Perils of the new kid  

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

The Converge FiberXers are entering the Philippine Basketball Association next season in a much better state than other new kids on the block in the past. Technically, they are not an expansion team, but a new owner. Since they’ve acquired the Alaska franchise in its entirety, they already have a competitive team, a functioning system, and a culture of competing with honor. Of course, the new team management will have its own direction, but they won’t be starting from zero.

In the past, the PBA would require teams to protect eight players or so on their roster to allow expansion teams to pick from the rest. This would give the new team some bare bones to work with, but not that much in terms of leadership and outstanding talent. They were basically putting butts on the bench. When Purefoods entered the PBA in 1988, they were allowed to directly hire four players from the national team that had played as a guest in the league. They were Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codiñera and Glenn Capacio. This made the Hotdogs immediately competitive, as they quickly made the All-Filipino Finals their home.

After its record-setting ratings in 1989, the PBA took in expansion teams Pepsi and Pop Cola the following season, diluting the field. Coupled with a randomized schedule and increasing traffic that made it difficult for fans to get to the PhilSports Arena, the league’s attendance and TV ratings took a hit.

In other cases, acquiring a team was not so cut and dried. When Asia Brewery bought the Toyota franchise in 1984, Robert Jaworski objected to being part of the sale. After a very public brouhaha, he was released from the team to Añejo Rum (later Ginebra San Miguel), along with Francis Arnaiz, Arnie Tuadles and Chito Loyzaga. The other team members went along with the acquisition, and became Manila Beer. This fractured the relationships of players on both sides, as they argued on talk shows and news programs about contractual obligations versus freedom of choice.

In the NBA, it took the Dallas Mavericks 31 years to win a title. They entered the league in 1980 as an expansion team, and suffered through growth pains, rebirths and rebuilding. Eventually, with an all-time great forward in Dirk Nowitzki (whom they acquired in 1998), the Mavs ascended to greatness, peaking with a championship run in 2011. After another rebuilding process and missing the playoffs for two seasons, the franchise is on the upswing again.

Still, it won’t be easy for the FiberXers. No one wants to become a footnote in history by being the first to be defeated by a newbie. Also, though the team may have had its own culture as the Alaska Milkmen, Converge is not selling milk. They will want to create an image based on their product and service. So there will be an adjustment period, a new meshing of personalities. And we have yet to see if they will inherit the strong, loyal Alaska fan base, or have to court a new one.



  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with