Monthly Archives: July 2010

Contador wins, Lance exits

Can you believe this? After biking for 21 days ending last Sunday in Paris, after pedaling for 3,642 kilometers, after the winner logged-in a time of 91 hours, 58 minutes and 48 seconds on that Specialized-branded bike, the difference between the champion and runner-up is minuscule: Thirty nine seconds.

Yup. If you read aloud the above paragraph, it will take you 39 seconds. That’s the same length of time that separated the Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador, from the second-placer, Andy Schleck.

Contador finished with a time of 91h 58’ 48”. Schleck ended at 91h 59’ 27”. Imagine a winning-time difference of only 39 seconds! For, in Le Tour, Every Second Counts. (In fact, this winning gap is only the fourth closest in history. The record was the 1989 win by Greg LeMond over Laurent Fignon by eight seconds.)

The Tour de France is considered not only the Wimbledon of Cycling but also one of the toughest events on Earth. What did the 2010 race teach us? Plenty.

First, Alberto Contador is cycling’s Manny Pacquiao. He has won three of the last four TdFs (he was absent in 2008 because his team could not compete) and is only the fifth racer in history to win all three Grand Tours (France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España).

Two, with AC’s win, it reaffirmed the status of Spain as numero uno together with Rafa Nadal, the World Cup-winning football squad, Pau Gasol, and, two nights ago, Fernando Alonso, who won the German Grand Prix. Spain reigns!

Three, we love rivalries. Like Roger vs. Rafa, Lakers vs. Boston (or will be LA vs. Miami next year?), Tiger vs. Phil (we wish!), there’s a new couple: Contador vs. Schleck. The past two years, they finished 1-2. We can’t wait for 2011.

Four, the Tour de Lance is done. Mr. Armstrong punctured a tire on the cobblestones, slipped on the wet roads, and admitted he’s “just not fast enough.” Well, what can you expect from a 38-year-old father of four (baby No. 5 arriving in October). Which brings me back to Lance’s seven TdF wins—and how astonishing that was to accomplish. Imagine, zero mistakes for 21 days… multiplied by seven years… straight!

Finally, with Floyd Landis and Greg LeMond ganging up on their fellow American, let’s hope, at the conclusion of all this, that Lance is telling the truth. For the estimated 28 million cancer patients today, for sports, for the sake of honesty, let’s hope Lance did not inject.

As P-Noy spoke, P-Manny stood out

(Reuters)

CongressManny! If you watched yesterday’s SONA by Pres. Noynoy Aquino, in the midst of the political heavyweights that surrounded the audience glimmered one undisputed heavyweight champion: Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

Didn’t our honorable legislator look good in his barong tagalog? Ever-smiling and sitting up tall while the TV cameras broadcasted his space, didn’t he appear confident amongst the crowd of intellectuals? Yes. For this I bet: Other than P-Noy himself, there was no bigger celebrity yesterday—whom the attendees wanted to snap photos with—than our Pinoy champ.

But, with 110 days left before his Nov. 13 clash with Antonio Margarito, this will be another tremendous challenge for Pacman. Not wanting to disappoint his Sarangani constituents, he also can’t spend little time in the gym. How to juggle this added “Congressman” title is Manny’s latest trial. He has to remember that—beyond his representing the 490,000 constituents of Sarangani—his bigger role is representing the entire 90 million Filipinos… as our hero.

With Rep. Luigi Quisumbing in the foreground (Reuters)

He can’t lose. He must win. Therefore, he must train. Abandoning his Wild Card Gym camp in LA—that, by itself, is a breach of contract. Distractions, distractions. Though we’ve seen him triumph despite the myriad of affairs (TV shows, Krista Ranillo scandals, late-night gamble allegations, every-Sunday basketball games)—the next three months will be another Pacman game.

Train hard, Manny. Yes, you’re the Sarangani representative, but more than that, you’re the Representative of the entire Philippines.

The fall from the rise of LeBron James

Two Sundays ago, I made a mistake. I declared LeBron’s joining forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade as the right move. Now I’m having a change of mind. Sure, LBJ wants to win that NBA ring. Sure, it was legal. But here’s another sure thing: LeBron made millions of enemies.

His blunder wasn’t joining the Miami Heat—again, he’s a free agent and that’s his prerogative. His mistake was his decision to have “The Decision.” If you recall, LeBron announced to the world his Miami transfer not via a no-nonsense, 12-minute press conference. Instead, the self-proclaimed King promoted himself like a God—to the full hilt, holding six NBA teams as hostage and starting a fiery hype that engulfed the sports world.

Really?

On July 8 in the ESPN show “The Decision,” 13 million TV viewers locked-in for 60 minutes to watch his lips say the seven words that will be embedded in NBA history: “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”

Why was this TV show dubbed a LeBacle? Simple: Knowing that he was going to hurt the 11.5 million residents of Ohio—fans who’ve embraced him as their native son the past seven years; knowing that he was going to disappoint the citizens of New York, Chicago, New Jersey and LA—couldn’t LeBron have focused the attention less on himself? Couldn’t he have done a plain announcement? Been more sympathetic? To his Cleveland family?

Yes, yes, yes. Yes to all of the above. And, I’m sure if you give me LeBron’s number now and I ask him if he can redo how he packaged his decision, he’ll say Yes. I wish I could have given it less hoopla, he’d declare. For, as the saying goes, “Hindsight explains the injury that foresight would have prevented.”

Today, in Fox Sports, ESPN and dozens of other NBA commentaries, they sadly pronounce the same thing: Bad move, LeBron. Sad, isn’t it? From the most revered of athletes comes this worldwide repudiation and scorn. (Can you imagine the jeering and booing he’ll hear when Miami visits Cleveland?)

Commented Michael Jordan: “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’” Ouch. Does this mean LeBron did not have enough courage to stand up on his own and win? Yes, says MJ.

Charles Barkley added: “Mike and I are in 100 percent agreement on this. If you’re the two-time defending NBA MVP, you don’t leave anywhere. They come to you. That’s ridiculous. I like LeBron. He’s a great player. But I don’t think in the history of sports you can find a two-time defending MVP leaving to go play with other people.” (True. Instead, shouldn’t LeBron have enticed Chris Bosh to move to Cleveland?)

Now. What’s LeBron got to do? Well, simple: Win the championship. Now. This season. Anything short will mean more ridicule and damage to his already-damaged persona.

Not everybody’s a loser in this controversy, though. The big winner is Fil-Am Erik Spoelstra, the Miami Heat head coach. His mother, Elisa Celino, hails from San Pablo, Laguna. “I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve visited the Philippines only when I was three years old,” he said in the Phil. Daily Inquirer. “I’m definitely planning to go again.” Bringing with you the Three Kings?

The jackpot winner of this whole story? Of course, Miami. Quoting an AP story entitled “Heat business takes over on and off the court,” there’s now a dish in Miami called LeBron Burger. Served at the diner OneBurger, “It starts with Kobe beef (a nod to Bryant), with Swiss cheese, an onion ring (think championship ring) and jalapenos (for heat, er, the Heat).”

Hotels in Miami? One room, the “Heat Suite” for $2,500/night, includes a “Ferrari F430 rental, James’ favorite snacks, an iPod with his favorite tunes.” Mandarin Oriental has “Live Like LeBron” weekends—with basketball-shaped cookies.

Spa? There’s “LeBroyal Treatment” with “a massage, manicure, personal training session, jet-ski rental, gift package and a six-pack of beer.” For $149, it’s expensive—and better than lingam!

Igi Maximo pedals to the Max

(Photos at team maX1mo)

“Lance Armstrong is my idol,” said Luis Miguel “Igi” Maximo. “Apart from being a strong cyclist, what amazed me was how he fought cancer and won the Tour de France seven consecutive times!”

Igi Maximo is only 15. But when I asked for an assessment of who, between the cyclists, he picks to win the TDF this Sunday, like a seasoned expert, he replied: “I like Alberto Contador. He has proven to be an all-around cyclist and very strong climber. I enjoy it when he attacks big time on the mountain stages. Andy Schleck is also a favorite—but my bet is Contador. After hearing Schleck’s mechanical problem, he may still have a chance but if he doesn’t pull this off on the mountain stages, he’ll have a hard time in the Time Trial because Contador is better.”

Mature. Well-versed. Sports fanatic. Those are words best to describe this third year high schooler at PAREF-Springdale. Igi has lived all his life in a sports-obsessed home. His dad, Maxi, was Cebu’s 2009 Sportsman of the Year and the former Cebu Football Association (CFA) president who is visible in everything-sports: running the 21K, managing the CESAFI football tournament, biking, updating his sports website, PabolFC.blogspot.com.

Like father, like son. Igi is the only son of Maxi and Sheila (they have two daughters, Ina and Ica). And, like the elder Maximo, the younger one has sports revved to the max: excelling in football as a varsity striker before transforming into the junior cycling champion that he is today.

“I started biking last year when I was invited by my classmates to join an outdoor group called Kaabay Boys Club of Sugbu Study Center,” said Igi. “Aside from biking, the club organizes camping, hiking, group studies and conducts talks on moral values and good character. I didn’t have a bike then, so I just borrowed. Later, I asked my dad to buy me one.”

In 12 or so months, Igi won three races in the prestigious Philippine Premier Cycling League (PPCL)—in Manila, Laguna and Clark. For someone so new to cycling, this is Lance-like. Apart from the PPCL, which runs until December, Igi added, “I also plan to join the local races… but the one I like to join again is the US Junior Cycling events. I had the opportunity to be in the US last summer and, while joining, not only had fun but learned a lot about road racing. I was nervous & excited because I was the only entry from the Phils. The junior cyclists were so good and fast. I want to go back and see if I can now keep up with them. I hope the Fil-Am community who partly sponsored me will invite me again next summer.”

Why this strenuous and dangerous sport? “Cycling teaches me a lot,” he said. “One, how to balance my academics and sports. Two, how to never give up… to bounce back from any loss, fighting stronger the next time. Three, in cycling or life, it’s not always an easy path; you will encounter challenges and it’s up to you how much you want to improve. Your performance will depend on your effort (I learned this from my dad.)”

Despite his youthfulness, Igi has started to compete in the Men’s Open (Elite) category, recently joining the mountain-bike ITT race and placing fourth. When I asked Igi how he’s become a success given his young age, his reply was direct: I simply have the full support of my parents. Enough said!

Maxi with Pacman, John P. and Atty. Jingo Quijano

To which his dad, Maxi, sent a separate email reply: “John, I asked Igi why he answered it that way. He said he just wants to highlight one important aspect – the parents’ support to a young athlete. I find him to be humble kid. He is not the type that trumpets his victories. Even in school, he does not tell his classmates & teachers that he won. He just keeps it to himself. They only find it out when they read it in the papers. This is partly why his fellow students and teachers are at ease with him: undefeated in the Student Council elections (Gr.7-class rep, 1st yr-Treas., 2nd yr-Sec., 3rd yr-VP) and 6-time Springdale Athlete of the Year.”

CebuRunning.com: the cure for running fever

Everybody wants to run. Everybody wants to organize a run. There’s a run for Silliman, Ateneo, several for CebuDoc, one for USJ-R, the Seminary, for the Heart, Breast Cancer, Diabetes. There’s a race for mediamen, the environment (Eco-Dash), waste reduction (Aboitiz), kids (Ayala), and one STC-organized “Move with Air.”

Every Sunday, there’s a footrace. This is good. Running is the best—and most inexpensive—form of exercise. It revitalizes the heart, strengthens the legs. It elicits a smile when crossing that finish line. Running is positive. And, the more events, the better. From a 3K start, we upgrade to 5K, graduate to the 10K. Cebu is on a running fever “high.”

But, like any fever, when the temperature’s too high, there’s a problem. And there is a problem: the date “August 15.” The dilemma? Two events are scheduled on the same morning.

The University Run is on its fifth year. Founded by Dr. Yong Larrazabal, Cebu’s most popular running man, it will draw thousands to the CebuDoc Mandaue campus on Aug. 15.

Enter the Pilipinas International Marathon (PIM). Organized by the pharma giant IPI, it features, among others, the unique distance of 25K. It’s date? Aug. 15.

Without question, the 5th University Run, an institution of an event, was announced first. But here’s the problem: The PIM organizers did not know about the conflicting schedule. When they approached the Cebu City Hall, checked on Aug. 15, they were given the go-signal. Why? Because the Univ. Run is in Mandaue—which, obviously, does not coordinate with Cebu City.

I know Tito de la Merced of IPI. I know Joe Deresas. And, in my analysis, their August 15 scheduling was done in good faith. Simply, they did not know another event existed on the same date.

Now, what to do? The best solution would be for Mr. De La Merced to move his schedule. Why? For one, after several “bad press” articles “boycotting” the run, this act will evoke such goodwill that thousands of Cebuanos—believe me—will run and embrace the PIM. Two, on August 22, it’s the Aboitiz “Race To Reduce” event. It has a 21K distance and, given that timing chips are included, this will be in major conflict with the PIM. (Runners will choose only either the 21K or 25K.) Three, rescheduling the PIM to, say, September or October, will be the perfect long-run event for those joining the Cebu City Marathon on Jan. 9, 2011.

But it’s not for me to decide. Tito de la Merced has said that he cannot move his schedule. We respect that. And so, if that happens, let it be. There’s no law stating that two events can’t coexist. (In Manila, as many as four are held on the same Sunday.)

I liken running to basketball. Often, there’s an event in Guadalupe, another in Lahug, one in Talamban—all simultaneous. (Running is so popular that the only solution is for the week to have two Sundays!)

Here’s my suggestion: Given that a government super-body to oversee events does not appear viable because 1) even in Manila, where PATAFA is based, no such body exists, 2) each city has its own sports commission, 3) who reputable, non-biased person will head this body? and 4) there are too many technicalities involved (if one organizer ‘reserves’ a date but cancels, how to penalize?)… I suggest an alternative:

An open system. An avenue where organizers and runners can visit. I propose we make a website—www.CebuRunning.com–as the go-to venue. Organized by Max Limpag, my fellow writer/runner, he has a category labeled “Fun Runs/Races.” I suggest that everyone check on this calendar. If, as organizer, you’ve picked a specific date, fire an email to maxlimpag@gmail.com so Max can post your event. Simple.

This, of course, does not guarantee exclusivity. If you’re the first to post, it doesn’t mean others can’t organize on the same date. But, at least, the problem IPI faced—not knowing the full calendar—will be addressed. Another tip for organizers? Plan early. Six months lead time is ideal. Also, setup a website. And, announce, announce, announce!

Cebu is one happy family. Let’s keep it running that way.

SkyCable, after the World Cup, continues to score

As we long suspected, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is a coward. He agreed to fight Manny Pacquiao last March 13—then retreated. He asked for a 14-days-before-the-fight drug test—which Manny agreed to—and now he’s backpedaled. What more does he want? I know. Simply, he doesn’t want to quarrel MP. The likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, minuscule in size and low-batt on power, he combats. But with our P4P No.1, he capitulates.

THE OPEN. First day, Rory McIlroy shoots a record-equaling nine-under-par 63 at the British Open. The next day, he fires an 80. This 17-stroke-difference was the worst gap for a first-round leader at a major in 20 years (when Mike Donald shot 64 and 82 at the 1990 Masters). Was it McIlroy’s fault? Not exactly. It was because of “the winds of change.”

Last Friday night, I watched The Open (isn’t the schedule perfect for us?) on SkyCable’s channel 32. The breeze swirled like Basyang. “It was brutal out there.. Probably the windiest conditions I’ve ever played in,” said Steve Marino. Added Tiger Woods, “It was certainly one of the toughest days I’ve ever faced.”

To me, the English are some of the most distinguished and aristocratic of men. At this British Open, celebrating its 150th  year, the tournament is simply called, “THE OPEN.” Same with its tennis counterpart, Wimbledon. Its name: THE CHAMPIONSHIPS. Located in Scotland, the links course of St. Andrews is dubbed “the home of golf,” while Wimbledon is considered the world’s oldest tennis tournament.

SKYCABLE. While we castigated the cable TV monopoly when it discontinued Solar Sports a few years back, now we applaud SkyCable. I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it once more: the 31-day, 64-game programming of the South African World Cup was one of the best TV coverages I’ve watched. Not only were the schedules favorable to us in the Philippines, but all games were broadcast live with excellent English commentary. Plus, replays were shown—and are still ongoing—nonstop.

Now, here’s even better news, relayed to me by John Cheu, my fellow member with the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP). For an additional P105/month, SkyCable subscribers can avail of eight new channels: History, Biography, Fox News, Asian Food, ETC, Al Jazeera, 2nd Avenue and—yes!—Solar Sports. This is their new shift to digital broadcasting. But, here’s the caveat: For now, only Banilad, Lahug, Ma. Luisa, Beverly Hills and a few areas are ready.

SAN MIGUEL CORP. In behalf of the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC), I’d like to thank Manuel M. Moreno, SMC Asst. Vice President and Plant Operations Manager, and Girlie Garces, SMC Corporate Communications head, for the P50,000 donation to SAC. Those who visited the SMC office last Thursday to receive the check were Mike Limpag (Sun.Star sports editor), Caecent Magsumbol of The Freeman and CDN’s Dale Rosal.

NINOS. As explained by Rommel Manlosa in yesterday’s piece, the M. Lhuillier Kwarta Padala-Cebu Niños won their 29th straight basketball game. “The longest winning streak of a semi-professional ball club in the country in recent memory,” wrote Rommel. This is remarkable! Playing in the Cebu City leg named “Tournament of the Philippines,” the Raul Alcoseba-coached squad beat Misamis, 78-70. This dominance is testament to the unrelenting standard set by Coach Yayoy and team owner Michel Lhuillier. Theirs is a culture of winning—and not succumbing to complacency. Said Councilor Alcoseba: “They can beat us anywhere, anytime, but not in our home. Not here, in front of our supporters.” M. Lhuillier’s winning formula: Competitive drive + Cebuano pride = Champions.

BIRDIES. From The Scottish Sun: “Five stunning blonde models – hired by a bookies chain – turned up in tiger-print T-shirts in a bid to attract his eye. One of the sexy cubs purred: ‘We haven’t been able to keep our eyes off the Tiger!’ But Woods, 34, was only interested in birdies of the one-under-par kind. And he shot six of them in a first round of 67.”

World Cup review by Neil Montesclaros

Starting Grade 3, he began kicking the football. In high school, he represented Don Bosco as they emerged Region 7 champs. From 2003 to 2008, he sat as Secretary General of the Cebu Football Association. He also founded the Don Bosco Alumni (United) FC and emerged as one of the organizers of the Thirsty Cup, now on its 7th year. Football dribbles inside the beating heart of Neil Montesclaros. After 31 days of sleepless nights, Neil reflects on the WC with this commentary…

From 2:30 to 5 a.m. last Monday, majority of the citizens of Planet Earth were in anticipation to see history: the World Cup Finals of two football superpowers. Both have never won a WC, yet are regarded as dominant forces in the sport. It is a historic event. With the might of Brazil, Germany, Argentina, France, and Italy falling, Spain and Holland fight it out as the last nation standing.

No sport has a global impact like football. Both the BBC and CNN were giving live feeds. At that moment, nothing mattered but football. Heads of state, royalty, celebrities, and great athletes paid homage to the sport in South African.

I have been following the WC Finals since Mexico 1986. I found myself inquisitive about past WCs all together, especially when Pele entered the global stage in 1958. Brazil won their first WC. Let me share some reflections:

The World Cup before 2002 was predictable. Favorites and dominant nations hit their marks. The same countries reach the knockout stages—they just take turns to be on top. However, starting in 2002 and onwards, it came with a different flavor. The winds of change have come. Who could forget the early exit of the defending champs France in South Korea-Japan finals? They failed to make a single goal—defeated by newcomers Senegal in their opening game. Who could have predicted an Italy-France final in 2006? Switzerland slayed the European champions, Spain, in the group stages in 2010. Germany created a buzz by trashing Australia, 4-1, yet falling one goal down later against Serbia. What’s happening?

I believe the other nations have risen to the occasion. Football has become widespread and popular. Football “technology” has become available to many. There is a level playing field nowadays. It’s not that Brazil, Germany, Argentina and Italy are deteriorating. More countries are getting better. And this is exciting. When the competition is stiffer, quality improves. Today, no country can rest on its laurels and be complacent. Besides, it’s more thrilling when nobody knows with who will win. All have chances. Game on!

The World Cup of 2010 highlighted perennial truths in football, especially in the quarterfinals: BRAZIL: talent and skill without discipline can only get you so far. NETHERLANDS: Lady luck can have the sweetest of kisses at times. GHANA: when opportunity presents itself, make full use of it. URUGUAY: taking risks can come “handy” on tight moments. GERMANY: discipline, focus and organization count a lot (four goals). ARGENTINA: Do not underestimate your opponents and be too confident. SPAIN: failure is staying down, we can recover from a loss and go miles more. PARAGUAY: teamwork and determination even without stars can be a threat.

We look forward to the next four years. Brazil cannot underperform in its home soil… the young German team that impressed us all will improve… Messi and Argentina will fight for lost pride… Spain will retain at least 80 percent of its present squad… the under-20 Ghanaian world champions would have matured… it’s Ronaldo’s last chance to put Portugal on top and justify his million-dollar value. But no matter what the future will hold, in WC 2010, nobody will dare label Spain as the perennial underachievers. Their technical skill, team movement, precise passing and bursts of accelerating attack will be the gold standard. Spain is a joy to watch, totally deserving to be world champs. I can’t wait for 2014. I can’t wait to see them defend their crown in South America.

The heat is on! Welcome the Three Kings of Miami

LEBRON JAMES IS A CRIMINAL! Accused as a quitter by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, lambasted by Orlando’s Otis Smith as not much of a competitor, the five cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Jersey and Cleveland who lost out to Miami are furious. They’re bitter. They’re hateful for being spurned. They’re pissed at ESPN. To the millions from Cleveland, while before LeBron was basketball’s Almighty, now he’s the devil. He’s a Miami vice.

But LeBron did the right thing. If you and I were in his size-15 shoes, we’d do the same act: Sign up with best friends Chris and Dwyane to win next year’s NBA title. He had no choice. Despite winning the last two MVP awards, reaching The Finals in 2007, his Cavs owning the league’s best season record for the past 24 months—despite those winnings—LBJ was a loser.

Kobe wears five NBA rings. LeBron, staring at his giant-sized fingers that can grip the ball like a magnet, has none. LeBron’s jealous of KB. His seven years of expeditions have netted zero fish. What’s he going to do? Stay on the same boat? Not harvest any goldfish?

No more, no way. Not when you’re as impatient as LeBron who, at age 18, bypassed college and joined the NBA straight from high school. When you’re as gifted as him, you’re expected to deliver gifts codenamed NBA TROPHIES. “Change a losing game,” my dad loves to say it. And LeBron has done that: Change.

Miami? No city is hotter today than this South Florida center of 5.4 million residents. And what a coup by Pat Riley. The man called “Mr. GQ” for his gelled-back hair and stylish suits, he’s assembled this triumvirate of LeBron plus the 6-foot-10, five-time NBA All Star named Chris Bosh, plus the 2006 Sportsman of the Year, Dwyane Wade, aka “Flash”—beating the likes of Pres. Barack Obama (who lobbied for Chicago) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (New York). As to the Miami head coach, it looks to be Erik Spoelstra but can you imagine if Pat Riley makes a comeback to coach these three who, as D-Wade himself said, form “arguably the best trio to ever play basketball?”

The question everyone’s asking is: Can this threesome work as one? “James, Wade and Bosh got along splendidly when they played for the U.S. team in the 2008 Olympics, but that was easy, because that is an environment in which selfishness is considered unpatriotic,” wrote Michael Ventre in “There has to be no ‘I’ in super team” for NBCSports.com. “Throughout his entire life, LeBron has been accustomed to getting the basketball when he wants it. Throughout HIS entire life, Wade has been used to the same thing. Ditto for Bosh. Now you have three players with enormous egos suddenly thrust into an unfamiliar dynamic.”

The best comparison is Boston’s Big Three. But Ventre adds they’re different: “The model of the Boston Celtics, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, doesn’t translate here. Allen was 32 and Garnett 31 when they joined the Celtics in 2007, and each had toiled for 12 unsatisfying NBA seasons. When they moved to Boston to join the then-30-year-old Paul Pierce, who also had suffered through nine lean seasons, they were all finished with their respective individualistic phases. They were ready to work together and win.”

With The Three Kings of Miami, they are individual superstars at their prime who now have to share the same locker room. It can work. It may not. My gut feel? It’s hard for this not to work. I believe it will. First, my brother Charlie correctly points out that D-Wade is unselfish—which means that, even though he’s Miami’s VIP, he’s willing to relinquish—or at least share—this title with LBJ. The even better reason for this triad to work: they’re best friends. In Beijing, these triplets bonded. En route to netting the Olympic goldfish, they glued and gelled, and informally promised to join forces sometime in the future.

That future is now. And like you, I can’t wait for the NBA season to start. With this troika, it’s hard for anyone not to feel hot with triple the heat.

Biking Cebu and Touring France

I was born in Iloilo, studied elementary in Bacolod at La Salle, resided in Quezon City for several months, experienced vacation memories in Istanbul, San Francisco, Barcelona and Paris—but when I’m asked what I love most about this city of Cebu, I never fail to reply with one sporty answer: Mountain-biking.

No experience I relish more than pedaling, opening one’s eyes to green trees to the left and harrowing 45-foot cliffs to the right, trekking dirt roads, ascending hills then climbing mountains then descending both at 45-kph. This is Cebu, I remind myself. This is life. This is nature that God has gifted us. This is sweat trickling down my cheeks, muscles crying in pain. Yes, pedaling upwards towards the earth’s blue ceiling hurts—but don’t most experiences first hurt before we smile?

Biking? Ahhh, I love it. And though it’s not as widespread as Dr. Sander Ugalino’s sport or Bernard Palermo’s exercise or Joel Garganera’s passion (last Sunday, Joel finished his 8th marathon in 16 months!)—this Running Fever that has inflicted thousands—biking is popular. If you wake up early on weekends and drive up to Busay, you’ll see dozens of motorists using bikes without motors. Or, rather, the motors are their bodies—spewing energy to rotate pedals, propelling those thin tires skyward.

Which brings me to the TdF. No activity is more damaging to a human body than this killer. But before explaining the gory torture, first, the beautiful picture. Here’s how I described, with some revision, the race 24 months ago…

Picturesque mountain ranges of France are on exhibit. Green, lush hills sprinkle the landscape. Gray, paved roads shine. Blue, towering skies glow. Red-bricked homes glisten. And, weaving a spiral formation through turns that look like corkscrews and roadways that appear like pasta coils, cyclists parade in pink, white, orange, purple, and…

Yellow. Tour de France. Isn’t yellow the most sought-after color among the rainbow of colors in Le Tour? Absolutely. Because the yellow jersey is worn by only one man—the leader of the band; the fastest among the 190 or so cyclists who pedal in this race running from July 3 to 25.

Is “Le Tour,” founded in 1903, the most physically-demanding of all sports? To me, it’s like showing you a photo of David Diaz at the end of that 9th round stoppage, all bloodied and brain-weary, then asking you, “Is boxing painful?”

Of course. Of course the TDF is the most grueling of all sports courses. Including boxing. Think about it. In Le Tour, you scurry through nine flat stages. You point to the clouds on six unbearable mountaintops. There are 52 kms. of individual time trials when, facing wind, dust, rain or sun, you’re alone. In total, you pedal 3,642 kms. Every single day of cycling. For 23 days. With only two rest days in-between.

Manny Pacquiao? Boxing? Grueling? Don’t tell that to Lance Armstrong. Without question the greatest ever, LA has won seven Tours de France. Year after year, from 1999 to 2005, at the end of the world’s biggest cycling party, he finished in Paris and climbed the podium wearing one bright sunflower color.

The above words I wrote in 2008 are the same ones I’d write to describe the 2010 edition. Only, this year’s is more dangerous. Alberto Contador was wounded on a slippery downhill, Frank Schleck quit, Armstrong punctured a tire traversing cobblestones, Vande Velde retired—and it’s only been five days!

Questions abound this year. Can a 38-year-old body (Lance) beat someone who’s 27 (Contador)? Drugs? Did Lance “Just do it?” What will happen up the Pyrenees? Whose team is strongest? Can Astana, the weakling, lead it’s two-time champ to victory, beating Radio Shack?

Sadly, unlike the World Cup coverage, we have no “live” Tour de France showing from SkyCable. Good thing there’s internet streaming.

I can’t wait. AC or Lance? I’m cycling up Busay.

Nadal, magnifico! But where’s Boris Becker?

Señor Rafa—like the Spanish footballers now in the FIFA World Cup semis, the Spanish cyclist at the Tour de France named Alberto Contador, the Spanish 7-footer Pau Gasol of the LA Lakers—was estupendo! Campeon! Excelente!

Nadal, who owns eight Grand Slam crowns at only 24 years young, is the King of Clay, the Prince of Grass, the world’s No. 1… And that’s why I detest his game.

On clay, yes, his all-spin, lefty, walloping groundstrokes which pain opponents to labor left, slave to the right, toil forward, excruciate moving back, is unmatched. His topspin is relentless, his doggedness pulverizes the hapless enemy salivating across the net, his strength of brain guarantees $1,000,000.

But I don’t like his style. Not on grass. You know why? I miss Stefan Edberg. I miss Martina Navratilova. I miss that German wunderkind who dove, bruised his knees, and smashed his way to Wimbledon glory as a 17-year-old qualifier. I miss Henman, Rafter, and the lady whom I named my daughter after, Jana Novotna. I miss Goran’s first serve, Goran’s second serve, Goran’s double fault.

This isn’t Rafa’s fault. It’s nobody’s. But I miss the type of game called Serve And Volley. As the S and the V imply, this style means to blast a 128-mph service bomb down the T, dash to the net like Usain, catch the ball before it dips, and knock off that McEnroe-like volley.

In the 1980s and 1990s, “Wimbledon” and “serve-and-volley” were twins. Synonyms. In fact, players who stayed at the baseline were disallowed from winning London. It was the law! Thus, when you scan the list of champions from 1981 through 2001, everybody—except Connors and Agassi—served-and-volleyed: McEnroe, Becker, Cash, Edberg, Stich, Krajicek, Goran and a seven-time winner named Pete.

This was then. When the music of Tears For Fears and AHA played on Y101. Now, grass tennis has turned gaga… Lady Gaga. What happened?

“The courts are getting a bit slower, the balls are getting a bit slower, that’s something I don’t like as a spectator and as a former player,” said Michael Stich, the 1991 Wimbledon winner. “What is happening on court is more predictable and less exciting. In those matches we played in my time, Boris against Stefan, me against Pete, there was a lot of serve-and-volley, obviously a lot of aces, and people loved it.

“When Goran hit his 35th ace in a match people were screaming, and when Agassi managed to get a return back it was, like, wow. Now the serve is more often just being used to get the ball into play. For me, that’s clay-court tennis, not typical grass-court tennis, and I find that sad.”

Me, too. Gone were the days when Becker dove like a German goalie, when Rafter spun his kick second serve to attack, when Sampras served four aces bang-bang-bang-bang, when Agassi rifled a passing shot, when drop volleys and half volleys were exquisite. Today, players serve to start the point. Before, they served to end a point.

The questions are why and how? Is it the a) slower grass? b) hi-tech Babolat and Wilson rackets? c) Western-grip topspin shots that twirl the ball like the Jabulani? d) rise of the two-handed backhands?

All of the above. But here’s another query: If somebody possessed the 142-mph serve of an Andy Roddick and the volleying prowess of a Pete Sampras, would that American be able to supplant Roger and Rafa?

On grass, I believe so. The sad part is, none of today’s ATP players are willing to venture forward. (Funny: In the ‘80s/90s, the grass near the service box looked just as brown and denuded as the baseline area; today, they’re as green as the Pebble Beach putting area.)

Wimbledon today is not as acrobatic and stylish, offering contrasting styles. Today’s green grass is just like the blue cement of New York and Melbourne, the red clay of Paris.

My point? This column’s Match Point? To challenge R & R, who’ve won the last eight titles and renamed Wimbledon as The House of Roger and Rafa, let’s wish for a Boris or Pete.

Wacky, wild weekend like no other

Paris Hilton gets arrested at the World Cup in South Africa for smoking “marijuana.” Phil Jackson announces his return for a fourth three-peat. Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador are poised to go mano-a-mano when the 97th Tour de France pedals off tonight. Rep. Manny Pacquiao, through Bob Arum, has issued Floyd Mayweather, Jr. an ultimatum: Fight me or you’re a sissy! LeBron James is courted by NYC, by Chicago, by the Clippers, by his friend, rapper Jay-Z. To top it all, our nation of 90 million has a new president and new favorite term: wang-wang.

Wow. Wasn’t this an amazing week? To top all these, the Dutch paint Brazil orange, Serena Williams won her fourth Wimbledon crown last night (my guess) and Rafael Nadal will meet Thomas Berdych in tonight’s ping-pong on grass. Argentina beat Germany last night? That, too, is my prediction. Whew. What a week. What a week’s end—surely the most enthralling in years.

For isn’t Sport amazing? Isn’t it the best form of entertainment and merrymaking? Better than, say, Knight and Day? For, we never know the ending. Roger Federer losing in the quarters? That was unexpected. A Uruguay vs. Netherlands semi-final? Stunning. For this is sport; the ball is round, the Jabulani can fly anywhere.

Friday, I was at a bar. I drank San Mig Light. At 12:00. Midnight. That’s unexpected. I don’t drink. Usually. Past 11? That’s past my bedtime. That’s unexpected. But what’s expected was this: Sports I love to watch. And so I watched during those unholy hours. Ten television sets surrounded the hangout named Sports Exchange, located at the Mango Square Mall. Over 100 pairs of eyeballs inside the resto-bar zoomed their focus on Brazil vs. The Orange Team. When Pele’s home squad scored at the 10th minute, we knew it was over. The winningest nation in World Cup history with five trophies toyed with, brushed, vandalized Dutch Boy.

Mike Limpag, wearing yellow with green trimmings and BRAZIL embroidered at the back, was all-smiles. His Kaka won. Seated beside us, Noel Villaflor, wearing the opposite—a bright orange shirt with the large-print, NEDERLAND—frowned.

Brazil was unbeatable. That was, until Jun Migallen arrived. Wearing yellow not to symbolize his affiliation with P.Noy but to announce his choice of football team, the moment Junmigs, SunStar Superbalita’s sports editor, sat with his fellow Sun.Star sportsmen, yellow transformed into black.

Nederland scored, 1-1. Nederland scored, 2-1. What a shocker. Joseph Alfafara, HSBC’s big boss, jumped for his team. Former USC goalie (and Kenyan) Pius Bett, seated to my left, was in disbelief. The Sports Exchange community, much the same scenario in pubs across Planet Earth, grew noisy. Beer bottles clanked. Shouts reverberated.

Like in every sports ending, crying and smiling mixed. The Dutch cried in happiness; the Brazilians cried in tears. For who would have expected?

Rafael Nadal? This was expected. Him winning tonight’s chess battle on grass against a 6-foot-5 king named Berdych? That’s Czech-mate. That’s expected.

Federer, Roger? This was expected. For nobody has ever reached eight straight Wimbledon Finals and won seven of them. To lose for only the second time in eight years isn’t too bad, right? So let’s not eulogize Roger. This was a hiccup more than a terminal disease.

Back to the World Cup: no event, sports or non-sports, brings humanity together like this fever. I’m no rabid addict of this kicking sport, but this month, from June 11 to July 11, like hundreds of millions from Albay to Barcelona to Cebu to Davos to England to GenSan to Zimbabwe, we’re all FIFA followers. Even Kobe Bryant, who traces his roots to the African continent, has become a dribbling-of-the-feet-and-not-the-hands fanatic. He traveled to S. Africa. Even the song “Waka-Waka,” sung by Shakira, my daughter Jana and I love. (Don’t know what it is? Watch the video of this official WC song in YouTube.)

In all, what a waka-waka wang-wang weekend!

Rafael Nadal’s No.1 sport? It’s football, not tennis. On TV, at least. “I gonna be always watching the football because it’s my favorite sport,” he said. To soccer fans, his uncle is Miguel Angel Nadal, the midfielder for FC Barcelona who played in three World Cups for Spain ending in 2002. Miguel’s nickname, also suited for his nephew: “The Beast.”

ANDY. My tennis partner Macky Michael’s sentimental pick is Andy Roddick. He’d reached three Wimbledon finals—all losing to the same Swiss, including last year’s heartbreaking 16-14 fifth set loss. Again this 2010 event, A-Rod’s out. This time, to unheralded Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei. This Taiwanese player my wife Jasmin and I saw at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Funny because in that first round encounter we saw him play against another Andy (Murray), Lu surrendered the first set. Wanting to see other matches as we sure that Lu would lose, we transferred to the other courts. The next thing we knew, Lu beats Murray. This week, it’s the same big-time upset, same first-named opponent.
SKY. My favorite nightly undertaking the past week? Thumb exercise, switching between TV channels both showing green-colored backgrounds: Wimbledon and South Africa. Aren’t we lucky? A few occasions in the past, Grand Slam tennis events were not shown on cable TV. And, with the once-every-four-years World Cup, this is a first: all 64 games aired live for free. Thank you, SkyCable!

SERENA. Flanked by ‘Vas in the semis (Petra Kvitova, Vera Zvonareva and Tsvetana Pironkova), the lone American will march towards her fourth All-England Club title on Saturday. What makes Ms. Williams victorious? Her Nadal-like biceps help. So does her partnership with best friend Venus. But beyond those, it’s her mental muscle. Said Richard Williams, her father: “Serena is like a young Mike Tyson and a pit bull dog, and both of those people were mentally tough in their time. Serena is so mentally tough that she don’t believe she can lose. I sometimes feel watching her when she do lose, she might feel time ran out, or something went wrong, but she didn’t lose.”

WC. Said FIFA boss Joseph Blatter after the controversies: “It is obvious that after the experience so far in this World Cup it would be a nonsense to not reopen the file of technology.. Personally I deplore it when you see evident referee mistakes but it’s not the end of a competition or the end of football, this can happen.. The only principle we are going to bring back for discussion is goal-line technology. Football is a game that never stops and the moment there was a discussion if the ball was in or out, or there was a goal-scoring opportunity, do we give a possibility to a team to call for replays once or twice like in tennis?”

EMAIL. Graeme Mackinnon from Australia: “Football is a game that will suffer if it is stopped from time to time for coaches challenges. In this instance it would have proved the call was wrong BUT there are many other times that a coach AT THE HALFWAY LINE disagrees with an assistant referees’ decision. If the game is stopped, momentum is lost. And don’t you think coaches would seize on that opportunity even if it was limited to a number of challenges per half? And when would the challenge be taken? If it was immediate and proved wrong and it should have been played on, the team is disadvantaged if they were mounting a counter-attack. Karma such as experienced by France during this WC worked.. what goes around comes around. In this case of England and Germany it took 44 years but it finally caught up with England. Karma worked.”

SCHEDULES. For the quarterfinals (RP time): FRIDAY (tomorrow) Brazil vs. Netherlands (10 p.m.); SATURDAY, Ghana vs. Uruguay (2:30 a.m.) and Argentina vs. Germany (10 p.m.). Then, SUNDAY: Spain and Paraguay, 2:30 a.m. (Note: this will be our last chance to watch with the comfortable 10 p.m. time slot; the semis and final all get shown at 2:30 a.m.) For the Final Four, I’m hoping its Brazil-Ghana, Argentina-Spain.