Monday, March 31, 2008

Who's the next PBA TV Coveror?

The PBA opened the new import conference last Sunday with Red Bull and Air21 beating Ginebra and Welcoat respectively.   But aside from the new imports strutting their stuff, many have been interested in the status of its television coverage.  ABC 5 is covering their last conference under their current contract and there have been a lot of rumors floating around as to where the PBA will be in the next All Filipino tournament.  ABC5 is partnering with a Malaysian company to reformat the channel so we still have to see if the PBA is part of that plan.

All indications are that the PBA is very interested in Studio 23 under ABS-CBN.  The PBA board has met with the giant TV network at least 4 times already which almost assures that there have been negotiations ongoing back and forth unless of course they just like each other's company.  Some say that Studio 23 is in because they are reformatting (again) into a male oriented sports channel since all their other formats haven't worked so there is a fit.

So the question is: Is Solar interested in getting involved and giving the PBA coverage a shot?  I think Solar's interest will stem from how fair the process will really be.  If ABS and the PBA have already been talking before even any kind of terms of reference have been given out, there has to be an assurance that the league is sincere in really getting the best possible option to improve itself.  Solar has not received any official communication from the PBA to bid or even make an offer yet so let's see how this thing unfolds.  I'm sure ABS has given an excellent case for taking over the TV coverage.  Will the board listen to other options?  It just makes the best sense to at least first check out all options on the table before making a decision.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hall of Famer

It has become a tradition for Solar to host a welcome dinner for Manny Pacquiao the moment he arrives in the Philippines after a big fight.  It's normally a private dinner with invited guests by the Solar and the Pacquiao families.  After the last win against Barrera, the dinner was at The Fireplace at the Hyatt Hotel in Manila.  Last Monday, we had it at the Emperor's court inside the Renaissance Hotel in Makati City.  Along with the Solar executives, some GMA people were also there along with Manny's high profile friends like Chavit Singson and Lito Atienza.  Even Annabelle Rama was part of the GMA guests at the dinner.  

It was a nice classy and quiet dinner with good chinese food.  All the guests watched once again the video of Manny's split decision win over Marquez (without the commercials of course) while the Champ showed everyone his new Nike commercial which also featured Kobe Bryant, Maria Sharapova, and Roger Federer in the same video.  It was inspiring to see our hero be included in the same television spot as the other world class Nike endorsers.  Everyone actually clapped after they saw the clip.

We hope for many more of these thanksgiving dinners as our "Pambansang Kamao" continues to inspire the country and make a positive impact in representing the Philippines.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Upset City!

Those who grew up in the U.S. and follow sports know how awesome the March Madness Tournament is.  The frenzy of 64 teams all playing within a two day span to start things off then having a win or go home situation every game is just plain exciting.  Not to take anything away from the circus but the sheer unpredictability of the NCAA tournament makes it the greatest show on earth.  

One thing of note to Filipinos is that the Western Kentucky Hilltopers (WKU), whose team has had more than its share of exposure on Basketball TV (BTV) made it as a #12 seed as an underdog against #5 Drake.  WKU's overdose in BTV was because former Ateneo Blue Eagle, Japeth Aguilar is in the lineup as a backup forward/center.  He did play the first couple of games before getting injured for the rest of the season.  Japeth is 6'9" tall and can jump out of the building.  In fact, he's the best dunker for his team.

Well, the Hilltoppers are the story of at least the first round of this year's tournament!  They beat Drake in overtime (99-98) off a last second 26 foot three pointer from a guy named Ty Rogers, Japeth's teammate.  Although Aguilar hasn't played in months, his experience as a member of a division I school that won in the NCAA tournament will reap dividends down the line in his career.  He is still a long shot for the NBA but with a couple of more years, he'll be a lock as a PBA star.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Did Pacman Really Win Yesterday's Fight?

Hell Yeah!  I think we've all gotten used to Pacman dominating his opponents that the mere indication that his victory is not totally convincing leads a lot of us to psychologically think he lost.  It's about expectations.  Manny isn't supposed to fight and almost lose.  Manny isn't supposed to have a hard time and struggle through all 12 rounds, especially when he knocks down his opponent senseless on his butt in the 3rd round.

Pacquiao fought a true champion who did enough to deserve a win.  But the champion got clocked and fell on his back.  All three judges seemingly gave the same number of rounds to each fighter.  So that knockdown was the difference.  Thank God for Manny's power.

There were some pretty scary moments... I reckon that if I was a Mexican rooting for Marquez, I would have the same sentiments and even more so because of the knockdown.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Search for a National Champ

Who really is the best college basketball team every year?  That is a question that is disputed every year by all who follow college sports.  We have had attempts to determine a national champion but most of the schools don't take it seriously enough so it's difficult to lay claim to a true champion.  I have been hoping and working to make crowning a champion a reality since I moved to the Philippines 12 years ago.

The BAP-SBP is set to change all that.  For the first time ever, there is hope in crowning a true "Philippine Collegiate Champion".  Over 250 schools nationwide will be part of a 5 month search for a champion.  The UAAP/NCAA teams will be the strongest of course but even then, their champions are not always accepted as the best in the country because they don't play all the other teams outside their league.  Since I am part BTV, we will do everything we can to advance this cause.

We will have "power rankings" and weekly updates on all tournaments all over the land.  It is an ambitious undertaking but I am confident that there are enough people and fans out there who are in the same boat of wanting a national championship for college basketball.

Manny Pangilinan, current president of BAP-SBP also has this vision along with Rey Gamboa (former PBA chairman) who will be organizing this undertaking.  The press conference and contract signing got everyone excited as the schools nationwide (including the UAAP/NCAA) have agreed to take this to heart and participate in full.  The format is a little complicated but it will try to emulate a little the current format of the US NCAA where a national champions is crowned every year.  So good luck to all and we will start publishing power rankings by June.  I'm hoping to get suggestions as to how to rank the teams.  I think media and coaches should be involved every week since they're in the know when it comes to collegiate teams in the country.

High School Elite

Alex Compton and Erick Altamirano continue their work to improve basketball talent in the country as they continue their Nike Elite project on BTV.  Alex came to the office last week to finalize the agreement after learning that same day Nic Belasco was traded away from Welcoat, where he's an assistant coach, to Coke for Mark Isip.  This last trade is another among the many seemingly one sided trades the last couple of years in the PBA.

The Elite group will do their search once again nationwide then have the best of the best in Brent International School for a week for high level training.  It'll be another few years before we see the fruits of their efforts but we do appreciate giving these kids the tools to succeed in the next level.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Baby Bull Stumbles!

There was a time last year when I thought that Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz was the only fighter within the weight ballpark of Manny Pacquiao who our hero would have a hard time with.  He is a lightweight (135lbs), which is 5lbs heavier than Pacman's division but this guy was rolling through much quicker and agile fighters like a raging bull.  I thought he had a better chance than Marquez, David Diaz, and even Ricky Hatton who Manny was scheduled to fight this year.

Last weekend, Juan got schooled by Nate Campbell, a guy seemingly out of nowhere to take all three of his world title belts away.  It was Diaz' first loss in his over 30 professional fights so far.  This has got to be the first legit upset of 2008.  The organizers have already sent the tape of the fight to be shown on Solar Sports after the Pacquiao fight.  Don King, his promoter must be going crazy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

2 Members of PBA Mancom Leave

Perry Martinez and Rico Meneses.  Who, you ask are these guys?  Perry was the technical director of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) which means he heads the referees and rules and regulations for the games.  He was the guy who reportedly vehemently disagreed with the commissioner's decision to elevate the now infamous James Yap flagrant 1 to flagrant 2.  He's a love 'em or hate 'em guy because of his position where no matter what you do, a player, coach, manager or fan will always disagree.  He initially took a leave of absence after game 5 but eventually retired a few days later maybe because he was about to be taken out of heading the technical group anyway.  Perry is a guy who stands up for what he believes in and has a wealth of basketball knowledge.  His knowledge of the technical nuances of the game is unmatched.

Rico was the Marketing Director, a position I used to have in the league.  

They will now join their former boss (and mine) Noli Eala in launching a new league as the technical and marketing heads there.  Liga Pilipinas is set to start later this year patterned after the MBA and hopefully learning from its mistakes.  I'll post more info on the league as I know more in the coming days...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cool Pick Up Games

Every year during the All Star weekend, the international television media gets together and plays a pick up game which helps in getting to know each other a little more.  Most speak english so it's nice to get to talk to friends from Russia, France, China, Germany and other parts of the world.  A lot of them are also pretty good at basketball themselves as some were former national team players for their countries.

Our sessions are usually attended by former NBA players to facilitate the session who help us in some stretching exercises and some drills before we actually go out and play.  They also end up playing with us in our friendly pick up games.

My first year at the All Stars, it was Spud Webb who joined us.  He was known as the 5'7" guy who beat Dominique Wilkins in the slam dunk contest.  Even Boris Diaw of the Suns played with us as he was part of the media from France.  Last year was a treat as a Bulls fan.  BJ Armstrong, an allstar himself and part of Chicago's championship teams joined us.  He now works for a company who represents players all over the world.

This year, Tim Hardaway was tasked to be part of the media pick up game.  He was very gracious and joined in some of the games.  He didn't really show us his "killer crossover" which was his signature move but he did prove that he can shoot from downtown with a few long range jumpers.  

Tim still lives in Miami and works a lot with kids in the area helping them with doing something about their situation and making something of themselves.  He's had a hard time in connecting with the Heat, the NBA team in the city since he did make some derogatory comments last year about his views on gay people.  He claims that a lot of the people in the Miami Heat organization were gay and were offended by his statements and he has felt a lot of backlash from it.  He even went to therapy sessions as an offshoot of his public statements.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sta. Lucia PBA Champs?

Game 7's are good for sports.  There is so much anticipation, hype and excitement leading up to the game that in most cases, the game itself turns out to be a letdown.  The 2008 Philippine Cup Finals ended up with a game 7, thanks in part by a controversial decision by the commissioner to overturn a call which led to the suspension of the league's most popular player, James Yap for one game that Purefoods lost.  It was a game that at least lived up to the anticipated intensity.

I had to see for myself why for the first time ever Sta. Lucia was on the verge of winning an All Filipino crown.  I worked for the PBA and the team never really was synonymous to excitement, let alone winning.  So after an MRT ride to Araneta, I was set to witness my first PBA game of the conference live.

There were over 18,000 people in attendance, the full capacity of Araneta, despite the claims of the UAAP of 25,000 during ADMU/DLSU games.  There are only 13,000 seats in the big dome with room for 5,000 to stand in the aisles.  Claiming that there are just as many people standing as those with seats is crazy.

My thoughts on the game... 

  • I think the new rules of the PBA is good for the league and our players.   It makes the them more physical and shots are much harder to come by... which should be the case to begin with.  It rewards physical conditioning good execution.  Talent is still showcased while it gets our players accustomed to international style of play.
  • Peter Simon has the heart of a Lion!  I would want him to play for me for a game 7 anyday.
  • Kelly Williams is the most athletic player in the PBA.  You just cannot teach some of the things he can do.
  • James Yap is the best scorer in the country whether he's married to Kris Aquino or not.
  • Marlou Aquino who was already pretty slow is even slower now and hardly gets off the ground.  But you can't teach 6'9".
  • And lastly, I think the main reason that the Realtors won is because they got players who were already proven winners... Denok Miranda won in FEU, Dennis Espino won in UST, and Joseph Yeo won in DLSU.  Combine that with the two best picks from the last 2 drafts Williams and Reyes, the attitude and the talent became championship caliber.

I still gotta get used to calling Sta. Lucia "PBA Champs".  They have enough young guns to keep it going a few more times.