“I realize I am very privileged. But there’s a difference between being spoiled and privileged.” Petra Ecclestone
By Alex P. Vidal
As we have written in the past, Rep. Manny Pacquiao’s other interests aside from breaking a jaw and disfiguring a face are playing chess, billiards and basketball.
Because of his enormous love for the hoops, nobody was gutsy enough to tell him straight in the face that he would succumb to the Peter Principle if he insisted on enlisting himself as playing coach in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), a field reserved for those gifted with extended legs.
After all, they can’t say no to a moneyed superstar. They don’t dash the dreams of a globally-known sports hero into pieces.
If Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) decides to pull some strings, the five feet and six inches tall eight-time world boxing champion can even make it to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup-bound Team Gilas Pilipinas in Spain this month.
Again, it’s hard to say “NO” to a ring icon who is considered as one of the top 50 richest athletes in the world. He is too popular and too influential to be ignored and taken for granted.
In the Philippines today, what Pacquiao wants, Pacquiao gets. He wanted a slot in the 2016 senatorial contest and Vice President Jejomar Binay granted his wish right away like a Genie in the bottle.
No questions asked. No beating around the bush.
Pacquiao thus became unofficially the opposition party’s first confirmed senatorial nominee in the 2016 congressional elections.
Pacquiao can even wish to play in the World 9-ball Pool championship, but he has to pass through the proverbial hole in the needle by hurdling the tough elimination rounds, the same route regularly embarked by Bata Reyes, Django Bustamante, Gaga Gabica, among other Filipino world class pool players. He probably won’t undergo this laborious ordeal.
And Pacquiao must have abandoned this glamorous stab in additional stardom a long time ago when he realized that some of the best billiard hustlers in the country he “beat” in the club tournaments intentionally threw a match to please the ego of the only man in the planet to retire Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008.
In other words, Pacquiao must have realized a long time ago that he pulled the rug from under those top-rated billiard players both in the exhibition and betting matches not because he was as good as Thorsten Hohmann and Alex Pagulayan, but because the local pool players wanted to laugh their way to the bank by forcing him to engage them in a set-up winner-takes-all finale with bundles of betting cash involved.
As I have written in the past, Pacquiao loves to play chess inside his Mandalay Bay suite while revving up mentally days before his world title matches in Las Vegas.
I saw the former titleholder in the WBC, IBF, IBO and WBO divisions move the pawns, knights and bishops like super-grandmasters Mikhail Tal, Yasser Seirawan and Vasily Smyslov, but doesn’t have the talent to marshal the wood soldiers to make a Reti Opening, Fianchetto Attack, Pirc Defense, Queen’s Gambit Accepted/Declined and Nimzo Indian.
A week before the start of the 41st World Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway last August 1st, the Philippine men’s team was wobbled by a series of withdrawals from top-rated grandmasters.
Inactive GM Jayson Gonzalez, a team coach, was forced to play in the eleventh hour after US-based GM Rogelio Barcenilla Jr. begged off from flying to Norway in the last minute due to fear of possible terror attacks.
RP team suffered a major setback weeks earlier when super-GM Wesley So, ranked 12th in the world, refused to play for the country and added insult to the Filipinos’ injury by acting as coach of the US team.
We have actually lost So, who would have played Board No. 1 for the Philippines, after he decided to join the United States Chess Federation and will soon be playing for the Americans for good.
If Pacquiao was too ambitious and the zugswang in the composition of the RP men chess team happened months earlier, he could now be in Tromso, Norway as a substitute for Board 3 player Eugene Torre, 63, the only wood pusher in the world who never missed a single Chess Olympiad since the 1974 World Chess Olympiad in Nice, France.
The last-hour withdrawal of GM Oliver Barbosa finally sealed the fate of the Filipinos, and it would have bolstered Pacquiao’s chances to earn a berth in the undermanned men’s team.
Remember, what Pacquiao wants, Pacquiao gets.
And he doesn’t give a hoot what both his fans and critics will say.