IS UP the new La Salle?
Is Ateneo vs UP the new Ateneo vs La Salle rivalry?
This question arises after an unprecedented outpouring of interest in the ongoing UAAP basketball championship where partisanship has reached unbelievable heights. The series has generated so much value that a UP regent actually lost his job after suggesting that UP frats, notorious for inflicting violence on each other, seek out Ateneo players and maul them so that the team loses key players in the rest of the series.
Expectedly, the excited and high UP community was incensed by this, and the regent, whose nickname Spocky is weird enough to be taken seriously, has been denied reappointment to the Board of Regents.
But the regent’s comment, which he said was made in sarcasm, amplifies the point that this championship series means a lot more to UP than to Ateneo. The Loyola community has surprisingly been less vocal in social media than its Diliman counterpart, which has all sorts of memes, quips, and witticisms to keep its team’s spirit alive.
Game awareness is so high that scalpers, who normally materialize only for blockbuster concerts — and, yes, Ateneo-La Salle encounters — have come out of hibernation to satisfy the need of the moment: game tickets no matter what they cost! Never in their dreams did they think that UP vs Ateneo could give them this early Christmas present. The police, however, was a little bit ahead of them and successfully booked a few for scalping. (Not to condone violating a law, but scalpers do meet a demand and provide people a chance to watch a game they would otherwise never get to see.)
But whether the current championship series can approximate the fabled Ateneo-La Salle encounters remains to be seen. Ateneo vs La Salle is not an aberration; the one we are currently witnessing, is. La Salle vs Ateneo is product of a long and established rivalry that draws interest even without any title at stake. Ateneo vs La Salle has elements of drama, pathos, pride, and bragging rights. Every Ateneo-La Salle game is a blockbuster. It is such a draw that each time these two teams meet, the coliseum is theirs alone.
Hate to disappoint UP fans, but the Maroons are far from being the Green Archers. The Maroons are only in their second UAAP finals in 32 years. They have not built a tradition of continuing excellence, except, maybe, in the classrooms. (But, even that is debatable.)
For years, the Maroons were the laughing stock in the UAAP. The laughter has subsided, and they have achieved some kind of respectability. But it is not easy to forget that the Maroons were akin to laboratory rats that perennial contenders used for practice, the team they used to try a new strategy on and experimented on with their new plays.
Winning a game, just a game, is such a big deal to the Diliman Republic that when the Maroons broke a 27-game losing streak in 2014 and beat Adamson University (yes, them again), thus breaking a winless spell that lasted 720 days, a huge bonfire was lit at the Sunken Garden and UP’s students, faculty, alumni, and officials came out in droves to celebrate the occasion.
Just imagine the kind of bonfire UP will light up if it wins the UAAP basketball championship! The school may have to call in Quezon City’s fire trucks to be on standby.
It’s hard not to feel for the UP community. Years of frustration, failure, and humiliation on the sporting scene have made its die-hard followers cry for redemption — and this year could be it!
But the Maroons are behind 0-1 in the best-of-three series, and Ateneo could just grab that title with a victory in Game 2 tomorrow, Wednesday. For UP, it’s a game with no tomorrow. If it’s any consolation, even if it loses, UP can still light up a bonfire. After all, this year it has overachieved.
Still, it has this chance to spook Ateneo — even without that has-been Spocky.