A Personal Look into the Storied Rivalry Between The Ateneo Blue Eagles vs. The De La Salle Green Archers
“Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!”
“Go La Salle! Go, Go La Salle!”
“Beat Ateneo! Animo La Salle!”
“Get that ball! Get that ball!”
These are just some of the many chants you hear in an Ateneo-La Salle game. It is the most storied college rivalry in a basketball-crazed country, and to say that every match between the two schools is highly anticipated is an understatement. A boisterous jam-packed crowd of people from all ages and walks of life makes a sea of blue and green in the arena, a testament to the attraction the rivalry has begotten throughout the years. The rivalry is so intense and well-known that it has even been featured in the New York Times.
In my opinion, it is one of the most difficult topics to tackle for any writer. The rivalry has transformed into something so dynamic, entrenching itself with the local pop culture in an unprecedented way. Its presence has extended itself not only to countless publications and merchandise, but to peculiar happenings such as charity games involving the greats of the past from respective schools and even musicals. There have been a million theories on its origins, with a similar number of takes and opinions of what the rivalry means to them.
I believe I am in a unique position to offer my view, as I have been a part of both universities. I am fortunate enough to have received an education from La Salle, and currently Ateneo. My experiences in both institutions have helped me see things in a unique perspective and appreciate the good things that come from both schools. To me, the rivalry has brought out the best in both institutions in terms of competitions in sports and academics. What I have realized is that the Atenean value of magis and the conviction to do everything Ad Majorem Dei gloriam are similar to the values of faith, service and communion that La Salle instills in its students.
On the basketball spectrum of things, I have to say that I am for the Blue side. But I have to admit that this wasn’t always the case. Always the rebel during my younger years, I decided to support the Green Archers as opposed to my family who were predominantly for the Katipunan-based squad. I wanted to be different, and play the antagonist to several family members enjoying their sighs of disappointment when La Salle would win over Ateneo. It went as far as to me being banned from dinner the night the Archers won against the Blue Eagles for the championship in 2001.
The Archers of the early 2000s were the Blue Eagles of today as they were the team that people back then idolized, coming off multiple championships and featured several transcendent starts. However, this period of magnificence came to a halt when Ateneo rose to prominence. Furthermore, the Taft-based squad was embroiled in shameful controversy when it was discovered that they fielded ineligible players, thus resulting in a suspension. Years of ineptitude followed, save for 2007, and my support to them started to waver.
My first experience of watching an Ateneo-La Salle game goes way back to 2002 when I was in the 4th grade, going to a total of 9 games prior to this year. A fun fact about me, at least for my friends, is that La Salle lost in all those games I watched live. I was labeled as a curse, with La Salle-supporting friends joking that I shouldn’t go to the games anymore especially to the important ones. So when I transferred to Ateneo this year, my family and friends had the same fear that I would bring the bad luck over to Katipunan and prevent them of a 5th straight championship.
I attended both Ateneo-La Salle games of this year’s eliminations, and was relieved to have won both times or else I would have received yet another number of jokes about me being a grim reaper of basketball wins. However, the stars aligned this year and the nation received a rare treat of having the country’s much talked about sports rivalry take center stage again, this time for a championship berth. A third game was to be played, as Ateneo found themselves facing La Salle in the Final Four. While the Blue Eagles have been the dominant team in the last four years, the Green Archers are have improved greatly this year from the past years of mediocrity.
I had a lot at stake in this game. First, it was an important game for the Blue Eagles, a step towards their march for the championship. Second, it was another game that would test my status as a bringer of bad luck. Last but not least, I did not want La Salle to succeed right after I had left them especially with them being led by Jeron Teng, who was a friendly rival back in high school and denied my school and team of the championship for 2 straight years.
I was running late to the game as I had prior commitments to attend to and the traffic certainly did not help. Thankfully, I made it just in time for the tip-off. What caught my attention and surprised me was the audacity of the La Salle crowd right from the get-go. Emotions were very high, the La Sallian faithful cheering loudly even before any play was made, and it was La Salle’s way of saying they wanted to win this game badly. It had not been like this for a long time, not since the dominant and championship-winning days of La Salle a decade ago.
La Salle responded to their supportive crowd by taking control of the game, keeping the Blue Eagles in check and ending the 3rd quarter with a 10-point lead. By the 4th quarter, the lead increased to as much as 11 in the 8-minute mark and I was officially worried. I asked myself if this was my misfortune resurfacing, affecting the Blue Eagles and proving all my friends correct. I saw the same distraught faces among the Ateneo faithful as they were losing hope that the Blue Eagles would come out of this game the victors.
Then a miracle happened. Kiefer Ravena, the present star of the Blue Eagles, decided to take matters into his own hands and carry the team to victory. He scored 16 points in the 4th quarter alone through a variety of magnificent and spectacular moves, tallying an impressive total of 28 points for the game.
Things did almost went awry as Almond Vosotros made plays that allowed La Salle to crawl back into the game and Ravena was tagged with an unsportsmanlike foul after he tried to stop Teng from scoring on the fast break. Teng split his free throws, and possession remained with La Salle after but they lost the ball and all was well again when Ryan Buenafe finally sealed the game for the Blue Eagles with his clutch three-pointer and timely free throws. This sequence had the whole Araneta Coliseum up on their feet, both sides roaring beyond anything else. I’m glad that it ultimately ended up in Ateneo’s favor.
It was for me the greatest Ateneo vs. La Salle game I have ever witnessed. It was an instant classic, considering the things that were at stake and the events that transpired. It also offered a peek at the future of the rivalry, which seems bright and promising with the emergence of the schools’ respective stars in Ravena and Teng. As of today, the Blue Eagles are one win away from the championsip, and I will be watching on Thursday serving as the final test for my luck. I am confident that Ateneo will win, and that I will be experiencing my first championship as an Atenean.
After all is said and done, all I can say is: Go Ateneo! One Big Fight!
A Nation’s Passion Lives in a Rivalry of Green vs. Blue by Raphael Bartholomew – New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/sports/23rivalry.html?_r=1
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