Rain or Shine team owner Raymond Yu said he just had to call me. The stories that had been flooding the papers since early this week have gotten him very worried, he explained, and he needed to get some enlightenment and assurance from an old-timer like me.
“Do you think the San Miguel teams will pull out of the league as they had insinuated in a press statement distributed to the media last Tuesday?” Raymond asked me.
Actually, I had earlier tried to get an answer to the same question from PBA chair Robert Non of SMC who must have been caught between his functions as PBA chair and his team affiliation.
“We already issued a statement last night that we have accepted the decision of Chito (Salud). We even apologized to the fans for what happened, that we are not condoning such a behavior from our import. It’s all there in the statement issued yesterday,” was Non’s answer.
That I already knew. What I had wanted to hear was an update on SMC’s plan to evaluate its continued participation in the league after this incident “damaged our (SMC’S) good name.”
* * *
Earlier, I had also asked Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao and four other important personalities in the PBA for their opinion on Commissioner Chito Salud’s decision to ban import Renaldo Balkman from playing in the PBA and asking him to pay a fine of P250,000. Was it too harsh?
Yeng admitted that at first he thought it was too harsh. “But on second thought, I realized that the commissioner must know some things that we don’t. He also must consider the actions of Balkman from a wider perspective. In the end I trust the judgement of the commissioner on this matter.”
Raymond shares Yeng’s sentiment, and so does Talk ‘N Text head coach and former import Norman Black.
“I think the commissioner had the right to impose any penalty he wanted, especially since the incident was one of the worst displays of unsportsmanship I’ve seen in the PBA in all my 30 years with the league,” Norman said.
“If only Balkman had controlled his temper, he could have easily led his team to the finals. He is that good, he’s in a different class,” noted Raymond.
* * *
I also asked Alaska’s Fred Uytengsu, who owns the oldest PBA franchise outside of the San Miguel teams, Mikee Romero of Globalport and Mon Segismundo, Meralco governor, for their thoughts on the Balkman case.
Fred said the league has it in its bylaws a rule that teams and players should abide by the commissioner’s decision. “No player or team should be above such decisions and rules. As far as the Balkman incident is concerned, it seems the commissioner took all the facts and prior history into account. We must remember that player and fan safety are paramount and the PBA needs to set the right example.”
For his part, Mon Segismundo feels that “we have to respect and support the commissioner’s decision.”
Mikee Romero, on the other hand, said it is nothing new for imports to get the ire of their local teammates and vice versa. “For example, in my ABL team Philippine Patriots, my import Donald Little got into a fist fight that escalated into chair-throwing with teammates Allan Salansang, Chito Jaime, and Egay Billones during a halftime break. But because this wasn’t seen on television, the ABL commissioner didn’t do anything about it,” said Mikee.
* * *
Did I think San Miguel would pull out from the league?
“No,” I told Raymond. I’ve been in and around the league longer than anybody I know and this is what I can say. The PBA is like a family which has its share of disagreements and misunderstandings. No matter how seemingly bad or serious the situation between ballclubs or between a ballclub and the commissioner, in the end the warring parties always kiss and make up.
“But what if Petron, Ginebra and San Mig Coffee really pull out? These are the three most popular PBA teams, will the league survive?” Raymond asked.
“Negative” I replied.