BOYET Sison of the popular television sports show “Hard Ball” asked Francis Arnaiz: “In your time, would your All-Star team beat the All-Star Team of today?”
“No, never,” said Arnaiz.
“Because the game has become so different today,” said Arnaiz. “Basketball was so simple and uncomplicated then compared to today’s brand of basketball.”
“How would you compare yourselves to today’s crop of players?” Sison pursued.
“Players today are well-conditioned and so focused and determined,” said Arnaiz.
“Please elaborate?” said Sison.
“The training is really hard for the guys now,” said Arnaiz. “The players of today, including the still really young ones, are really dead serious in their basketball business. Their maturity is amazing.”
“Why, what was it like in your era?”
“There was more fun than really playing serious basketball,” said Arnaiz. “The coach is there to just tell us, ‘O, ikaw Francis, bantayan mo nang mahigpit ang tao mo.’ Just like that. No way you could hear a coach break down a play, or even see a coach map out so-called strategies using a pentel pen on the drawing board.”
Even the hard bumps and vicious body contacts that we all see in the present basketball republic as common fare were, to Arnaiz, virtually taboo in their time.
In Arnaiz’ estimation, the sheer physicality of today’s game had no place in his time.
Yes, for in their era, even a minor nudge or an inadvertent clip of the chin could lean to a bench-emptying free-for-all rumble.
But Arnaiz had a caveat.
“But if we had the same hard training and regimen then as our present players are being subjected to today, I believe we could match up with them,” Arnaiz said. “We could even beat them.”
I was lucky enough to have seen Arnaiz at his best—from the 70’s to the 80’s. With his speed, adroitness and hot hands (he was called “Mr. Clutch”), Arnaiz, only about 5-foot-8, easily ranks as one of our Top 5 point-guards of all time.
When he got traded without his knowledge, he uttered the quote to last a lifetime: “PBA players are like por kilo. They can be sold anytime.”
The Iloilo-born Arnaiz, now 66, would shortly migrate to the US, where he has settled for good the last 35 years or so.
*Happy birthday to Ramon S. Ang, the President/CEO of San Miguel Corp. who is fondly called RSA.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on January 13, 2018.
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