‘Fans are the lifeblood of the league’ – Salud; Fines are the lifeblood of the league – Narvasa

During the time of then PBA Commissioner Chito Salud, he would always refer to fans as being the lifeblood of the league, be it in speeches or interviews, the former league top honcho would often mention this line when the issue touches on the league’s decisions and actions.

Salud was far from being perfect, he had his share of bad days. Some of his actions and decisions where also unpopular with the league’s fans. But it never came to a point where the PBA’s ‘lifeblood’ stood as one and asked for his resignation. Never.

Chito Salud may not have been the best Commissioner the PBA has ever seen, but he certainly is far from being the worst. After all, he holds the distinction of staging the league’s record in crowd attendance – a staggering 52,612 fans during the opening day of Season 40 held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

Salud graciously announced his resignation as PBA Commissioner on February 2015 and another Chito formally took the reigns on August of that same year.

While Salud was able to draw the highest ever attendance in a single game, Narvasa turned the tables around by doing the opposite. Venue attendance started to dip during his first months in office. His banishment of sportswriter Snow Badua and TNT import Ivan Johnson, suspension of Mahindra consultant Joe Lipa and accosting of Dondon Hontiveros highlighted his first year. This is where his hate affair with the league fans gained traction.

Not long after, live attendance started to decline. With the season’s All-Star Weekend serving as climax as the annual event could only muster a gate attendance of a couple of thousand fans, at the most.

Narvasa blamed the poor gate receipts to Metro Manila traffic and the many alternative forms of entertainment in the metropolis.

The second year of Narvasa started off with fines. The opening conference, the 2016-17 Philippine Cup, hasn’t even reached the playoffs and the total amount of fines slapped on players and coaches has already breached the half-a-million peso mark. With the month of December bringing in a staggering P331,800.

The league’s fans have understandably sided with the players. The penchant of Narvasa, who is a banker by profession, to penalize even the slightest of contacts and the littlest mistakes has earned the ire of fans, and as expected the snowball effect is now into play, no thanks to social media.

Narvasa has indeed turned the PBA into a fine league, and it’s safe to say that while his predecessor credits fans as the league’s lifeblood, this version of Chito is hellbent on making fines his legacy. Well, it’s understandable as he is only making the most out of his banking experience.

And while the money collected from the players and coaches goes to the players’ trust fund, the manner as to how it was procured will never sit well with the real lifeblood on the league.

Basketball has always been a physical and emotional sport. The physical plays and the player’s emotional outbursts are part of the appeal of watching the games live. In addition, the excitement of a fast-paced, run and gun ballgame is what the fans pay to watch. You take away all of that and what do you have? A game that fans would rather watch on TV, or for some not at all. A check on twitter to see who won the game is good enough.

Why use your hard-earned money to watch touch fouls, and countless of play stoppages due to investigations? Games now are longer due to teams being in penalty earlier than the usual. Are fans looking forward to a free-throw shooting contest every game? Or are they excited to wait a couple of minutes in every quarter just to see if a player is indeed guilty of a flagrant foul?

The games are starting to be a drag for both players and fans. And only time will tell how long the PBA Board of Governors can wait for this mockery of Asia’s oldest professional basketball league to go on.

The future of the league is now in their hands. Now more than ever. – Ronald Agbada


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