Monday, October 01, 2007

A salute to the season when love ran high

Season 70 has ended for the Ateneo Blue Eagles on a bittersweet note. After beating arch(er)rivals LaSalle twice and stunning defending champions UST with a killer buzzerbeater in the elimination round, then losing what was supposed to be a "sure win" game against tenacious NU and the twice-to-beat advantage to DLSU, the Eagles found renewed strength and spirit to overcome the Tigers in a knockout match, and the Archers in the first game of the stepladder semifinals. However, our boys would eventually succumb to the team from Taft in the second game, despite coming tantalizingly close (a measly 2-point margin) in the dying seconds.

Perhaps deep down I had realistically known LaSalle had what it took to edge us out, or perhaps I had been cushioning my wild hopes with some good ol' Ailee pessimism. Whatever the reason, our defeat yesterday, regarded as crushing by some, didn't hit me as hard. I was disappointed, of course, but instead of feeling depressed or bitter, as the blue side of Araneta Coliseum started singing to the slow strains of Song for Mary, I felt a surge of affection and appreciation for everyone around me: Sir Tirol and his family
seated at the end of our row; my cousin Jasper and his wife Tina beside me; my friends on my other side; the chatty, old Ateneo alumni seated in front of us (especially "Bilbo" :p); the irrepressible Blue Babble Battalion; the sea of Ateneo supporters, including the fabulous Dollhouse contingent; the photographers; and of course, the source of it all, our team and coaching staff down on the hardcourt, heads held high, battle-weary but not broken. I wanted to reach out and pat everyone on the back (or in Jai's case, the head) for putting up a good fight, for giving it their best shot.

What is it about this year's team that evokes such positive feelings in me? A few weeks back, in a text exchange with Yang, I tried to put my finger on why this year's Eagle squad is so easy to love. They're certainly not the best players we've had in terms of skill and talent, but they've exceeded so many expectations and showed so much pluck and character, you can't help but love them all, from small but scrappy Jai Reyes (whom we fondly call Baby Jai), to goofy, gangly Ford Arao, to spunky sparkplug Yuri Escueta, to breakout boy Nonoy Baclao, to gentle giant Zion Laterre,
to everyone's darling Chris Tiu. They defied seemingly insurmountable odds and threw game statistics into disarray by stepping up (sorry Jo :p) when it counted and delivering when no one thought they could. To quote Yang's favorite Ken Barracoso, "Magis talaga." Sure, the team messed up too-- NU chewed them up and served them the most painful loss of the season, and DLSU got the best of them "when it mattered". But darn it, for us, each of our wins this season mattered, because our boys played their hearts out, and we cheered our hearts out. Puso, baby. Puso.

That we faltered in the end hurts, but there's a sense of peaceful acceptance and uplifting pride in knowing we went down fighting, and true to Atenean form we gave it one big fight.

Before I write off Ateneo's season, a few acknowledgments:

A big thank you to Jasper, one of the most diehard Ateneans I know, and Uncle Timmy, who didn't take it against me that Ateneo eliminated UST, for supplying me with tickets when I thought there was no chance in hell I'd get any. You guys rock!

Thanks to my bosses, who let me skip work to watch the games live, even if they're no big fans of Ateneo (although they say they like Ateneo "0.1% more" than LaSalle, hehe).

My gratitude and love go out to my Upper Box buddies: Yang, Angelo, Mike, Pia, Fara, Angge and Shalu, for providing rides to and from Araneta, for arriving extra early to save seats, for the camwhoring company, for the fearless (if foolhardy) predictions, for the undying optimism, for the superstitious customs, for the Blizzards, for the LaSalle jokes, for the player crushes, and for everything in between and beyond. You are the best reasons, win or lose, ang sarap maging Atenista.

And finally, I thank the Blue Eagles for giving me and my friends more than our usual number of opportunities to get together and bask in our shared love for Ateneo. I can't recall having enjoyed a single season more than this year's: the relentless yelling of "get that ball!" and "go, 'teneo!", the release-of-pent-up-tension screaming, the jumping-up-and-down, the arm/shoulder-clutching, the fist-pumping, the high-fives, the group hugs, the smell of beer (haha), the post-game raving, the celebratory binging (at Cafe Ten Titas, followed by dessert at DQ) ,and the morning-after high that would last for days. We had a blast, and it was both our pleasure and privilege to have cheered for our boys in blue. I can't wait for next season.

"Our course is run
And the setting sun
Ends Ateneo's day
Eyes are dry at the last goodbye
This is the Ateneo way"


Post a Comment

<< Home