Saturday, March 18, 2017
DURING the early days of the PBA, I grew up watching the tandem of Mon Fernandez and Robert Jaworski give the Toyota franchise nine league titles. The elation escalates when those titles were at the expense of the Crispa Redmanizers. Together with Francis Arnaiz, they were the early versions of the Big Three. Toyota played under different names – Comets, Silver Tamaraws, Tamaraws, Super Diesels, Super Corollas and until the team folded at the end of the 1983 season as the Silver Coronas.
Allegiance shifted to Gilbey’s Gin where Jaworski went and as history would tell, became a lifetime teniente del barrio of Barangay Ginebra. Fernandez captained Beer Hausen/Manila Beer, which bought Toyota’s franchise. During those times of separation, the two PBA icons created their own personal rivalries but ended when they were named as starters on the Veterans team against the Rookies and Sophomores during the 1989 PBA All-Stars. Both were on the first ever all-pro silver medal-winning national basketball team during the1990 Beijing Asian Games with Jawo calling the shots and Mon as team captain.
Like Jaworski, Mon had an impressive basketball career and had Wiki describing him as “generally regarded as the greatest player to have ever played in the Philippine Basketball Association”. He played for five teams (Toyota, Manila Beer, Tanduay, Purefoods, San Miguel) and is the only player in the league to win 4 MVP awards in 4 different teams. With 19 PBA Championships to his name, Mon is the PBA’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks and number two all-time in assists (behind Jawo) and steals (behind Johnny Abarrientos).
At some point in his playing career, specifically during the 1988 All-Filipino Finals against Anejo Rum, Purefoods management ordered him benched because of suspected point shaving. That paved the way for his transfer to San Miguel where he promptly won the 1988 MVP award. The game fixing accusations were never proven. There were actually hearsay during the late 70s and 80s of game fixing by several top players but up to the moment, they remained just rumors.
Fast-forward to the present. The Senile Boys Club of the Philippine Olympic Committee starring the most decrepit ruler of all has dug up the drama buried almost 30 years ago. In a forum with sportswriters some time last week, he told the gathered group that Fernandez “used to fix games against Toyota.” Wrong. Mon never played against Toyota because when he played with four other teams, Toyota already disbanded.
Peping Cojuangco said he has vital information, documents and more importantly, an individual who can support his claim. That someone is an equally controversial and powerful political operator who was recently in the news when he turned over to the Justice Department evidences of corruption by “high officials” from “past administrations”.
Aside from his vocal opposition to Peping’s narcissistic manipulations and power grab at the POC, Mon also asked for accounting of the more than P27 million that the POC received during the country’s hosting of the 2005 Southeast Asian Games and other un-liquidated cash flows from 2010 up to part of 2016. Since the POC routinely asks for financial assistance from the Philippine Sports Commission, Fernandez has the personality and capacity to question fund misuse being one of four appointed PSC commissioners.
Because the Senile Boys Club will not and most probably cannot produce accountability on the questioned disbursements, they opted to go back in time and relieve the doubtful existence of the controversy. Being immersed and had mastered the dirty game of politics for more than half of his elderly life, mud and crap come natural if issues can’t be directly answered.
Like five-year old pampered brats, 80-year-olds can be egotistically stubborn. I speak from experience because my late father reached that glorious age. And I highly doubt if POC’s almighty will ease up. As of this writing, Fernandez reportedly will be filing libel charges against Cojuangco over the game-fix allegations.
The hierarchy of the PSC is fully supportive of Mon’s legal action. Chairman William Ramirez recently said, “When you hit one of my commissioners, you hit me also and in doing so, you also hit the President (Rodrigo Duterte).” Unless we’re Alzheimer-bound, sensible logic dictates to side with the middle-aged guys having vigor and energy for change than support the obsolete and cranky, grumpy old men whose only real accomplishments were attending International Olympic Committee meetings overseas.
He’s number two on the PBA’s all-time assist leaders but Mon Fernandez will be number one in my heart and mind if fate will be on his cause. Many athletes had been deprived of the mismanagement and misuse of resources, especially those coming from outside Manila. Part of Mon’s mission is to assist these overlooked and prejudiced talents. Case in point – Rio Olympics campaigner Mary Joy Tabal who was shunned by PATAFA saying she only wants to be on the national team because of money. My freaking goodness, Mary Joy qualified for Rio on her own, without PATAFA’s help. Besides, PATAFA also gets funding from the PSC. Hello!
I remember and miss what TV broadcasters then call as Mon’s “elegant shot”. This one shot attempt against the POC despot will have El Presidente’s loyal followers cheering some more if it swishes through the net. It won’t be called elegant no more. Let’s call it “elegantly fatal” for the target.
It’s the dynamic versus the anachronistic. The liberal versus the supremo. El Presidente contra El Anciano Abuelo. The president versus the elderly grandfather. Mon versus Peping. Let’s get it on and change the landscape of Philippine sports./PN