be Ginebra. The team’s management wants to reward its faithful with not just winning seasons but with PBA titles. It seems that it’s only in the US or in other countries where winning campaigns without championships are lauded or trumpeted loudly when analyzing a team. Here, a PBA conference or college season is a fruitless venture if a title is not won.
The PBA field has vastly improved and in such a competitive league, it hasn’t been that simple to win championships. The other veteran teams like Petron, San Mig Coffee and Alaska have found it harder to win titles with strong teams like Talk ’N Text and now, Rain or Shine, crowding them.
The recent announcement of Alfrancis Chua as new Ginebra head coach is an interesting move. He’s been on the coaching seat in the PBL and with Tanduay and Sta. Lucia in the pros. Chua’s sideline fire and antics will fit well with a team that may need a coaching jolt every now and then when the pressure of being Ginebra kicks in. As to how many times Chua will untie his long hair in anticipation of an impending win depends on how the team responds to him and the quality of the import the team recruits.
A coaching change is always big sports news and perhaps the way San Miguel has moved around its coaches is all the more intriguing. As long as egos are in check, there seems to be nothing wrong with head coaches becoming assistants or assistants and consultants moving into the hot seat.
And with a team that enjoys a huge fan base, there’s a need to preserve their loyalty. Even the Jaworski mystique may not keep them for good if there’s not a lot of winning going on.