Meralco: Carrying on a sports traditonBy Sev Sarmenta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
WHEN you have lived for half a century and have been a sports fan for almost as long, you would have collected a ton of unforgettable memories.
Last Sunday, I was at Meralco sports complex canteen for a meeting and my sports nostalgia trip was triggered by a huge old The Manila Chronicle sports page dated July 12, 1971 headline that declared: MERALCO RULES MICAA, RIPS CRISPA 65-58.
The names and the pictures remind me of an era when I would follow hoops religiously on TV. My late mother even brought me and my brother Steve to the Rizal Memorial for three games of a MICAA opening day. I was an YCO fan for the longest time and rooted for Freddie Webb, Sonny Reyes, Egay Gomez, Rene Canent, Elias Tolentino and others.
But when you are a fan, you get to know every player, move and nuance. The players on the Meralco wall were all familiar: Big Boy Reynoso, Fort Acuña, Ramon Lucindo, Larry Mumar, Robert Jaworski, Boy Marquez, Jimmy Mariano, Francis Arnaiz and others were in that Meralco uniform inspired by the Atlanta Hawks of the ’70s. The imports were Charles Greenfield and Bob Presley. Presley was a strong behemoth in the paint and with an Afro haircut that made him look taller.
Meralco and the old MICAA were not limited to basketball. There are pictures and clippings as well of Meralco emerging as the overall league champion in 1971 with triumphs in badminton, baseball, tennis, volleyball and shooting. The MICAA was a league with a full sports calendar that allowed players outside of basketball to extend their athletic careers.
It was clear that the Lopez family, the original owners of Meralco, considered sports an important facet of corporate life. In the sports complex are basketball and tennis courts that never seem to run out of players even on Sundays. The new management under Manuel V. Pangilinan is maintaining that sporting tradition by fielding the Meralco Bolts in the PBA and sprucing up and maintaining the current sports facilities.
One can only speculate how much more of a sports power Meralco could have been if it did not disband its basketball team or if martial law not been declared in 1972. As history has revealed, the Lopez properties, from its broadcast networks to its public utilities, were ransacked by the extended rule of Ferdinand Marcos. As we celebrate the Edsa Revolution this week, we recall that the Lopezes slowly recovered their losses but Meralco no longer resurfaced as a name to reckon with in sports.
The challenge for the present generation of Meralco players is to blaze their own trails and create new sports memories for the future. There’s pressure to uphold a winning tradition. But wouldn’t you want to have that kind of legacy working for you rather than against you?
Companies that include sports for the general public and their employees can never go wrong. Not all can have sports facilities and amenities like Meralco but can surely integrate sports activities that can be enjoyed by all.
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