The PBA Commissioner went on a fining binge the other day. He slapped Tim Cone a P10,000 fine for statements detrimental to the league, Jeff Hodge P10,000 for a flagrant foul penalty one on Scottie Thompson in Game 3, Kelly Nabong P5,000 for a flagrant one on Justin Brownlee in Game 2, and Reynel Hugnatan P5,000 for flopping in Game 2.
While the Commissioner did not say what the detrimental statements uttered by Tim were, it is believed that they were his comments that there is no way to stop Allen Durham if the referees slap Sol Mercado with six fouls in 12 minutes.
Strange there were no fines slapped on the three referees of Game 5 for missing two miscues that should have turned the ball over to Meralco. The first was when Hugnatan and LA Tenorio scrambled for the rebound. LA tapped the ball out of the hands of Reynel. Game Annotator Alex Compton said so. The referees gave the ball to Ginebra, Reynel going ballistic. The other was when Sol double dribbled and slid in one sequence, in full view of the 22,000 spectators and the TV cameras. The entire Meralco coaching staff and Durham signalled “travelling” with their hands, but no whistle was blown by any of the three referees. Sol passed the ball to Scottie Thompson who made good his shot from beyond the arc, giving Ginebra a comfortable lead at a crucial point of the game.
Maybe the referees were making up for their calling too many fouls on Sol in previous games. Or maybe they were afraid of bringing down on themselves the ire of the huge Barangay Ginebra if they called Sol as having travelled. The replay showed clearly that Sol had broken his dribble but was not able to get a good grip of the ball. So, he dribbled it again (a violation worse than palming the ball), and while holding the ball, both his feet slid.
If any player from any of the other nine teams had committed the same miscue, all three referees would have blown their whistles with all the power of their lungs. Previous commissioners not only fined erring referees stiffly, they suspended them for the rest of the conference or dropped them from the roster of referees.
T N’T Head Coach Jong Uichico once said in a post-game interview, “It’s given when you’re playing against the San Miguel group. I have been there.” Jong knows there is a common factor that gives SMC teams the edge over non-SMC teams – the referees. He had coached two of those teams, San Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel.
But if two San Miguel teams are pitted against each other, and one of the teams is Ginebra San Miguel, the referees would still not be fair to both teams. Ginebra would have the edge because of the referees. Tim Cone must have known that when he was coach of Alaska. So did Ryan Gregorio, Chot Reyes, Norman Black, and Yeng Guiao.
Many years ago, Swift/Pop Cola was leading Ginebra by seven points with less than a minute to go. Swift had the ball and Pido Jarencio was milking the clock. Then three Ginebra players swarmed all over him to pluck the ball from him. When he held on to the ball, he was wrestled to the floor. The referees blew their whistles, not to call a foul but a violation by Pido – hogging the ball. When Pido sulked about the call, Swift Coach Yeng Guiao walked over to him and said loudly as to be caught by the microphones of the TV crew covering the game: “Hindi tatawag ng foul yan, Pido.” It was clear to those who heard Yeng’s statement what he meant.
Referees don’t dare call a foul on a Ginebra player, especially then when Ginebra was coached by the Living Legend Sonny Jaworski. He would rain down expletives and the rabid fans paper cups, wrappers, and coins on the referees if they made calls unfavorable to Ginebra.