It seems that Burger King cannot find a way to get away from controversy. Fresh from licking its wounds following the Japeth Aguilar exodus, now the franchise is going through its ugliest moment in the league?s history.
In the middle of the second quarter of the Burger King-Smart Gilas game last Friday, Wynne Arboleda decided to change careers from pro basketball player to UFC fighter and attacked a fan who had supposedly provoked him by hurling curses and invectives.
The league responded by slapping the Whoppers guard with its harshest penalty ever: A full season suspension without pay.
But what was the root of the problem?
In a span of 18 minutes prior to the insanity, BK had committed four flagrant fouls. The first came from Arboleda, who sent a welcome-to-the-PBA clothesline to the side of the head of a driving JV Casio. Then, Gary David chipped in his own hard foul on Marc Barroca. Then rookie Ronnie Matias unloaded a swinging elbow as powerful as a Federer backhand to Chris Tiu. Then the infamous ?oops I slipped? undercut of Arboleda on a driving Baracael that got him thrown out.
There were other flagrant fouls that should have been called. Like when Arboleda fought the screen of Casio by elbowing Casio?s chin. Such a blow above the shoulders was enough reason for ejection.
Any responsible coach would have taken out a player who clearly wanted to hurt his opponents. And this other team is not just any team, but our national team filled with kids training and playing their hearts out for the country. While they are compensated well, they still risk injury everyday as they put their pro dreams on hold to pursue the more noble dreams of representing the country.
Intense physical competition is normally expected from a heated rivalry in the middle of a championship series, like Ginebra and Purefoods in the 1990s. But what could possibly have caused that heat and ?fabricated? intensity against a national team that only wants to improve its game?
It certainly wasn?t an attempt to simulate international play. I?ve seen so many international basketball games. And believe me, those fouls would not have been accepted in any international play. I?m sure that once the international basketball community gets a tape of that game, they will be appalled.
How did the referees fail to see the intentions of the burly veterans? If the PBA technical committee was indeed competent, they would?ve ordered the players to stop the shenanigans. Let?s not be naive gentlemen, we know what basketball is and is not.
Arboleda should have been banished much earlier. All told, he committed four fouls, two of them flagrant, and then attacked the fan all in officially three minutes of playing time. That is one for the Guinness book of world records indeed.
So could this have been stopped? Yes of course. Ejecting the fan that could not hold his emotions would have avoided the mauling. But would the hard flagrant fouls have continued?
There were unconfirmed reports that the game plan from the bench was to be a man and to put the kids in their place. One wonders why even a rookie like Matias had the nerve to throw an unprovoked elbow at Tiu?s chin. No rookie in his right mind would do that in his second game in the pros.
And that?s the key word there?provocation. Arboleda claims he was provoked by the cursing. But what could have possibly provoked that kind of play? Was it revenge for the Japeth issue? Was it payback for Powerade being humiliated by Smart Gilas in the charity game? In my entire coaching experience, no player would dare play the way the Whoppers did had they not received the ?green light? from somewhere.
It was clear, too, that team management should have stepped in and stopped the carnage. Is this the way they want to start the season with their board representative as league chairman? I sure hope not.
The Commissioner?s office has missed the point. The criminal/criminals get the punishment while the mastermind manages to get off the hook and go free to create more havoc?