Fair Play: Import rips Emperor Manny's PBA clothes

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Feb. 21 edition)
THERE’s a running joke in Philippine basketball, and no one--at least in his inner circle--it seems has the courage to call a spade a spade.

Sounds familiar? If not, go ask your kid. Remember the story of how the emperor’s new clothes turned out to be literally nothing? And no one was brave enough to say it for fear of losing their jobs?

Well, that could be the case here. And no one in the PBA--publicly at least--is willing to say that Manny Pacquiao’s new basketball clothes are merely figments of the wearer’s imagination and his level of skill depends on who is asked.

If you ask the assistant coaches of KIA, of course, he’s fit enough to play, even if they sometimes have no idea whether their boss Manny will suit up for a game or not.

That’s what they told spin.ph when they were asked if Manny would play against Ginebra a couple of weeks ago.

And when Manny announced that he wanted to join the PBA, did anyone ever say, “Are you out of your minds?” And “you,” being, not only Manny, but also the folks who run the league?

I actually thought it was a joke, and I was hoping Yeng Guiao, one of the maverick coaches in the league, pushed through with his threat to draft Manny just to throw a monkey wrench in the PBA machine that had his team picking 11th and getting to pick Manny after 10 others. For the uninitiated (or uninterested) a team announced its head coach and has yet to pick him, that would have left it vulnerable to another team who had the prior pick, right?

That’s all water under the bridge, and the running joke is upon us, still, strutting his glittering “emperor’s clothes” for all the basketball world to wonder officially and laugh at privately.

But then again, what was private finally became public when American import Daniel Orton played the kid to the emperor’s official court, bluntly saying, “The game is seriously a joke. The way the game was going, the refs took the game that I know and Love and they made it into a mockery.”

What or who was the joke?

“That’s the joke. That’s part of the joke I was talking about. Professional boxer? Yeah, Okay. Congrassman? Alright. Professional basketball player? No. It’s a joke. Seriously, it’s a joke.”

For his burst of humor, Orton got a P250,000 fine, while coach Jong Uichico didn't even get a slap on the wrist when he accused referees of being inherently biased for San Miguel.

Hahaha. Hahaha?

The joke wasn’t just about KIA’s upset win over Purefoods. No, it was bigger than that.

Former PBL commissioner Chino Trinidad told AFP what a lot of players are saying privately, “Pacquiao is not basketball material. Pacquiao is so gullible, he thinks he belongs. If he wants to become the butt of jokes, so be it.”

How did it get to the point? Well, if you play a series of exhibitions, or even league matches, for a team that you own, you’d get priority, right? If you get open looks because no one in his right mind would play real defense against a boxing world champion, you’d begin to think you have it?

But, after getting a couple of air balls in your open shots in the PBA, shouldn’t someone say, “Hey, enough is enough.”

Sure, anyone is free to chase his dream, and Pacquiao should be able to chase his hoops dream, right? But how many kids’ dream of playing professionally were dashed when KIA opted for money er Manny?

Already elected in Congress simply because he’s Manny Pacquiao, he became a hoops player because of his name, not because of his skills.

And shouldn’t basketball be about your skills and not about who you are? And if you say KIA took in Manny for his basketball skills then I’m fighting Floyd Mayweather on Sunday.

There’s a running joke in Philippine basketball, a multi-billion peso boxer with delusions of grandeur in the hard court.

And, like the emperor who walked naked in court, the joke’s on us.


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