I don't even know where to start with this. It's been close to 24 hours since the fiasco that was the PLDT
Last Lost Home Stand. I've been doing things but at the back of my mind, the Lost Home Stand keeps nagging at me like a persistent headache.
Several weeks ago, we writers at the NBA Philippines website were told not to write about the event since it wasn't sanctioned by the league office. I then asked, why isn't it sanctioned? What are the organizers trying to accomplish by this? I got a shrug for a reply.
I thought nothing more of this until I wrote a friend of mine at the league offices in New York asking if he had any information regarding some of the trades going on at the time and part of his reply was people were unhappy about this event that seemed like a slap on the face of the NBA. I asked about the event of 2011 and I was informed that it happened during a lockout year and the league office couldn't do much. But not this time around. It seemed that the disconnect was communicated very early during the project.
So I told three people from the MVP Group of Companies, two who simply laughed it off. I was shaken by the response of one and while I felt it was such an arrogant reply, I told myself, maybe they've resolved matters.
When I arrived at the Araneta Coliseum yesterday it was just a little past 6pm. "Good crowd," I thought to myself. "I guess people started to buy tickets now that the prices have been slashed down."
I sat with a couple of media colleagues at the baseline area before moving to Section 109 where my seat was located. On my way, I bumped into James Harden who I extensively interviewed during a previous trip. "Looking forward to the game, James!" I said. "He looked at me and said, "There's not going to be a game."
"Yeah, the league said we can't play. We want to play for the fans but… well, I don't know. Let's see."
He then made his way the court to do some shooting.
I knew the game was going to tip off at 7pm. It was 6:47 and I looked at my cellphone and wondered, "Doesn't look like we're getting ready for a game here. What gives?"
When the event finally began, when PLDT's Ariel Fermin took to the mike and announced that fans could avail of a refund if they weren't happy with what they were going to see, I knew then that there was to be no game. I hoped against hope there'd still be something. As the Gilas Pilipinas players and the Fibr All-Stars participated in some drills, the crowd began to get a little restless. After the ocho drill and players switched to a 3-2 drill, the crowd unleashed a cavalcade of boos.
It got steadily worse. I saw one fan from the baseline hurl invectives towards the direction of one of the television cameras. The two fans who had their picture taken for a spin.ph article with their thumbs down sat in front of me. The person to my right announced loudly to anyone within earshot that he was going to be Tweeting this event as a scam. The booing continued and after a while, I got up to leave. I left because I felt bad.
I felt bad for the fans who paid their hard-earned money for this and braved the bad weather. I felt bad for my colleagues in media who were shabbily treated and not taken care of by the organizers. Outside the Big Dome's Red Gate, many of them were fuming for not being on the list, for not having IDs, for not being given tickets, hell anything. I felt bad for the national team and the NBA players. I felt bad for the organizers. I felt bad for MVP who has given so much. I felt bad because the wolves and the vultures would feast on this snafu. I felt bad because this could have been avoided if people did the right thing.
As I made my way out, I bumped into one of the organizers. "We never promised a game," he said nervously. "You actually believe that?" I asked back. "I don't think you're going to like the fallout from this. And you better have a good PR team to deal with this because people will get nasty."
There too was this man who couldn't contain his anger when one of the ushers told him that once he left the venue, he wouldn't be allowed back inside. Suffice to say that I cannot print what he said and it surely wasn't anything charitable.
Before I went home, I decided to have a late night dinner at Pho Hoa along Wilson Street in San Juan. It was there were I first read the Tweets and angry status messages on Facebook. At first they were borne of frustration. By mid-morning, it got vicious.
Then I Tweeted:
Earlier, I said this could have been avoided. The right thing to do would have been to cancel it before the point of no return. Take the loss and eat humble pie. Even though the fans would feel short changed, at least there would be proper refunds and the organizers manned up and owned up to it. It will be all forgotten and forgiven. And remember, you are talking to a populace that has had it with corrupt and inept government officials who get away with their thievery. Instead, there have been responses about not promising a game that only infuriated the already disgruntled. And about the event being for charity and maybe we didn't need to refund. That is… not the appropriate thing to say at all. I thought if people were more forthright then there would be no displeasure.
I have been told that the disconnect with the NBA was known by some of the organizers some time ago. Whatever it is… this shouldn't have happened. It sends the national team off on a sour note. It gives the MVP Group a blackeye too. This after all MVP's done. Furthermore, I wonder if this will affect the team's training in Miami and well, Blatche playing for the national team. I really have no idea as I don't really talk to the coaching staff or management of the team.
I Tweeted MVP early in the morning offering sympathies and thanking him for his giving back a lot.
Even sleep couldn't get that bad feeling out of me. Even as the NBA came out with a statement with regards to the mess, it left even more questions. If there were problems early on, why wasn't it resolved? Did they assume that by supposedly changing the format to a drills/practice/workout it would be all right with the fans? Why didn't the advertising and promotional materials communicate that? Were the organizers still thinking there'd be an 11th hour change from the NBA's stance? If there was the possibility of this backfiring, why weren't PR plans put in place? As someone who practices public relations for a living, there should always always be PR plans in place regardless of how an event goes. That way no one is caught unawares.
This morning, I spoke to a friend who is a part of this event and he lamented, "You know, this is one of those things where everybody loses."
Yes, and unfortunately, it's the sad and painful truth. But what will compound this is that it will hurt for a very long time.
I remember before the very first NBA Asia Challenge, I asked Scott Levy, NBA Asia's top man about the possibility of having a pre-season or regular season match in the Philippines. Having lived in the US and watched quite a number of live NBA games, I was more excited about the fact that it could be held in the Philippines for our countrymen to experience. Scott said that there were some things that needed to happen and when it does it will happen.
After two NBA Asia Challenges and a number of Jr. NBA and other events, the first ever pre-season game in Manila was held. While wasn't the best of performances because it wasn't packed and it coincided with a terrible traffic jam, it looked good. Finally, the magic and excitement of the NBA was here.
I missed the previous game of the NBA players because I was abroad with the Azkals and was doubly excited for this Last Home Stand. It sure was a massive disappointment that it ended this way.