Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Atoy Co can play golf. I'm back to convincing myself I can too.

I play golf. Think of this statement for a bit. I am stating a fact (no matter how limited my playing experience is). I am flirting with fiction (given how my playing style, which resembles actual golf in rare instances, is like billiards on grass most of the time). See, my golf game is somewhere between playing and participating. One means I actually need to follow the rules of the game. The other simply asks that I show up with a bag of metal clubs. So what I really do on the greens is "playticipate".

During the twilight zone between December 25 and January 1, I decided to play golf again. Thanks to the prodding of Dominic Uy. Due to the insistence of Sev Sarmenta. Based on the promise that Jason Webb and I will look like fools on the fairway. Two broadcasters and two former basketball players hauled their clubs and fragile golf egos to Valley Golf for a day of sub-standard play and, given the amount of grass we were bound to dig up, part-time garden landscaping.

How long have I been out of the game? The last time I played, Fred Couples was still in the regular PGA Tour. He's in the Senior PGA Tour now. Years removed from golf, I was back, slapping away second-hand golf balls just like a first-timer. Philosophically speaking, anyone who plays golf knows we're all, essentially, first-timers all the time.

Through the expected cavalcade of shanks, hooks, slices, miscalculated putts and poorly-constructed back-swings, I managed to survive the day without hitting anyone. It's a good thing Jason and his caddy knew how to avoid golf balls zipping just three feet off the ground at warp speed. Hehe sorry guys.

But it wasn't all follies on the fairway. Out of a thousand bad swings, I did hit a couple of good ones -- like my straight-away tee-shot on the par-3 6th, a 7-iron beauty which rainbowed straight on the green, safely over the water, safely into, unbelievably, birdie territory. I missed the birdie putt. But I saved par. A legit par. A heavenly moment.

Then, of course, it was back to golfing hell the rest of the way.

But I had three other sports broadcasters, who were in similar pitch-and-putt quagmires, to keep me company. In golf, misery is making quintuple bogey in silence. Having someone to laugh about it before, during and after makes all the difference.

In the flight behind us, Atoy Co fired zingers off the tee like he was launching fastbreak three-pointers in the PBA. Since our group played at an EDSA bumper-to-bumper-traffic pace, we allowed Atoy's group to overtake. He's still trim. He's still an athlete trying to win in a different sport. He's still sharp-witted. "Ano ba naman yan," Atoy, gyrating his hips to illustrate his point, mused. "Eto problema ng swing ko, hanggang ngayon, fu-me-fade-away pa rin ako!"

And we all laughed. It was the best thing to do. Dominic could've sulked because sayang naman porma niya (he had the latest clubs the nicest hair color). Sev could've brooded because his pitching game abandoned him right before he entered Valley Golf. Jason could've pouted because ex-PBA players never want to lose. I could've thrown my sand wedge into the lake (kaya lang hindi akin yun, pinahiram lang sa akin ng tatay ko -- if I threw it away, ako naman ang itatapon niya sa jabong). So why further ruin an already hopelessly ruined weekday morning?

Even for just one day, I was back in golf's torturous embrace. Darnit Dominic, this is your fault. And because golf is such a humbling game, long-established as human race's best-sustained athletic agony, a person's golf ego is never bruised. It only foolishly believes it can do better the next time around. MH

Monday, December 27, 2010

Maligayang Pasko mula kay Jayjay Helterbrand at LeBron James

Labing-isang minuto lamang ang tinagal. Labing-isang minuto lamang ang naibigay. Ang iba, apat na yugto ang kailangan para makatulong. Pero si Jayjay Helterbrand, sa unang pagkakataong makalaro sa PBA Quarterfinals, halos isang kindat lang ang tinagal sa hardcourt.

Si Helterbrand, ang kawawang Gin King na nakitang nakaupo sa sahig ng Araneta Coliseum, balot ng hinagpis matapos sila talunin ng Alaska sa kanilang knock-out game noong Hulyo, labing-isang minuto lang ang ginamit nitong nakaraang araw ng Pasko para ibandera ang Ginebra, labing-isang minuto lang ang ginamit para makaganti sa Alaska.

X-Factor ba kamo? Walang puntos. Walang three-point shots. Pero nakatala ng apat na assists si Helterbrand. Si Ronald Tubid ang nakinabang sa tatlong assists ni Helterbrand -- ang naging mitsa ng isang 8-0 Tubid run. Kaya naibaba ang sampung puntos na kalamangan. Kaya nabura ang dalawampu't puntos na pagka-lugmok. Hindi man naka-iskor si Helterbrand, siya naman ang nagmando ng sitwasyon. Siya ang kumumpas sa konsiyerto.

Walang puntos. Walang three-point shots. Labing-isang minuto lamang ang kanyang tinagal. Pero nang mag-karoling ang Ginebra Vienna Boys Choir sa Cuneta Astrodome, si Helterbrand at naging Ryan Cayabyab. Si Helterbrand ang nanigurong nasa-tono ang lahat.

Ang Pagbangon ni LeBron James

Pwede naman magbago ang isip. Hindi naman kailangan mag-matigas ng ulo. Sa pagbago ng kapalaran ng Miami Heat, nag-iba na rin ang paningin ng mga taga-batikos. Ang mga kritiko noon, mga naniniwala na ngayon.

Pero teka...

Opo, marami ang biglang napatigil sa walang-awat ng paghihimay sa kalagayan ng Miami Heat. Marami ang biglang tumahimik nang patumbahin ni LeBron James ang halos lahat ng kalaban sa loob ng nakaraang buwan. Bagama't tamang sabihin na marami na ang naniniwala ngayon, mahalaga din linawin na naniniwala nga ang marami ngayon. Hindi ito nangangahulugan na sila rin ay tataya sa kinabukasan ng kupunan.

Si LeBron ay laging LeBron.

Ang kritiko ay laging kritiko.

Patumbahin man ng Miami Heat ang LA Lakers sa araw ng Pasko, mag-triple-double man si LeBron James, mapahiya man si Pau Gasol kay Chris Bosh, pakiramdam ko'y hindi pa talaga kumbinsido ang madla na ganito rin ang ipapakita ng Miami pagtapak ng Abril at Mayo. Mahirap talaga baguhin ang ugali ng nagdududa.

Mahirap din kasi itapon ang tibay ng pangalan. Yan ang dala ng may mga singsing at korona. Talunin ka man ngayon, alam ng lahat kaya mo pa rin manalo sa huli. Kaya naman maihahambing sa galit ng masaming gising ang bangis ni LeBron, ang hagupit ng Miami. Anuman ang gawin, kritiko ay may sasabihin.

Eto ngayon ang sagot. Patahimikin si Kobe (kahit pansamantala lang). Patahimikin ang mga kalaban (hanggang kailan 'di natin alam). Patahimikin ng tuluyan ang mga bumabatikos -- kung papano, kailan at saan, ang Sugo lang at kanyang mga Saksi ang may kasagutan. MH

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ginebra and Alaska collide on Christmas Day

The Christmas Day PBA Game is both a nifty tradition and a tricky situation.

It's a treat for the fans. I don't think players and coaches get a kick out of playing these games, though. The worst way to spend Christmas day is to not only work, but to work and lose at the same time. Who wants to work on Christmas day? Worse, who wants to lose on Christmas day? But it's work. And in the scheme of things, quite good work. And players and coaches are paid professionals. There are reasons to complain, sure. But the guys know, there are a thousand other reasons to be grateful instead.

The guys can groan. It's their right. But it's one more chance to play, one more opportunity to show why they deserve to be in the PBA. And, surely, they'll be thankful. It will be the latest entry in the Ginebra-Alaska saga. It will be another day in the office for hardworking professionals.

On Christmas day, Ginebra and Alaska will dispute the remaining spot in the PBA All-Filipino Semis. Talk N Text and B-Meg will face-off in one Semis duel. San Miguel awaits the winner of the Ginebra vs Alaska rubber match for the other Semis pairing. Somehow, throughout the history of the PBA, Ginebra and Alaska always find each other in harrowing circumstances.

Remember this?

Do or Die. On Christmas Day. Miller vs Baguio all over again. Diamon Simpson is gone. But the hurt is likely still there. Enjoy your Noche Buena on Christmas Eve guys. Cherish Christmas morning with your families. Because Christmas afternoon-to-evening will be about work -- the kind of work PBA players, coaches, referees, broadcasters etc are grateful to have.

For Ginebra, it's a chance to strangle the Aces for what they did back in July. For Alaska, it's the always exciting chance to book Ginebra on an early, unexpected vacation. Christmas in the PBA is not just about giving, it's also about winning. MH

Monday, December 20, 2010

On Bandwagoners, Bernard Hopkins and Ballers who can or can't sing

The trending on Twitter fades. The vigil over televised football matches is over. The end of Facebook chitter-chatter over the celebrated Azkals begins in three, two, one. What happens now to the battalion of new-found football fans? What awaits the congregation of football's newest converts?

How about the hundreds of offers, even threats, to marry Neil Etheridge on the spot? Will Annie Alcantara, who like many female fans professed her devotion on social networks the way a Laker fan wears his Kobe jersey, sustain her Etheridgian infatuations even after her beloved goal-keeper heads back to Asgard, long after the Azkals retreat to a much-needed break?

What happens now to the hype? What kind of fate will the Azkals' jolly bangwagon meet?

Yes, interest in football is surely at an all-time high. Certainly more people used the term football, as opposed to soccer, the past two weeks - this is always a good sign. But what will it accomplish in the long run? A lot, I think. I am obviously an optimist. But then, anyone who believed in the Azkals' ability to win in Jakarta has to be one.

What I have is long-term optimism. To demand that football rockets up the charts, displacing age-old habits, by sunrise tomorrow is over-expecting. To regard the Suzuki Cup phenomenon as some sort of fluke, some distant memory by the time this blog goes online, is under-believing.

What does the rise of the Azkal bandwagon prove? Filipino sports fans, even non-sports fans, can be awakened. Their senses can be stirred by dramatic images of effort and excellence on television. I won't liken it to the badminton trend or the current running craze. I have no issue with the Azkal bandwagon partly because I'm not ashamed to admit I am a bandwagoner myself and partly because the crowd of nouveau-futbolistas cheered for something other than the upgrading of their twitter-cred or the improvement of their office social status.

The new Azkal-loving set was cheering for a national team, a Philippine team, our team. I see no wrong in that.

So even if the Etheridge fans club breaks apart, even if the same people who passionately typed expletives seconds after Indonesia broke our hearts will no longer care about offside rules and corner kicks, even if the Azkals take a backseat to Pacquiao and Ginebra anew, I will neither sulk in defeat nor blame the converts. When the time comes, when the compelling opportunity arrives, when football needs support the most, the bandwagon, armed with marriage proposals and welcome enthusiasm, will be back.

Bernard Hopkins vs Jean Pascal -- Age vs Agility

Hopkins is practically 46. Pascal is 28. What are they doing in the ring together??? This fight, however, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Pascal was confident in the power of his age. Hopkins, on the other hand, knew he could count on his experience. After Hopkins waivered early, I wondered if the fight would meet an unceremonious end.

I had little to worry about. Eventually, Pascal's early arrogance turned into visible apprehension. He saw the VHS tapes of The Executioner and it left a cautious imprint on his mind. Hopkins still had a lethal reputation, even at age 46. Hence, from initial embarrassment, Hopkins found the route to new-found energy. He closed in. Pascal stepped away. Didn't matter if Bernard's shots weren't as crushing as they were before. What mattered to Pascal was that Bernard could crush people.

51-32-5-2-1. Hopkins's record surpasses win-loss tallies by many ill-fated NBA coaches.

By the end of the fight, by the time a once-pro-Pascal crowd turned into a pro-Hopkins bash, we saw an obvious winner. The judges thought otherwise and handed out a majority draw. Pascal kept his belt. Hopkins gained our love. In the battle between generations, VHS clearly won over DVD.

PBA Jingle-Bell Rock

I still wonder why many basketball players, often the biggest human beings in our midst, could have the smallest voices. Hindi naman pippity-squeakity voices. But it's just surprising to hear them murmur when they talk. It's even more surprising to hear them creak when they sing.

I remember PBA legend Yoyoy Villamin had the tiniest voice but no one dared to enter the shaded lane under his watch.

But the guys on this Christmas plug deserve our commendation. While I'm not sure what grades they get for singing, they surely get an A+ for effort. MH

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Meralco and Marathon Games

1 team. 2 games. 8 quarters. 5 overtime periods. I don't know how the Meralco Bolts managed to walk back to their dugout, as opposed to being carried off the court, right after a double-overtime loss to B-Meg Derby Ace last December 17. Judging from Mac Cardona's energetic chest-beating display late in the second half, I was sure the Bolts could play three more extension periods if they had to.

Granted, Cardona is a coach's wildcard. He will either make you smile or drive you insane. It is what it is. But during games that never end, he's exactly the kind of player you want leading the team. If, at times, Cardona plays without a sense of order - hoisting one funky shot after another, exerting more energy shooting teardrops than playing honest defense, there are more times when he plays without a sense of fear, and in Meralco's past two games, without a sense of time. In other words, si Cardona, walang takot at walang kapaguran. These are Captain Hook trademarks.

Cardona now leads a team built around energy guys. There's Mac. There's Bitoy. There's Ross. You have to like how Meralco built its current roster during the conference. New acquisitions Mark Isip and Reed Juntilla give Ryan Gregorio more stability on the floor and extra scoring options during crunchtime.

Meanwhile, the tandem of Gabby Espinas and Hans Thiele will force any opposing frontline to move faster, breathe harder during games. They run. They score. They rebound. They chase loose-balls. They play with purpose. Allow me to say this again: Espinas is Meralco's Paul Millsap. Thiele, meantime, is Harvey Carey on a South Beach Diet.

I can imagine Gregorio's euphoria in no longer needing to rely on the emergency twin-tower combo of Asi and Marlou. And he can explain that euphoria in about 10 to 12 sentences without the benefit of a script.

Thus, with a re-engineered roster, the Bolts almost won a double-overtime game after winning a triple-overtime contest less than 48 hours before. You can't manufacture that kind of effort. But a coach can certainly sign-up players who have the potential to make it happen.

While Meralco's endurance is as kilometric as Gregorio's quotable quotes (we really should have a Ryan Gregorio vs Chot Reyes soundbite-showdown one of these days), B-Meg Derby Ace's backcourt can probably generate enough power to sustain the lights and airconditioning inside the Big Dome. Simon had 35 points. James had 27. Jonas had 18. It's no wonder Cardona (who guarded James) and Ross (who guarded Simon) had to play at least 41 minutes each, using up precious energy to defend B-Meg's perimeter game.

When the teams meet for Game 2 of their Best-of-3 Quarterfinal Series, Meralco's endurance should no longer be the issue. It'll be James Yap vs Mac Cardona (and they were feisty against each other in Game 1). It'll be Peter June Simon, B-Meg's hottest scorer, versus the quick hands and feet of Chris Ross (a match-up Alex Compton likes...a lot). But just in case the game needs an extra 5 or 55 minutes, we already know they'll have the fortitude to try and win it. MH

Friday, December 17, 2010

Running around the village with Around The Horn

It's fun to be running again. Finally. Friends who are just as determined to run regularly and get in shape (best effort) are helping me stay focused. My goal is to join the Condura Skyway Marathon, 10k category, in February 2011. Based on the official event countdown, I have 50 days, 1 hour and 20 plus minutes to prepare for it.

I'm not a running junkie - you know, the type who has the high-tech shoes, the gadgets, the dri-fit everything. I don't plan on being one. But who knows? As of now, it's stick to the basics. Next to a dependable running shoe (I once ran around Bonifacio High Street wearing low-cut basketball shoes -- will never do it again hehe), the next most important equipment I run with is my iPod Shuffle. I can't run without it.

I can't believe I used to run without the benefit of "sounds". Today, choosing what I'll listen to during a weekday morning run comprises a big part of the fun. I look at running as part reflection, part cardio. Many of my ideas for a column/blog, I thought about while running. I consider it a double work-out; one for the brain, one for the body. Hence, it's important I run with the proper soundtrack.

My running sounds are divided into two categories - music and talk. My taste in music is so eclectic, it's useless to share a playlist that makes sense. If you can create a song category that lists Kings of Leon, Bruce Springsteen, Kjwan, John Williams' Imperial March from Empire Strikes Back, Foals, Stevie Wonder, Snow Patrol and Up Dharma Down, let me know.

If I'm not listening to music, I will listen to podcasts. I used to listen to audiobooks but I eventually found it too tedious, just not as thrilling as reading an actuall book. But podcasts, especially sports podcasts are fun to listen to. I hardly notice a brisk 45-minute run around the subdivision if I'm listening to The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons, Open Mike with Mike Tirico or ESPN's raucous round-table discussion show Around the Horn.

Just this morning, I ran with the NBA Hang Time podcast in my ear. NBA TV's Sekou Smith, SLAM Magazine's Lang Whitaker and Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski (turns out Sekou Smith is a huge "Woj" fan....well, so am I) argued over where Melo should go and made listeners choose between Robert Horry or Charles Barkley. Who would you rather be -- Big Shot Bob with 7 NBA championship rings or Chuck the Hall of Famer with a fantastic television career?

Thanks to podcasts, my mind gets a nice morning jolt plus I can divert my senses away from the smell of tocino or longganisa wafting from neighbors' kitchen windows. Sports podcasts, likewise, keep me updated and can actually give me some column ideas I can develop later on.

So far, so good. I'm back to running 40-60 minutes every other day. Before you say "wow", consider that I run at a very chillax pace. Daig pa ako ng baby na naka-stroller I think. But I just got back into running so I figured, why rush? My friends are all training for the 16k. I've started what has so far been a vague plan to conquer the 10k.

It's all very basic: run whenever I can and listen to what will make running a little less tiresome and lot more exciting. MH

Thursday, December 16, 2010

For most Celtics opponents, The Truth Hurts!

Superb playoff-type game between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. Clearly, the excitement is back in New York -- and I mean 90's level excitement. Hopefully, for the Knicks' sake, the dark days of the 2000's are behind them.

Raymond Felton and Amar'e Stoudamire were like 2 guys taking on an entire team. Felton 26 points 14 assists. Amar'e 39 points 10 rebounds. Unfortunately, it seemed the case was the same in terms of Knick rebounding and defense down the stretch.

Bad shots by Felton and Amar'e leads to a Ray Allen 3-pointer for a Boston 3 point lead. Gallo ties the game with a nifty Euro-flop 3-point play.

Then...clock ticking down....Amar'e and the Knicks face the ugly TRUTH...

Funniest part of the clip is when Nate Robinson almost ends his career by over-celebrating. Rule of thumb is: to body bump once is fine, but doing it twice or thrice is just overkill. Nasahod tuloy ni Pierce! See, even for teammates, the Truth sometimes hurts too.

So the Knicks have one last chance. Down by 2. With just 0.4 seconds remaining. Sounds familiar. Rookie Landry Fields passes the ball to Amar'e who gathers himself for a buzzer-beating three pointer. Swish! Bedlam. Spike Lee wants to strangle Paul Pierce at midcourt. But even Mike D'Antoni tells Amar'e it doesn't count.

What Amar'e should've done with 0.4 seconds remaining was to take a no-look, fade-away, turn-around jumper. Right D-Fish?

I would've preferred that the Knicks won this game. It would've made the run-up to their upcoming game against LeBron and the Heat even more captivating.

We Are Alaska Aces

In the meantime, I'm sure you've seen Alaska's television commercials lately. It's Alaska's way of celebrating their 25th year in the PBA. The commercials are slick, straight to the point and really brings a 21st century feel to a 25-year old team.

The best part about these commercials is that we get to see it even during non-PBA games on non-PBA channels. I know it costs money to do this. I also know getting more people to follow the games with above-average loyalty can't be accomplished for free.

So maybe one of my Christmas wishes is to see television commercials of the same make and type featuring more PBA teams. Papayag ba ang ibang teams na Alaska lang ang may glossy team commercial??? Dapat hindi hehe. Besides, if a team promotes itself on different channels, it will not only promote the team itself, it also promotes the league and everyone involved in it.

My only gripe with the commercial: why did they edit out the part that says...

"I am not Mang Tom."

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

HEATwave in December and Answers to Unlikely Questions

Was nervous for the first three quarters between the Miami Heat and New Orleans Hornets. The game was close for three quarters. David West played a huge game. Then the Heat turned on the heat in the fourth period. Game over. Not that I'm on my knees praying for Miami to stay undefeated in December. But it would be cool to see them do it.

Was glad to see my Fantasy players perform well: West 26p 12r 10/13 FT, Bosh 23p 11r 3b but CP3 had a modest 11, 8 and 5 shooting 3/10 and tallying no steals.

So scratch the Hornets. Chalk up 9 straight wins. Here are the Heat's remaining games in December:
  • Cavs
  • at Knicks
  • at Wizards
  • Mavericks
  • at Suns
  • at Lakers
  • Knicks
  • at Rockets
Games against the Cavs, Wizards and Rockets are winnable assignments. The Knicks games, especially the Heat's highly-anticipated road game at the Madison Square Garden will be tough - expect old-school Knicks vs Heat playoff atmosphere for this one.

Then there's the matter of proving the Heat can beat more Western Conference elite teams like the Mavs and Lakers. Improbable but not impossible.

The key to a perfect December for Miami: Carlos Arroyo to average 6 ppg for 8 more games. Just kidding.

The FTW-TNS Episodes

It was fun answering sports and non-sports questions during our experimental Tanong 'N Sagot (TNS) segment for FTW. We figured this was a great way to feel the pulse of our viewers online; what they were interested in, what aspects of the game they wanted to know better and which players generated the most queries.

Strangely enough, I was asked about my height. Richard del Rosario was asked about a possible movie career. And Miakka, dear Miakka, was asked many times about...uhm...uh...well...just watch these....

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Monday, December 13, 2010

If you Khan do it, the Heat can too

You Khan do it!

Khan-Maidana bout considered candidate for fight of the year? Yes I agree. 10th round considered candidate for round of the year? Yes it's a worthy nominee. To add, the 10th round almost made this bout a candidate for come-from-behind win of the year. Maidana was this close to nullifying scorecards and punching Khan back to England.

Also, watching the fight was supposed to be an exercise in objectivity since neither fighter was Pinoy. But when you see Freddie Roach and Alex Ariza in Khan's corner, how can a Pinoy fight fan not lean towards the flashy Khan?

Hot Hot Heat

Can the Heat go undefeated in December? It's tought but not impossible.

Naturally, I immediately received emotional rebuttals from Laker fans on Twitter. Wait for your turn guys. December 25/26 pa kayo. But checking the Heat's schedule, if they beat New Orleans on Dec 14 and Dallas on Dec 20, the rest of their sked is peppered with beatable teams. Who knows -- they might even head into Staples on Christmas Day with a 14-game winning run.

Heat's remaining December opponents:
  • Hornets
  • Cavs
  • at Knicks
  • at Wizards
  • Mavericks
  • at Suns
  • at Lakers
  • Knicks
  • at Rockets


It's going to be quite an effort, but it's doable. Yet before the Heat deal with Dirk, Nash and Kobe, they'll need to deal with...the...Feltonar'e (pronounced like Focolare)!

Felton and Amar'e have led the Knicks to an 8-game winning streak just like the Heat. I don't think the Garden has been this excited since...

a) John Starks dunked on the Bulls' frontline in '93

b) Larry Johnson hit the miracle four-point play in '99

and c) since Isiah left town. MH

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is Alapag the new Mac Cardona?

It wasn't a prediction. It was more of a suspicion. Suspicion, of course, is the more "sosi" way of saying it was a hunch. I mentioned in my last blog entry that the emergence of a new Mac Cardona -- a player Barangay Ginebra fans will love to pick on -- might be the byproduct of some overreaction by Ronald Tubid.

With 1:17 to go in the 2nd quarter, Tubid played pesky defense against Alapag near Talk N Text's baseline. Alapag, who felt Tubid got away with a couple of bumps during the play, pushed Tubid away. Tubid, as expected, magnified the situation for everyone to see (thanks AlexJann23):

Although I have a third chin, I do not have a third eye. I am not into predicting outcomes for PBA games or playoff match-ups. So my hunch turned out to be a decent one. Doesn't mean I will start showcasing my predictive skills. Chamba lang. Did I call it? Nope. It was Tubid and Alapag who made it happen.

Just like Cardona before him, Alapag was showered with boos. I didn't expect Alapag would become Barangay Big Dome's flavor of the month. I sort of expected Alapag, however, to respond by being the man of the moment.

Along with Ali Peek, Alapag torched Ginebra in the second half. Jimmy finished with 32 points including back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter that cooled-down Ginebra's rally. This shows that players only get booed if they're either really bad or really good. In Alapag's case, he wanted to win really bad so he played really good.

Huge win for TNT. Like SMB, they will enjoy twice-to-beat advantage in the Quarter-Finals.


And, in the spirit of Sesame Street, the Talk N Text-Ginebra game was brought to you by the letter M.

Mighty Mouse played big. Man Mountain played like a beast. Miller, Mamaril, Mark, Mike and Menk all finished in double figures.


But the best unnoticed stat of the night: Harvey Carey with 18 rebounds. 9th time he has hit double-digits in rebounds in the PBA Philippine Cup. In his last 5 games, Carey is averaging 17 rebounds! Grabe... MH

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Notes - Ginebra-TNT and the Feltonar'e

Ginebra vs TNT

Ginebra and Talk N Text meet tonight in a virtual KO game for the last twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Philippine Cup. San Miguel (11-3) already clinched the first twice-to-beat advantage. Top 2 teams at the end of the elimination round earn twice-to-beat bonus against #7 and #8 in the playoffs. Even if either Ginebra (9-3) or TNT (9-3) finish 11-3 after 14 games, SMB is safe. Therefore, Ginebra and TNT are the only teams remaining with a chance to join SMB in the top 2.

Therefore, the game tonight between Ginebra and TNT should deliver an intense playoff vibe. Although most Ginebra-TNT games do so anyway. It helps that both teams are always in title contention. It helps that Ginebra is owned by SMC and TNT is not. It helps that most Ginebra-TNT games feel like grudge matches. Even when Asi was there. Even when Asi left. More so when Cardona was there. More so when...teka muna...Cardona's no longer there. Uh oh. Who will be Barangay Ginebra's "crowd-favorite"?

Who will Ginebra fans adopt as kontrabida nonpareil?

Jimmy's too good. Peek's too scary. Kelly's too exciting. And Carey's too much of a workhorse - mahirap magalit sa masipag. I want to say Mark Yee, I bet Mark Yee wants to say Mark Yee, but his playing time equals the number of minutes I spend doing sit-ups. Not much. I want to say Chot Reyes's shirt, but even his attire has been subdued as of late. But I suppose all it will take is one over-reaction from Tubid, against any Tropang Texter, even Gilbert Lao, to agitate the flock.

Speaking of Peek, Ali is likely on top of Ginebra's scouting report. He's been solid in his last two games -- 23 ppg 8.5 rpg 1.5 bpg. If Menk makes another elimination round "appearance", it should be brutal inside the paint tonight.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

The Feltonar'e!

Who needs the old Nash-Amar'e combo when, in New York, the Knicks have the Feltonar'e. If you totally knew Raymond Felton and Amar'e Stoudamire would play this well together, especially during the Knicks' current 6-game winning run, then you're either a fortune teller or a genius. Since I am neither, I will gladly share my surprise.

How are you doing this Mr. Felton?

The guy looks like his body is about to breakdown on every play. Hunched back. Giant white knee pads. A jump-shot only a mother could love. He's an ex-Bobcat. Plus...he's a Tar Heel (just kidding). Yet he's producing numbers like he's Chris Paul. He's only had one single-digit scoring game. His season average: 19 ppg 4 rpg 9apg. And because he adds steals and blocks every game, Felton is making Stoudamire, the Knicks and my NBA Fantasy Team "Ang Mga Ricky Rubios" all look good. Long live the Feltonar'e! MH

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Newbie Fans ask for Patience from Football Purists

Please be patient with us. Not all spectators now crazy over the Azkals have Ph.D's in Football. Maybe some of them got up at 2am, hit a bar with some friends, brought along the little that they knew about Cote d'Ivoire or the Blue Samurai to watch matches from the recent World Cup. Effort, miniscule as it may sound, should count for something.

I sense a little hurt from football's local coterie -- I think I can hear them say, "Where were you guys before?" Now that the Azkals are hot, now that football is hot, the cool kids are jumping on the soccer bandwagon like it's the last bus headed for hip city. Everyone's frantically learning how to appreciate ball-control on the pitch, Googling "Yellow Card" and finding reasons to curse referees out loud.

The Azkals are now in the semis! And the bandwagon has gotten a whole lot bigger.

So it's a fad. Is that so bad? Would it hurt to have a national bandwagon rallying behind a team poised to rewrite Southeast Asian soccer history? If the Azkals aren't forcing some opposing coaches to sound like fools, they're emboldening other opposing coaches to recognize the truth; our team is for real. Of course, you guys knew that all along. Or at least had the unshakeable faith that the Azkals were legit contenders since day one.

If the rest of the country is a bit late to catch on, needing that 1-nil lead over Vietnam to even take notice, would it be more productive to give them the cold shoulder or welcome their new-found soccer-mania, no matter how fleeting it might be, with open arms? Isn't this what the Azkals have been working so hard for? A semblance of national recognition, a genuine feeling of national importance. Isn't this, the die-hard futboleros that you are, what you always hoped for too?

So the clique isn't such a clique anymore. Or maybe because of this, the clique becomes stronger than ever. But, really, teach the rest of this country about football love. It's what Pele would do. It's what the late Chris Monfort would do too. Help newbies differentiate a good challenge from a bad one. Share the magic of a brilliant cross. Then, hopefully, whatever happens in the Suzuki Cup, the entire Azkal experience becomes, not just some wild episode for Philippine sports, but a historic springboard for football's permanent relevance. MH

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Griffin leads Dunkers vs Shot-Blockers Contest

Call it wishful thinking. Call it a decent attempt to change an eroding institution. But I'll say it again: why not have a Slam Dunk Contest involing Slam-Dunkers and Shot-Blockers instead of just featuring dunkers (especially if this season's dunk contestants have the combined personality of a cold pandesal).

Case in point:

So let's proceed. Slam Dunkers versus Shot-Blockers. Parang Plants versus Zombies lang yan. Tama ba? Either way, what we'll get is a showdown, not merely a showcase. Wouldn't that be one thousand times more interesting?

Imagine the ferocity of a dunker running at full-speed face to face with a shot-blocker determined to block a dunk with full-force. I know there are safety issues here but entertainment-wise, you must agree it promises to be quite a show.

Exhibit B:

I already have Blake Griffin on top of the list of Dunkers. Any violent objections?

Then we letShannondunk again. He's really not the creative dunker type -- more of the power-dunker variety.

Then Russell Westbrook has to be the intriguing PG-dunker of the group.

Exhibit C:

Who else should be on the list of Slam-Dunkers? D-Wade? Iguodala? Eric Grodon? Rose? Let me know on Twitter (@micohalili).

But what about the Shot-Blockers?

As of today, top 5 shot-blockers in the NBA are Darko, Bogut, JaVale McGee,Dwight Howard and Josh Smith. Given Bogut's recent injury, I am inclined to replace him with Emeka Okafor. And maybe Tyson Chandler can replace Darko,'s Darko.

They draw lots and every Dunker is paired of with a Shot-Blocker at random. The live lottery should add even more drama.

Then...let the MAYHEM begin...

Slam-Dunkers versus Shot-Blockers during the NBA All-Star Weekend. Isn't it a nasty thought? MH

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Go Azkals!

Football is boring. Isn't this the convenient mantra? Pinoys can't possibly embrace a sport where matches can end in a (gasp) draw. Tabla! What on earth? It is said we love high-scoring events. It is said we can only relate to wham-bam frenzy. Manny Pacquiao pummels a foe. We watch. James Yap hits back-to-back three-pointers. We watch. Chris Greatwich scores the equivalent of a fade-away turn-around jumper using his head. What do we do?

During FTW taping today, we had an animated discussion about the Azkals over sandwiches and iced tea. All of us saw the Philippines-Vietnam match. Some witnessed the first goal. Others caught the telecast in time to see the second goal. What did you do after Phil Younghusband capped the upset of the tournament? I jumped from my sofa. Richard del Rosario shrieked like a girl. And most of us frantically typed "Goooooal!!!" or "Yessssss!!!" on Twitter seconds later.

Magoo Marjon hopes the Azkals start a trend. Nope not just a Twitter trend. He imagines a local football scene that packs bars even if we're years away from the next World Cup. He envisions a maddening surge of local interest in Pele, Maradona, Messi. He proposes that the Azkals bolster an entire industry. Fans will be happy. Bar owners (especially the fellow who runs Magoo's favorite pub in Quezon City) will be happy. Footballers will finally get their due.

Maybe then, football need not reside in just Bacolod or Iloilo. Although, this country owes them a lot for having loved the sport that much. I hope football leaders recognize an opportunity to inject soccer into the mainstream. Because seeing the Younghusbands on billboards just isn't enough. I hear people say we were made to play football. I say we were made to play different sports. Yup, basketball too.

So what the Azkals have done is make basketball lovers like football too, even if just for the duration of the Suzuki Cup. But it's a start. Or, like every goal attempt the Azkals will have from now on, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. I remember the magic of 1991 -- when Pinoys supported national teams in the Southeast Asian Games as if they were cheering for Jaworski or Fernandez or Patrimonio know what I mean.

So trot over to ESPN 8:30pm Wednesday night. Don't mind the foreign-sounding names. They'll play all-out against Myanmar like you would. Their moxie has taken the team this far. I think Magoo's idea of World Cup-caliber enthusiasm each time the Azkals hit the pitch is a bit of a stretch. But the Azkals are stunning Southeast Asia, prompting Vietnam's coach to call his team's shocking loss before 40,000 disappointed spectators a farce (pagbigyan na natin, he had to do something). So who knows what other magic the Azkals can pull-off.

We need at least a draw against Myanmar. Beating them is even better. The result of the Singapore-Vietnam match, then, decides the rest of our itinerary. Think about it. All this drama over a game that can end, 1-1. Football is boring -- or so goes the convenient mantra. But when you're shocking this part of the world, it never is. MH

Monday, December 6, 2010

LA Tenorio FTW!

It's funny how pre-game concerns mesh with on-the-court realities. Before the game, we analyzed LA Tenorio's minutes per game. We realized it must feel like he's playing 4 hours of basketball each time Alaska hits the court.

I'm not even sure if wearing a Miami Heat "power balance" necklace before games is the right thing to do considering LA was scoreless in his last game. Just kidding.

So PBA Courtside Reporter Jinno Rufino and I chatted with LA before the game vs SMB. Tenorio admitted that he wishes he could get more rest. But as PBA Courtside Reporter Dominic Uy pointed out to us, Tim Cone doesn't like having his point guards compete for the starting spot. Cone doesn't want his starting PG's to feel threatened in any way. Hence, Cone isn't inclined to recruit another natural point guard. Hence, LA shouldn't expect to see more bench time soon.

Johnny A was Alaska's undisputed starting PG for many years. Jun Reyes was his able back-up. Cone drafted Mike Cortez as the over-all number one pick in 2003. Cortez was likewise the undisputed starting PG for several seasons. And now, Tenorio is the undisputed starting PG and it seems to be taking its toll.

So LA shared that the coaches are trying to look for a back-up natural PG (Bonbon Custodio and Topex Robinson aren't natural PG's) that won't be a threat to his starting position. Jinno and I immediately volunteered our services.

"Kung ayaw mo threat, eh di kami nalang," I said. "Willing ako maglaro kahit league minimum salary. Or kahit gatas na lang pambayad niyo sa akin."

After last night's game-winning three by LA over Alex Cabagnot, which btw settled the score with Cabagnot, I'm even more sure, in the suntok-sa-buwan possibility that I make Alaska's line-up, that I won't make Tenorio worry one bit. But as far as Jinno and I are concerned, E-Cow's slot is still up for grabs...

Thanks to xxxtamadoxxxxx for the quick youtube upload!

And thanks to jazdelrosario for this one. LA to Alex, "Quits na tayo":

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Alaska vs San Miguel tonight!

Less pressure on San Miguel. More pressure on Alaska. It's not simply because San Miguel is on top and Alaska is not. Most eyes will be on the Aces tonight partly because they've lost three of their last four games, partly because watching Alaska skid to a 5-7 record takes getting used to.

I am inclined to agree with Alex Compton who said during our Alaska episode on FTW that Alaska, possibly, is a tired team. Tao din naman sila. Napapagod. Nauubos. The Aces' incredible effort last season can realistically lead to a pseudo-crash in the current All-Filipino. The theory being; Alaska never had ample time to rest and recover in-between the two conferences last year and in-between last season and the new one.

I am particularly interested in LA Tenorio. More and more this conference, he looks like a point guard who seeks an able back-up. Or am I just reading too much into his body language? When he leaves a game to enjoy a few minutes of precious rest, he crawls back to the bench, drags his feet and plops on his seat as if to say, "Hay salamat, nakapahinga din."

I look forward to covering tonight's Alaska vs San Miguel game. I look forward to chatting with Coach Tim Cone and LA Tenorio. I look forward to seeing Alaska up-close, eager to see if they rediscover the pep in their step. Tao lang din ako na na-cu-curious din hehe. MH

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Saturday, December 4, 2010

LeBron and "Greatness"

Did he or didn't he?? He said what?? LeBron James dismantled his old team, his old town, chatted with textmate Boobie Gibson within the game, and, apparently, during the post-game interview with TNT's Craig Sager, dropped the bombshell of the night:

" (I) just want to continue the greatness for myself in Miami and try to get better everyday."

So he did. He said it. He's lucky more than half of the NBA's worldwide television audience tuned out when the lead ballooned to 80. But LeBron coined the byword of the night: Greatness.

Uhm...Greatness. His Greatness? Their Greatness. He clarified on Twitter afterwards that he meant to say the Team's Greatness.

I will let this marinate for a bit. We all should. Before the world fires away.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Giving the Champions League a truly Championship Feel

We talked about the PCCL on FTW...

Some additional thoughts:

The day a player sheds a tear upon losing a game in the PCCL a.k.a. Champions League is the day it gains true relevance. Otherwise, it remains just one of many important tournaments outside of the UAAP or NCAA. It's not a put-down of the different organizations who have tried to stage a compelling race for the "National Championship". It's more of a push to find one true format that trumps both the UAAP and NCAA championship series. I don't think it's impossible. It is, however, as I'm sure "Champions League" organizers already know, a gargantuan task.

I'm certain past and present organizing groups have done their best to put together nationwide tournaments meant to start and end without a hitch. What I ponder on is the amount of emotion players, coaches and, most especially, students invest in the "Champions League" endeavor. If most teams continue to regard post-season hoops as more of a chore than a chance for national recognition (and believe me, many of them do), then the PCCL has a long way to go.

It's never easy mapping out a plan to bring the country's top collegiate teams together. So I always commend groups with the will and the wherewithal to make tournaments like the PCCL happen. It is still a legitimate venue for collegiate teams like University of the Visayas or West Negros University to show that they can compete with teams from Metro Manila. It's still a valid avenue for multi-media exposure for a future Peter June Simon or the second coming of Dondon Hontiveros.

Holding a quest for a true National Championship is the right thing to do. So I support all efforts in meeting that end. Even if it means trying and trying year after year. But when teams lose KO games and feel only 1/8 of the pain they feel when they lose second round games in their mother leagues, it's a sign that the race for national collegiate supremacy is still in its early stages. The finish line still nowhere in sight. But it's there. We just have to keep on looking. MH

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blake the Beast and the 2011 "IN-YOW-FACE" Slam Dunk Contest

How about we just skip an actual NBA Slam Dunk Contest in February, tell the likes of DeMar DeRozan to take that weekend off and just show clips of Blake Griffin dunking on people?

I just realized Griffin's dunk over 7'1" Timofey Mozgov (a combination of a facial and shampoo) was more of a throwdown than a slam-dunk. Very similar to Dwight Howard's Superman dunk from 2008. Although their hands don't make contact with the rim, one has to realize how high a player must go in order to achieve a rim-less throw-down even if, in my opinion, it's not a dunk. But it still looks awesome!

So while you enjoy watching Griffin run on the break, pivot and propel like Apollo 11 into slamdunkersphere a million times, consider this idea:

Forget whatever NBA Slam Dunk Contest format you know and let's just watch a Slam Dunk Contest that involves the best shot-blockers in the game.

Imagine this --- Blake Griffin versus Dwight Howard or Josh Smith or JaVale McGee!

Since NBA dunkers seemed to have run out of creative ways to stuff the ball, although I still want to see someone complete an alley-oop with a pass coming from the nosebleed seats, let's just do an In-Your-Face Slam Dunk Contest. The meek and mild need not apply.

Imagine this -- Russell Westbrook versus Darko Milicic!

Because really, one more year of KryptoNate is the last thing the NBA Slam Dunk Contest needs:) MH

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Notebook - Meralco vs Barako Bull

Random Notes from Meralco vs Barako Bull 12/1/10
  • Final Score Meralco def Barako Bull 73-70
  • Both teams are motley crews of former franchise players, former first round draft picks, former rotation guys from top teams, undersized big men and ex-Red Lions,
  • During the Ginebra vs B-Meg game last Nov. 28, we mentioned on-the-air that teams don't need to score baskets to make the game exciting. Meralco and Barako Bull, however, took it to the extreme.
  • Meralco shot 38% FG. Barako Bull shot 33% FG.
  • Maybe it's just me but Meralco's Gabby Espinas is playing like Paul Millsap out there. He failed to reach double-digits in points only twice this conference. With conference highs of 21 points (vs Powerade) and 14 rebounds (vs SMB), Espinas has been the real "Rock" of this team. His regular statline is awesome: he'll provide points, rebounds, a couple of assists, a steal and a pair of blocks per night while shooting 50% from the field. See...Gabo is the Paul Millsap of Meralco!
  • But, while I say Espinas is the Millsap of Meralco, I am not saying Meralco is the Utah Jazz of the PBA.
  • Often maligned for his decision-making on the floor, Barako's Paolo Hubalde has put together two note-worthy games. Against TNT last Nov. 26, he had 13 points, 3 rebounds and 10 assists. Against Meralco, he had 13 points, % rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. While he's shooting 12 out of 17 in the last two games, he has also turned the ball over 8 times in his last two assignments.
  • In the meantime, Mac Cardona continues to be his enigmatic self. He led Meralco to victory with 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. But he also committed 7 turnovers (not the first time for Cardona to throw away at least 5 possessions in a game this conference).
  • Barako Bull is now 2-10. It's not a team built to go 10 and 2.
  • Will Sunday Salvacion end the conference with Barako Bull?
  • Meralco is now 6-5 and is on a 4-game winning run. Let's see if Asi Taulava's return intensifies the Bolts' surge. MH