ON GAMBLING, PROTESTS AND RULES!

5 08 2007

The world of sports has had a string of controversies lately. The NBA’s gambling scandal involving a referee, star NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s involvement in illegal dog fighting, rampant doping in the Tour de France and locally, the recent death of a Filipino boxer in Thailand, the arrest of a star player for illegal gambling, the disbarment of the PBA commissioner for immoral behavior and of course the La Salle protest.

The incidents in the US have been addressed swiftly and with an iron hand. The referee has been arrested, Michael Vick has been charged and dismissed from the team and the Tour de France saw teams dropping their star cyclists.

In the Philippines however, nothing seems to have happened to the case of the boxing promoter who allowed the boxer to fight in successive matches and the case of Paolo Orbeta, the player from College of St. Benilde is still being “investigated”. In a country where the word “under investigation” has very little credibility, we probably won’t see any semblance of finality in these cases. “Areglo” may be the most plausible ending.

Gambling and Philippine basketball have been linked for a long time. Close to 40 years ago, the very first “point shaving” apprehension was made in the MICAA, the predecessor of the PBA. Crispa, who was then in the midst of a heated rivalry with Toyota, had players who were caught shaving points for a gambling syndicate.

This rocked this basketball crazy country and a number of players were sanctioned from that powerhouse team. Rudy Soriano, Epoy Alcantara and Johnny Revilla were some of the players who were “banned for life” for the incident. Of course, “banned for life” meant about a 1 year suspension. If I am not mistaken, the 3 players mentioned above, all played for the University of the East.

On a side note, not long after the “point shaving” scandal erupted, Jaworski and Big Boy Reynoso, were also “banned for life” for literally mauling a referee during a game against Crispa, due to what the perceived to have been a bad call. The ban also lasted for about a year.

Since that time, basketball has been always suspected of being the favorite hunting ground of basketball syndicates.

Not too long ago, there was the news of gambling in some exclusive educational institutions. I remember Xavier School was one on those identified as having an extensive network of gambling activities, wherein students would bet on NBA games as well as local professional and collegiate sports.

Even the “masa” have their involvement in sports gambling with the “ending” bookies making a killing. People bet small amounts of money where they pick the last digit of opposing team’s final score. Gambling is a social problem that has a deeper root than what we see. The lure of a fast buck makes a good person turn into a monster.

The NCAA, has had its own internal investigation of gambling for a few years now. They have looked into star players who have had a sub-par game. They have looked at how referees call games. But gambling, involving referees and players, is so hard to prove.

Last year, there were rumblings that the UE Red Warriors had allegedly caught one of their star players Bon Bon Custidio, as being involved in illegal gambling. They allegedly kicked Custodio out of the team, even if they were hot on a championship quest.

This year, there were also rumors that, a former FEU player had tried to recruit present FEU players to shave points. Allegedly, some of the players that were approached immediately reported the matter to the team management resulting in the expulsion of one player form the team.

Personally, I deplore gambling in sports. If found guilty, Orbeta should never be allowed near a sporting event. If there is to be a serious effort to curb illegal sports gambling then prosecution and punishment are of the essence.

On the matter regarding rules and protests, I am again very sad that the UAAP seems to be extremely jaded about its organizational set-up. The La Salle protest showed that the league has a rule book that needs interpretation every time a rule is broken. A rule should not be riddled with exceptions, it should be absolute. It’s either you break the rule or you don’t.

A team is supposedly not allowed to field 2 foreign players at the same time. However, the rule is no longer absolute. There are now exceptions to that rule. If the outcome of the game is not affected by the fielding of 2 players, then the rule does not apply. This exception is not a part of the rule book but with the Ateneo incident, it has become a precedent and any future protests regarding this rule will have to be judged based on precedence. Even in the court of law, this condition of precedence is applied. In fact it is not only this rule that the “did not affect the outcome of the game” exception can apply. So now, the UAAP has itself up to have as set of rules that need to be interpreted every time there is a violation.

In the La Salle protest case, I have to admit that the initial oversight should be blamed on Ateneo coach Norman Black. What was however extremely evident was the glaring incompetence of the table officials and the referees to spot the infraction. The first one who should not have allowed the substitution was the table official. He should be aware of who the foreign players are of every team. This would have averted the controversy that followed.

Secondly, the referees did not seem to be in control of the situation. As soon as Jai Reyes sprinted onto the court, the game should have been stopped and the infraction called. It took a dead ball situation and complaints from the La Salle bench for the referees to call the technical foul. I cannot accept that 3 referees did not see this happen. If they didn’t, then they do not belong in that extremely important capacity.

The referees could not call a technical on the “2 foreigner rule” because I do not think they were aware of such a rule. At the very least, another technical should have been called for fielding of 2 foreigners.

The UAAP should appoint a commissioner who has no affiliation to any of its members. The commissioner should be given a fixed tenure, similar to the PBA, and given the powers necessary to perform its duties. This musical chair in the commissioner position has made a mockery of the post. The commissioner should have a an impartial technical committee that should be present in every game of every sport. Decisions regarding protests should be made quick and fair. Rules should be followed with no exceptions.

With the extremely popularity of the UAAP, the member schools should look into the present set-up. It should re-examine its rules and regulations to put the corresponding sanctions to every infraction committed.

The UAAP board should only have a policy setting function. It should not be a quasi-court where protests are decided. I do not think that the perception of objectivity can be completely manifested since there will always be a conflict of interest.

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14 responses

6 08 2007
Charlie

Tony, I agree with you on the “incompetence” of the technical people immediately when the DLSU-ADMU “controversy” occurred, as well as regarding the changing of the league commissioner every year, which leads to confusion, lack of continuity and instability to the position. Ed Cordero requested the Board to consider several proposals to either change the rules or clarify them for the future — the Board should consider these proposals, for the good of the league. Truly, when the rules are clear and not subject to interpretation, then they are easy to enforce and there will be no complaints from anyone.

6 08 2007
The Green Mind

Thank you for comment Charlie. I did not write the article as a Lasallian but as a fan of collegiate sports. The UAAP has to be more sensitive to its members, fans, corporate sponsors, media partners and most of all to the players who work so hard to make this the premier collegiate league.

9 08 2007
atenean_blooded

Hi, Tony.

I agree that a rulebook should have some sort of integrity. But I disagree that a rulebook should be absolute, because the letter of rules do not always lend themselves to justice. This is why there are exceptions, and even our laws are riddled with them (as well as with exceptions to the exceptions), because sometimes, the phrasing of a particular rule also demands that exceptions be made, so as to allow for justice and equity and fairness. Generally, of course, the textual rules are controlling. But in the interpretation of what the rules say, different times have yielded different results. And it is no different even when we talk about the law.

This is also why we have bodies that can interpret rules, and in the UAAP, we (either fortunately or unfortunately, I’ll leave that to you) have the referees, the table officials, the technical committee, and the UAAP Board.

I agree that there are numerous changes that the UAAP needs. And while we’re all probably a bit jaded because of the spotty officiating, I agree that there’s a lot to be improved when it comes to that.

Now, some comments about your comments about the La Salle protest.

First, the decision to uphold Ateneo’s win is consistent with an existing precedent, one from the 1990s involving the Ateneo, La Salle, and the Lago brothers. I’m sure you’ve already read about how the Lago brothers, both foreigners, were both fielded at the same time (for a much longer length of time compared to Long and Laterre, if I may add), and how La Salle went on to win. A protest was filed seeking to nullify the La Salle win, based on the fact that La Salle had fielded two foreign players at the same time. And this protest was denied because the fact that the Lago brothers were fielded together did not materially affect the outcome of the game.

That’s the precedent. This more recent issue merely affirmed it. I am of the opinion that in both instances the spirit behind the rule was upheld, and that the decisions were just.

Now, onto the officials: Norman Black himself admitted his mistake. And during the lull in the games during the little exchange between Norman Black and Franz Pumaren, everybody could see how clueless the referees and the table officials were. And I agree that if this happens again, then these officials clearly don’t belong where they are.

More than their not seeing this infraction immediately, I’m surprised that at least one side of an arena with more than 10,000 people in it did not raise hell about this infraction during the game, or brought it to the attention of the officials during the aforementioned exchange. Things could have turned out differently.

That said, I actually disagree with the cap on foreign players, because I think the discrimination is unnecessary. There is no guarantee that a player’s better just because he’s a foreigner; he can be a bit bigger, or may have blonde hair, or whatever, but I’d like to think that the best Filipino student-athletes can take on a foreign counterpart anytime. I think that as long as a foreign student is skilled enough, and is willing to enroll in a Philippine university, and as long as that university makes sure that he’s a student first and an athlete second, then he should be allowed to play. That is at least more consistent with the drive of universities toward internationalization and diversity.

9 08 2007
The Green Mind

Atenean_blooded,

Thank you for your comments. Readers like you are really make forum discussions very productive.

The one point that I would just raise is about the rules. I believe that a rule has to be absolute because its either you follow it or break it. Exceptions muddle up the issue and makes the rule subjective. I know that the spirit of the law is always essential. However, since there is always going an beneficiary and a victim of a protest, then making the rule as absolute as possible removes the subjectivity.

If there are exceptions then it should be pre-detetermined and included in the rule book.

I am just concerned that this “it does not affect the outcome of the game” exception now opens a can of worms. Who is now going to determine if it did not affect the outcome of the game. Basketball is said to be a game of inches and in a cloe game, any minor event could affect the outcome of the game.

9 08 2007
atenean_blooded

Tony,

I think we can have the best rules, but if our judges are as clueless as the referees and the table officials were during that lull in the Ateneo-La Salle game, we’ll still have a problem.

I agree that the exceptions should be made as clear as possible, and if possible, be made part of the text of the rules.

9 08 2007
The Green Mind

Atenean_blooded,

I fully agree with you that the rules are only as good as those who implement it. That’s why I have been espousing the appointment of an independent commissioner on a set term of office. That way, he can once and for all clean up the way the league is run.

9 08 2007
The Green Mind

Charlie and Atenean_blood,

Thank you so much for your intelligent and insightful comments. I truly appreciate the manner in which the both of you present your comments and arguments.

May there be more of you!

9 08 2007
Richard

I agree also. so lets appoint someone from NCAA as commissioner.

9 08 2007
The Green Mind

Lasr year, the NCAA appointed Jun Bernardino as its commissioner. He brought with him his experience from the PBA.

There are many people who can act as Commissioner. It just needs the UAAP Board to sincerely look at this and do it.

9 08 2007
TheTruth

I guess the rules are crystal clear now: when a coach field 2 foreigners at the same time he gets a technical; and if he does it again in the same game, he gets thrown out.

Now my question is.. Is it necessary? Wouldn’t it be better if before a coach would be able to field two imports at the same time the refs would immediately ask him no to do so? As I see it by putting that kind of “penal clause” they are at the same time admitting that they cannot control and implement it, thus implementing a “harsh clause” as a deterrent.

My opinion is, if the referees would be able to stop them before 2 imports would be playing at the same time, then there will be no damage incurred. Thus, no need for a T.

I guess the better “penal clause” would be.
1. When coaches TRY to field 2 foreign players, they get a warning.
2. When they do it again in the same game they get a technical.
3. The third time, they get thrown out.

(As for no.1 benefit of the doubt— meaning- it should be presumed that they did it in good faith for justice and equity, after all basketball is a sport)

To Mr. Green Minded: Peace be with you, I’m not an anti-lasalle guy.

9 08 2007
TheTruth

As for Mr. Orberta

He should be presumed innocent until verdict to the contrary; thus, no need for St. Benilde to suspend him IN HIS STUDIES. That would be too harsh, he is just a young guy.

What if they will not be able to prove that he’s guilty? Well, in my opinion, St. Benilde would be civilly liable under the law.

Well, mr green minded, I think they suspended Mr. Orberta INDEFINITELY, meaning, they can bring him back anytime or never let him play again.

9 08 2007
The Green Mind

The Truth,

CSB suspended him and has since informed the NBI that if no charges where filed, they would re-instate him in the school. The key word here is “suspended”. They did not expel him.

The institution’s first and foremost obligation is to protect itself. Anyone who will say the contrary is a hypocrite. But at the same time, the CSB Athletic Director has publicly stated that if no charges were filed by the NBI, then Orbeta will be re-instated at CSB. Now whether or not he is reinstated to the team is a matter of policy of CSB.

Shouldn’t Orbeta be more concerned in getting an education that playing basketball?

9 08 2007
The Green Mind

The Truth,

The reason the rules are crystal clear now is because La Salle protested and thus the UAAP board had to come up with a corresponding sanction.

What I am surprised is that in this sanction that the UAAP gave there is no mention of “affecting the outcome of the game”. This precedent that was set with the statement of Cordero can come back to haunt them in the future, not necessarily for this rule but for the other rules that still do not have the corresponding sanction.

9 08 2007
The Green Mind

It is so refreshing to read and exchange ideas on this topic, Again to all of you (Charlie, ateneo_blooded, Richard and The Truth), thank you very much. I really appreciate your inputs.

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