Grand slam champion San Mig Super Coffee will be going to the PBA 40th season starting Oct. 19 with a bull’s-eye sign on its back, a red cape fluttering before it and 11 other teams looking to deliver a deathblow to the Mixers’ four-conference reign.
Winning five straight championships, much more a record-matching six to tie the legendary Crispa Redmanizers, will therefore be a gauntlet for the ballclub which all league governors who went on the record during yesterday’s PBA pre-season press conference picked as the team to beat in the forthcoming Philippine Cup at the 50,000-capacity Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
None of the board representatives present at the Palawan Room of the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, from chairman Patrick Gregorio of Talk ‘N Text and vice chairman Robert Non of San Miguel Beer to newcomers Ginnia Domingo of Kia Motors and Silliman Sy of Blackwater, found the need to be unnecessarily courageous in waving a fist at the direction of San Mig Coffee, tactfully expressing their preference for the Mixers, along that of Talk ‘N Text, Rain or Shine and San Miguel Beer, as the four most likely to figure in the homestretch race to the Finals.
San Mig governor Rene Pardo quickly moved to defuse the pressure heaved on his team, however, saying “any of the 11 teams, on a given night, can beat us.” He named Rain or Shine, Alaska and Talk ‘N Text as teams likely to give the Mixes a run for their money and Crispa’s record.
As earlier announced by the PBA, the ambitious opening games as envisioned by Gregorio will feature boxing icon Manny Pacquiao’s Kia Sorento against the Blackwater Elite at 3 p.m. following the 1:30 p.m. inaugural rites. The blockbuster clash between Talk ‘N Text and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is at 5:15 p.m.
PBA commissioner Chito Salud bared that a special guest of honor has been invited for the 45-minute ceremony but has yet to confirm his availability. Word is the invitee is no less than President Aquino himself.
Salud also recounted a recent conversation with Pacquiao where the eight-division boxing champion, who is scheduled to fight in November in Macau, has promised to suit up for the Blackwater game.
“Manny promised to play a couple of minutes,” Salud said. “I just told him, ‘please don’t get injured.’”
Salud added he has no doubts Pacquiao knows the extent of his dabbling in his childhood passion. “Manny is smart and I know that he will not place his team or himself in a position that will be embarrassing to both.”
Kia, according to Domingo, president of Kia Motors, is making available fleets of buses enough to accommodate thousands of fans to and fro the cavernous state-of the art venue while NLEX, said its president Ramoncito Fernandez, is finalizing security and traffic contingency measures for the grand opening, which Gregorio said seeks to bring the games closer to PBA fans in the north.
“Kaunting unawa po muna sa mga fans natin from Cavite and Pasay,” said Gregorio, who introduced a Chairman’s Ball and a proposal for PBA teams to recruit Asian players as among the immediate projects of his young chairmanship. Fifteen more PBA players will also be added to the 25 Greatest Players already recognized, bringing the list to 40 who will then be feted in April next year.
Globalport governor Erick Arejola, meanwhile, has been appointed treasurer and will ascend the chairmanship in 2016.
Other governors present were Dickie Bachmann of Alaska, Manny Alvarez of Barako Bull, Al Panlilio of Meralco, Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine and Alfrancis Chua of Barangay Ginebra.
Chua parried questions that Kia Motors, with Pacquiao, could be out to challenge Ginebra in the area of popularity. “I think Manny playing in the PBA will be good not only for Kia but for the whole PBA,” Chua said.
Salud, on his fourth year as commissioner, paid tribute to the “founding fathers” and the “pioneering generation” of the PBA for providing the “bedrock” from which the league has grown and evolved.