The view from the bleachers
EXISTENTIAL BLABBER - Kara Ortiga (The Philippine Star) - July 26, 2013 - 12:00am

Basketball  not our strongest suit. We know, we know. As of today, in season 76 of the UAAP games, the University of the Philippines has maintained a zero-win, all-losses streak in the men’s basketball division. We’re not unfamiliar with the feeling of being at the bottom. After all, we haven’t won a men’s basketball championship in over two decades.

But hey, it doesn’t mean that we don’t know what a rivalry feels like. UP is gunning to win their fourth championship in a row this year for the annual cheerdance competition (ah, thank you very much.) We always have our eye on rival UST’s Salinggawi Dance Troupe.

When I was in my first year in the university, my friends and I signed up for a P.E. class called cheerleading. The class dynamic was simple: attend a standard number of UAAP games, and cheer for those teams.

During the first few classes, we learned all of the school’s rah-rahs. We memorized the cheers and practiced the actions. We would train with the drummers and boosters of the pep squad. And then for the rest of the semester, we would go to actual games and do some actual cheerleading. Your grade was dependent on your attendance.

That one semester of cheerleading class took me to watch UAAP games that I never really bothered to watch before. I watched people grapple in judo tournaments. Saw multiple games of table tennis happen simultaneously under one roof. I saw a baseball game. We even watched women’s basketball, a sport where we don’t have a zero win streak.

These sports don’t have the over-obsessed alumni in the bleachers to cheer them on. Instead, there’s an awkward silence in the air, because the giant gymnasiums are predominantly empty. The cheers of the small groups, mostly cheerleading class students who are unenthusiastic about being there, echo on the walls, creating an eerie kind of energy. They don’t have the fans with the banners and balloons. No one dresses in color codes for them. The general public doesn’t instill in them an intense amount of pressure for a championship, in lieu of school pride. Yet they work hard for it, and want it just the same. They are athletes, and they train like any hardworking varsity would, and they compete with gusto. Sometimes, they win, but we hardly remember their names.

This is the side of the UAAP that not a lot of people pay attention to. There are plenty of sports that don’t get the same attention as, say, men’s basketball. But the students continue to fight anyway, in swimming, badminton, beach volleyball, taekwondo, track and field, fencing, football, lawn tennis, and even chess. Chess!

I remember being on the bleachers of the opening of a UAAP season during my first year. My friends and I spelled out “M-A-R-O-O-N-S-!” by taping it on our shirts. I guess the courtside reporter found it cute. She asked if we could appear on television for an interview. But we knew nothing about our teams.

When she asked, “Who on the team is the cutest basketball player?” I had nothing to answer but, “Um… si…Oble! Woo! Go, Oble! YEAH! UP FIGHT!”

Oble is our moniker for the oblation statue. You see, he is neither a basketball player, nor is he real. So that was a really dumb answer. It was aired on live television.

Whether you follow the UAAP or not, whether you have a winning or losing team, if you like chess more than you do basketball, it’s really just the school spirit that counts. Though first place feels nice, too.


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