BY NATAZIA D. GRIMARES | 114500 | 2 AB EU | SA 21 – Q
“Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!” was the ever so popular school cheer that echoed throughout the big dome last Saturday afternoon. The event? Ateneo and La Salle battle it out for a slot into the UAAP 75 Men’s Seniors Basketball finals. The intense and never-ending rivalry between these two schools started decades ago. No one really knows how this rivalry started but legend says it began because some students from the (then) all-boys’ schools were going for the same girls. A little ways down the road, the competition was brought onto the court when both schools were part of the NCAA. Both teams are now part of the UAAP and the rivalry has not died down. There was even a musical that ran early this year entitled, “Rivalry: Ateneo-La Salle The Musical”.
Last Saturday was my first time to witness an Ateneo vs. La Salle basketball game live. I wasn’t sure of what to expect. I’ve read a few articles written a few years back saying that in the 70’s-80’s, college students that frequented the basketball scene were so into rivalries that they were brought even outside the court. My father also told me that fights would break out and anything that would happen during a game would become personal. Others would even carry drinks in their coleman jugs to further lift their spirits during games. It was really such a form of merriment back then where people would even cut their classes just to attend. Nowadays, things aren’t so extreme – or risky but still significant just the same. And they don’t go as far as uncalled for pikonan and physical violence.
I arrived in SMART Araneta Coliseum two hours earlier and immediately lined up because I was only able to get Upper Box B tickets (free seating). But based on my past experience, it is much more fun in the higher seats because it is where the Blue Babble Battalion is located. They always bring that spark that gets the crowd going. Basically, the “set-up” is that the priests/brothers, school officials and old farts sit in Patron and in Lowerbox (with a slight hint of the younger generation). While Upper Box A, B and General Admission are where the “real fans” are because they are the ones standing throughout the entire game and actively participating through cheer as the “6th man”.
When we entered the area, my friend and I hurriedly ran up the stairs (where I fell and just laughed it off) to reserve seats for all of us. After we were seated, I bought food because it’s what I like to do when I’m nervous – I eat to rid myself of nervousness. My palms started to sweat…I knew that on paper, we were light-years ahead of La Salle but during a much-anticipated game such as this where more than 18,000 supporters attend, anything could happen. DLSU has had a great run this year with its new recruit and this season’s rookie of the year, Jeron Teng. He’s been playing great and he has scored the most points in a single game with 35 pts. But I knew we were going to come out of the game victorious, even the top basketball experts say so.
So I was in the arena; happily carrying my clapper balloons (which later on I would break because I squeezed them too hard), bringing my A-game cheer. I was with my friends so I knew that although it was going to be a heart-stopping, frustrating game – it was going to be fun and exciting experience. I immediately started cheering as soon as the game started. I have to admit I don’t know all the cheers but I tried as hard as I could to remember them. I felt a sudden surge of emotion while watching because both teams were evenly matched. When Ateneo scored, La Salle did shortly after and vice versa. It was a cycle. It was like up until the 3rd quarter when we were down by 11 points. At this point, I was intensely chewing on my pizza and looking down because I was scared of what would happen next. But thankfully, because of La Salle’s unforced errors and Kiefer Ravena’s persistence, we were back in the game. We Ateneans cheered as loud as we could with our fists up in the air!
School spirit really showed. When DLSU was up, they chanted as loud as they could, “Beat Ateneo! Animo La Salle!” and discouraged as we were, we had no reply. But when we were up, “Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!” was chanted repeatedly and it was such a sensation. For the first time in my life, ever since I started supporting Ateneo even before I got admitted to the school, I felt like I belonged. I was there in my “Go Blue Eagles!” shirt and blue shorts while proudly holding the “fight” banner (as seen in the picture above) that they normally give out during games and I felt elated. I’ve never been part of something so big before. At one point and as corny as it sounds, I even closed my eyes and took in all the energy and positive vibes in the arena.
I opened my eyes again and it was really so nice and heart-warming to see that everyone gathered in one place whether on the Ateneo or La Salle side was nothing short of passionate and uplifting. Loud cheers, pumped up fists, sudden jumps and movement, as well as crossed arms, snotty looks, disappointed faces filled the dome. Young and old, boys and girls (also those in between) – everybody was responsive. Nobody was static or emotionless – as if the game brought us all to life.
During the 4th quarter when the game was as close as ever, I could feel a few teardrops coming from my eyes because I was anxious. I wanted us to win so badly and I didn’t know what I would do if we lost. I wasn’t sure why it was happening to me…I mean, it’s just a sport right? But it was then that I realized how important this was to everyone present. By this, I don’t mean the game but the idea of rivalry. There’s a bad side to rivalry but there’s also a good side to it. I guess the bad side of rivalry is when you think of the opposing team as the number one enemy that you have to beat at all costs. In the case of this one, it was the good kind. The competitive spirit between the two teams and the two schools showed a sense of belongingness and pride for their respective sides. It wasn’t the destructive kind of rivalry where ultimately you want to see your opponent battered, bruised and defeated. You could see that both sides still showed reverence towards one another. It was a friendly and courteous kind of competition.
When we won, I was so happy! Everyone else on the Ateneo side was, too. There was a lot of screaming, jumping and fist pumping as expected. The La Sallians were upset and some even cried. I sympathized with them. They had a great run and it was only right that I recognized their great efforts. While looking around, I noticed how there was no booing or trash talking in the end. The La Sallians respected us when we sang the school hymn and we did, too when it was their turn. When I walked out, I greeted everyone with a smile, La Sallians and Ateneans alike because to me, the real show was the amazing school spirit and pride shown by both sides.
I went to Starbucks afterwards to get a drink and that was when I really stopped to see such a pleasant sight inside and outside the area: blue and green conversing and greeting each other with no hard feelings – definitely no feelings of anger, disgust or condescension. It was such a lovely picture and I basked in the ambiance. Because win or lose, despite the rivalry, we were are equals. There was respect and admiration for everyone and that’s the way it should be. I enjoyed the experience and I will forever remember it.
RIVALRY Musical Poster – http://adventuresofalionheart.blogspot.com/2012/02/ever-wondered-where-and-when-does.html