Watching the New York Knicks

NEW YORK — This is my third trip to the U.S. The first time, back in 1993 and together with the whole Pages family, we stayed in the West Coast. Then, we got to watch two MLB baseball games. The first was between the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers (we saw Mike Piazza score a homerun). In the second game, the Oakland A’s played the Toronto Blue Jays (amazingly, I caught a ball in that game).

In my next trip here, my dad Bunny and I spent three weeks in NYC to watch the US Open. We witnessed Serena Williams win her first major and Andre Agassi win his second Open trophy.

For this trip, I made sure to watch two other sports. The first one, which I chronicled last week, was American football. In that Dec. 14 game, the New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins at home (MetLife Stadium), 24-13. With my good buddy Ping-J Villegas, who’s resided in the Big Apple for over 17 years, we watched the outdoor game together with 70,000 others in cold 4C temperature. It was an unforgettably festive, beer-drinking, and loud atmosphere. It was very American.

Two nights after watching the NFL, I watched another kind of ballgame. Months before our trip, I purchased online tickets for the New York Knicks vs. Dallas Mavericks game.

Choosing between two teams here in NYC — the Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets — the choice was easy: the NY Knicks are one of the most iconic of NBA teams. And the venue (Madison Square Garden or MSG) is revered among the world’s indoor arenas.

And so last week — Tuesday night, Dec. 16 — my wife Jasmin, daughter Jana and I took the famous New York subway from Wall Street to Penn Station, a few blocks from MSG.

But before that, some pre-game activities: We toured Bryant Park in Manhattan, took photos of their ice-skating rink; we trekked 5th Avenue and gazed at the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers; and, visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we found out that there was a 12 noon mass. As we sat near the front pew awaiting the start of the holy celebration, a buzz started. Walking right by us was someone we listen to often: Andrea Bocelli. He not only visited but he heard mass with us.

For lunch, we dined at PotBelly Sandwich Shop. After touring the NY Public Library and several other famous spots, we took the open-deck Big Bus hop-on, hop-off bus and got off for our late afternoon destination: the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It’s an amazingly well-done museum but, at the same time, it’s heart-breaking viewing all of those torn steel beams and horrific photos. It’s a must-visit place, the 9/11 site.

The game was to start at 8 p.m. Outside the huge oval coliseum (I wonder why it’s called ‘Square’ when it’s circular-shaped), the Madison Square Garden tagline explains it all: “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

Neon lights that changed colors decorated the outside walls. As we arrived, hundreds of people had congregated and were lining-up. Security, like in most important venues here, was strict: we had to unload all items, including belts, coins and bag contents. As soon as we showed our tickets, we took several flights of stairs and were handed nice gifts: blue shirts with the Knicks logo. Perfect for Christmas (except for the shirt size: XL).

We followed the parade of people going up until we reached our seats: Row 225. Our tickets were priced at $172 each. These were not front row seats (these would sell for over $400) but they were not all the way at the ceiling. They were mid-range seats down the middle (not the back of the goals).

I wore the free Knicks shirt. Seated beside me was a couple from Brisbane, Australia who were also tourists (lucky them, a few nights before when we had yet to arrive, they watched the Nets-Cavs game when Prince William and Kate sat beside Jay Z and Beyonce).

MSG is historic. Built in 1968, it has hosted concerts of all major artists from Elvis Presley to Depeche Mode to John Lennon’s final concert before his murder. Ali-Frazier (Part I) fought here. More on Tuesday…

Categorized as Basketball

PCCL in Cebu

For basketball fans, this is riveting: the National Collegiate Championship — right here in the Queen City of the South.

Eight teams will compete: From Manila, there’s DLSU, FEU, San Beda, Arellano and National University; from Cebu, there are three: UV, SWU and USC.

The Cebu leg will last for five days. Each afternoon starting today until Monday, there will be games at the Cebu Coliseum. The action moves to Manila on Nov. 21 until the championships are played on Nov. 27 at the Ynares Gym. ABS-CBN Sports+Action will air the games live.

Today’s first game between La Salle and SWU will be exciting because this was the same match-up that played in the finals last year. Plus, there’s Ben Mbala, previously under Coach Yayoy Alcoseba but now playing for the green squad.

“Organizing PCCL chairman Rey Gamboa said the Elite Eight will be a first in the league’s 12 years of existence,” wrote Joey Villar in the piece, “Best college teams collide in 2014 PCCL,” for The Phil. Star. “‘This is historic for collegiate basketball in Cebu because the best of Metro Manila will play the best in the South,’ said Gamboa.”

PCCL live. That’s today until Monday, Cebu Coliseum.

Categorized as Basketball

For MVP, can Durant dethrone King James?

lebron-james-explains-why-he-is-jealous-of-kevin-durant(Getty Images)

Basketball is not boxing. It’s not one-on-one. It’s five on five. But, for the race for the Most Valuable Player honors in the NBA, there’s a slugfest, mano-a-mano style, going on this 2014. It features two Nike endorsers. One stands 6-foot-9. The other is an inch shorter. One is lean, long-legged and loves shooting three-pointers; the other is Superman-like muscular, solid as a Veco post, and loves dunks that rock Miami.

It’s Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Who’ll win the MVP plum? A total of 121 votes will determine the MVP winner. This is decided by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who will cast votes when the NBA Regular Season ends mid-April. So there’s still one month to go… But there’s no doubt that the pick will carry either of two initials: KD or LBJ.

“I think Durant will be MVP this year,” said Greg Slaughter, in our exchange of text messages yesterday. “He has been playing better than he ever has in his career and had time to shine when Westbrook was out. Also, LeBron’s in the same situation when Steve Nash won MVPs and I think they want a new one.” Good points from the PBA’s No.1 vote getter. Added Greg on Cebu… “Can’t wait to go back!”

I also asked Harry Radaza, the basketball-playing councilor of Lapu-Lapu City, and he, too, picks the Oklahoma City forward, saying, “Tough choice. I would go for KD. More consistent and efficient.”

My pick? KD. Nobody this season has played better. Durant scored 42 points yesterday in OKC’s 106-98 victory over the hot Houston Rockets. If my computations are correct, he’s averaging a whopping 31.9 points per game. Add to that 7.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per outing. His field goal percentage is 50.9 percent and he makes 86.9 percent of his free throws. Those are astronomical, MVP-like numbers. Plus, his Oklahoma squad is the No. 2 ranked team in the league today, sporting a 47-17 win-loss record (compared to 44-17 for Miami).

It’s a done deal, right? We might as well award the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, named after the NBA’s first commissioner/president, to Durant The MVP, right? Almost. He’s close. But, like I said, there’s still one month to go before voting and there happens to be a 250-lb. giant, a four-time MVP recipient, who won’t back down and easily hand over the title like an easy assist. LeBron is LeBron is I-Won’t-Give-Up.

Last week, in leading Miami over Charlotte, LeBron scored a personal best 61 points behind these outlandish numbers: he made his first eight 3-point attempts; he scored 25 points in the third quarter; he shot 22-of-33 from the field. This fight isn’t over yet.

Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney said it perfectly: “Every passing week seems to bring new heat to the MVP race, which is shaping up to be a too-close-to-call verdict between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The two are spiraling around and toward one another in a riveting display of one-upmanship, with a great performance from one motivating the other to similar heights.

“As a result, the balance of the award seems to shift on a weekly basis. If that waffling persists, James and Durant could be closing in on one of the tightest MVP races in recent memory, if not in NBA history.”

For now, though, the stats favor Durant. His 31.9 PPG average compared to James’ 27.0 is a huge gap – that’s almost five points more per game. And – and this is important – the public often wants to celebrate a new face. If KD wins, it will be his first taste of basketball’s highest accolade.

If, however, for some miraculous March and April, the Miami Heat No. 6 pulls off the award, it will be his 5th MVP, with only three others who’ve done the same or better: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the leader with six MVPs) and Bill Russell and Michael Jordan, with five apiece. (Interestingly, Kobe Bryant only has one MVP.)

Silver-silver for golden SWU?

Jeric Teng of DLSU drives against melvin holper of SWU.KC Cruz

(Photo by KC Cruz/GMA Network)

Coach Yayoy was realistic. When you’ve coached basketball for over three decades, you know the odds. He knew the odds did not favor his SWU versus De La Salle Univ.

True enough, in yesterday’s first quarter, SWU scored eight points against the 21 from DLSU. After a 13-all split in the 2nd quarter, it was another blowout in the 3rd: La Salle made 20 points; Southwestern only 11. By the start of the 4th quarter — the time when I arrived home to catch the final minutes — the Green Archers led by 22 points. It was game over by then. It was not until the 4th quarter when SWU played all-out, aggressive and attacking. But it was too late. They cut the lead to nine but it wasn’t enough. Final score: 64-54.

Still, it’s only Game 1. There’s still today’s second encounter — a meeting the Cebuanos hope won’t be the last. If, miraculously, SWU wins to tie the PCCL Finals series, Game 3 is tomorrow.

IF. That’s a big “if” we can steal one game. Actually, we did. In the preliminary rounds, we defeated the same Taft Ave.-based school. Only this time, the UAAP champions were focused and relentless. Even if we lose today, SWU will come home as proud warriors. They’ll stand tall with necks straight-up  — just like a mighty cobra. These Cobras did Cebu proud. Losing finalists in a heart-breaking Cesafi final against UV here at the Cebu Coliseum, this squad was not given a chance to advance in the PCCL.

“We already have a ticket tomorrow morning,” Coach Yayoy said a few days ago, right after they defeated FEU in the semifinals. “I told the boys, we haven’t even arrived yet but they’re already sending us home.”

That’s a witty statement from Provincial Board Member Raul Alcoseba. Sadly, they might be sent home tomorrow if they lose today. Silver in Cesafi; silver in the PCCL? We hope not for the gold-colored Cobras.

Categorized as Basketball

Greg Slaughter: Proud to be Cebuano

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 10.31.58 AM

Greg towers over Manny Pacquiao as (from left) Raffy Uytiepo, Jun Migallen, John Pages, Jingo Quijano and Raffy Osumo look on during the 2009 Cebu Sports Awards

I spoke to the No. 1 draft pick of the Philippine Basketball Association yesterday. Standing tall at 7-foot-tall, he spoke with soaring confidence.

Greg Slaughter was ecstatic. “I first dreamed of becoming a PBA player in Cebu,” said Greg. “It was in 2004 when I first watched the PBA. It was an All-Star game. From then on, I knew I wanted to be like those guys.”

Right now, Greg is one of those guys. Not just one of them — but THE number one — having been chosen first by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. “Dream come true,” Greg added.

When we talked, he was inside a gym. Noise rebounded off the background.

“I feel really good,” Greg said. “Very happy with the new team.” I asked Greg if he had met his Ginebra teammates and it turned out that they already had a practice session. Yesterday morning at 9, one of this nation’s most popular teams gathered. For three hours, they practiced. But it wasn’t only a time to do drills; it was a moment to welcome the rookies, especially their prized star, Mr. Slaughter. (The PBA ought to be thankful that our island has produced Twin Towers in Greg and Junemar Fajardo.)

Of his hometown, Greg said, “I hope to be back in Cebu soon. But with the compressed PBA season, it might take sometime. We might play a game in Cebu. Or, if not, in-between the season.”

I asked what he misses most about Cebu and the place where he earned triple-honors (back in 2008, when he led UV to its 8th crown, Greg was the CESAFI season MVP, the All-Star MVP and the Finals MVP — an unprecedented, may-never-be-broken feat).

“Oh man, definitely my family,” said Greg, whose mom, Emma Fuentes, met his dad William here before they moved to Ohio where Greg was born. “I miss them. That’s where my family is, in Cebu.”

Jeremy Lin comes home to Taiwan


(Photo: Yao Kai-shiou/Taipei Times)

Taichung, TAIWAN — Jasmin and I are in this beautiful, must-visit metropolis of Taichung, the third largest city in Taiwan, next to Taipei and the famous Kaohsiung (bus). Will write more about Taichung in my business column this Thursday. For now, all the commotion here is focused on one celebrity: Jeremy Shu-How Lin.

Last Sunday, it was as if Manny Pacquaio were fighting Mayweather inside MOA Arena. Yes, that’s the hype and pandemonium surrounding the NBA’s first-ever star of Taiwanese descent.

While Jeremy was born and raised in California, his parents grew up in Taiwan before they migrated to the U.S. in the ‘70s. So you can imagine the ruckus and noise in Taipei upon the arrival of their very own son.

After the Houston Rockets defeated the Indiana Pacers at the MOA Arena last Thursday, the two teams flew to Taipei for their second encounter.

Unlike Manila’s, it wasn’t the first time for Taiwan to host an NBA pre-season game. Back in 2009, the Pacers played the Denver Nuggets. But, back then, while basketball was huge in Taiwan, it wasn’t gargantuan huge — as it is today because of someone named Lin.


GAME. Taichung to Taipei is about 189 kms. in distance (or 58 minutes by the 300kph High Speed Train). I wasn’t able to make the trek to watch the ballgame last Sunday at 1 p.m., but I did get to watch the game (via Chinese commentary) on TV.

At the warm-up, all the TV footages were zeroed-in on their man. Upon the Rockets’ first-five introduction, James Harden was called first… Dwight Howard was second to the last… and, finally: JEREMEEEEE….. LINNNNN! screamed the announcer.

Unusual but necessary in this type of exhibition match at his home country, Jeremy was asked to speak. In Mandarin, he addressed the crowd like a rockstar hero.

Game on! Would you believe, in the first offensive attempt of Houston, guess who receives the ball and jumps to take the shot? And not just an ordinary jumper — but, right at the top of the key, a three-pointer…

Ringless! Jeremy Lin scores a 3! The 13,000 in attendance stand and wave their flags and go hysterical. This can’t be real! It is. As the game progresses, the unbelievable pressure imposed upon Jeremy is matched by his extraordinatry talent.

In one possession, Jeremy goes one-on-one as he escapes from his guard, flies on air and, with a tall defender fronting him, hurls the ball high up on the Taipei air as it floats, hits the backboard and swims inside the ring. In defense, Granger is rushing for a breakaway as Jeremy glides from behind and slams a fascinating block shot.

Another 3-pointer? Sure. This time, several feet behind the arc — he fires the ball and, like a magnet, it’s sucked into the goal. In all, Jeremy finished with 17 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds and that monstrous block shot as Houston won 107-98. Superman drifted inside the Taipei Arena.

PAPERS. The next day (yesterday), as expected, the newspapers here published banner stories on their action hero.

The China Post, Taiwan’s leading English paper, had “‘Linsanity’ comes to Taipei” — not on the back sports pages but on the front page! In another paper, when you flip open the entire spread (think of the front and back pages of SunStar), it reveals a full-color, full-spread photo of their NBA treasure.

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 7.49.59 AM

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 7.50.14 AM

To top it all, you know what movie is being shown in the theaters here? Sure, “Jobs” and “Gravity” are big hits, but one 88-minute biopic is also being broadcasted here.

The movie is about this obscure, frail, too-small-for-the-NBA Chinese player who graduates with a 3.1 grade point average in Harvard (Economics) and goes on sleeping in friends’ rooms because he can’t afford to pay for the hotel. Junked by the NBA, he doesn’t give up his dream of playing alongside Kobe Bryant — he enlists in the D-League. Finally, given one chance, he proves his worth with the New York Knicks, transfers to the H. Rockets and lands in Taipei last weekend to become this nation’s most famous personality.

The movie? Both playing in Taiwan theaters and playing in real life? Linsanity.

p02-130815-a2(Photo: Yao Kai-shiou/Taipei Times)

Perfect 10-10 as NBA rocks Manila


Anybody who’s somebody will be inside the MOA Arena tonight. How often does it happen? When stars like Paul George and James Harden land in our Southeast Asian nation? When two of this season’s top contenders — Indiana and Houston — will dribble and dunk beside the humongous Mall of Asia?

Ten. Ten. Whatever the outcome, I’m sure, to all who watch, the experience will be an absolute 10. Ticket prices, as expected, are exhorbitant. The most expensive, I heard, go for P51,000. Those are front-row seats. The least expensive, all the way up to the roof, sell for a few thousand. Still overpriced. But with these overpaid superstars here — and you don’t have to travel to America to watch them — then… sulit.

Of all the players, the one I’d like to meet is a non-player: Larry Bird. Who doesn’t admire the 6-foot-9 Boston Celtic who was a 3-time MVP and won for his green team the titles in ‘81, ‘84 and ‘86? I was an LA Lakers and Magic Johnson backer but you’d have to applaud the sweet-shooting jumper of Larry Bird.

He’s here. They’re all here, as part of the first ever NBA Global Games — when a mixed group of teams travel to various cities around the globe. Starting with Istanbul, Turkey last Oct. 5, NBA teams travel for pre-season games to Bilbao, Manchester, Taipei, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing and our very own Manila. They cap the tour when Golden State meets the LA Lakers on Oct. 18 in Shanghai.

The above-mentioned cities are some of the richest on Earth. For Manila to be included in the short line-up means that we truly are basketball crazy. And we are.

“It has blown me away,” Jeremy Lin was quoted in a Phil. Daily Inquirer story yesterday. “The second I got off the airplane until now, everyone had been over the top. I’m definitely feeling the love from the Philippines.”



As the most famous Asian after Yao Ming to play on the biggest stage, Jeremy Shu-How Lin will surely be the most photographed, especially when his team flies to Taipei for the game there on Sunday. He’s the NBA’s first American-born player of Taiwanese descent.

Another player who professed his fondness for Manila is Dwight Howard. “I’m so excited to be back here in Manila,” Howard was quoted by Joey Villar in The Phil. Star. “I always told people in the years I’ve been in the NBA, one of the best places I’ve been is the Philippines and I think they are the best fans in the world.”

One major reason why the NBA Global Games is in the Philippines is because of Henry Sy. Thanks to his billions of pesos in spending power, he built the MOA Arena. From what I heard, not only did they offer our country as the venue but the Sy family also plunked down tens of millions of pesos for the NBA to play here. Talk about “marketing expense.”

Like what Manny Pangilinan did when the FIBA Asia Championship was held here last August, the Smart/MVP group of companies overspent; this means that, surely, all their expenses cannot be recouped by the gate tickets and sponsors’ money. But never mind. What’s important is that mega-events such as these arrive in Manila.

Same today. SM is willing to spend money (OK, this is just small change for the multi-billionaire) to get it done. For such initiatives, we thank the Sy family and MVP.

Talking about the MOA Arena, I bring back the issue again of this similar complex being built at the South Road Properties (SRP). If I recall the conversation my dad and I had with Ms. Marissa Fernan, SM’s top official outside of Manila, a few months back, it’s confirmed: SM will build a billion-peso Arena at the SRP. While Manila’s is called MOA, ours is more relaxed-sounding, suited perfectly for Cebu: SM Seaside City.

Mayor Mike: Given that no astute businessman will spend for hundreds of millions (if not a billion pesos ++) for such a sports coliseum — even Atty. Gus Go has been hesitant to rehabilitate his Cebu Coliseum — then I guess we just have to apply some patience and do this: Wait for the SM Seaside Arena.

A conversation with June Mar Fajardo


Fajardo, No. 13, with Gabe Norwood and Jimmy Alapag

I woke him up at 2:43 p.m. yesterday. Kumusta? I asked.

Like a giant awakened from his restful slumber, the voice of the only Cebuano among the one dozen Gilas Pilipinas players was sleepy.

I apologized. “Okay ra,” June Mar said.

How’s the celebration? June Mar explained that, in a few hours’ time, he and his fellow heroes will be feted with an awarding ceremony prior to Game 1 of the PBA Governors’ Cup.

They’ll stand on center stage in the same stage where they triumphed: the parquet floor of the Mall of Asia Arena. “Afterwards,” said June Mar, “we’ll have a party at the Resorts World.”

The boys deserve it. After non-stop, game-after-game, pressure-packed and almost-nightly encounters from August 1 to 11 during the FIBA Asia Championship, they deserve to be accorded the standing ovation. They deserve to relax, drink, grin and dance inside Resorts World.

Mr. Fajardo, at 23, is the youngest player in the roster that includes several three-decades-old players: Jimmy Alapag, 35; Gary David, 34; Marcus Douthit, 32; Ranidel De Ocampo and Marc Pingris are 31; and Jeff Chan and Larry Fonacier are 30.

June Mar Fajardo was happiest about one thing last wekeend: “That I was part of history.”

What did he learn from the international-level experience? “Gamiton ang (Use the) height,” he said. We talked about the last game versus Iran and him guarding the 7-foot-2 behemoth, Hamed Haddadi, who towered by four inches over the 6’10” Fajardo.

Dako and bug-at (Big and heavy),” June Mar said of Haddadi. He didn’t find him solid — as in, muscular-solid — but heavy.

“I’ll focus more on defense. This is the one area that I’ll improve on,” he added, looking forward to the PBA season and of his team, the Petron Blaze Boosters, whose first game is scheduled this Friday. Of Petron, June Mar added: “Our team is strong. We have a good import and new players. We have good shooters.”

It looks like, these band of Gilas teammates very quickly will disband and rejoin their different PBA squads and face each other — not as close buddies — but as opponents during the PBA Governors’ Cup.

About the story that leaked in the press of Manny V. Pangilinan giving each Gilas member a cool P1,000,000, June Mar said that there was no official word on that yet. “Wala pa mi gi sulti-an,” he said, although he did hear about the rumors.

As to what he’ll do with the extra P1 million if ever it gets deposited in his bank account, June Mar’s answer had me smiling.

“I’ll buy a cow for my dad,” he replied.

Baka? Cow? Yes, several cows, he said, that he’ll gift his father so that, in his own words, “daghan iyang bantayan (he can watch over several cows).”

That’s a nice and appreciative gesture — coming from a son who has proud pride to the Fajardo family.

I asked about his teammates. “They’re all very, very good to me,” he said. “Ako pinaka-baby (I’m the baby in the group). During practice, if I make mistakes, they help me out. They don’t put me down. They give advice.”

His closest friends? Marc Pingris and Japeth Aguilar. You know why? “We’re all fond of online games!” June Mar confessed.

Proud of his roots in Cebu, where he studied HRM for the University of Cebu and where he donned the blue-and-gold Webmasters uniform, he acknowledged the help of two individuals who helped mold him: Augusto “Gus” Go, the owner of UC, and the team’s mentor and manager, Baldomero “Merong” Estenzo.

Earlier yesterday, I got to speak with Atty. Estenzo and he shares our Cebuano pride in Fajardo. “I watched their games on TV,” he said. “After they’d finish, I’d give June Mar a call to encourage him. There were many games when he didn’t play long enough; I told him that he’s the youngest and to continue working hard. Never mind if you don’t score many points but focus on your rebounds, defense and blocked shots. We’re very proud of June Mar.”

On a personal note, the few times that I met June Mar in person — plus our phone conversation yesterday — he comes across as a very shy, humble and respectful person. He’s Gilas but not hilas.

Categorized as Basketball

Gilas loses in MOA but heads for Spain

Somebody once commented: “Second place is ‘the first place for losers.’”

That’s painfully true. But also untrue. Because while our Gilas Pilipinas squad “only” placed Runner-up, we made it. The goal was to qualify. We qualified. The goal was to beat the Chinese. We defeated them — surprisingly, not in actual combat inside MOA Arena, but we placed three spots higher than the country with 1.34 billion people.

Iran, literally, was too tall an order. Japeth Aguilar may have been eyed for the NBA’s D-League but Iran’s Hamed Haddadi is an actual NBA player. There’s a giant difference there. As expected, it was Haddadi who towered tallest — and got his third FIBA MVP trophy. Unstoppable. Haddadi was too hefty, too heavy-duty, too NBA-experienced.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re headed for Spain 12 months from now — the once-every-four-years FIBA Basketball World Cup runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14, 2014 — to stand on the same Spanish tiles as Kevin Durant. Although it’s unlikely that a Phils-USA encounter will happen (Spain will have six city-venues), just the thought of us playing in the same playground as the big boys will give us pride. Pinoy pride.

Final thought: You think Kobe arrived in Manila yesterday to scout us out this early? Ha-ha.

R399. Like a thousand others last Sunday morning, I joined the “R399: Live Your Dream” run that was called “Remembering Ramie.”

Ramie, of course, is Ramie Igaña, who passed away last year while doing an act he enjoyed best — biking — during the Cobra Ironman 70.3 race. His race bib last year was “R399.”

Two mornings ago, clear skies and a cool dawn breeze greeted the runners which included plenty of Ironman finishers (Richard Ho, Noy Jopson, Bernard Sia) and prominent Cebuanos: Pablo John Garcia, Ramsey and Jingo Quijano, Joel Garganera, Joy Polloso, Jesse Taborada, Roy and Dr. Rosan Trani, and our ultramarathoner editor, Michelle So.

After an absence from joining runs for over a year, what I enjoyed most about the event were two things:

First, the route. It was simply a loop around the Cebu Business Park. The run had three distances (3K, 6K and 12K) and we never ventured outside the confines of Ayala. It was safe. The air was cleaner. Fewer cars crossed our paths. The intersection areas were free from too many vehicles — unlike Cebu’s other crowded streets.

Second, I like the no-singlet-all-medals policy. I registered for the 6K and paid P350. I was surprised not to get a singlet. But, guess what: upon finishing, I got a sparkling reward and medal crafted by… Juarez. (No mispelling there; just transform the “S” to “J.”) All finishers, including my daughter Jana and her classmates Louise, Christine and Meg, got Juarez medals. Well done, Doc Humility (“Mitty”).

DUFNER. Tiger Woods lost again. It’s no surprise. He’s now 18-0. Which means that in the last 18 majors that he’s joined, he hasn’t won. Will he ever break free from his I’m-stuck-at-14-majors slump? He’s getting older (he’ll be 38 this Dec.). Meanwhile, what a victory for Jason Dufner. A first-time major winner (he’s the 15th first-time major winner in the last 21 majors), what makes Dufner famous is the word “dufnering.” Golfers know this stance. If you don’t know what it is, Googgle it. It’ll make you smile.

RAFA. Me, injured? Me, out for seven months? Me, skipping the Olympics? Yes. The “me” refers to Nadal. Did you watch a few of the Rogers Cup matches over the weekend? (Sad how Roger couldn’t play in his “Rogers” Cup.) The Nadal-Djokovic semifinal was another war. Did you watch how Nadal drilled that backhand straight to the neck of the Serb? Ouch. But that was unintended. That happens all the time, especially in doubles. What’s funny was Novak’s reaction, not acknowledging the sorry of Rafa. But in the end, after the handshake and the apology, all’s well between the two. Plus, in the end, including the final against Milos Raonic, we know Nadal is not only back — but back even better, winning 48 of 51 matches. Vamos, Rafa.

Categorized as Basketball