(GOODBYE DOC: It’s no plain coincidence that Manolo Iñigo’s last call in his final column last week was addressed to national sports leaders for them to “get their act together and end our long-running tag as ‘Sick Man of Sports in Asia.’” Iñigo, Doc to many scribes, including me whom he had ushered into the world of sportswriting while still in college, had always been a lead crusader. He instilled in many who had trained and started under him the tenets of clarity, competence and promptness. We owe you a lot Sir Doc.)
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THERE indeed was an initial blunder in the PBA game between Alaska and Petron Blaze last week but this went unnoticed due to a truly sickening on-court crime.
The referee choked, although he looked more amused than stunned, after Petron import Renaldo Balkman tried to strangle tall and talented Arwind Santos.
The referee obviously thought there was nothing wrong, the fellow on the clasping end of Balkman’s angry hand being his own teammate.
The referee, in short, did not know what to do.
But to PBA Commissioner Chito Salud, Balkman had committed an unforgivable crime.
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The referee, who should have ordered Balkman banished from the floor, fumbled.
But making up for the slip, Commissioner Salud slapped a hefty fine and ordered a lifetime ban.
Of course, Salud could’ve reconsidered if Balkman did not bring with him here a dirty record, highlighted by a head-butting incident while playing for the Puerto Rico national team.
Salud could’ve reconsidered if, say, it was a player from the opposing team Balkman had threatened and hurt.
Salud did not have to be reminded Balkman’s beastly outburst was the act of a deranged man.
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Big and respected as it is, San Miguel Corp. has every reason to feel displeased with Salud’s firm ruling.
An SMC statement said it is accepting the decision to ban Balkman as it does not condone his action.
But SMC said the incident “has been blown out of proportion.”
“Given the possible long-term effect of this incident to the San Miguel organization image, and in consideration of our need to preserve our good reputation, management has decided to reevaluate the company’s continuing participation in the PBA.”
This statement was followed by a text message that went the rounds saying, “The PBA was so sure Reynaldo Balkman was at fault; they forgot his behavior was triggered by their awful officiating and leniency for dirty plays.”
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For his part, Salud said the SMC image was solid and unshakeable.
Affirming his respect for the top corporation honchos, Salud said the filthy actuations of one import cannot and should not impair the great SMC image.
Salud no longer had to explain that he had to act firmly, with neither fear nor favor, not only for the good of the league, the general public, but for SMC itself.
Unfortunately, the so-called veiled threat by San Miguel had been interpreted by certain sectors as blatant tyranny.
It’s no longer the PBA’s role to either confirm or deny that.
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Meanwhile, Tiger City (Mandaluyong) Mayor Benhur Abalos would do well to ask or investigate where the basin-loads of fresh fish, one single haul totaling 30 kilos of prime bangus, had been hoarded off by raiders from the city’s task force ordinance squad. When this reporter entered the pasilyo between Munting Palengke and Triple “A” Market yesterday morning, a group of vendors, appearing terrorized and in deep despair, stood before empty stalls. Lina Teves, with two front teeth missing, said she lost all her milkfish merchandise to raiders who loaded them in a van with a red plate (SKR 671), while at least five trays of assorted fish belonging to Sonny Malaluan, a Batangueño, were also taken away. There was no word on what they had violated. No tickets nor receipts were issued. Singled out by the complaining vendors was a certain Edgar in black, “malaki, mukhang Diablo.” Another victim complained but she refused to give her name. She said she has become a regular target after she complained to the Inquirer last year. She said they have been paying stall rents, taxes, but they continued to be victimized by the “talipapa terrorists.”