11AM. It was a really gloomy Saturday. The weather was indulging me and I loved it. As I lay out all the tasks I had for the day in my head, I realized that I didn’t have any. So, I went into the other room and asked my friends if they had anything to do… They were watching the game! It’s not so much that I wanted to watch an Ateneo-La Salle game but I was going to be alone that day—which sucked.
3PM. So, miserably hopeless, as I was about to rest my head on the pillow, a buzz rang from across my dorm room. “Gee, I wonder who that could be,” I thought to myself. Went to fetch my phone and saw that the message was from an unregistered number.
“Ate, do you still want to watch the game?”
“Yessssssssss! Why, you have tickets?”
“Yeah, you can have mine. I’m too tamad to go na.” Best. News. Ever.
Even better news, I got an Upper Box-B ticket. You know what I like about it? It’s not too high and it’s not too low. When you’re too low, as Lower Box-A low, you don’t really get to cheer that much because it’s usually the alumni, faculty, and some parents of the players sitting there. No offense to them, but, from the previous UAAP games I’ve watched during first year, they don’t usually stand throughout the whole game. General Admission, on the other hand, is too high for my taste. Halos you don’t see the players na. It’s where the Babble Drumline situate themselves, I’m thinking for acoustics. Upper Box-B is just right. It’s usually where the loudest of the loud sit—those who stand up and cheer whole game ‘round.
4:00PM. THERE! SMART Araneta Coliseum—Upper Box-B. The crowd is thriving. I say a pretty fine-looking divide between the green and the blue. Yes, you don’t get to pick where you sit, your school picks it for you. As I was trying intently to figure out the diversity of people watching the game, I saw a huge range of ages. While I was still looking for my block mates, I saw these two cute little girls wearing blue wigs. I wondered then, if they came here aware of what they were watching, or just because they were pulled by their oh-so-eager mom who was wearing blue head-to-toe. But I’m not saying that it’s bad though. When I was already seated, I saw that most of the audience in my area were, in fact, Ateneans. And as how I predicted, sitting in the Lower Box-Patron chairs were the players’ parents, faculty, some hardcore alumni, and the supportive girlfriends. What must it be like for them? Knowing the players personally and being directly affected by how their relatives take either the win or the loss.
4:30PM. Finally! The game was starting and everybody was as pumped up as Foster the People’s kicks. There’s really nothing like an Ateneo-La Salle crowd. You just can’t find hype quite like that anywhere else. I have loads of theories about it but I think the best reason still is the bitter rivalry between the two schools. Where did the rivalry start? A little research tells me that it started the moment Ateneo and La Salle transferred from the NCAA to the UAAP. They were already a hot issue in the NCAA but since only both of them crossed over to UAAP did sports writers start to conjure up a rivalry. It only took a few years after that for the rivalry to spread to academics and other sports. But why IS there a rivalry? If you ask me, I think it’s when the two schools start thinking of reasons why the other one’s better—a hint of ethnocentrism, maybe?
Throughout the game, both sides were on their feet trying to out-cheer the other. Ateneo stuck to their usual cheers like Blue Eagle Spelling and One Big Fight. La Salle, too, with their Animo La Salle. However, two quarters in, just when La Salle was starting to pull away, there was a new sound added to the mix: “Beat Ateneo, Animo La Salle!” This disheartened everyone. I even heard someone from behind me saying, “Awww! Low blow, man!” You could really hear the disappointment in the Ateneo side when La Salle’s choice to degrade the other team by shouting that was made apparent. However, I’m not to directly attributing the behavior of the crowd to the university itself. Although the audience themselves need more hyping up sometimes, that’s what the cheer squads are for. Ateneo and La Salle have pretty amazing squads positioning themselves strategically between columns, ready to call the cheers when they’re needed.
I believe that the rivalry has produced a lot of what are realities now but just were senseless remarks years before. Have you not noticed that whenever there’s a good play from the opposing team, we don’t acknowledge or cheer for it in the slightest? Or when ridiculous fouls are called, we take them as fouls to our own being and blame the referees for the “error”? These were some observations I’ve collected from the younger and older, respectively.
6:00PM. We’re declared winners after Ateneo closes an 11-point gap and gains a three-point advantage over their adversary credits to Buenafe (a big sigh of relief for Fr. Dacanay’s students).
Post-game. Tweets and Facebook statuses start to rush in as La Salle loses twice to the Ateneo in this season. Notice that I’ve phrased it in a way that undermines Ateneo’s advance to the finals because what really mattered was who won. Speaking of things that matter, I guess the best theory as to why Ateneans have an affinity towards Ateneo-La Salle games—it’s because of the company and the chance to having cheer for your team as loud as you possibly can, because in that moment, there’s a sense of belongingness and sharing in a cause that’s so much bigger than ourselves. For the love of basketball and your school, you thrive in the divide. It’s not so much about who cheers louder, or who scores the most points, or who fails to train a toddler-run pep squad. It’s about immersing yourself in healthy rivalry and just soaking everything in—the school spirit, the games of wit, and the over-all bond the crowd shares. We don’t actually think of the many reasons we’re better than La Salle, we think of the many reasons why we love our alma mater. If you observe quite keenly, it’s not so different with our culture. Immersing ourselves in it just makes us love it even more. And for those who perceive other cultures as way better have not just given themselves the chance to love their own.
To the favorable gesture of standing up and recognizing that theirs is yet another world of meaning, we do not walk out. We stand proud and acknowledge the singing of their school hymn. This is, and not the victory, is what defines true character. Respeto lang.