I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: Death threats and 5-peso coins, the MBA was crazy
Paul Lintag on Mar 12, 2018 01:55 PM
Those who actually lived through the craziness of the MBA can tell those stories now, 20 long years later.
There was confidence in the Metropolitan Basketball Association's regional format to succeed.
After all, people love it when their home gets the spotlight.
At the very least, the MBA was going to be a strong league for the actual cities and provinces that were represented in it.
However, even those who believed in the MBA the most probably didn't expect just how big the reception was going to be.
It was crazy and someone like this writer, who was too young to experience the bliss that is the MBA, can't do it justice.
Fortunately, those who actually lived through the craziness of the MBA can tell those stories now, 20 long years later.
Chito Victolero, former guard of the San Juan Knights and current head coach of Magnolia in the PBA:
Sometimes merong mga unruly crowd na talagang very supportive sila at merong fanatics so sometimes nakakagawa sila ng mga ‘di tama, but you know kasama ‘yun eh. Kasama ‘yung sa dapat mong paghandaan, kasi you have to include it in your scouting report, ‘yung how to be mentally tough during the game. Kasama ‘yung crowd dun. ‘Yun nga ‘yung MBA. That’s why kakaiba siya kasi kung regular crowd lang siya, parehas lang ng ibang liga ‘yan. That’s why kakaiba ‘yung MBA. The crowd was very different then. ‘Yun ‘yung maganda dun. Kasama siguro sa marketing strategy ng MBA ‘yun, how to deal sa ganung crowd.
Kasi iba ‘yung crowd, iba ‘yung atmosphere, iba ‘yung spirit ng game, lahat nandun eh. Nakaka-miss nga eh. When you go to Bacolod, to Cebu, nae-excite ka agad because you know there’s a big crowd.
We wonder if coach Chito has a scouting report for Ginebra fans during Manila Clasico?
Dondon Hontiveros, former guard for the Cebu Gems who went on to become a PBA legend. Current guard for Alab Pilipinas:
There was a time talaga na masasabi ko na ‘yung outrageous na ginagawa ng mga fans pa… may mga batuhan. Nakita nga natin dito may nagbato ng bottled water sa referee pero it was worse then. It even came to a point na kapag nalaman ng fans kung ano ‘yung hotel ng kalaban parang inaabangan na ba. And ganun din kami if we go travel to Bacolod, ganun din ‘yung nae-experience namin.
Fortunately for me, pagkakaalam ng mga taga-Bacolod, taga-doon ako because the year before, in 1997, I played there sa Negros Basketball Association for Central and maganda pinakita ko. So naalala nila na dun ako naglaro, so ‘di naman masama para sa’kin.
Cebu vs. Negros was one of the premier rivalries in the MBA and Hontiveros was the star of the Gems. "Fortunately for me," might be an understatement for Dondon.
Rafi Reavis, former center for the San Juan Knights. Still plays for Magnolia in the PBA and is the winningest active player, with 10 championships:
It was always one of the teams at the South, because it was always the North versus the South. Negros, we had a tough time down there. Cebu’s also a tough place to play – not only did you have do play in a hostile environment, and when I say hostile I mean coins being thrown at you, hamburgers, apples, anything you can think of, it can be coming your way. You really had to watch out if things get heated in those places. That was just how passionate the fans were. I mean, they’re the nicest people but hey, don’t come in here and try to take what we’re trying to achieve here. It was pretty cool.
I never heard any racist things but I’ve been cursed out by old ladies before. I remembered an old lady, about 80-plus year-old, she just walked by me before the game cursing me out so I was like ‘Wow!’. But I also understood these fans are just passionate, this was their home team, so I understood. I get it. And as a player, you cannot let stuff like that affect you, and that’s just the will power you had to have. You have to put yourself inside of a bubble and focus on the task at hand which is the game, win the game and get out of there, hopefully safely, and leaving everything else to the fans and the things you can’t control, you leave it alone.
Rafi must have been quite the charm back in the MBA.
Reynel Hugnatan, former forward for the Negros Slashers and current forward for the Meralco Bolts with at least 5,000 career points in the PBA:
Naalala ko nun naglaro kami sa Cebu, may dala na kamig mga payong sa ilalim ng upuan namin. Kasi alam namin, pag konting ano lang, magbabatuhan na naman. Pag nagbatuhan, ready na kami, may payong na kami.
Always bring an umbrella folks.
Nash Racela, former head coach for the Batangas Blades and current head coach for TNT KaTropa:
If you watch the MBA ang daming hecklers di ba, talagang sinisigawan ka the whole game. I'm thinking one game in Davao, and there was another game in Negros na parang the whole game, may isang tao nasa likod ko na sigaw lang ng sigaw sa akin. Ganun talaga eh, it just shows the passion of the Filipino basketball fans. That's understandable, it really made the game more interesting nung mga panahon na yun.
We think coach Nash would prefer this set up than having to bring his own umbrella to the bench.
Alex Compton, former guard for the Manila Metrostars and current head coach for the Alaska Aces:
It hurts if a five-peso coin comes flying from the upper deck and hits you in the head. That leaves a bump and that happened a few times in a few different places. In the MBA that was almost expected because everybody was so intense.
You should have brought an umbrella coach.
Peter Musngi, the one and only "Voice of ABS-CBN," he was one of the key people for ABS-CBN in the MBA from the league's inception to its untimely demise:
One of the things that I remember, and kapag inaalala ko nga lang kinakabahan pa ko eh, I think I was seated beyond Commissioner Ogie Narvasa then sa official’s table and noong nagbatuhan… we were warned already kasi it was Negros vs. Cebu, sabi baka magkagulo. Noong may questionable call daw ng referee, biglang nagliparan ‘yung mga coins. Nakita ko talaga tumatama kay Commissioner Ogie Narvasa, but he looked at the back and stayed. Ako naman, tatakbo na sana ako (laughs) kasi nagkakagulo na pero ‘nung nakita ko si Ogie, ‘Ay nakakahiya, sige na nga bahala na matamaan sa ulo’ (laughs). So that’s one.
The others are from the coverage standpoint, dahil we were always moving around, and it came to a point paggising mo ‘di mo alam kung nasaan ka. It takes a few minutes to think ‘Oh, saan kami nanggaling? Saan na kami ngayon?’ Or the fact that we were eating Jollibee for breakfast, lunch and dinner (laughs) because ‘yun ang sponsor eh. That wasn’t bad, but we had to be creative and say, I mean kasi umuulan, umaaraw, ‘di mo alam tapos, sabi naming ‘At least man lang arroz caldo, mainit.’
Jollibee all day, everyday? Now that's crazy.
Ramon Fernandez, the "El President" and four-time PBA Most Valuable Player served as the MBA's very first Commissioner:
The biggest problem of the Commissioner's Office at the time were the fans, the rowdy fans. Masyadong fanatic sa mga teams nila.
I remember distinctly one game in Negros, it was the Cebu Gems and the Negros Slashers, nagkagulo yung players. The fans just started throwing things and I had to stop the game. Mabuti na lang nandoon yung bishop, sitting beside me. So pinakiusapan ko siya na, 'Bishop baka pwede mo naman kausapinyung crowd na let's just enjoy and have fun' pumayag naman siya. Natuloy yung game, laro ulit. Eh nagkaroon na naman ng gulo, ganun na naman nangyaro so I said, 'Bishop baka one more time,' sabi niya, 'Mon leave it all to God.'
Sometimes all you can do is just pray and ask for Divine Intervention.
Ramon Tuason, CEO of MetroBall, Inc., the mother company of the Metropolitan Basketball Association:
It was a Cebu-Davao game and Ramon Fernandez was able to gather 14 large garbage cans of debris [from the game]. From rocks, to plastic bottles, to bottles with green liquid inside, anything. Marbles, socks with marbles inside, they were throwing everything inside. As a matter of fact, we had to ban plastic drinking water from entering the stadium after like the fourth or fifth game.
We had to go through the Army, the PNP, and everybody to have support in the stadiums because of the fans' passion. We call it the passion of the nation but sometimes, they become too passionate, too emotional. Very difficult to control the crowds.
In Bacolod, there was a situation where a bomb exploded inside a garbage can. Players, coaches, and including us got death threats especially during the inauguration game, because as you remember, the PBA, who was I guess threatened, decided to move their opening day to our same opening day and made it a Robert Jaworski birthday bash. I guess Jaworski fans were a bit pissed off that we were in the same day but actually, they moved their opening day to ours, as a matter of fact, ABS-CBN had a countdown.
The PBA was threatened? Interesting... (to be continued)
*I Love You, This Game is a series celebrating the Metropolitan Basketball Association's 20th anniversary. Stay tuned for more!
READ PART 2: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: The Passion of the Nation
READ PART 3: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: Trouble from Lakerland
Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8