BY PETE AQUINO - January 2013

Happy New Year! Or as we approach the Chinese lunar new year, Gung Hay Fat Choy! May you get rid of all the misery and bad luck that's troubling you and welcome the news of good health, prosperity and the desired wishes in all aspects of our lives. It's the year of the water snake and people born under this sign are believed to be so lucky this year. When it comes to the subject of snakes, there's always the treacherous and deadly connotation associated with them unless of course we're talking about the harmless ones. But for good measure, beware of the snakes lurking around you, including those within the walls of our gymnasium! Who knows, they're just waiting for the right moment to bite and unleash that venomenous strike. Whether we believe in feng shui or not, I guess it's always a good idea to listen and take necessary precautions. My hair is getting long but I'm putting off my haircut until after the start of the Chinese new year on Feb 10th to avoid bad luck. Here are a few of my new year's wishes: that our league will continue to flourish without sacrificing its true objectives; that all our players can really enjoy our beloved pasttime in the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie; and that our commissioner, officers and referees will continue to be blessed with robust health, good judgment and impartiality.

PBL Championships. In our first finals match last season, Ramon Berania's Ginebra squad edged yours truly's Purefoods team to win the coveted championship trophy in the masters division . The teams we're evenly matched and it was a seesaw battle until the third quarter when one Purefoods player lost his cool over a contested foul and was ejected from the game. That was a critical turning point in the game because Ginebra was able to convert the free throws and ensuing ball possession, courtesy of the game's hero, Elmer Pamintuan with his clutch free throws and timely three point shooting. Purefoods fought to catch up in the fourth quarter behind the valiant efforts of Paul McBean, Rom de Guzman, Edgar Medina and Jojo Pulido but the damage was done because of its lost momentum. Costly turnovers and defensive lapses also contributed to the team's demise. Ginebra's Francis Flores played superbly to gain MVP honors. If there's a lesson to be learned in this game, it's always good to maintain our composure even in unpleasant situations because no individual player, no matter how good he is, is bigger and better than the whole team. Just as the case in this game, the consequences brought detrimental effect and outcome. The second championship game in the selection division was a runaway victory for TQ Lambanog over our very own webmaster's Bluemanizers. From the start, MVP Caloy Zabat was on the receiving end of Chris Garcia's long passes for easy baskets. Throughout the whole game, the Bluemanizers couldn't solve the fastbreak combination of Caloy and Chris. The game somewhat resembled a football game with Joe Montana throwing touchdown passes to Jerry Rice time and again. Even the heroics of former PBA standout Pokey Alolor couldn't overcome the insurmountable lead of TQ Lambanog, much to the charge in of Dennis Tanglao and his teammates. By the way, I didn't have the stats for both games so I apologize for not disclosing the scores. In the ever popular three point shootout, Edgar. "Rez Cortez" Medina bested eighteen other sharpshooters to grab the winner take all contest. With this victory, he joins a long list of three point specialist winners like Ed Yukee, Jojo De Guzman, Vani Cruz, Mike Legaspi, Edwin Nicolas, Jason Viray, including the past two winners, Vince Ensalen and Caloy Zabat.

Sports Miscellany. With Manny Pacquiao's devastating loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, some people believed it was a lucky punch that caused Pacman's downfall. However, for me there's no such thing as lucky punch in boxing. Remember what the referee always tells the boxers before the fight, "protect yourself at all times" and that really rings true in this match. It was unfortunate that it happened with one second left in the round and with Pacman ahead on all cards. There are several reasons why Pacman lost this fight but one thing I know for sure is that Marquez is a full time boxer while Pacquiao is a parttime boxer, with too many distractions like his job as a congressman, hobbies, TV hosting or perhaps his affluent stature now that he is a rich man. I think he's still a formidable boxer with about two or three big fights to redeem himself, to include his dream fight with Mayweather and a final rematch with Marquez. Win or lose in his last few fights, he has nothing to prove or to be ashamed of, if indeed the unthinkable results will happen. He has to guard against that thinking he can box for as long as he thinks he can, to avoid inflicting further damage to himself leading to Parkinson's disease. Just look at Muhammad Ali if he can learn a lesson. Whatever happens down the road, his legacy as a great boxer is intact, paving the way for the next generation of champion Pinoy pugilists with Nonito Donaire and Brian Veloria included....It looks like the
Warriors will finally make the playoffs if they continue to play like this first half of the season. Although they're still suspect at center position because Andrew Bogut still can't play full time because of health reasons, the team's chemistry is excellent with two legitimate all stars in Lee and Curry and a good supporting cast mixed with youth, experience and athleticism. What may happen at the end of the regular season is having the two most storied franchises in NBA history, Boston Celtics and LA Lakers, not making the playoffs. The Celtics, although they have one of the best coaching minds in Doc Rivers, are an aging team not to discount the reality that their point guard Rondo is lost for the season. As for the Lakers, I don't know if they can win with Dwight Howard at center. He's enigmatic and seems to play half-best at times that it affects his teammates, most of all Kobe Bryant who can't do the job alone. As of now, I'll look at the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, especially if Derrick Rose is back in action, and Oklahoma City to battle it out for the championship.....What a bitter pill to swallow that the Niners were within five yards to score a touchdown and perhaps win it all. If they did, San Francisco should have tied Pittsburgh with the most victories and joins Boston as the only cities with championships in both baseball and football in the same year. But no such good fortune occurred and we'll just contemplate on the factors that contributed to the team's failure. They may be attributed to the team not showing up to play in the first thirty two minutes, questionable play calling on offense particularly the last two minutes of the game, defensive lapses allowing a kickoff return touchdown and the other long touchdown with third and long yardage plus a few questionable non-calls on penalties by the game officials. But there's hope because last year, we lost in the conference championship and this year, we lost in the Super Bowl. So what's next but having to win it all. The other consolation we have is that, Punxsatawney Phil, the famous groundhog didn't cast a shadow so we'll have early spring and avoid hibernation in the cold and nightmares about the Ravens victory celebration.

Our games this early season are limited to the master division only, as some teams in the other division pulled out at the last minute. We should commend our commish, Tony Lugtu, to remedy the situation and not allowing our current schedule to be sabotaged by the sudden pullout. He is one of the most dedicated, hardworking and mild-mannered commissioners we ever had so more power to him. We're halfway through our season and I haven't seen all the rookies play. One promising rookie that bears watching is Purefoods' Matt "Agent Bourne" Buendia, the sweet shooting southpaw and downtown specialist. I'll be on the lookout for the others before this season ends. Before I'll close, I wish everyone a very Happy Valentine's day! Gents, don't forget to take care of your loved ones or else you'll be tormented. Finally, I'd like to dedicate this column to our first grandson and second grandchild, Benjamin. I'm hoping that someday he'll be a future PBLer along with our current crop of youngsters within and beyond the PBL family, and will surely make grandpa very proud. See you all on the court!