When I asked Ramon Fernandez — possibly the greatest player our basketball-crazy nation has ever produced — if he still follows the PBA or watches Durant or Westbrook, the answer was as swift as Mon’s famous one-handed running shot: No.
Apart from Manny Pacquiao and Robert Jaworkski, and maybe Efren Reyes and James Yap, there is no sportsman in our 7,107 islands who is more recognizable than Mon.
Just revisit with me his PBA statistics: four MVP awards and 19 championship trophies that saw him don the uniforms for San Miguel, Purefoods, Tanduay, Manila Beer and Toyota. He is the PBA’s all-time leading scorer with 18,996 points and his 8,652 rebounds is No. 1 in the league’s 41-year-old history. He is the all-time leader in blocks and minutes played, and ranks second in assists (to Jaworski) and in steals (to Johnny Abarrientos). In a PBA career that spanned 22 years, his statistics are akin to combining the records of Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
But when I attempted to talk basketball with him in our 20-minute conversation the other night, he pivoted and dribbled way. The reason: El President is now PSC Commissioner. His game encompases all of Philippine sports.
When Pres. Duterte assembled his team to lead PHL sports last July, at the top of his list was Butch Ramirez, his long-time friend and the former head of Davao sports (and the PSC). Next, he recommended a sports giant whom he’s idolized since the 1970s.
Mon Fernandez is one of four Phil. Sports Commission (PSC) commisioners that include Charles Maxey, Celia Kiram and Arnold Agustin.
“For the last six months,” Mon said, “we have been busy cleaning house, putting the PSC house in order. We have been meeting with various stakeholders: the Local Govt. Units (LGUs), the National Sports Associations (NSAs), schools, athletes.”
The commissioner has been part of a listening tour, collecting inputs from everyone. And the good news is, led by a Davaoeño president and a Davaoeño PSC head in Butch Ramirez, our national sports programs are no longer limited to the secluded gates of Imperial Manila. That was the complaint before; everything’s in Manila: the money, facilities, coaches. And the Maasin, Leyte-born Fernandez, who has called Cebu home for the past many years, especially after his marriage to the dynamic Karla Kintanar, is one reason for this change. Said Mon: “We are decentralizing sports.”