No matter the outcome of its semifinal series against San Miguel Beer, it is clear that Barangay Ginebra continues to be the No.1 attraction in the PBA.
The big crowd that show up whenever the Gin Kings play reinforces their status as the darlings of Filipino basketball fans.
Talk N’ Text and San Miguel Beer, based on talent and depth, are definitely stronger teams. But there is an indescribable quality that attracts fans to Ginebra and inspires the players to play above themselves against the bigger teams.
It’s not winning or losing. It’s all about giving their all.
There is a never-say-die spirit that drives coach Jong Uichico’s squad and helps them battle what sometimes seems like insurmountable odds. It appears that the aura of playing-coach Robert Jaworski, who stamped his fighting heart and his never-say-die spirit on the team, somehow lingers on.
Indeed, the huge attendance at the Araneta Coliseum whenever Ginebra plays is a sign of revived interest in the PBA and a harbinger of hope for the future.
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We believe that the change in officiating philosophy introduced by youthful league commissioner Chito Salud has contributed to the newfound excitement in the games.
It’s a plus that the other PBA teams, not just Ginebra, have adapted well to the modifications. It brings an exciting and added dimension to a game that often gives the underdog a chance when the odds are obviously against them.
It’s the kind of game that average fans can quickly identify with. It’s a native thing, imbued in the long and colorful history of Philippine street or sandlot basketball. It’s a game where the accent is on the individual’s creative ability and the willingness to bang bodies to perhaps even the odds.
It’s the kind of game that a coach, like the fiery Yeng Guiao, who looks with great expectations at turning his new team Rain or Shine into a fiercely competitive squad, would love.
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Given these elements and the introduction of quality imports, excitement is bound to reach new heights when the Reinforced Conference gets under way.
In some respects, Ginebra reminds us of the Azkals, the gallant band of young men who fired our collective imagination and lifted the spirits of those who love football with their performance in the recent Suzuki Cup.
It also mirrored one other deep-rooted and significant point—and that is that the Filipino-Europeans who donned the colors of the national team felt deeply committed to the cause of Philippine football and played their hearts out for the country where their mothers came.
There is something infinitely special about the relationship between mothers and their sons. This was revealed in a touching manner by celebrated goalkeeper Neil Etheridge when he told us he was taking his mother, who is from Tarlac, to watch the Philippines-Indonesia matches in Jakarta.
The significance of what Neil said registered within us, but the pride and joy etched across Neil’s face when he said it, impressed us. It demonstrated caring and an inherent pride that somehow reflected a truly Filipino trait.
Truly, our sporting spirits as a nation have been lifted. Besides pound-for-pound king and genuine sporting hero Manny Pacquiao and emerging star Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr., we have found joy and hope in the exploits of Ginebra and the Azkals.
May their tribe increase.