Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Spreading the blame: A note from a newly minted Wynne Arboleda fan

OK that's a little too strong. I wouldn't call myself a new Wynne Arboleda fan after watching him briefly smother a PBA fan with assorted Hadoukens and Muay Thai knees. But I'm tired of the reflexive condemnation that follows anytime an athlete overreacts and confronts a fan, whether or not the scene becomes as grisly as it did in the Burger King/Gilas game.

Full disclosure. I like professional basketball players. I like them more than the coaches and more than the fans. They are the people who made me fall in love with the game when I was eight years old. They inspired me to become a half-decent player, and even though I was never good enough to go past truly dismal college ball, I still -- by now you can officially call me deluded -- think of myself as an athlete first and fan second. My sympathies run toward the players. I felt bad for Ron Artest when the NBA gave him a season-long suspension after the Detroit brawl. Likewise, I already feel sorry for Wynne Arboleda, because it seems like people are already calling for his head, and he'll be sitting for the rest of the conference at least and I'm guessing longer.

What gets me is that when the dust settles, everyone always points at the player and no one else. Yes, the player is ultimately responsible for his actions, but no one looks at the league, the franchises or the fans that through all the ingredients for a disaster into the pot and turned up the heat.

For starters, step back and look at the history of Philippine basketball. Over the years, fans have always posed a greater threat to players and referees than vice versa. From Yco-Ysmael to Crispa-Meralco to Crispa-Toyota to Ginebra-Tanduay to just plain Ginebra (that would be from the 1960s until about ten years ago), fans felt entitled to express their disapproval with bad calls or dirty play by showering the court with peso coins, spent batteries, Monoblock chairs, water bottles, beer cans and other projectiles. Teams wouldn't enter an arena without enough beach umbrellas to make payong over the entire bench. I've heard that PBA players started covering their heads with towels on the bench because it took the sting out of peso coins. By many accounts, crowd violence over the years was just as bad if not worse in the college ranks, with rivalries like Ateneo-San Beda and Ateneo-La Salle leading to regular parking lot brawls.

The point is that the atmosphere at big-time Philippine basketball games has always been wild and woolly, and I think it's fair to suggest that leagues -- MICAA, PBA, NCAA, UAAP -- have tolerated and even encouraged fan misbehavior. It spiced up games and brought in bigger crowds.

In recent years the PBA has more or less eradicated the air of lawlessness that once predominated in the stands at Araneta or ULTRA, but the legacy is still there. I'd argue that this tradition is especially important in the Philippines, where basketball games have been a place for people to blow off steam and act in ways that would be unthinkable in their everyday lives. Yes, American fans also get drunk at NBA, NFL, and MLB games and do ghastly things, but they don't have martial law in their not-too-distant memories. Outside of the Big Dome, martial law-era PBA crowds were forced to live by the Marcos slogan Sa ika-uunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan, and if they missed curfew or failed to live up to that standard of "discipline," the consequences could be grave. Inside the Big Dome, on the other hand, they could expect to see Jaworski knee somebody in the gut or Rudy Kutch clobber somebody, an if they were truly lucky a full-scale brawl would break out. They could pepper the referees with peso coins, skirmish with other fans, and scream their lungs out with the filthiest invectives that came to mind.

That release valve was probably a good thing. But these days, with the PBA striving to emulate the NBA's stuffiness and with the Philippines more than 20 years removed from Marcos's repressive dictatorship (OK, I'm aware of the PGMA parallels; let me skirt that issue for now), the power dynamic between players, fans and the league is changing. Some fans still want to blow off steam, primarily by heckling. The players can't be as rugged as they were in the Seventies and Eighties, because this is a modern league now, with "scientific" coaching and professional standards. The league wants the fans to have their fun and the players to remain beatific basketball machines, passionate only about scoring and defense, and impervious to whatever bedlam occurs in the stands. But if the league continues to allow fans to treat players like animals while expecting the athletes the athletes to "take it like a man," every once in a while a player will snap and react in a more primal manner.

That's what happened with Arboleda, and what might have happened last year, if Danny Ildefonso's teammates hadn't restrained him in a similar situation. Which calls into question the league and the arena and security. After the beatdown, BTV courtside reporter Patricia Hizon asked why security didn't try to get between Arboleda and the fan. Araneta security told her they're not allowed to touch the players, while PBA security said they're only responsible for the referees. This is tragically predictable. Anytime something goes wrong in Philippine society, the institutions responsible calmly explain that due to some strange technicality or forces greater than all of us, it wasn't their fault. Recently, we've seen Pangulong Gloria calling the Philippines a victim of global warming in the aftermath of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Really? Global warming is a new phenomenon? It wasn't around when rains led to the 2006 Southern Leyte landslide? Or when Milenyo hit Manila? Or when Typhoon Reming caused mudslides that buried large swaths of Albay? And those are just the major natural disasters that hit the country while I was living there. In the basketball realm, when the late Sen. Robert Barbers asked government officials why suspected Fil-shams' citizenship papers were being rubber stamped, the Bureau of Immigration pointed to the Department of Foreign Affairs who pointed to the Department of Justice who pointed back to the B of I. The serial passing of the buck is as Philippine as the tinikling. When disaster strikes, it's never the fault of the people who are actually in charge.

So it's Sonny Alvarado's fault that Tanduay and the government fixed his papers, just as all the blame for yesterday's incident will fall on Wynne Arboleda. Everyone will turn a blind eye to the other factors that lit the fuse for his explosion. The bad guys get punished, everyone moves on and nothing gets solved.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he havent playing like a wrestler the whole 1st half the fan wouldnt have curse him..

7:53 AM  
Anonymous ronnie the rocket!! said...

respect begets respects..its good to be physical but not DIRTY!!! sa gilas lng nmn yun kayang gawin, other PBA team di nya kaya..i just dont know why nung sinahod nya c baracael, nakatawa pa yung mga teamates nya sa bench..

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nakatawa?? imbento ka naman brad!

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wala ka nang pakialam dun, kanya kanya ng side ng kwento yun,ok?, haha, naglalaro na lang si arboleda para manakit, tanggalin sa pba yan,matanda na namab na siya e.hahaha :)

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

masyado kasi nilang minama yung smart gilas porke mga bata pa.. dati akong fans ng air21 now burging king n.. pero sa nangyari ayaw ko na sa kanila.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. What's the point of watching live kung tatarantaduhin mo lang yung pinapanood mo. Di mo naman role sirain yung laro ng kalaban or kung sino man. Isipin nyo na lang kung kayo yung nasa lugar ni Arboleda, baka malala pa ginawa nyo. Or baka nga ipabugbog nyo pa or whatever. Fans must be responsible to their bitchy actions.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kung balat sibuyas ka pala, wag kang maglaro ng pro ball.

Arboleda is a street punk on the court. And that's what street punks do, get into a fistfight when someone says something they don't like. No matter what the guy says, it's only words.

Now we will see in the court of law the difference between a curse and a punch and a kick.

This attempt at invoking class politics is laughable. Arboleda isn't part of the masses. He's rich. And someone of that level should know better than to attack someone just because he said putangina mo.

What an asshole. And i hope he takes a long hard trip through the legal system.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think this can be compared to the Ron Artest situation. In that scenario, I blame the Detroit crowd. He was clearly apologetic after throwing that flagrant on Wallace.

Fans should follow proper decorum, but at the end of the day, when you're in your 40s and you pull a stunt like that on a young player, expect the crowd to go putangina all over the place.

Problem with a lot of players is that they're not very smart. They follow coaches blindly (Ok, change coaches to just Yeng Guiao) thinking basketball is the only thing they can do. Sadly, this is partly true. I've spoken to the Arboleda before, not the sharpest tool in the shed. Despite being rich from basketball money, i'd still associate him with the masses.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you Wynnie. Its disgusting how fans think that they can do whatever they want in a basketball game without repercussions. I remembered before how nasty the jeering can get (e.g. UST-La salle when one fan held up a poster that read: "Carmela says hi, Jason Webb."). So let this be a reminder to fans everywhere: walk the talk.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

arboleda is a douche. even if the fan said hurtful things about him or his family, he shouldn't have lost his cool. i personally feel that he should get the same treatment as ron artest of the nba (who also attacked a fan a few years back, who apparently threw a cup of beer to his (artest's) face). these things shouldn't happen... shame on you arboleda. you should know better. as for the fan, grow up man. i know you're a fag and you're dreaming of marrying chris tiu... you should stand firm with what you were saying to arboleda. shame on you as well fag.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love basketball. But I don't like watching televised games. There's something wrong about the way the sport is being played nowadays. It's becoming a game of PRIDE and EGO. I know it's something that players cannot totally do without, especially since they are men and dominance is in their nature. But my god, what happened to respect for the game? You put on that jersey, you sit on that bench, you wear your name for everyone to see. And this is the kind of attitude that you show people? For the seasoned athletes out there, I know that winning means so much to all of you, and that you carry with you a certain sense of pride in being a veteran professional player. But always remember how you got to where you are right now. Remember all the sweat, tears, and blood that you shed at the beginning of your careers, dreaming of one day making it into the professional league. Then think about the new players in the league right now. They are going through the same path that you have taken. Had you been fouled or treated the same way by a veteran when you were starting out, how would you have felt? Is this the kind of image, is the kind of legacy you want to leave behind? People, this is BASKETBALL, not professional wrestling. And I agree that the court has now begun to resemble a gladiator arena, where the players are at the mercy of the fans, the media, and the league itself. Sad, the business of Basketball leagues.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tama lang yun sa fan na yun...andun sya para manood hindi para murahin ang kapwa tao.....

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pba playeers hould be allowed to bring in guns during the games. fans have no business bullying the players, even if they are paying millions to support the league.
for that particular spectator, it showed the values that your alma mater trained you to become. A**H888

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arboleda threw the first punch. Then 4 more. And a kick to the midsection of a guy who was sitting down.

Do you know what the meaning of a SUCKER PUNCH is? Just watch what Arboleda did.

Kung di siya duwag, eh di hinamon muna niya. Gawaing duwag yung umupak ng hindi handa ang inupakan. But I guess that's the pinoy way. Asshole.

And to the person who suggests that PBA players bring guns. Ugali mo siguro yon na magtago sa likod ng baril. Ugaling duwag din.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So it looks like your 5 punches and a kick will cost you at least P2 million++. So that's around P350,000 (but who's counting?)

Welcome to the real world. You hit someone, you have to pay. Assholes.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous prodigal pba fan said...

Id have to go against the grain on this one. Spending a few hundred pesos for expensive seats at a PBA game does not give anyone a right to verbally abuse anyone. At any time that you decide to be a heckler, you have to be prepared that you might just get lucky and get that person agitated enough to beat your ass. Katigbak is all bark and no bite. As for Arboleda, he should have done it outside the court na lang. At least may trabaho pa sha ngayon. But lets be honest, with or with out that incident, Arboleda is not a big loss to the PBA. What we need are ball players, not maulers... The biggest loser is the game itself. my 2 cents lang.

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