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36ers missing point or ahead of curve?

YESTERDAY formally announcing the 36ers will play the infamous Philippines national team in Manila later this month, has the club's management yet again completely misread public opinion? Or is it leading the way toward healing?

It's a valid question, even if the Adelaide-based NBL club hasn't consistently shown any great ability to correctly read its supporter base. Just revisit the "Curious Case of Mitchell Creek" to see how wildly wrong the 36ers can be when trialled in the court of public opinion.

When Basketball On The Internet revealed details of the proposed matches in Manila last month here, the social media outcry was extraordinary and overwhelming.

To revisit, the 36ers, who played preseason games in Singapore in 2017, Utah last year and who will again face the NBA's Jazz in Salt Lake City on October 5, accepted two matches against the Philippines national team, scheduled for August 23 and 25.

When we revealed that on July 16, the social media manure hit the fan full force, fans irate Adelaide could accept such an invitation in light of what occurred between the Filipinos and the Australian Boomers in Manila a year prior.

If you need any reminder about the "Melee in Manila" which led to 13 players - 10 of them Filipinos - and two coaches copping suspensions, then just revisit it here. Or here.

The truth of it is, Australian basketball fans were rightly outraged and righteously indignant - not my own favourite state of mind but absolutely appropriate in this instance - at how appallingly the Filipinos behaved pre-incident, through the incident and even AFTER the incident.

If FIBA had any Moltens, Wilsons or Spaldings - which it doesn't - it should have suspended the Philippines from international play through the World Cup and Olympics as a genuine and powerful reminder such behaviour is completely unacceptable, abhorrent and that the deterrent is comprehensive and expensive.

Instead, it dished out a bunch of wrist slaps and platitudes and allowed the Filipinos to progress through qualifying into the 2019 Worlds in China from August 31-September 15.

So, to be clear, most of the outrage from basketball and 36ers fans focused on the Sixers actually accepting the two-match invitation and, in effect, helping the Filipinos' Worlds preparation.

Typically, the 36ers misread the hostile reaction, believing the concerns to be about player safety. So a day after our story last month, the club released a statement on July 17.

"The trip presents a great opportunity for the 36ers’ new-look team to bond as a group, refine game-plans and develop against a quality opponent. However, team safety is of paramount importance and the club is currently working closely with Basketball Australia, the NBL and Philippines Basketball to exercise due diligence before making any commitments."

A forehead slap is appropriate here.

Surely, that ALL goes without saying. Due diligence and player safety automatically would (or should) have been, at the very least, the No.2 agenda item before accepting the match.

No.1 should have been "is this a good idea?"

That's where the 36ers either completely - again - misread the tea leaves OR were ahead of the curve in taking the first steps toward rebuilding our sporting relationship with the Philippines.

Consider for a moment that Australian teams - West Adelaide Bearcats, St Kilda Saints spring to mind - have been visiting basketball-mad Manila since the 70s.

What happened nearly 13 months ago cannot be undone. But we cannot move forward, either, until someone extends an olive branch or is prepared to smoke the peace pipe.

So there you go. That is the other way of looking at it but as much as I like to see fences mended and bridges built, my attitude at this point still would be stuff them. That's why I'm not in the Diplomatic Corps.

Yes I know. That's not very evolved of me and I might feel different in a year. But right now, the sight of that out-of-control fool ramming a chair leg on Chris Goulding's neck while the Boomers guard was in a foetal position on the ground being kicked and punched by a pack of hyenas is still a little too vivid.

Thank goodness Aussie assistant coach Luc Longley - with manager Junior Albert in full support - then barged his huge frame through the scrum of chaos to save Goulding, violently being pummeled by at least eight Filipinos. It’s not ridiculous to say Longley may have saved his life.

So no, I'm not yet in the "forgive" camp, unlike the 36ers, and more power to them.

Of course, there is another possible scenario too, that someone significant in Philippines Basketball contacted the Adelaide 36ers and offered the team an all-expenses trip to Manila to play two games against the national team.

Without even thinking, the offer was accepted. Under normal circumstances, who wouldn't accept?

Then, when the fall-out began, the Sixers thought they had better put out something to assure everyone their players would be safe, which really was never the issue.

So yesterday, August 4, to put out a release saying: "The Adelaide 36ers have accepted an invitation to take on the Philippines national team as part of their Goodwill Games in Manila in late August," is kind of hilarious, given what's already transpired.

The 36ers' visit will be the first by an Australian team since the "Melee in Manila".

“Basketball Australia and the club have ticked all the boxes to make sure it’s a safe trip. I’ve lived in the Philippines and played basketball over there for years and have never had any trouble," 36ers coach Joey Wright said.

“The Philippines have been playing basketball at a high level for 40 years and they’ve had one fight, so I don’t anticipate any issues.

“It’s a new coach. I’m very familiar with the coach, he’s a good friend of mine. I think they’ll be on their best behaviour and obviously we will,” Wright said.

Fingers crossed, rather than fists clenched.

SO TO today in Adelaide and the revelation the 36ers, now relocated from their spiritual and ancestral home of Titanium Security Arena, aka Clipsal Powerhouse, aka Distinctive Homes Dome, aka Brett Maher Court to Adelaide Entertainment Centre, that the club would be training at West Adelaide Bearcats' home at Port Adelaide Stadium.

What a crying shame no-one in the organisation has any real comprehension of the significance of that "back to the future" style move.

When the 36ers hastily were formed ahead of the 1982 NBL season as a composite team which, for expediency's sake, was called Adelaide City Eagles, West Adelaide Bearcats continued in their own right.

That decision was right, too, as they won the 1982 NBL Championship with one of the best teams in the league's history, albeit one which is often overlooked in G.O.A.T. conversations. 

Rebranded as Adelaide 36ers, the composite team's derby rivalry with West became one for the ages in 1983 and 1984. But by 1985, West too was battling financially to maintain its position, ultimately also deciding to merge into the Adelaide 36ers.

When the merger occurred, such was the influence and significance of West - by far SA's most successful club on the men's side - the "new 36ers" even contemplated ditching that name and calling this single NBL entity "Adelaide Bearcats".

Ultimately, they stuck with "the 36ers" and secured a major sponsor in brewer West End. The new club then was the West End Adelaide 36ers and within two years, back again at the top of the NBL tree.

From the Bearcats' team, import Brian Devincenzi, Al Green, Peter Ali, Raymon Wood, Mike McKay and David Spear, along with coach Ken Cole, formed the basis of the new 36ers to start 1985. The rest of the team comprised players from all the other club teams in SA.

So the 36ers in 2019 returning to the home of West Adelaide Bearcats to train - where that 1982 banner resides in the rafters - is a welcome homecoming. 

Aug 5

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