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In Praise Of Fred Uytengsu's Bravery

The Alaska owner recently spoke out against the re-hiring of the PBA's marketing head. That took balls
by Kirby Garlitos | Mar 14, 2016
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Dear Mr. Fred Uytengsu,

I don’t want to take too much of your time because we all know you’re a busy man. But I have a very good reason for writing to you. It's about the Philippine Basketball Association, a league that I believe has turned into a full-blown circus-on-the-hardcourt in recent months. I’m a fan of the PBA. I have been since the early '90s when Allan Caidic was raining threes for Presto Tivoli. Those were the days, right?

I’d give a lot to go back to those days when the game and its players were all that mattered. Sure, the game wasn’t as scientific as it is now, but compared to what the PBA is slowly becoming, I'm all for hard-nosed, balls-out basketball. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time a league that’s supposed to be rooted in the game of basketball dominated the headlines for non-basketball reasons. You’re one of the team owners of this league and I'm sure it also concerns you that a lot of fans have voiced their displeasure, not with the brand of basketball that’s being played, but by the words and actions of the people running it.

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I’m not pointing to one specific incident because there have been far too many of them in recent months. There have been issues with the draft and the draft lottery. There have been issues with the officiating. There have been issues with the consistency of the punishments handed down to players. Now, there are issues with the league office itself and the people running it. It’s one issue after another. I know that as a team owner, you are cognizant of how these issues are being perceived by the real lifeblood of the PBA: the fans.

Now I’m not going to go so far as to say that the league has lost its credibility, but it has been tarnished to a certain extent. It’s a little disheartening, and I’m sure that’s a sentiment that a lot of fans will echo. That said, the reason I’m writing this letter to you and not to the other team owners is simple.

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As a fan of the PBA, I want to express my gratitude to you for restoring some semblance of integrity to this league. I understand how tough it is to stand on one side of the fence when all your mates are on the other side. But you did so, at the expense of possibly alienating yourself with those people.

I read your comments about the current issue the league has found itself embroiled in and I appreciate the candor and honesty by which you spoke. You were more than fair with your assessments; you didn’t throw anybody under the bus. Your comments were not sprinkled with personal animosity, nor did they contain any implied barbs towards anybody. You were direct, fair, and open-minded in critiquing the problems of the league and in pointing out the things that it can improve on to make it look better in the eyes of the business partners and more importantly, the fans.

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You also highlighted the curious nature by which your peers make decisions on serious issues. These decisions, right or wrong, have far-reaching implications, not just on the PBA, but on us as a Filipino society in general.

If the top brass of the oldest and most decorated professional basketball league in Asia can’t seem to grasp the concept of sports being the ultimate form of meritocracy, then what does it say about us as a people? It’s strange that the people responsible for maintaining the success of the league don’t appear willing to make the necessary changes and improvements to make it better.

It takes some guts to point all of these things out, more so that by doing it you opened yourself up to the same criticism for being a part of this group. I can’t speak for other PBA fans, but for what it’s worth, I appreciate your honesty and your conviction on these issues, especially when it became clear that nobody else was willing to stand by you.

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Rest assured, sir. Your words didn’t go unnoticed.


A PBA fan


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