INDEED, what difference 60 years make.
Nestor Sapida, one of the few surviving remnants of the first National University team that won the UAAP men’s basketball title in 1954, can’t help but recall the day when his own batch of Bulldogs also beat the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the finals, 51-46, to crown themselves champions.
Unlike today’s players, Sapida said during their time they were hardly pampered by school management and recalled enjoying the only luxury he experienced when the team was treated to a meal at the Manila Hotel upon winning the crown.
“Kami dati Manila Hotel lang ang blowout sa amin. Kami bente o isang daan lang, kulang pa sa softdrinks,” Sapida related to Spin.ph.
He added, “Kami nagpa-practice lang kami sa Rizal Memorial, akyat baba sa bleacher, nililibot namin 'yung buong bleacher.”
Although not complaining, Sapida can't help but notice that players nowadays get royal treatment.
“Ngayon maswerte ang mga players, ngayon malalaki ang allowance. Sila ngayon lalabas ng bansa meron pang mga allowance,” he said.
“Ngayon alagang-alaga ng management (ang team).”
Gelo Alolino, Troy Rosario, Finals MVP Alfred Aroga and the rest of the Bulldogs were quick to repay the trust of school management after they beat the Tamaraws, 75-59, in their title duel Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The feat brought a smile to the face of the 78-year-old Sapida, who was once the league’s Rookie of the Year.
“Sobrang saya. Sobrang saya siyempre, after 60 years eto na naman kami nangibabaw na naman kami,” he said moments after the title-clinching win.
The former NU center admitted still getting nervous during the course of Game 3 of the title series watched by a mammoth crowd of 25,138.
“FEU rin ang kalaban namin noong 1954. Nakakakaba (pa rin). Lumabas na nga ako kanina,” he said.
But one thing’s for sure. Sapida has faith in this batch of Bulldogs, the same way he did with his team during his time in the fifties.
“Sabi ko sa kanila kanina sa dugout atin na ito wag lang kayong mawawalan ng focus,” he said of his pre-game pep talk to the team. “Iniisip ko lagi mangyayari ito (championship). Taun-taon 'yan iniisip ko babawi (ang NU).”