Robinson gets emotional about absent Abueva; away from son, Wright finds inspiration from OFWs
Friday night had a Father’s Day feel in the PBA Philippine Cup.
There was Topex Robinson, his eyes welling the moment he mentioned Calvin Abueva in the postgame presser of Friday night’s thriller of a match between Phoenix Super LPG and Magnolia, which the Fuel Masters won, 91-84, in come-from-behind fashion.
Likes its mythical namesake, Phoenix rose from 17 down to stun the Hotshots for its third win in five games.
“I think one of the big reasons for us not to give up is it’s really hard to leave the gym or hotel knowing that one of your sons is not with you,” Robinson said, referring to Calvin Abueva, the hyperactive forward who is now in the 16th month of his indefinite suspension for a variety of offenses he committed in June of last year.
Two floors above from where Robinson was holding court with journalists at Angeles University Foundation here inside the Clark PBA bubble, Matthew Wright delivered a post-game interview and offered the victory to his son Roman, who turned 1 in the United States.
“The first birthday is always very special and I hate to see that I cried just thinking about it,” Wright later said. “I’m sure he’s watching but I don’t know if he understood what I was saying. But when he gets older, hopefully, he’ll look back and he’ll forgive me for not being in his pictures on his first birthday.”
Wright, though, looks at his situation with a proper perspective.
“Somebody else is also going through it,” Wright, who spearheaded Phoenix’s late-game assault, later told reporters.
“I’m sure everybody has a child or a mom, a sibling or wife who has a birthday that they’re gonna miss so I can’t feel too sorry for myself.”
True enough, his teammate, JC Intal, who helped grease that spirited fightback, was also celebrating the birthday of his daughter Lucia.
“Everybody is going through it so you just have to suck it up,” Wright said, adding that other people have it worse.
“I’m glad we have the technology. Imagine [overseas Filipino workers] 20 years ago, they had nothing,” Wright explained. “They had to write letters. I was watching a documentary earlier today [about] Anthony Bourdain [and] when he went to Manila and he was talking about the OFWs. It really inspired me … The sacrifices that they go through. And it’s an amazing sacrifice and it’s so hard to be away from your family. And we’re only doing it for a couple of months so we got to man up and I was just thinking about them today.”
Abueva is just down the hallway from where Robinson burrows in inside the bubble. But he has been holding his breath since taking over the Fuel Masters’ coaching reins.
“I think it’s really more of a personal thing for me … every time Calvin asks me, ‘When will it be, coach?’ I can’t give him an answer and that’s hard for me, too,” he said.
“I don’t want to lie to him, I want to be honest to him regarding his status. It’s hard because he really wants to help this team,” Robinson added. “Again, we respect the commissioner, we respect the PBA on not allowing him to play. They never really guaranteed a date anyway. It’s just that [it’s a] challenge to tell Calvin to wait.”
Sure, Phoenix has found ways to patch the void Abueva has left. But his mere presence in a bench riddled by injuries would certainly help—not to mention the rebounding, defense and motor he can provide for the squad.
“He’s not the savior for us. He’s not gonna save the day for us. But having him there, for sure, would make this more a potent team. We cannot sustain with just Matt and Jason (Perkins) and the rest; … we need the guy the kind of Calvin is,” Robinson said.
Especially as the competition for the draw’s top four slots—which dangle playoff protection—heats up.
“The energy he’s gonna bring, he’s gonna make mistakes, but I know his energy, his positivity will be big for us down the stretch,” Robinson added.