Paying a steep price, fans feel robbed at Last Home Stand

Jane Bracher

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If there's one thing we learned from the Last Home Stand, it's that hell truly hath no fury like Filipino basketball fans scorned

 MIC'D UP. The NBA stars come out not with matching jerseys but with matching mics - already a hint that they won't play a game. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – There was no game and the biggest losers at the Last Home Stand were the fans.

What was supposed to be an unforgettable and historic night for Filipino basketball fans turned into a disaster marked by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations, and a boat load of yelling and inconvenience.

Fans prematurely stormed out of the basketball charity event on Tuesday night, July 22, not even bothering to finish the show put together by the organizers to make up for removing the 5-on-5 scrimmage between NBA stars and Gilas Pilipinas.

And why would they? They were promised a game, they expected a game, but they lucked out horribly and did not get anything close to seeing what they braved the rainy night for.

“The word I used earlier was it’s bullshit,” said an irate fan, one of the first to leave his seat and ask for a refund.

“It’s not acceptable for them to sell this as a game and then to get everybody here and say, ‘We’re not gonna play a game. If you want your money back, wait and we’ll give you a phone number,'” he said, who took the time off to see NBA stars play against Gilas Pilipinas with his kids.

“This is probably the worst sporting event I’ve ever been to.”

Just how big did the fans lose on Tuesday night?

Depending on where they were seated, it could be from anywhere between P750 to P23,300. That doesn’t even include that night’s dinner, travel fare, and just the mere effort of getting there. Whether it was traveling for hours from outside of Manila, to taking the day off at work or school, fans felt they were robbed.

“We paid like P10,000 for a ticket and there’s no game? It’s just a waste of time for us going here. It’s just stupid,” said Clifford Ang, who tried talking to the Araneta Coliseum personnel about getting the promoters to face the fans at the lobby and shed light on what had just transpired.

“It’s like deceiving people. Even the Araneta manager is surprised as well, he thought there was a game.”

It didn’t take long for tensions to escalate as more people poured out of the arena and into the lobby, yelling curses and calling out PLDT in an attempt to air their frustration and find someone to blame.

“Just give everybody a refund!” screamed a livid fan. “Kami na nga ang naloko! You have to pay me double!” (We’ve been deceived!)

About 45 minutes earlier, those people were ecstatic in anticipation of seeing the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kyle Lowry and other NBA stars in action against Gilas in what should have been a fitting send-off for the national team bound for the World Cup in Spain.

Each Gilas and NBA player was called out complete with a flashy introduction to rev the fans up even more. In hindsight, watching the players come out from the dugout wearing lapels was already an indication that they wouldn’t be playing.

For why would they wear wireless microphones if they would really be sweating it out?

Then Blake Griffin’s video explaining why he begged off at the last-second flashed on Araneta’s LED screen before Gilas head coach Chot Reyes took the mic and announced at center court that there would be no game. And at that moment there was restlessness inside the Big Dome. There was a brief moment of silence and it was noticeable.

PLDT Home Executive Vice President Ariel Fermin was then introduced and he took the mic, holding a piece of paper from which he read that the decent-sized crowd would instead witness something he claimed they have “never seen before.”

He said the fans would be watching how Gilas Pilipinas will prepare for the World Cup with the help of renowned US coach and former pro player John Lucas and the NBA stars present.

That didn’t merit much reaction from fans either.

But when he said that PLDT was willing to offer a refund if the fans did not like what they saw, and that a phone number would be flashed on Araneta’s screens, it seemed to have sunk in.

They paid a steep price for something far less than what was advertised.

The boos started coming quickly to a crescendo when Fermin reminded everybody that while they could get a refund, Last Home Stand was still a charity event.

“They offered a refund pero after noon sinabi nila na para daw sa charity, so siyempre na-corner kami, wala kami magawa,” said Red Ollero, 25. (They offered a refund but after that they said it’s for charity, so we were cornered and couldn’t do anything.)

After that, Gilas and the NBA stars began warming up, stretching and soon did drills as fans booed sporadically.

SHOW TIME. DeMar DeRozan jumps over Toronto Raptors teammate Kyle Lowry for a dunk in one of the attempts to appease an Araneta crowd expecting a game. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

No amount and quality of showmanship and antics by the NBA stars were enough to make up for what the fans wanted. The jeers grew louder and more frequent. Cheers became sarcastic as well.

Sitting a row behind the courtside barriers, the chorus of boos and the very palpable rage filling the coliseum amid the professional athletes on the court trying to make everybody happy was like watching a scene straight out of 500 Days of Summer.

It was practically a front row seat to a real-life representation of the expectation-reality meme made popular by the movie.

“Filipinos are very fond of basketball,” remarked 30-year old Eric from Quezon City. “Pero yung players na hindi pinaglaro, it’s like you’re bringing singers here na hindi mo pinakanta.” (Bringing players and not letting them play is like bringing singers here and not letting them sing.)

Even the absence of Griffin and Paul George, who backed out as well but wasn’t announced until a couple of hours before the event started, was something the fans could deal with as long as they could still witness a 5-on-5.

“All the posters advertised that Blake Griffin was gonna be here. I know they have no control over Griffin but him not being here is obviously a disappointment as well,” another fan noted who pulled out his family from the venue.

Soon after it became clear what had happened.

The NBA didn’t allow the 5-on-5 to push through because the organizers failed to meet the league’s deadline and, according to the league’s official statement, they “didn’t take the necessary steps” that would have allowed the NBA players to participate in an exhibition game. The organizers also claimed they didn’t intend to advertise the event as a game, but rather as a “show” and an “experience.”

While PLDT chairman Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) readily claimed responsibility for the disastrous event and PLDT rolled out the process for getting refunds, the fans are still dealing with the fact that they were deceived.

“Alam mo naman mga Pilipino kahit hindi mo na bigyan ng refund yan basta paglaruin mo lang sila okay na yan eh. Kaso hindi. Wala man lang isang quarter na binigay eh,” Eric exclaimed.

(You know Filipinos, even if you don’t give them a refund, as long as you let them play it would’ve been alright. But no. They didn’t even allow one quarter.)

DRILLS. Gilas Pilipinas ran drills instead of playing against a group of NBA Stars. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

Lost in all of this is how this affects Gilas Pilipinas, who will be leaving on Friday, July 25 for training camp in Miami before flying straight to Spain.

They didn’t get the proper send-off they deserved as they head to battle at the FIBA World Cup.

The failed event should never detract from what Gilas is hoping to achieve for the country. The support shouldn’t waver in spite of the negativity.

“We know we have our country’s full support,” said Gilas team captain Jimmy Alapag. “All the kababayans (fellow Filipinos) supporting us all over the world, they will still be with us when we get to Spain.”

Before making a beeline for the door, Eric added: “I am very disappointed with this event. We support Gilas Pilipinas but yung event na ‘to sana hindi na lang nila ginawa.”

(We support Gilas Pilipinas but I wish they never mounted this event.)

Ollero, wearing a white Gilas jersey replica, let his frustrations out as he explained how insulting what happened was especially to the fans who truly love the game.

“Nakakainis kasi sobrang daming fans ng basketball and for them to extort it like that, di ba?” (It’s annoying because so many fans love basketball and for them to extort it like that, right?)

Last Home Stand was dubbed as the “biggest basketball charity event in the country.” But it fell apart before it even started.

The fans, paying a steep price, were bought into seeing a game and they want their money back.

If there is one thing we all learned from this, it’s the undeniable fact that hell truly hath no fury like Filipino hoops fans scorned. –

See related stories: 

Read more stories on the Last Home Stand issue here.

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