Monthly Archives: May 2010

Scorching hot in Phoenix, can the Suns win?

Ninety four teams have attempted to come back from a 0-3 deficit in the NBA and 94 have lost. That number includes yesterday’s loser, the Orlando Magic. Don’t tell the Men In Blue they didn’t try. They did. In Games 4 and 5, their vacation plans were readied by the Boston Celtics. But Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Co. fought. They forced a Game 6. Sadly, that’s as far as they were allowed by this unstoppable Green Machine whose bloodline includes Larry Bird and Bob Cousy.

BEAT LA! Did you see that banner? One Celtics fan raised up high that poster in yesterday’s NBA Eastern Conference finale. He’s right. For who, but the boys in Gold-and-Blue, does Boston want to face? LeBron James they’ve ousted in the quarterfinals, last year’s conference champs—the Magic—they’ve outclassed in the semifinals, now it’s time for The Super Bowl of the NBA, the Oscars Night of dribbling, basketball’s Wimbledon final.

Ponder on this for a moment: Which team, apart from a LeBron against Kobe face-to-face, would we all want to see? Orlando vs. Phoenix? Nah. Zzzz. Sure, those two have their admirers but they’re nowhere near the zealots of Lakers vs. Celtics.

It’s like boxing. Mayweather against Mosley was thrilling; Pacquiao versus Clottey was crazy inside the Cowboys Stadium. But those fights were mere rehearsals. They were preliminaries. The show we all await to see—in November—is Manny beating Money.

Same with tennis. A Djokovic – Murray final at the ongoing French Open won’t prevent you and I from watching next Sunday; but that’s boring. We anticipate that. Nothing beats Federer and Nadal.

Just like the NBA. No two teams are as opposite, no two squads have as much historical pedigree and will bring more eyeballs to watch than the upcoming Final.

BEAT LA! But, wait. While it’s Mission Accomplished for Boston, it’s still Mission To-Be-Accomplished for LA. Up against the Phoenix Suns this 8:30 a.m. (RP time), they’re facing Steve Nash who predicted, “We’re going home and win Game 6 and come back in Game 7.” That’s confidence. That’s the voice of a two-time Most Valuable Player.

BEAT LA! That, too, is the chant of the Suns today: to scorch, burn, light aflame Los Angeles when they set foot inside the US Airways Center in Arizona. This contest is terrific: Pitted are Nash, the 2005 and 2006 MVP, against a one-time MVP in Kobe (2008). Nash is Canadian; Bryant is as American as Barack Obama.

No doubt, the Lakers will attempt to finish their Western Conference series today. With Boston’s Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo to watch their game with both feet up on a chair, with masseurs massaging their stiff backs—they’re fully relaxed—it’s still a work day for the Lakers. And if LA loses Game 6, it’s a pressure-packed Game 7… while Boston is getting those foot massages.

Phoenix? Despite on the precipice of losing the series, they’re undaunted. Here’s why: In this LA-Phoenix series, the home team has won every single game. Plus, the Suns have won their last six consecutive playoff games at home. Will it be 7-0 for Amare Stoudemire?

“We don’t plan on going to Phoenix and losing three times on their home court,” said LA coach Phil Jackson. “We’re not making this trip over there just to fill a date. We’re going over there to win a game. We’re highly motivated for this game, but we understand that if it has to go seven, we’re damn well ready to come back home and defend our home court again. This is a series that has taken a lot of different faces to it in the course of these five games, and we don’t expect Game 6 to be any different.”

My prediction? BEAT LA! No, not for the Lakers to lose this morning, as I’m no fan of the Suns—though it would be a perfect reward for them, after four decades in the league, to finally win an NBA Championship—I’d want for that Boston Celtics fan holding that “BEAT LA” banner to hold it aloft once more… against Los Angeles.

Cebu Marathon 2011: Prepare for it!

The most popular sport in the Philippines today, Cebu included, is not basketball or Bata Reyes’ game or football or Manny Pacquiao’s sport, it’s the one that you and I and tens of thousands of others perform at 6 a.m. in Abellana or late evenings at the Asiatown I.T. Park, it’s the one sport that has convinced many a Saturday-night-partygoer to arise at dawn on Sunday to wear shorts, to tie those shoelaces and to run.

Has there been a drug that’s more addictive than running? A sweat-inducing activity that’s invigorated 61-year-olds and hardened 16-year-olds? A sport that has coerced thousands to enlist last Sunday, this Sunday, and next Sunday to join 5Ks, 10Ks and 3Ks? A routine that’s habit-forming, strolling inside RUNNR in Ayala or Mizuno and Nike Stadium in SM each time we step inside the mall?

I’ve seen badminton flourish. I’ve observed golfers enlarge in numbers. I’ve witnessed footballers multiply among the elementary students. But, compared to today, they’re nowhere as near as the multitude of runners and the frequency of events held (often twice) on Sunday mornings.

What’s different with running is this: It’s free. The air is free, the cement road is free, the friends you run with (unless you make bangka after each run) are free for you to enjoy. This is an inexpensive sport.

Running is also this: it’s social. It’s the Facebook of sports. When you run with your barkada, they run beside you. The more you group together, the more you run; the more you run, the more friends you meet, the bigger the social network.

Running is the best way to lose weight. This is a fact. No other sport burns more calories than throwing your weight forward, one leg in front of the other at a time.

Best of all, running creates… Momentum. Like everybody else, when you start, you gasp for air, your muscles ache, your first-ever 3K run is painful. This is normal. But, if you keep on pushing, you’ll soon realize that 30 minutes is a cinch. Then, 40 minutes is effortless. You progress. A 5K run? Ah, you say, kaya ra! After… you do the distance that you never thought possible when you started: 25 loops around the oval of the Cebu City Sports Center. That’s 10 kilometers. For beginners, I can never run that far, is the thought. But, as you progress — as one gains Momentum — the 10K test is passed.

So herein lies the secret of running: You target farther… and target farther… and farther… from 3 to 5 to 10 to 12 to 16… the next thing you realize, after six months, you’re aiming for that 21K.

Which brings me to the ultimate distance: 26.2 miles. It’s called the Marathon. And, by this term “marathon,” I don’t mean, like others say it, “I’ll run a 5K marathon!” That’s incorrect. The marathon has one unique number: 42.195. That’s in kilometers. And every runner, even if you’re just a 3K Fun Runner today, should aim — at least once in your life — to complete a marathon.

My suggestion? Being biased because I’m with the Cebu Executive Runners Club (CERC), the organizers of this mega-event, I propose you run our own race. Before flying to HK or Singapore, why not, in the comforts of your own asphalted road, run in Cebu. And so, I’m pleased to announce the date of the Cebu Marathon: it’s on January 9, 2011. (We wanted Jan. 11, 2011 to make it “1-11-11” but that’s a Tuesday!)

The 2011 Cebu Marathon is seven months away. Why announce it now? Because it’s not your ordinary 10K. “To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it,” said the Canadian runner Jerome Drayton, “is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”

That’s true. I’ve ran three marathons and finished only two; in my first, in Hong Kong, I succumbed to cramps and knee injuries. And so, to attempt a 42K run — the distance from Capitol to Carcar — one must prepare. And seven months preparation time, even for one who’s a 10K finisher today, is sufficient. How to train? I’ll save that for a future column. But, for now, the challenge is before you: See you in January.

Cebuana Lhuiller Men’s Open is our Roland Garros

If you love tennis, this week is your week. When you switch on the Samsung TV, red clay is on SkyCable’s channel 33. It’s the French Open. It’s the only major played on the planet’s slowest surface. Five-hour-long matches that put you to sleep? White socks stained by dirt that turn into brown? Dust flying? Sweat flooding the tennis rectangle? These are all common. It’s Roland Garros.

In Cebu, this week is the same. It’s the annual Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Open at the Baseline tennis courts. The surface? The same as France. Only, it’s “mestizo” colored, not red. But it’s similar: clay-court.

Roger Federer is the men’s No.1. He’s the French Open defending champion. Same with ours. Johnny Arcilla is RP’s numero uno. He’s the C. Lhuillier winner in 2009.

In Paris, the matches are scheduled to suit us, the Filipino TV audience. Consider that the first match begins around 5 p.m. (RP time) and the games last past midnight. Isn’t this perfect for us?

Here in the Queen City of the South, the country’s top men’s players begin work at 9 a.m. today. Arcilla plays first. He’s seeded one. The whole day today, tomorrow, until Sunday, it’s all-volleys, all-forehands, all-day-long.

I know someone who’ll be all-smiling. Atty. Frank Malilong, my idol on these Sun.Star pages, who calls Baseline his tennis home. He’ll watch the games daily. Same on TV: he’ll cheer for this player family-named Nadal (ever heard of him?) who, like Frank, is left-handed and generates tremendous topspin off his ground-strokes.

PJ Tierro, the 6-foot-1 Filipino tennis star is also in Cebu. Late yesterday afternoon at Baseline, still dripping from sweat after a backhand workout, we talked. He’s confident. And eager to avenge his twin losses here to Johnny A.: at last year’s Cebuana Lhuillier final and, just two weeks ago, at the Mandaue Men’s Open. Watch for PJ.

Back to Roland Garros, the question most often asked is this: Who’s your pick, R or R? I say Roger. I say Rafael. It’s hard to pick between the duo. First, you’ve got two of the nicest human beings alive. Unlike the days of McEnroe or Nastase or Connors, here are the most humble and courteous superstars who, in case we forget, won 18 of the last 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Yes. Roger collared 12; Rafa, 6 — starting from the 2005 French Open that Nadal won until last January’s 2010 Australian Open, won by the Swiss. What a one-two, combination-domination by R-R.

But pressed to pick the winner next Sunday? Ha-ha. Never the gambler, I choose R. I mean Rafa. How can you argue against a four-time French Open winner who won three Masters clay-court titles the past month? I know Mrs. Chinggay Utzurrum, the most avid of Federer fans who prays the rosary while Roger plays, will disagree with me. For this is the beauty of this rivalry: it’s even. Roger has his millions of devotees while Rafa has his zealots. They, too, number in the millions. Let’s hope, before we argue, that, in this 128-man draw, one Swiss and a Spaniard meet.

Volleying back to Cebu: Apart from the men’s open which features all the country’s best, there’ll be an age-group tournament. No, this isn’t your usual 18 years and under age-group. It’s for adults. Three categories are open to all doubles players: 35-and-older, 40-, and 45-and-above. Registration is for free. Just visit Baseline today to enlist; the event begins tomorrow. All thanks to Jun and April Toledo, the organizers, for bringing this spectacle each summer to Cebu — and to Jean Henri Lhuillier, the former U.S. varsity college player, for supporting the sport he loves most.

Again, whether it’s Paris on TV or our local boys at Baseline, what a smashing week to come.

Re-Cycled: Lance Armstrong was on drugs

Alongside Michael Jordan, the sportsman I admire most wears yellow. I own his Nike watch. Several Armstrong books adorn my mini-library. A pair of sunglasses with his signature I’ve purchased. That yellow band with the “LIVESTRONG” name? I’ve collected those long before Noynoy Aquino’s crusade.

Lance’s story — a 22-year-old champion stricken by testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs and brain only to defeat the Big C bastard and climb back the saddle to pedal and win seven Tour de France crowns — is better than Hollywood. It’s true. Quite possibly, it is the most powerful story in all of sports. Ever.

That’s why, three days ago, when Floyd Landis, the former teammate of Armstrong, emerged with the story that implicated Lance as a drug cheat… this was explosive.

Not that these drug allegations are new. Since Lance won his first LeTour in 1999, drug issues have hounded his yellow jersey like a black shadow. Hundreds of “Lance Is A Cheat” exposes have, like Robin Hood’s arrow, targeted him in the past. But, let’s remember: not once has Mr. Armstrong — the most drug-tested athlete on earth — tested positive. Ever.

Still, this revelation by Landis is damaging. For three years starting 2002, Floyd with Lance was like Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan. He was, to borrow a cliche, Lance’s “right hand man.” They were not only buddies, they were US Postal Service team partners. Floyd would pedal ferociously up the Pyrenees mountains while Lance rode behind. Then, like a dutiful servant, Floyd would give way as The Yellow Master overtook and zoomed to the finish line first. Floyd was Robin. Batman was Lance.

What did Landis reveal 72 hours ago? In emails that he circulated and a phone call to an ESPN writer, he announced: 1) That he was a drug cheat, 2) that Lance was the same and, worse, taught him and others to use testosterone patches, blood transfusions and EPO, 3) that their teammates did the same, and 4) that officials and governing bodies were paid to quiet the story.

Given Landis’ stardom status — he won the ’06 TdF — this revelation was tantamount to the Watergate scandal that evicted U.S. Pres. Richard Nixon. This was very, very, very explosive.

Well, yes… and no. For here’s the problem: While the message may be explosive, the messenger is “damaged goods.” Landis is one man whose honesty is loaded with… dishonesty. Consider these facts: After lab tests revealed that Floyd took drugs during his 2006 victory in France, he did what any dishonest man often does: deny, deny, deny. He wrote a book, “Positively False: The Real Story Of How I Won The Tour.” He launched a fund-raising campaign that collected $1 million to pay for his lawyers. He appeared on Larry King Live and, with a serious face that made me and millions of others believe him, said “I’m honest.” Well, didn’t Ferdinand Marcos say the same?

“If there was one word I could walk away with that sums this all up its ‘Credibility,'” said Armstrong, hours after the news surfaced. “Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago. You’ve got someone who’s been under oath with a completely different version, someone who wrote a book with a completely different version… He has said he has no proof. It’s his word versus ours … and we like our word.”

Lance has a point. But here’s the biggest problem of them all: We don’t know whom to trust. Ben Johnson said he never did drugs. He did. Marion Jones cried oceans and said she never injected. She did. Roger Clemens never took steroids. He did. Landis said he never took EPO. He did.

Lance Armstrong? Like many of you, I hope — for mankind’s sake — that he is honest. I hope he did not inject. I hope he is yellow clean. Because if he’s not, then who, in this universe, can we trust?

Which brings me to the advocacy of the Catholic community that I belong to — the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) — which sums this story best:

Green vs. Yellow

Now that LeBron James is asleep, it’s time to expect an L.A. vs. Boston finale. This isn’t too bad an ending. For while we all predicted LBJ to hoist that NBA trophy and point it upwards to the Quicken Loans Arena ceiling in Cleveland, we’re now about to feast on a sight that’s even more savory: the greatest rivalry in all of basketball.

Who’s my pick between Green vs. Yellow? (Gibo v. Noynoy?) While my favorite color is green, I’ve always been a Lakers fan. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s idolizing Magic Johnson’s 6-foot-9 large-frame parting the Celtics defense like Moses. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Pat Riley, Kurt Rambis, James Worthy… those are names that are forever etched in my mind’s memory bank.

I like the Lakers. And though they’re the reigning NBA champs, beating Ranjo Rondo and the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will be a struggle for the boys from the City of Freddie Roach.

Roland G.

Another rivalry, after the two previous ones I enumerated—PSC vs. POC and the Celtivs vs. the Lakers—is the one that will smash our TV screens starting this Sunday. It’s tennis. It’s Paris. It’s one of the four Grand Slams. It’s Rafa against Roger. It’s the French Open.

To tennis buffs like Bob Lozada, Michelle So, Fabby Borromeo, Emma Siao, Reneeven Polinar, Ernie Delco and the thousands of others from Cebu who move their eyes left-right, left-right, left-right while watching TV tennis… the left-right action is back. The Rivalry is back. It started last Sunday when R & R met in Madrid. It began at Wimbledon when they met thrice in the finals. It heated up Down Under, in Australia.

When the French Open (Roland Garros) begins this weekend and operates for two weeks, all eyes will be on the two 6-foot-1, Nike endorsers.

The POC and PSC need to get married

The “O” stands for Olympic while the “S” stands for sports. One is named the Philippine Olympic Committee and the other, Philippine Sports Commission.

Why does our country have two sporting bodies? I don’t know. They call it “separation of powers.” I call it a headache. Why not just have one sports superbody? We know what happens when two people, both brandishing oversized egos and clasping immense clout, rule over the same arena. They fight. Like boxers. And for the past years, our PSC and POC leaders have engaged in boxing.

Well, if you consider that boxing is a sport then, yes, it’s good. But this is bad. Every time politics is injected in the noble pursuit of sports, it’s bad.

This PSC-POC tug-of-war ought to change. Now. And very timely, with our new commander-in-chief soon to assume a new first name—President—it’s the perfect time for Benigno Simeon Aquino III to merge these two warring bodies. The POC and the PSC should be one. Call it POSC or PSOC—it doesn’t matter—just don’t call it PCOS. What matters is that RP Sports look up to one leader in the same way that, when we speak of Tourism, we have but one chieftain, Ace Durano.

Michael Keon was such a man for sports. During the reign of Ferdinand Marcos as president, Mr. Keon (who was Marcos’ nephew) was the director of the Gintong Alay program. This started in October 1979. Because of this one-leader-for-all-of-sports philosophy, we achieved prominence in the international stage. Remember Lydia De Vega?

I hope Noynoy does the same. He must take advantage of this opportunity because the current POC chairman is his uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco. One option: instead of appointing a new chairperson for the PSC, why not just make Peping (the brother of Cory) the head of all sports nationwide? Or, if the 75-year-old Peping is too old for the position and Noynoy prefers a younger, more athletic leader, then he choose one. What’s essential is one leader for RP sports.

The Hero is Bayani

Jovi Neri and Bayani Garcia are first cousins. They both play the same game as Phil Mickelson. After last weekend, add one more similarity: they’re both champions of the Cebu Country Club Men’s Club Championships.

Atty. Jovi Neri won in 2002. Bayani Garcia? He was the hero last Saturday, beating four-time winner Eric Deen in one of the most impressive performances on the CCC golf course. Thanks to his cousin Jovi, the detailed account of last week’s contests are all found in the website www.cccjungolf.multiply.com. Here are excerpts of Jovi’s article, “Men’s Club Championship: Bayani The Big Winner!”

www.cccjungolf.multiply.com

May 15 Finals: Bayani Steamrolls Past Eric. “The two finalists had a shaky start. Bayani drove into the water on the left in the first hole to get a bogey which Eric matched after three-putting. For Bayani though, he would play the next 17 holes bogey free with a few birdies sprinkled in to give him a 4-up cushion over Eric going to the lunch break. Bayani was 4 or 5 under with his own ball in the first 18 holes of play.

“In the second 18 holes, Bayani bogeyed the 2nd hole to drop to just 3-up. Although Eric bogeyed the 3rd hole, he bounced back with a birdie on the 4th to trim the lead to a very manageable 3-down deficit with a possible 15 holes to play.

“A wayward tee shot to the par-3 5th by Eric led to a bogey, and they matched pars on the 6th and birdies on the 7th. Bayani stood 4-up, exactly where he began his second 18 holes. Bayani got up and down for par on the 8th with a clutch 8-footer while Eric missed from 5-feet dimming his hopes as he went 5-down. A birdie by Bayani on the 9th put him at 6-up.

“Both players matched pars on the 10th. Bayani found trouble on the 11th and had to play out on his third shot. Lying two on the middle of the fairway for his approach to the green, Eric dumped it into the creek and an imminent 6-up lead with 6-holes to go was coming. Eric wanted none of that and conceded to Bayani on the fairway, even before the latter could play his 4th shot. Bayani is now the new club champion.

The Dominating Match Play Performance. “Unhappy with his qualifying performance, Bayani took a little bit of a gamble by recalibrating his clubs on the eve of his first round match against Marko Sarmiento. It payed dividends in the end. Bayani put one of the most dominating match play performances ever.

“His approximate scores would have been: even par against Marko, one-under in the quarterfinals against Joseph Stevens, three-under in the semis against Lj Go, and a whopping seven-under against Eric Deen in the finals. In all three matches, there was also never a point where Bayani was down.  He was either tied or leading all throughout.

The Long and Winding Mission Accomplished. “Before this year, Bayani’s last time in the finals was in 2002 (or the 2001 edition) where he lost on the 28th hole to his cousin (and current jungolf chairman) Jovi Neri when he was only sixteen years old. It was also that same year where he lost in the Junior Club Championship finals to Keenan Ugarte.

“The year before, Bayani played in Class B and also lost in the finals. And during his last year of junior golf eligibility, he lost in the semifinals where his good friend Charles ‘Chuckie’ Hong went on to win the first of three junior championships. Chuckie went on to win two men’s club championships in three consecutive finals appearances while Bayani remained at one. In one of those years, it was even Chuckie who took Bayani out in the semifinals. Surely, Bayani must have been wondering when his time would come.

“Eight years between finals appearances was definitely a long wait.  It was so long that the last time around, Bayani just finished high school. Now, Bayani has gone through two colleges and is already working. But the wait was coupled with patience and hard work which ensured this victory.

“Bayani posted in one of the networking sites that it was ‘Mission Accomplished’ and what a long mission it indeed was.”

Can New York move James to LeBronx?

Will he or will he not? Mr. James is, by a slam dunk, the NBA’s best player. In the recent MVP celebration, he was adjudged the undisputed champ of the basketball world. Thus far in his career, his credentials are Michael Jordan-like: 2004 Rookie of the Year, an Olympic gold medal in Beijing, two MVPs, Defensive First Team, Scoring Champion. Name it, he’s got it. Yet, all these accolades don’t matter as much as the one he lost two days ago: the chance to win an NBA ring.

Be like Mike? Not so fast. For with His Airness, it took him just six seasons before he won an NBA Championship. Then he won two more straight. Then, three more for a total of six NBA rings. LeBron has zero. After seven years and thousands of lay-ups and offensive rebounds, LBJ is still scoreless.

Will he or will he not transfer? KG says he should. “Loyalty is something that hurts you at times because you can’t get your youth back,” said Kevin Garnett, who stayed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for 12 years and never won there (compared to Boston’s 2008 victory). “I can say that if I can go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I’d have done it a little earlier.”

KG has a point. Change a losing game is one of my favorite quotes. And LBJ is losing. Added Garnett: “The world is his. Whatever he wants it to be. He’’s the face of basketball.”

Without doubt, every state in America wants The Chosen One. But maybe none more than the most famous address in the world: NYC. “If asked, if he calls me and says ‘What’s it like to live in New York,’” said NYC’s billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, “I’ll give him a big sales pitch for New York. I think LeBron James would love living in New York. It’s the world’s greatest stage.”

True. With Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, the U.N. headquarters, Times Square, and the Bronx all found in the largest city in the U.S. (pop: 19.1m), NYC is the capital city of Planet Earth. Will LeBron soon call The Knicks his home team?

Not a good idea, wrote Ian Thomsen in his CNNSI article, “Countdown: LeBron’s future,” if LBJ’s main criteria is to win that NBA crown: “They can add James and another not-quite-max talent, which is not to say James couldn’t work out some way to recruit Bosh or Joe Johnson… They would be joined by Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, a couple of bench players, the woebegone Eddy Curry and then a bunch of veteran-minimum fill-ins. That means New York will need at least two years to develop a roster with the depth and heart to get by an Eastern contender like Orlando… The Knicks have an excellent coach and the world’s largest market, but they face practical hurdles in their ability to build a winner around James.”

The Knicks isn’t the only option for LeBron. There’s the Nets, Miami, Chicago or Dallas. How about Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats? And, of course, let’s not forget his current home in Cleveland. LeBron grew up in Akron, Ohio—which is less than an hour away from Cleveland. The city is not giving up their favorite son. Led by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, his fans remade “We Are The World” to “We Are LeBron.” (Check it out in www.break.com). The lyrics include… “Please stay, LeBron. We really need you. No bigger market’s gonna love you half as much as we do…. New York’s overcrowded. Those people are unbearable. And don’t forget, the Knicks and Nets are terrible.”

For now, let’s wait. And not forget that the Final Four is starting: Magic-Celtics, Lakers-Suns. My prediction? LBJ soon gets envious of Kobe’s fifth NBA ring.

Boston, Binay spoil the wins of LBJ, Mar

The LA Lakers are 4 and 0. Same with Phoenix. Against San Antonio, the Suns scorched the Spurs. The reigning Eastern Conference champions, the Orlando Magic? With their magic wand, they metamorphosed the Atlanta Hawks to fly into oblivion. The score? Four, zero. This means, as expected, Los Angeles is in, Phoenix is in, and Dwight Howard and his Magicians are in. This was forecasted.

Like our elections of 72 hours ago. Noynoy Aquino was expected to win. He did. Bong Revilla was prophesied to top the senatorial slate. He did. Manny Pacquiao? Well, whenever he fights, he wins. And so finally, on the political arena, he won. But the win we never saw coming was the “loss” of the seemingly-unbeatable Manuel Araneta Roxas II, who led by as much as 33 survey points just months before last Monday.

Mar beaten by Robin Hood? That’s an epic upset by Jojo Binay. Much like what we saw yesterday morning: LeBron James, all but crowned by Mark Garcia and Charlie Pages as the 2010 NBA champions—they lost. But wait, this isn’t all-too-surprising. This is sports. And, like politics where surprises are common, it’s the same with basketball: the ball is round, thus it bounces one way, spins another, ricochets left, sways right, often tilting in favor of the underdog.

Not that the Boston Celtics, the winningest franchise in NBA history (yes, more than the Lakers) with 17 NBA trophies, are weaklings. Boston won the NBA crown as recently as two years ago. And, of course, they still have the Big Three: KG, Ray Allen and PP. Plus a point guard named Rajon Rondo who, in Game 4, was phenomenal with 18 rebounds, 13 assists and 29 points. Boston is Boston. They’re NBA legends.

Still, with Shaq and LBJ, everybody crowned the Cavaliers as this year’s winners. Like we all did with Roxas. Well, yesterday’s 120-88 trashing by Boston in LeBron’s home court was embarrassing. It also put Cavaliers in a 2-3 win-loss quicksand. With the coming Game 6 in Boston, if Cleveland wins, they live for one more game. If they lose those 48 minutes of ball-playing, they’re out. As in Roxas-out. Ouch.

Which makes me ask: Where was the two-time MVP? LeBron missed his first seven shots and ended with 3-out-14 shooting for 15 points—the fourth lowest-scoring total of his playoff career. When he finally left the game with 3:58 remaining, he was booed. Imagine… the MVP booed. (Contrast this to the “M.V.P.” serenade Rajon Rondo received in Boston after Game 4.) It’s obvious that if LeBron performs the same dismal way tomorrow (Game 6 is 8 a.m. RP time), it’s an early summer vacation for the 25-year-old.

Upset of upsets, right? Right. Which makes tomorrow the most important game of LeBron’s seven-year-long NBA career. Three years ago, his Cavs reached the NBA Finals. They were humiliated, 4-0, by the San Antonio Spurs. Last year, they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, beaten by Orlando. Then they hired the 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal. With the stronger big man, they finished the year with the NBA regular season-best of 61 wins, 21 losses. This 2010 is Cleveland’s number. It’s LeBron’s time.

Here’s my analysis: If LBJ steals the Boston game tomorrow, they’ll fly back to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland with momentum pushing their giant-sized bodies and they’ll win Game 7. Having escaped that Boston scare, they’ll ride to avenge their Easter Conference Finals loss to Orlando last year and, once in the NBA Championships, they’ll trample the Lakers in a LeBron vs. Kobe face-to-face.

All these…. if they win tomorrow. If they don’t, well, yesterday might have been the last time LeBron wore the Cavaliers jersey in Cleveland. For the internet is abuzz with rumors that LBJ wants out of Ohio. When he becomes a free agent on July 1, the city that never sleeps, New York, will beg for his superstardom to shine there. He’ll probably wear the uniform marked “KNICKS.” But that’s speculation. For now, let’s wait and watch. It’s one fight tomorrow. Like Jojo vs. Mar. Abangan.

Good Sportsmanship: will we see this after tomorrow?

Out of the 10 presidential candidates, only one will emerge as the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Nine will lose. Out of eight vice-presidential aspirants, seven will be defeated. Of the 61 vying for the 12 senatorial slots, 49 will go home millions of pesos poorer and become, like you and me, an ordinary Filipino mamamayan.

Here in Cebu, either Tommy Osmeña or Atan Guardo will lose. Same with Mike and Alvin and Georgia and the seven others vying to be Cebu City mayor: only one will smile 40 hours from today while the beaten candidates will sulk and cry foul. Jonas or Nerissa? Pelaez vs. Radaza? Tining or Benhur? In each contest, only one wins. Plenty lose.

It’s like sports. One is awarded the Olympic gold medal while dozens, sitting below, dejected, look up at the podium where the smiling champion stands tall. In sports, like politics, there’s no second place. “You don’t win silver,” someone once said. “You lose the gold.” That’s life. That’s politics. That’s sport.

The question is, after tomorrow, will these multitude of beaten candidates for councilors and congressmen and vice mayors and governors—will they, like good sports, accept defeat?

Sadly, the answer is often NO. It’s easy to complain. To say that you’ve been cheated, that your opponent did this dirty-trick or that vote-buying or this smear-job. Nanikas siya, plenty argue. Sure, sore losers do that. My interest is this: Who can accept defeat like John McCain? Or Hillary Clinton?

If you recall, the U.S. elections in November 2008 was one of the fiercest. Out of near-obscurity, this neophyte black senator from Chicago named Barack Obama had the temerity to run for president. He had the guts to attempt becoming the most powerful man in the world! And Obama dared battle against the seemingly-unbeatable Mrs. Clinton, the former first lady. Obama won. Against John McCain, we know who won.

My point is this: In both contests, first in the Democratic primary, as soon as Hillary lost, promptly, she faced CNN and the worldwide audience to accept defeat. Though the battle was long and ruthless, Hillary congratulated Barack and vowed to support him. McCain? The same. In less than 30 minutes of Obama’s victory, the former POW hero stood before his Republican base to proclaim Obama’s greatness.

That’s greatness. That’s fairness. That’s being a good sport. That’s in America, not in the Philippines.

My wish is, like good sports who’ve fought hard but came in second or third or seventh place, tomorrow’s losers will possess the same poise and class.

Remember MVP? Manny V. Pangilinan was disgraced last month when it was uncovered that parts of his Ateneo graduation speech were copied from, among others, J.K. Rowling and Oprah. MVP promptly resigned as Ateneo chairman. He returned his honorary doctorate degree. That’s class. That’s accepting a mistake and moving on. That’s being a good sport. MVP’s move reminds me of my all-time favorite quotation: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, lost almost 300 games, missed the game-winning shot 26 times. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” Who said that? Michael Jordan.

Losing is painful. Though I’ve never been a political candidate—and, in all likelihood, never will be one—I can imagine the suffering of the loser: months of campaigning are now history, all that hand-shaking, the pulong-pulongs, the non-stop smiling. Losing is dreadful. Nobody wants to lose. But, in this earth and since we’re not yet in heaven, this is reality. Though inhuman, it’s being human. Only one wins. In politics. In sports.

That’s why to me, as much as I’ll be impressed by tomorrow’s winners—for their political acumen in victory—my loudest applause and proudest salute will go more to the losing candidates who accept, quickly and with humility, defeat. As basketball coach Harry Sheeny once said: “It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser.”

Foul! Why I won’t vote for this PBA

Philippine Basketball Association, it’s called. Thirty years old, it’s popular, calls James Yap, Dondon Hontiveros, and Jayjay Helterbrand as its superstars, and it is Asia’s oldest pro basketball league. That’s the PBA. You know this, I know this.

Well, guess what? Another group has called itself P.B.A. They name themselves Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta and, this Monday, they’ll be one of nearly 200 party-list groups.

Don’t vote for them! Do you know what they did to Paeng Nepomuceno? The six-time  World Bowling champion, Paeng is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records with three world records.

This PBA party-list, without asking for permission, posted Nepomuceno’s photo and name in their advertisement. In a full-page ad that appeared in the March-April issue of the magazine Badminton Xtreme Philippines, there was Paeng “endorsing” the PBA.

“No, I am not running for any position,” complained Paeng in columnist Bill Velasco’s The Philippine Star column last April 19 (“Paeng: ‘PBA Partylist used me without consent’”). Paeng added: “PBA Partylist used my name and picture without my authorization.”

This is misleading. “Even their nominee is not an athlete,” added Bill Velasco. “When PBA Partylist started out in the last campaign, retired PBA All-Star Jerry Codinera and former PBA player and team manager Orly Castelo were involved. Now, no sports personality outside of Pacquiao (who is actually running for his own congressional seat in Sarangani province) is even running for the partylist.”

Yes, it looks like Manny Pacquiao is involved with this PBA. Reportedly, he is their chairman. But what’s deceiving here is this: It appears as if Pacquiao is their party-list nominee. From the dozens of posters that I see around Cebu City, specifically near my home in Talamban, this PBA group has a huge photo of Pacquiao. Is he their nominee? Why is his photo there? While running for congressman in Sarangani, can he also be their party-list nominee?

No way. Pacman, in the event he loses to Roy Chiongbian, can’t be inserted as party-list nominee. But this PBA party-list group (whose poster font design/colors even mimic that of the real PBA basketball league) makes it look that way. Miles Roces, the PBA party-list’s second nominee , in a Sun.Star story last March 31, was quoted: “He (Pacquiao) can still sit as party-list representative. I-eelect lang naman ng board namin si Manny at siya na ang magiging rep namin sa Kongreso (All our board has to do is elect Manny and he becomes our representative in Congress).” Crazy. This is unlawful.

Back to that full-page ad of this shady PBA, it included, apart from Paeng, 11 more athletes/“endorsers.” Included were, among others, Monsour del Rosario and Efren Reyes with the headline that stated: “Top Athletes Join Forces for PBA Partylist.”

This is garbage. Added Bill Velasco in his subsequent, May 1 article (“Monsour, Asuncions wary of PBA Partylist): “As it turns out, del Rosario was under the impression that he was endorsing Pacquiao himself, not the PBA Partylist’s true candidates. The group first fielded candidates in the last elections, but none of their nominees earned enough votes to get into congress.

“Given the circumstances, it appears that the group concerned is riding on the popularity of present and former athletes who would gladly do anything to help sports in general, even lending their reputations for free. They are invited with vague promises of ‘helping sports’ and innocently and good-naturedly agree to supporting the party, which has primarily hitched its wagon to Pacquiao’s star. Now, with the election date nearing, more of the athletes are wondering what the candidates really plan to do, since the primary nominees are not known to be involved in sports to begin with. Was their real deception intended?”

This stinks. Clearly, politics and sports don’t mix.

Sorry, Manny vs. Money won’t push through

Let’s admit it. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was outstanding. As much as 100 percent of us Filipinos hate his mouth and detest his ego, on the ring, he’s sensational. During those 180 seconds during Round 2, didn’t we all jump in excitement, shout, pray, and wish that Shane Mosley would finish him off? Yes we did. But, shock of shocks, Sugar turned old and stodgy one minute later in Round 3 while Floyd, usually a defensive expert, turned into an offensive generator. Mosley owned a small window of opportunity—which was promptly slammed close by Mayweather.

Stamina? Well, what can you expect from a 38-year-old? Starting the fifth round, Shane’s face was empty. His tongue wagged. He was tired while Floyd, in between rounds, never looked fatigued. Floyd’s endurance can be likened to someone you and I share the same color skin with: Manny Pacquiao.

Which brings me to The Fight. Can you imagine Pacquiao vs. Mayweather? Two of the fastest athletes facing nobody else but each other’s speed inside the 18’ x 18’ stage. They’re swift, snappy and fire quadruple combinations in rapid-fire sequence. Ever seen Manny fatigued in Round 12? Same with Floyd, right?

“Forget world peace, the world needs Mayweather-Pacquiao,” one columnist, Mark Whicker, titled his story. True. This is a marriage that Americans and Asians want, that boxers and non-boxing fans salivate at watching; it’s a 36-minute encounter that would boost Money’s income by least $25 million and Manny’s by over one billion pesos.

Which is why it’s not going to happen. In the same way that some candidates, however qualified and best suited, will not win this Monday’s elections. That’s how the world operates. Life’s unfair. Not everything we wish, we get. And this is one wish we won’t get.

The reason? Pride.

“Pride,” said the poet John Ruskin, “is at the bottom of all great mistakes.”

Pacquiao won’t agree because, he says, blood will sap him of energy when, in fact, it’s just a little needle and small volume that they’ll extract. Floyd’s asking for “14 days before the fight” for his blood test while Manny’s OK with 24. This means that only 10 days separate a “Yes” from a “No.” That’s pride.

Worse, Mayweather, without question the most boastful human being in this universe today, wants everybody to bend to everything that he wishes. He doesn’t think he’s Muhammad Ali; he believes he’s boxing’s God. That’s pride.

“This is not bragging or boasting,” said Mayweather in the press conference shortly after the fight (yeah right!), “but with or without Pacquiao, Floyd is going to be able to go out and make $20 million or $30 million a night. With or without him, I’m still able to do that.

“I don’t think about no Pacquiao. I’m a boss, I only talk to bosses. He’s got to do numbers like I’m doing. What did him and Marquez do, 300,000, 400,000? Congratulations. Got to step his game up. Got to step his game up. Got to step his pay-per-view numbers up. I average 1.3 million, with ease.”

Pina ka hambog na tao sa tibuok kalibutan.

So, what complicates matters now is not only blood-testing but money. After his victory 48 hours ago, do you think Mayweather will settle for a 50-50 share, like he originally did months ago? No way. Money wanting more money is what Money wants.

Back to our own Manny and the blood-testing issue, here’s what I would advise our man: Agree to 14 days. We know, Freddie Roach knows, and Buboy Fernandez is certain that Manny does no drugs. Then, what’s the scare? Pride? Well, this pride is expensive at P1,000,000,000. From now until November—the month when Bob Arum wants the fight—Manny can simulate this blood-testing procedure and know that it won’t debilitate or weaken his body.

Then he beats Mayweather! Because Floyd, for all his defensive prowess and ability to adjust, is beatable by Man. For Floyd doesn’t possess Manny’s power. Quickness, yes, they two are the same, but power, I’d tip the favor to Manny.

So, there. The enemies: Cash, blood, pride.

Aboitiz, like it always does, takes the lead

Volleyball smashes our province this weekend with the Shakey’s Girls V-League Visayas regional eliminations. Soccer, with 39 days left before the Fifa World Cup, is kicking up a football storm with the CAFC 10th National Interclub Invitational meet at the USC-TC grounds. Archery is firing! Thanks to the record number of 175 archers who are now at the Aboitiz Sports Field. Tennis? How about the nation’s top two, Johnny Arcilla and PJ Tierro, who’ll topspin forehands and slice backhands at 3 p.m. later in Mandaue?

Summer sports is hot. Plus, this morning, it’s Sugar vs. Money. And, just yesterday, didn’t we witness Pau Gasol resurrect the LA Lakers from defeat with a two-pointer just 0.5 seconds from the buzzer? How about the Dallas Mavericks, seeded No. 2, ousted in Round One? You want even more sizzling news? Tiger Woods three-putt bogeys on consecutive holes and, on Hole 15, four-putt double bogeys from 30 feet, missing the cut with a 7-over 79. Ouch. What a boiling-hot sports Labor Day.

ARCHERY. The hottest—literally—event this weekend? The 1st Cebu Archery Open. Held at the Aboitiz Sports Field grounds, I made sure to feel the heat, visiting at 3 p.m. yesterday.

Marvin Agustin, the actor/sportsman, was there. He wore a black-and-red sleeveless shirt. Very timely as I arrived, his name was called together with 17 others for the men’s competition. Among the archers was Cebu-based Dondon Sombrio, who’s a member of the RP Team.

What did I see? Men lined up, standing right, facing left, all eyes on the target. There were a total of 18 targets, all multi-colored circles. They were far: 70 meters away. The wind? It swirled and howled. It was windy. Which made the event more challenging as many of the archers, I was told, were used to archery with little or no-wind conditions.

The bows and arrows? Ahh, so unlike Robin Hood’s. For what I saw were expensive, state-of-the-art bows, all in various handles, colors and shapes. “This is not only the country’s biggest archery event,” said Joanna Fajardo-Salazar, one of the key organizers of this meet, “it’s also the first time that we’ll have competition at night.” Wow. Night games. That’s interesting, I told Joanna. No sun and, possibly, less wind.

Archery, I’ve observed, is all about concentration. Yes, it’s physical, since you need strength to power that arrow across 70 meters; but, even more essential, is one’s strength found in-between our ears. Thus far, said Joanna, the contest has been a blistering success. Congratulations to the Cebu Archery Club, led by its energetic president, Dondi Joseph.

TENNIS. Just two kilometers away from where the archers stood were the tennisters who sprinted. Four players were vying for the champion’s trophy of the 3rd Jonas C. Cortes Men’s Open.

After two hours of play during the semi-finals, the No. 1 seed Johnny Arcilla beat Ralph Kevin Barte, 6-4, 6-1, and PJ Tierro bested Elbert Anasta, 7-6, 6-3. This means that, as expected, the top two netters of our country will battle on the rectangle clay-court. The Final is at 3 p.m. today and the winner receives P20,000 while the runner-up gets half the amount. Venue is the Mandaue Tennis Complex (beside the city’s Cultural and Sports Complex).

ABOITIZ. The archery competition was held at the Aboitiz Sports Field, which has become, the past year since it’s opened, a major, major help for Cebu sports.

Baseball, softball, football, rugby, flag football plus many more outdoor events (including one of the biggest soccer events in the country, The Aboitiz Cup) are being held at this 40,000-square-meter expanse of greenland beside Makro in Mandaue. What the government has failed to do (provide the citizenry with plenty of public venues for sports), the Aboitizes have accomplished.

To Bobby and Andoni Aboitiz, and the entire Aboitiz group: Like the example you’ve set in the business community, you’ve done the same for Cebu sports.