The Games We Play

06 Oct


Every year the UAAP holds sporting events which showcase the talents of college basketball players. Its popularity has surpassed the different universities in the Philippines. It has been able to pique the interest of the masses. This means that if one watches a game, this does not automatically mean he or she is studying in a competing university. For our field assignment in our Sociology and Anthropology class, we chose to observe what goes on in the basketball game between Ateneo and La Salle and apply what we learned in our class. We chose to do so because the rivalry between the two schools is given too much attention annually. We also wanted to find out why such a simple game drives people to bring the rivalry out of the courts.

Basketball is nothing more than a tiring and sweaty sport. One can claim that is teaches teamwork, unity and other necessary values to get by in life. Such a cliché is very popular among basketball enthusiasts and P.E. teachers. Sportsmanship is the only thing we can get from a basketball game. This holds true to the untrained eye; however, this is not the case in this article. Numerous social concepts can be derived from a basketball game. This is because a basketball game, particularly the game between La Salle and Ateneo, is a microcosm of our present society.

I Can’t Sit Beside You Because I’m Better than You

We were greeted by a sharp visual contrast when we entered the arena. The shirt colour one wore signified which school he or she supported. This divided the coliseum into two: green for La Salle and blue for Ateneo. With this, we can associate social concepts into this interesting contrast. The separation of the two colours is very reminiscent of racial segregation. We can correlate the shirt colour of the audience to the colour of his or her skin.

The concept of racial segregation is the easiest to apply in the La Salle – Ateneo basketball game. This is because the presence of two distinct colours in each school begs for it to happen. We viewed the game in the blue half of the arena. From there, we observed the differences in behaviour from the supporters of the two schools.

Even before the game started, each side wanted to assert their dominance over the other. Loud cheers echoed through the coliseum. If one side cheered, the other would cheer louder. This atmosphere invited everyone, even the indifferent, to scream their lungs out for their school. The basketball game was not the only competition that night. The atmosphere made us feel a sense of belonging. It was like we wanted to fight for our school’s pride by cheering louder than the other side. It was all fun until aggression started to kick in. After a succession of alternate cheering, the side of La Salle began to boo the other side after it cheered. This act of booing changed the entire feel of the arena in a snap. The sense of belonging immediately dissolved and it was replaced by tension and anger. Our side eventually retaliated by doing the same to them. We wanted to let them know that they can’t jeer at us and get away with it.

During the game, tensions were at an all time high. People in the crowd were on their feet. If a shot was made, people would hold their breaths until it landed in the basket, or on the floor. People were clapping, jumping and shouting in the arena. When La Salle was leading in the game, the green side of the arena was very physical. A wave even took place. They were very happy and confident. As the game progressed though, Ateneo was able to take the lead from La Salle and eventually won against them. Interestingly, the blue side never started a wave. It clapped, jumped and cheered, but that was it. When the game ended, the disappointment and grief of the green side could be felt even by people from the other half. However, this was secondary to the joy and pride the blue side felt.

The behaviour each side showed before, during and after the game was not simply a display of athletic fervour. The assertion of cultural dominance was clearly present that night. The act of cheering louder than the other side is a good example of this. By cheering louder, we led ourselves to believe that we were better than the other side. It was actually childish but everyone succumbed to it. Another example of cultural dominance was when La Salle first booed Ateneo. The act of booing itself is pompous because it implies that the person who boos thinks he is better than the recipient of his jeers.

These simple acts show how too much love for one’s culture can be dangerous. The warm feeling of belonging changed into anger because the other side wanted to assert their dominance over the other. On a grander scale, this is what ethnocentrism is all about. It leads to ugly things like aggression and racial segregation. This shows how a simple basketball game can give birth to such horrible ideals.

My Seats are Better than Yours

When we watched the game between La Salle and Ateneo, we noticed that the separation of green and blue was not the only division present. Our group watched the game in the general admission area because getting tickets which allowed access to the good seats were difficult to find. If ever there were any good tickets, the tickets were way overpriced. When we entered the venue, we found ourselves at the very top of the arena. We never found any decent seats because people were standing on them. We stood the entire game. When we peered down from the general admission area, we noticed an interesting inverted social hierarchy. When we say inverted social hierarchy, we mean that the ones who are usually found at the top were at the bottom and vice versa. This divided the arena furthermore into small groups.

From the courtside all the way to the general admission, each division in the arena signifies the corresponding social class of each of the universities’ crowds. In addition, the behavior of each social class can easily be distinguished from one another.

The general admission represents the lower class. This is where even the seats mirrored its social class. The seats provided were just plain benches. Normally, people in this division do not even make use of the seats. They stand all throughout the game. The people in our area were very physical. Clapping, shouting and jumping were common actions found in this area. The people seemed free and were able to express themselves without being constrained. To them, it did not matter what the other people thought. Soon enough, their bodies started to reflect their rowdy behaviour. People began to sweat and the place started to become humid. It also became hotter than when we first entered the arena. The smell of body odour permeated the air only to be masked by the scent of cheap perfume during breaks. The general admission area was undoubtedly the noisiest and most acrid area in the entire arena.

One level below, the upper and lower boxes can be found. These represent the middle class. These people were very enthusiastic of the game. With them were banners and tarpaulins they made to support their team. They were more reserved than the people in the general admission area but they did not hesitate to scream whenever a shot was successful. They were less physical compared to the people in the general admission.

The patron represents the upper middle class. Usually, this is the division that gets flashed on the big televisions in the arena. Most of these people ended up watching the entire game in their seats. They might react a bit if necessary but not all the time. The upper middle class did not cheer much. It is as if they contained themselves and were left restrained because they complied with the notions of their social status.

Finally, the courtside represents the elite class. They were the ones who behaved too timidly that even when their team was already leading, they remained in their seats as if nothing was happening. People perceived them to be indifferent to the game. They were glued to their seats and gave off a straight face. They behaved so prim and proper despite the fact that they were watching a basketball game.

This seating arrangement may seem innocent because it makes sense to pay more to be closer to the event. The inverted social hierarchy may not be presented on purpose because of this. However, its presence cannot be denied. As the arena goes higher, the social class goes lower. This paved way for more division in the arena.

I’m All Alone…

The basketball game between Ateneo and La Salle served to be a microcosm of our society. Division was prevalent in the coliseum. At first, it was simply a division between the competing schools. The green and blue shirts were able to split the entire arena into two: La Salle and Ateneo. However, if one delved into a deeper observation, he would find that this was not the only division which happened that night. Each side was further divided into smaller groups: lower class, middle class, upper middle class and the elites. They were divided by their ability to pay for better tickets.

The incidents found in the game clearly show our thirst for division. We will not stop until we divide ourselves into smaller groups. We will always find a way to separate ourselves from the people around us just because we deem them as different from us. We were able to come up with racial segregation and social stratification because of our desire for division. Elements of society like wealth, religion and politics distance us from one another just because we don’t see eye to eye on them. If this goes on, man will eventually divide himself into alienation with the only person he agrees with is himself.

Gutierrez, Lance | Leongson, Anika | Matas, Pia


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