MANILA, JULY 19, 2008
(STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - We’ve all heard about the overwhelming reception Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas received in the Philippines and his gushing review in his blog on Arenas received a lot of love in his three days here and he responded in kind.

But there’s more.

Raphael Bartholomew, an American writing a book about basketball in the Philippines, wrote a piece on the Agent Zero Asian Tour which was published in The New York Times Thursday. In the story entitled “A Filipino Embrace,” Bartholomew chronicled Arenas’ first trip to the Philippines in great detail and his reactions to all his experiences.

“He really received the rock star treatment while he was here,” the 6-4 Bartholomew told The STAR. Bartholomew, a graduate of Northwestern, is a huge basketball fan who has been in the Philippines for over two years trying to finish his book.

“They make you feel like you’re a god,” Bartholomew quoted Arenas as saying. “When my NBA career is done, I have to play here one year just to feel that.”

“This country’s love of basketball may surprise the players, but it is well known to sportswear companies, which have been sending American stars to Manila for years,” Bartholomew wrote. “Despite its small population and weak economy compared with other Asian markets like China, India and Japan, the Philippines consistently cracks the top four in rankings of Asian basketball sales for Adidas, according to Joey Singian, the managing director of Adidas Philippines.”

Bartholomew, whose piece on the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry also made it to the New York Times last year, wrote in great detail about fans’ emotional reaction to Arenas and compared it to a papal visit. In the article, Odette Velarde of the Adidas marketing group noted that many NBA players who came here are “not the Mr. Congeniality types” and limit their contact with the public, as well as their autograph signing. But not Arenas. His being approachable endeared him even more to Filipino fans, who responded with even more affection.

“I feel like Jay-Z in the States,” Arenas told the crowd at the Trinoma Mall that Sunday afternoon. “I don’t get this kind of love in Washington.”

Bartholomew, for his part, finds himself in a happy quandary. Every time he thinks he’s close to finishing his book, he learns something more about the rich and colorful love affair Filipinos have with the sport. Prior to the Arenas piece, Bartholomew also did a follow-up on injured former Alaska import Roselle Ellis for a Seattle newspaper.

“I started doing interviews for a chapter on the Crispa-Toyota rivalry and it added another 20 to 30 pages to my book,” Bartholomew told The STAR. “I don’t know when I’m going to finish. There’s always so much more to it.”

And his efforts, along with the reviews of Gilbert Arenas, will go a long way in helping erase some of the country’s negative image around the world and show how warm and welcoming we are as a people.

* * *

“Sportstacking is going to be big here in the Philippines and in the rest of Asia,” reveals Larry Goers, vice-president of the World Speedstacking Association.

Goers was in the Philippines this week to help promote the new sport formerly known as cup stacking. The sport requires participants to stack and unstack 12 specially made plastic cups in different configurations in the fastest possible time. The current holder of two overall world records is 10-year-old Steven Purugganan, a Filipino.

He and his two older brothers are in the top 10 in the world. The Philippine sportstacking association is run by Aris Alipon and Derrick Chiongbian.

“I first learned about the Philippines through these guys, even before I knew about Steven,” Goers admits. “We’ve already gotten many inquiries from schools, which is the true base for the sport.”

Sportstacking started in California over a decade ago when a bunch of kids were trying to find something to do in their spare time. It soon spread to Denver, Colorado, where the sport’s top officials taught it to schoolchildren.

Purugganan, a YouTube sensation (type in dvpurugs), finished shooting a McDonald’s commercial in Chicago in June. He also shares the tandem stacking record with his brother, wherein one of them uses his left hand while the other uses his right. Goers expressed amazement at the large increments with which the youngest Purugganan breaks the times set by older competitors.

“He shatters the record; he doesn’t just break them,” Goers adds. “The German team wasn’t particularly happy having all their record broken by this little kid. So they went back to more serious training.”

Goers also revealed one unique attribute of the sport: youth is a big advantage.

“I’ve noticed that, when they get older even just in their late teens, stackers start to slow down,” Goers said, speaking from personal experience. “This is the only sport I know where kids are at an advantage.”

And the World Sport Stacking Association is hoping to find more Filipino sensations for their new game.

Arum seriously considering rich Pacman-Dela Hoya bout Saturday, July 19, 2008

The “financial renumerations” will be taken into serious consideration whether or not a dream fight between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar dela Hoya can take place by the end of the year.

Top Rank big boss Bob Arum, who owns the promotional rights over Pacquiao, said a clearer picture should emerge when he sits down with Pacquiao next week in Las Vegas.

Arum is not closing the door on the possibility of a megabuck fight between Pacquiao and Dela Hoya, an idea that has long been drawn up but fanned by trainer Freddie Roach.

“Yes, of course, there is,” Arum told Sports Chat yesterday morning (Manila time).

The ageless and legendary promoter said everything is “premature” at the moment since there are too many factors to be considered even before the concerned parties sit down.

Arum said Pacquiao is scheduled to fly to the US later this week to watch the Miguel Coto-Antonio Margarito fight on July 26 at the MGM Grand.

“Manny is coming to Vegas for the (Miguel) Coto fight. He’ll be arriving on Friday and we’ll discuss what his plans are going to be,” said Arum, batting for a Pacquiao-Humberto Soto fight in November.

“Unless I sit down with (Pacquiao lawyer) Jeng Gacal and Manny and find out their financial demands and find out what percentage of the revenue we can get from a Dela Hoya-Pacquiao fight everything is really premature,” Arum told the radio program.

“And secondly, whether the financial renumerations are appropriate,” he added. – Abac Cordero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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