Whatever Happened to Never-Say-Die: 5 Observations on Why Ginebra Seems to Have Lost the Spirit

The aftermath of Ginebra-TnT playoff match last night saw Ginebra fans fuming mad on social media, putting up countless rants on how the team was coached, the players’ lack of aggressiveness, and of course the age-old issue of refereeing. While many of these opinions point to some truth, Ginebra fans—or at least those of us who still consider ourselves as nevertheless part of the dwindling number of Ginebra supporters—know that the more important question to be asked does focus on the Xs and Os of coaching or conditioning of players or the calls of the refs. For us, we know that we have to face the hurtful truth and ask the question “whatever happened to never-say-die?”

My aim in writing this article is to present my observations as a fan as to why or how the current Ginebra roster seems to not live enough to its mantra. Gabe Freeman, the latest import to attempt to rescue the team from its demise, has said in an article that Ginebra is the best team on paper, and while it is hard for us to swallow that the best out of this current Ginebra squad might remain on paper alone, we have to…at least for now up until we see the team claim the throne once more. I have limited my observations to five sub-headings in order to present them with some order, but make no mistake that I present these observations in hierarchy—that is that I perceive that one is a more pressing issue than the other. In fact, I believe that each observation that I am about to present only intertwines with the others in addressing the seeming disappearance of “never-say-die”.

Coaching Woes

Many blame the coaching staff of Ginebra for the team’s failure to meet expectations. In the eventual loss of Ginebra to San Mig Coffee in Game 7 of the Semis in the Philippine Cup, many bashed head coach Ato Agustin for questionable decisions and poor player rotation. While I thought Agustin did a fairly decent job last conference, and hence disagree with the many who think otherwise, I believe that Ginebra’s problem on coaching is who and what to listen to. In this conference, we were all left confused when assistant coach Juno Sauler was drawing up the plays while Agustin is still listed as the head coach. In the Philippine Cup, many were criticizing team manager’s Alfrancis Chua’s hyper-active involvement in barking out instructions from the sidelines.

Who is the real head coach?

The players should have one voice to trust and listen to. We see this in Rain or Shine and San Mig Coffee whose respective head coaches have the monopoly of talk during timeouts and halftime breaks. As for Ginebra, I believe that what is happening is that Sauler is trying to compromise sets and plays—his and Agustin’s—perhaps in the common courtesy of preserving the head coach’s system. I thought Ginebra was playing Agustin’s system under Sauler’s instructions. The result? Not-so-good player rotation, confusion in sets, turnovers…you name it. A similar scenario has happened before—when Siot Tangquincen and Jong Uichico were co-coaches of Ginebra. As we all know, the results were not particularly pleasing to both fans and the team alike, even leading to the exit of Uichico from SMC. If Ginebra’s management want to make Sauler head coach, then all they have to do is declare it so that the team can play Sauler’s system. After all, never-say-die is about team cohesion and familiarity with the things the team wants to do inside the court. And all that can only happen if the players and the coach meet at a certain point and are looking at the same direction.

Related: PBA legend Robert Jaworski in talks with Ang for return to Ginebra, says source

Import Dilemma

The easiest factor to blame for Ginebra’s underachieving was their import scenario. Leon Rodgers was over-hyped while Josh Powell had some more important things to attend to. Gabe Freeman would have made an excellent import had Ginebra given him an early call. In the end, the team was trapped in an unending chain of adjustments. When Rodgers was import, ball rotation was a problem because the dude was a ball-hogger and was shooting 10 three-point shots a game while barely making any. When he was replaced by Powell, rotation was better and more locals got involved, yet Powell has to leave Ginebra after his second game (which he barely played because of injury) to seek greener pastures in the NBA. Freeman arrived to play Ginebra’s last game of the eliminations in the hope that he can lead Ginebra to a win so that at the team can place sixth and will not have to play against twice-to-beat. He was scorching hot in the first half in that game against Rain or Shine, but barely contributed any in the second half and overtime. In the end, Ginebra has to be contented in making the playoffs and facing topseed Talk ‘n Text who has twice-to-beat advantage. Freeman was ineffective, only scoring 15 on terrible shooting against TnT import’s 41.

Call it bad luck or poor initial choice, never-say-die nevertheless cannot take place when imports do not sync with locals. Vernon Macklin last season has proven how important this is, and even though Ginebra lost against Alaska in the finals during that time, it was okay because we saw Macklin fighting it all even with a hurting thigh. Should Freeman be allowed to play next conference, we can only hope for better results.

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Could he have turned Ginebra’s fortune around?

Japeth’s-not-so-hot

The performance of Japeth Aguilar in the eliminations of the Philippine Cup left mouths open in amazement: he slingshot himself to being one of the best players in the league as he led Ginebra to topseed with an 11-3 card with about 20 points and close to 10 rebounds per game. But Ginebra’s semifinals against San Mig Coffee marked the end of Mico Halili’s and Magoo Marjon’s “Japeth-like-it’s-hot”. Since then, Aguilar has not recovered. This conference, the six-foot-nine Gilas forward was only averaging 8.33 points and 6.44 rebounds per game in the eliminations (PBA-Online). Last night, he only scored seven.

Clearly, Aguilar has lost his confidence. The once contender for the MVP title is now questionable even to make it to the Mythical Five. Whatever Aguilar and Ginebra are doing to bring that confidence back, we hope that it will come into fruition in the coming Governor’s Cup. Because unless a player believes in himself, he cannot possibly understand or embrace never-say-die.

Can Japeth regain his confidence back?

Where is the MIGHT in HEIGHT?

The acquisition of Japeth Aguilar (6-foot-9) and Greg Slaughter (7-foot), as well as JayR Reyes (6-foot-7), brought all the excitement to Ginebra fans. “From smallest to tallest,”so was the slogan back then. Yet, the Twin Towers has fallen short of the hype. In the Philippine Cup, Ginebra averaged 49.9 rebounds per game, only good for fifth place behind Rain or Shine (54.6), Petron (52.6), Globalport (52.4), and Alaska (52.0) (PBA.Inquirer.net). Last night, while Aguilar may have a respectable 12 rebounds against Talk ‘n Text, Slaughter only had five. But make no mistake about it, the disappointment does not rest on rebounds alone. Fans are moreover concerned on the twin tower’s seeming softness, and lack of intensity, effort, and hustle.  Even Mark Caguioa thinks the same:

While Caguioa’s comment do not refer to anyone in particular, it is hard to not associate at least the “lalambot” part of his Tweet to the Twin Towers. Slaughter was highly ineffective in defending Talk ‘n Text’s Richard Howell, so ineffective that seldom-used Billy Mamaril was able to take over with some success. Aguilar, on the other hand, only shot 3-of-8 from the field marked by too many jump shots. Further, we see Aguilar and Slaughter being out-rebounded in countless occasions dating back to the San Mig Coffee series in the Philippine Cup.

To be fair, however, we can say that despite Slaughter’s height, the big guy is still only a rookie. His averages this conference are not so bad either—12.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game (PBA-Online). Aguilar, on the other hand, is yet to recover from his meltdown during the San Mig series.

Nevertheless, as Sonny Jaworski, the epitome of never-say-die, once said: “Kung ayaw mo masaktan, magchess ka na lang!” Ginebra cannot afford to have its big men not assert themselves in the post. Slaughter may need more time to toughen up, but Aguilar should wake up now.

No Heart, No Focus, No Will

I think the rest of Caguioa’s Tweets says it all:

Whatever happened to never-say-die? Only the players and coaches can prove that it has not gone yet.

Pasasalamat sa Sports 5 Productions

Halos isang linggo na rin ang nakararaan nang mapansin ng InterAksyon ang ginawa kong liham kay LA Tenorio. Doon nagsimulang kumalat ang blog, at iyon din ang dahilan kung bakit ako naimbitahang ma-interview sa PBA at personal na makita at makausap si Tenorio at ang buong Ginebra. Sa puntong ito, nais kong pasalamatan ang lahat ng mga taong bumubuo ng Sports 5 na nagbigay sa akin ng pagkakataong inaasam-asam ng kahit sinong fan ng PBA. Salamat,

  • Mr. Jaemark Tordecilla, na unang taga-Sports 5 na nagkumento sa naturang liham at humingi ng permisong malathala ito sa InterAksyon.
  • Mr. Paul Mata, sa pag-aasikaso ng mga ticket upang maupo kami ni Ellice sa di mahulugang karayom na Araneta Coliseum.
  • Mr. Mike Villar, EP ng Sports 5 PBA, na kasama ni Coach Alfrancis Chua ay hinila at pinakilala ako kay Tenorio. Salamat din sa pagtitiwala niyang makapagbibigay ako ng maayos na interview sa telebisyon.
  • Mr. Magoo Marjon, sa pagpuri sa ginawa ko, at sa pagbibigay ng lakas ng loob na ipagpatuloy ko ang pagsusulat.
  • Ms. Erika Padilla, siyempre sa pag-interview sa akin. Nakakatwang malaman na Atenista rin pala siya, at pareho pa ng kurso ko ang kursong tinapos niya (AB Political Science).
  • Sa direktor ng Sports 5 PBA, Mr. Mico Halili, Ms. Sel Guevarra, Mr. Eric Reyes, Mr. Joshua Lopez, sa mga press, at sa lahat ng mga taong bumubuo ng Sports 5 na aking nakilala ngunit sa kasamaang palad ay hindi ko nagawang makuha ang mga pangngalan.

Isa pong karangalan na kahit sa iilang araw ay naging bahagi ako ng inyong pamilya. Hinding-hindi ko po makalilimutan ang oportunidad na pinagkaloob niyo sa akin. Mabuhay po kayo.

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Tiwala: An Open Letter to LA Tenorio

LA Tenorio,

Huwag mo sanang isipin na ito ay liham ng paninisi o pangungutya (na marahil ay unang pumasok sa isip mo nang makita mo ang pamagat nito); ako’y sumusulat sa iyo bilang isang Ginebra fan, na patuloy na nagtitiwala. Kung sa pagbabasa mo nito ay pakiramdam mo na sinisisi kita sa nangyari sa Game 5 kanina, huwag kang tumigil sa pagbabasa sapagkat hindi iyon ang aking intensyon.

Tulad mo, isa akong Atenista. Fourth year na ako at magmamartsa na sa Marso. Labinlimang minuto bago mag-alas-sinko kanina nang matapos ang recollection ko. May oras pa, mapapanood ko pa ang Ginebra. Dali-dali akong tumakbo mula Gesu papuntang Library para manuod ng livestream sa isa sa mga computer doon, at laking tuwa ko, lamang ang Ginebra ko nang buksan ko ang internet.

Paputol-putol ang livestream. Mabagal ang net. Pero di bale, dikitan ang laban. Kaya ito ng Ginebra. Sa mga huling segundo ng laban, lamang ang San Mig ng dalawa. Nag-drive ka, pero na-challenge at di pumasok. Foul kay Melton, pero isa lang napasok niya. Ayos, kaya pa ito. Pitong segundo, tatlo lamang nila. Binababa mo ang bola. Biglang bumalik sa ala-ala ko iyong dalawang game-winning three ni Japeth kung saan ikaw iyong nag-assist. Overtime na ito, siguradong-sigurado ako. May nakapwesto sa wing o sa corner, di ko alam kung si Baracael o si Ellis. Pero nag-drive ka ulit.

Napamura ako LA. Pinagtinginan ako ng mga katabi ko sa Library. Kagagaling ko lang sa recollection. Napamura ako.

* * *

6:53 p.m. ang oras habang nagsusulat ako ngayon. Nasa 653 na tao kada post sa mga fanpage ng Ginebra sa Facebook ang nagko-comment ng “benta”. Bukod pa iyan sa 65 300 na tao o higit pa ang sobrang sama ng loob sa iyo ngayon. Sobrang taas daw ng basketball IQ mo, ikaw daw  ang Gilas point guard. Imposible raw na nawala sa loob mo na tatlo ang lamang ng San Mig.

Pero hindi ako isa sa kanila. Hindi ako naniniwala na “benta” iyong kanina, LA. Hindi ko alam kung bakit, at di ko alam ang dahilan, pero sinasabi ng puso at isip ko na hindi bayad iyong play kanina. Alam mo kung bakit? Kasi naniniwala ako na maprinsipyong tao ka. At kaya ko iyang patunayan sa buong Pilipinas, o sa buong mundo kung kinakailangan.

* * *

Naaalala mo ba ang larawan na ito:

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Kuha iyan noong Game 2. Inaabangan ko kayo nina Caguioa doon sa may parking ng players sa gilid ng Araneta. Pero sabi ng gwardya di kami (mga fans) pwedeng lumapit, kaya nandoon lang ako sa may kalsada, kasama ng ibang umaasang fans. Okay na talaga ako na masigawan kayo ng “good job” at “congrats” kung dadaan man iyong mga sasakyan niyo doon. Pero sabi ko sa sarili ko, once in a lifetime lang kung makakapagpa-picture ako sa kahit isa lang sa inyo. Sakto lumabas kayo ni Japeth doon sa parking lot. Alam mo ginawa ko? Inakyat ko yung bakod, tinalon ko, saka ako tumakbo papunta sa iyo. Narinig ko iyong gwardya na sumigaw ng “hoy!” at nagmura pa yata. Pero wala akong pakialam. Once in a lifetime lang iyon eh. Magpapapicture ako kina LA at Japeth.

Kitang-kita ko sa mukha mo noon na pagod na pagod ka na dahil sa game, at siguro dahil sa dami ng nagpapapicture. Nag-aalinlangan ako na lumapit pa, pero dahil once in a lifetime nga lang, tinuloy ko na. Sabi ko sa iyo, “LA papicture kahit isa lang.” Di ka nagdalawang-isip na magsabi ng “sige”.

Pagbalik ko doon sa may kalsada, sabi ko sa girlfriend ko, “ang bait ni LA (at Japeth); kita mong pagod na pero hindi marunong humindi sa fans.”

 * * *

Naaalala mo noong Yolanda? Di ba nag-volunteer ka na maging parte ng delegation ng PBA players na pupunta ng Tacloban? Hindi ka kasi parte ng original delegation noon, pero gusto mong magbigay ng pag-asa, kaya’t sumama ka.

E noong mga panahong injured si Caguioa, naaalala mo iyon? Di ba’t kayod kalabaw ka noon, sa points, sa rebounds, sa assists…sa lahat. Ikaw iyong bumubuhat sa Ginebra, kahit dehado na, nananalo pa rin sa huli.

 * * *

Di man tayo magkakilala sa personal, alam ko na ganitong klase ka ng tao, LA: ikaw iyong hindi ipapahiya iyong mga taong pinaghuhugutan ka ng saya, ng lakas, ng pag-asa. Alam mo, noong January 29, nalaman ko na hindi ako pumasa ng UP Law. Sobrang lungkot ko noon hanggang sa mga sumunod na ilang araw. Hindi ako makakain, wala akong ganang pumasok sa unibersidad. Gusto ko lang mapag-isa. Pero noong Game 2, dinala ako ng girlfriend ko sa Araneta. Iba talaga ang Ginebra, LA. Kahit anong lungkot ko, kahit sobrang na-down ako dahil sa pagkabigo ko, basta narinig ko iyong coliseum barker na sinasabing “starting at guard number 5, LA Tenorio!”, basta maka-score ng tres si Baracael, basta lumalaban ang Barangay at naghihiyawan ang buong Araneta ng “Ginebra, Ginebra, Ginebra!”, nawawala lahat, nagkakaroon ulit ako ng pag-asa, di lang na manalo sa laban ang Barangay, kundi pati na rin na bumangon muli ako at patuloy na lumaban sa personal kong buhay.

Kaya iyong kanina, alam ko hindi “benta” iyon. Huwag mo silang pansinin. Lahat ng tao nagkakamali. Pero sabi nga nila, ang mas mahalaga ay kung paano ka babangon muli. Kaya nga LA eh: Lahing Astig, may takot kay Lord Almighty. Yan si Lewis Alfred sa mata ko, sa mata ng milyon-milyong fans ng Ginebra.

Maraming katulad ko LA na patuloy na susuporta sa iyo at sa Barangay. Kahit Upper B lang parati ang nakukuha at nakakayanan ko, sisigaw at sisigaw ako ng “Ginebra” kasi alam ko na importante ang ibig-sabihin ng tatlong pantig na iyon: ang mga iyon ang simbolo ng lahing di sumusuko, iyong lalaban at lalaban; simbolo iyon ng mga taong umaasa sa mga salitang Never-Say-Die.

Naniniwala ako sa iyo LA. Naniniwala ako na lalaban at lalaban ka. Naniniwala ako na madadala mo ang Ginebra sa championship. Tiwala lang, LA. At kung naaalala mo pa, sabihin mo lang sa sarili mo, “magis!

Naniniwala,

Erson

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En vacances, je vais…

En avril et mai, je vais être en vacances ! Super ! Je ne vais pas étudier et lire mes livres pour école ! Je vais dormir et manger tous les jours ! Haha. Non, non, je plaisante ! En vacances, je vais faire du sport. Je vais jouer le basket-ball avec mes amis d’école secondaire, et faire du badminton avec mon frère. Je vais lire aussi. Je vais lire Lord of the Rings et Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

Je vais voyager en vacances aussi. En avril, je vais aller à Puerto Princesa avec ma famille. Ah, je vais nager en la plage à Puerto Princesa, et je vais visiter Underground River ! J’aime la plage et la natation, mais je ne sais pas nager. Haha ! Ah, je vais apprendre la natation en Puerto Princesa ! Peut-être, je vais apprendre l’historie de Puerto Princesa et Palawan aussi ! C’est très bien, non ?

En avril aussi, je vais visiter deux églises en Intramuros – Manila Cathedral et San Agustin Church – avec ma famille. En mai, moi et ma famille allons aller à Singapour. Ah, je vais visiter Riverside, et Marina Bay.  Je vais manger la cuisine de Singapour, et je vais faire du shopping aussi ! Je vais acheter ordinateurs en Sim Lim Square, et livres à Ngee Ann City.

Ah, j’ai oublié, je vais acheter un chien pour l’anniversaire de ma petite-ami le 13 avril! Elle adore chiens, mais je n’aime pas chiens ! Ah, je vais acheter un Rottweiler ! Oh là là! Elle a peur de Rottweiler ! Hmm…ah, je vais acheter un Shih Tzu. Haha.

Et toi, qu’est-ce que tu vas faire en vacances ?

Mes amis

Bonjour mesdemoiselles et messieurs ! Aujourd’hui, je vous présente mes amis.

C’est ma petite-amie. Elle s’appelle Ellice, et elle a 18 ans. Elle est étudiante en art à l’University of the Phillippines. Elle habite à Quezon City avec sa sœur, mais elle vient de Bulacan. Ellice parle philippin, anglais, et japonais.

Ellice est jolie et très sympa. Elle adore cuisiner et manger, elle adore la cuisine philippine. Elle aime beaucoup chocolat aussi ! Elle aime bien chanter, et écouter la musique, elle adore la musique pop et la musique rock, mais elle n’aime pas du tout la musique rap, et elle aime bien Beyoncé. Elle fait de la natation aussi. Elle aime bien nager, et elle adore la plage. Ellice fait du taekwondo avec ses amis à l’université, et du football aussi.

C’est Pao, mon ami à l’Ateneo. Il est très drôle ! Il aime beaucoup écouter la musique classique (il aime bien les Beatles), mais il adore Justin Bieber ! Pao déteste le président des Philippines, Noynoy Aquino, mais il adore sa sœur et présentatrice, Kris Aquino ! Il est très drôle, non ? (Pardon Pao !)

Pao est intelligent et il aime beaucoup étudier aussi. Il adore la politique et la philosophie, mais il déteste la théologie. Il aime bien lire Marx et Rousseau. Pao fait du sport aussi. Il fait du basket-ball, il adore Jeremi Lin de New York, et il est danseur aussi !

C’est une photo mes amis avec moi. Xavier vient de Rizal. Il adore faire du basket-ball, et il aime bien politique aussi. Bella vient de Batangas, et elle est chanteuse. Elle aime manger, elle adore la cuisine japonaise et italienne. Elle fait du badminton et du soccer. Bella aime bien danser aussi. Elle est très sympa. Anne est étudiante en philosophie, et elle est très sympa aussi. Elle aime beaucoup lire, et elle adore le cinéma. Elle parle français aussi ! Dan aime beaucoup politique et histoire, et il parle italien. Il est très intelligent ! Il fait du badminton aussi, et il adore voyager. Jomar est très drôle. Il adore la télévision, et il aime beaucoup dormir et chanter.

Ah, j’aime beaucoup mes amis. Ils sont magnifiques et fantastiques !

Ma famille

Bonjour mesdemoiselles et messieurs ! Aujourd’hui, je vous présente ma famille.

C’est une photo de mes parents. Mon père s’appelle Rogelio, il a 45 ans, et ma mère, c’est Gloria. Mon père travaille chez National Bureau of Investigation ou NBI. Il n’est pas avocat, mais il est intelligent. Il est drôle aussi ! Il habite à Bulacan avec ma mère et mon frère. Mon père aime beaucoup cuisiner ! J’aime beaucoup le kare-kare de mon père. Il aime bien manger aussi.

Ma mère est très sympa et très gentil.  Elle a 46 ans en juillet. Ma mère aime bien voyager. Elle adore Boracay et Batangas. Elle aime cuisiner aussi. J’aime bien le sinigang de ma mère. Ma mère est très jolie.

C’est mon frère, il s’appelle Angelo. Il est jeune, il a 10 ans. Angelo est étudiant à St. Paul College, San Rafael. Il est intelligent, il aime bien étudier, et lire. Mon frère est drôle aussi : il aime bien la natation mais il ne sait pas nager, il adore manger mais il ne sait pas cuisiner. Angelo aime bien fait du sport. Il fait du basket-ball, et du badminton. Il adore musique aussi, il est chanteur et musicien.

Ah, j’adore ma famille. Et vous mesdemoiselles et messieurs, vous avez des photos de vous famille ?