THE PBA will be selling something new in a bid to win back the great hordes that used to come running to the Araneta Coliseum during the Crispa-Toyota All-Filipino wars and the dazzling days of the Barangay Ginebra craze.
No, not exactly brand new, because it will be the same pack of referees that will be working the games starting the next PBA conference.
The court officials will don the same uniforms, blow the same whistles.
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The PBA product, in fact, should aptly be categorized as repackaged.
But that’s not how the new man at the helm, Commissioner Chito Salud, would like the product to appear.
Salud has promised a great bargain: an end to corrupt officiating.
Starting the next PBA conference, referees can be expected to be doubly sharp, competent and, of course, honest and fair.
With those changes, Salud sounded quite sure the quality of PBA games will be greatly enhanced and attendance will soar.
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The main idea was to prevent strict, overzealous and sometimes questionable calls to hinder the progress of the game.
There will be great emphasis on giving players freer room for creativity and rhythm.
This, it goes without saying, does not mean rules will be disposed of to litter the game floor.
Knowing Salud, what he honestly aims to discard are referees who wantonly slap penalties like greedy, unforgiving cops on the beat.
Rules are rules but they should be implemented in the manner music provides happy order on the dance floor.
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OK, that could be a little exaggerated.
But it was exactly the same principle recited by the great Lauro Mumar, skipper of the 1954 Philippine national team that copped the bronze medal in the Rio de Janeiro World Championship, after a successful officiating stint at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in 1968.
Fresh from a coaching stint in India, Mumar, in a tandem with Manuel Inocentes of Mandaluyong, saved a fast-deteriorating championship series with his fair, competent, unassailable control of the often unruly hardcourt.
“Referees are not policemen, we are not there to punish and penalize but to help the athletes and the game itself,” Mumar said.
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It’s a very sound principle, but it goes without saying Salud would himself find it tough to immediately give meat to the tenet.
Has Salud started cracking the whip behind the scene?
We should know the answer when the new pro league big boss confers with members of the media at the PBA office in Libis, Quezon today.
There will also be other questions worth raising.
Does the new commissioner, for example, honestly believe poor, spotty officiating was the main culprit behind the dwindled pro league attendance?
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Sorry, but this comparison, sordid as it may be, can’t be helped.
You see, the way Commissioner Salud has zeroed in on stinking officiating in the pro league he easily appeared and sounded like President Noynoy Aquino vowing to go after crippling corruption in the country.
The President was, in fact, enjoying a terrific headway, until he was shaken by an even bigger menace, the bloody hostage tragedy at the Quirino Grandstand on Aug. 23.
Will Salud be able to provide quick, competent solution if it turns out troublesome officiating didn’t happen to be his main enemy?
There’s reason to believe Salud, with his background, will not end up tarrying and doing a teka-teka like the new, untrained national leader who ended up crushed and shamed after being exposed unprepared for the shocking challenge.