The PBA tried its best to project an image of unity in last Wednesday’s press conference announcing that, contrary to widespread talk, the league’s 43rd season will open as scheduled: Sunday, December 17, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
News flew for weeks that the opening was in danger of being postponed or totally cancelled because of a bitter division within the board following the unpopular trade which sent Kia’s No. 1 pick to San Miguel Beer.
A group made up of seven teams, led by TNT KaTropa, protested the trade and sought the ouster of Commissioner Chito Narvasa for approving it. But another group made up of five teams went to Narvasa’s rescue, led by San Miguel, the trade’s chief beneficiary.
With eight votes needed for a resolution to pass, neither group could muster enough votes to make its position prevail. The result was a stalemate, and Narvasa, whose term was supposed to end last season, remains commissioner, albeit with a sword hanging over his head.
This was the scenario when the PBA board went before the press last Wednesday to announce the opening of the lucrative league’s 43rd season. It was also the first time in more than a month that the board members were seen in one place at the same time.
Observers did note that some in the board were conversing, smiling, laughing even. Certainly, the big guns made a show of being impervious to the nerve-wracking events of the past weeks, when the league could have collapsed, with one camp just completely ignoring the other. The situation was so bad that the November planning session in Los Angeles, California, was scrapped for lack of a quorum, and the trip became useful only for shopping and sightseeing.
With the PBA opening just days away, board members finally took steps to project a vision of unity. Standing side by side, they posed for photographers, and headlines began blaring “United We Stand.” But, are they really?
How is that possible when all they're doing is ignoring the elephant in the room? In the midst of the polite shaking of hands and the raising of glasses to declare the games open, there was Narvasa, sitting almost by himself, watching the proceedings.
In past presscons announcing a new season, it was the commissioner that took center stage. He would talk about the vision of the PBA, announce the gains and successes of the season just past, and take questions from the press.
None of these happened. This commissioner was not even included in the “class picture” that had members of the board lining up for the press, if firing-squad style. No, the commissioner was not in charge.
Meantime, the talking was left to outgoing PBA chair Mikee Romero. who lost no time talking about unity and harmony and making the PBA whole again.
But for the PBA to show it is truly whole, it has to settle the issue of Narvasa first. Is he in or is he out? If he’s in, the board must make that announcement; if he’s out, then the board must name the new commissioner. It's simple enough, but there's nothing forthcoming from the PBA.
EXTRA SHOTS: The press corps was requested by PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial not to ask any board member about the status of Narvasa. If ever a sign was needed to show that the messy issue of Narvasa persists, that is it.