Incidental contact; intent to harm
Recent developments in sports, as well as my renewed vigor and health, have given me the impetus to write again.
Please allow me to comment on the latest developments in the PBA.
Helping run the league as a deputy commissioner in the 1980s gave me a lot of insights on the choices one has to make in running the league.
The immediate decision of PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa recently—made while the game was still in progress—to ban a foreign player for life for his bad behavior was unprecedented. It certainly raised a lot of eyebrows, including mine. (After an appeal was made to Narvasa, the penalty was reduced—Ed.)
The commissioner’s sudden appearance to confront the same player while the game was still going on was not the first time.
There was also another incident involving Rain or Shine and Alaska in the semifinals series. Narvasa appeared on the court and pointed an accusing finger at a player involved in a scuffle with other players.
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Maybe I belong to the old school, but it seems to me that Narvasa is redefining the way a commissioner ought to behave.
When I was coaching U-Tex against Toyota during that well-remembered championship series, the late commissioner Leo Prieto, whom everybody held in high esteem, called me to his office after the game. In a very gentlemanly and patrician manner, he patiently listened to what I had to say and clearly understood my explanation, perhaps because he also had been a coach.
Commissioner Prieto was always present in every game, seated on courtside, silently observing but never intervening in the games as they were being played.
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What also alarms me today in the PBA, however, is the way the referees are making judgment calls.
Fouls are frequently being called for slight contact. This has taken out the rule of the “arm bar,” which really makes it very difficult for the defensive player to guard his man.
The new commissioner seems to want to change the brand of play today and to bring back the way we used to play in the past. One only has to watch the NBA games to see the noticeable difference in the officiating. Incidental contacts without the intention to harm are let go.
Let’s face it. The PBA has such a long season that tends to be boring. This makes the fans wait and watch only the finals. The fans look forward to seeing a certain amount of physical action without the intention to harm.
Even those who watch from their homes want to see a flow of play not interrupted by foul calls that are simply harmless contacts. These miscalls interrupt the flow of the game. And the last thing a coach or team owner wants to see is his star player fouling out on an incidental contact.
Furthermore, these calls actually encourage some players to do a lot of “flopping” and Famas Award acting in order to make the referee call a foul.
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There have been instances in the past conferences when I felt that offending players who committed flagrant fouls with the intention to hurt should have been given longer suspensions, even for the rest of the conference.
The truth of the matter is that fines do not deter the players, but suspensions hurt the entire team. By now, we all know who these players and teams are. What they have done—by changing the rules of when to call fouls—will affect our brand of defensive play. In addition, we will be giving more power to the referees to determine the outcome of the game.
Even Fiba rules are not that strict. We are all supposed to be getting ready to gun for an Olympic berth and in my opinion, this is not a good way to prepare.
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