THE Smart-Araneta Coliseum was noticeably half-empty as shown on the television screen during the main game of the PBA Governors Cup Wednesday night.
And to think that no less than the league’s crowd favorite, Barangay Ginebra, was playing in the featured game against a surprising Barako Bull side.
So what gives?
Solid Ginebra fans assert the team’s legion of followers has never dwindled - and interest hasn't waned - even though the team is obviously struggling in the season-ending tournament.
They cited varying reasons for the many empty seats inside the historic Big Dome of which Spin.ph tried to get a bird’s eye view by going up to the rafters and personally seeing the unoccupied sections of the 24,000-seater venue.
We also talked to Ginebra fans.
“Ordinary day ngayon tsaka nagdadalawang isip ang mga tao kung papasok (sa playoffs), o ano na ang Ginebra,” said Herbie Tia, a businessman and longtime Ginebra fan.
But Tia was quick to deny Ginebra fans no longer support the team owing to its current woes in the season-ending meet.
“(Hindi nakakabawas ng supporters namin yung pagtatalo ng Ginebra). Kung solid na Ginebra fan ka, kahit matalo o malaglag 'yan, Ginebra ka pa rin. Katulad ko, nandyan lang ako sa tabi-tabi. Naisipan ko manood, nanood na ko,” added Tia, an active defender of the Kings whenever his team is being bashed on different social networking sites.
There are those, of course, who were also surprised by the fans’ turnout during the Ginebra-Barako match which the Kings won, 120-98.
Some blamed the rain that struck hours before the match.
“Naninibago po talaga ako, pero siguro dahil sa kanina, malakas ang ulan. Madaming daan ang binaha,” said Manolito Noblefranka, who braved the heavy Wednesday afternoon downpour that submerged some parts of Metro Manila to get to the Big Dome.
The Ginebra fan from Bicol, however, insisted supporters of the team are a rare breed who will never abandon the team in the middle of a battle.
“Hindi namin iiwanan ang Ginebra. Diehard fans nila (kami) talaga. Ginebra ang may pinakamaraming fans na team, yung tatay ko fan din ng Ginebra, lahat kami (sa pamilya). Ako elementary pa lang fan na ng Ginebra,” he added.
Lala Narvaja, who braved the heavy floods of Valenzuela just to be able to watch the Kings play in person along with a lady friend, called the lack of huge fan-base as an ‘offseason.’
“Siguro walang mga ano 'yung tao. Hindi nila gusto 'yung kalaban. O baka akala nila talo kasi malakas ang Barako. Pero hindi namin iiwan ang Ginebra. Hanggang huli kami Ginebra, never say die,” said Narvaja.
For the record, the last Ginebra-Star game drew a crowd of 17,040 last June 7.
Asked if she thinks Ginebra diehards will come again in droves every game should the Kings start to dominate the league once more, Narvaja quickly nodded.
“Syempre naman. Pero kaya lang intindihin din natin yung reasons nila (kaya di sila nanunuod), personal siguro,” she said laughing.
Placard-bearing fans JM Bebing and Cielo Gascon believe the league will again enjoy huge sales at the gates should Ginebra start to regain its winning form.
“NSD (Never Say Die) since birth kami. Ginebra since birth kami. Manalo, matalo, Ginebra. Pero sana lagi kami panalo, para hindi malugi ang Ginebra,” said Gascon. “Solid Ginebra kami so kung walang Ginebra, walang manunuod.”
“Pero kung magcha-champion kami, siguro mga 40,000 (ang audience dito),” she added laughing.
Bebing for his part bared that even with only a small number of supporters personally cheering their favorite team just like on this night, Ginebra fans will never quit supporting the Kings.
“Kahit kaunti kami, Ginebra pa rin kami (sisigaw kami), never say die pa rin kami. Hindi nakaka-apekto sa amin yung nagtatalo kami. Malakas ang Ginebra para sa amin,” said Bebing.