Seven things distracted me from enjoying yesterday's game of the Katipuneros, a game that highlighted the best and worst of UP’s gameplay.
The seven, in no particular order:
A jackhammer behind me, about 50 to 55 years old, with gray hair and a voice that drills into your skull. Whew, grandma, what big tonsils you have!
A mother of an Atenean, she was abusing anyone who dared even clap for UP, picking fights, shouting obscenities. I was kept busy pacifying the UP supporters, players’ girlfriends and parents around me who were determined to give her an eye for an eye: “Please,” I said, “just let her be.”
Her picture is purposely blurred, dear reader, to protect her identity, for I do not wish her ill. I learned later from my Ateneo friends that she is named B, a word that can mean infantile—apropos, yes? B harangued the players, wishing them bodily harm (really) and cursing with her hands. Had she vilified The Coach, this post would not be written here but in a counter-affidavit, explaining why I leapt over the railing and slugged her.
I was told much later that photos of B had been splashed recently on a website or blog run by a student of a rival school. In a series of frames that I still have to google for, B is seen praying, eyes closed and hands together; then she is seen screaming at the court, her face distorted in anger; then, in a final act of piety, she jabs the air with her hands, both her third fingers fully extended, in the unmistakable dirty sign.
“Ano?” an Atenean said when I recounted B's recent behavior. “'Di pa ba siya natuto?” Apparently not. But she did learn to be more observant of her surroundings just in case someone nefarious, like me, would again take her photos.
After the game, B scrambled to the empty chair beside me and asked politely if I took her picture. “Yes,” I said, unperturbed but startled at her sudden courtesy. “You wanna see?” She said she had seen me clapping for Ateneo and that I looked like a nice girl (meaning I would not write something like this in my blog). She said someone had taken my picture in case I would do anything bad with the ones I took of her—like show them to the rival school, perhaps? That’s when I told her that (i) my heart is with UP when it comes to basketball; (ii) I am an Ateneo alum, Batch ‘91 Law School, passed the bar, yes, therefore a lawyer and therefore no pushover, never mind that I usually sponge help off my lawyer-friends nowadays when it comes to actual lawyering—it works well with erring MMDA, too, you know, just as it works with mothers, like it did with B. When people ask me if I regret wasting fourteen years in law school and in practice before discovering fiction, I always tell them of the time an MMDA officer wrongfully accosted me for swerving. A valid I.D. issued by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, plus tears, equals freedom from tyranny.
B smiled and said, “O.K. Thank you.” A true portrait of many a sports fan: rabid during the game, but nice afterwards. I wonder: which one is the more accurate? Perhaps both?
To be fair, there were many other UP and Ateneo fans who had been as—if not more—vituperative than B.* But since she was the one behind me, alas, she gets top billing.
Binondo (and, I was told, also Cebu, yet another fertile marketplace for game betting) pegged a +6 ½ margin on UP, which translated, of course, into wanton officiating. Sorry for this tired refrain, but, yes, drat it, the refereeing was brazenly lopsided. Fifty-one free throws given to Ateneo—the highest ever, even higher than the record 48 free throws in UP’s first game against Ateneo. Fifty-one against, what, a lousy 17 against UP! (Postscript: I know, I know. Our plays are often made away from the hoop and UP is not the most sterling in its defense, but, still, did you witness the officiating?)
We saw so many hand checks against UP, traveling by Blue Eagles, fouls by Salamat against Marvin Cruz, Ford Arao's charging (he lowered his shoulder; ergo, a charge) that was, horrors, called against Migs de Asis.
The cotton candy, which kept bobbing up and down at the end of a blue stick, was color blue. Isn’t cotton candy supposed to be pink? Yeegads, even the cotton candy girl was pro-Ateneo.
The UP walkout in the second quarter, caused by what I know is a single referee’s arrogance or stupidity. Your pick. I wanted the Maroons to just abandon the game, the sportsmanship of basketball having been sacrificed anyway to the bookies controlling the referees. But Coach Joe wanted the team to stay true to its calling, to return and play. That’s just the kind of guy he is.
Top to tip of me nervously rooting for The Coach and Coach Ramil Cruz, who, after Coach Joe had been sadly thrown out of the game, had to take up the coaching duties. I was so worried for them; it is my job to worry and get acid reflux. I was so proud of them (and so was Coach Joe; he pumped The Coach's hand later that night for "coaching well"), for they both led the team well. The Maroons ran neck and neck with the taller, stronger, older Ateneo veterans until the final quarter when, alas, Marvin became his colorless self. Marvin had played excruciatingly well in the first three quarters—he always does—which severely highlighted his lackluster** performance in the final stretch...sigh, he often does.*** I’m not assigning blame on Marvin (and this is my blog, not The Coach’s, therefore my own opinion, awright, dears? Because, yes, I have my own brain), particularly since UP was also playing against the referees (who were sloughing off our players one at a time), but had Marvin continued with his streak, it would’ve been a different ball game, in spite of.
Four intense Maroons supporters in front of me, who couldn’t help standing up despite their cushy P250 seats (P750 to P1,000 if you buy from the scalpers). They were nice girls, though, so I gave up after a while and started reading my…
…new books! Whee! Fresh from the sale at the nearby National Superstore (going on until September 17, folks), and particularly this one, Caroline See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers. It is, according to its author, for “older people who wanted to write in their youth and never got around to it.” Yowzah. That’s me, Caroline. It’s more Zen-like advice than craft, but that suits me fine. Enough to cause me to pray for more timeouts so I can read the first few chapters.
Gotta go before I ruffle more feathers. Ah, yes, the power of the written word. Matthew Broderick's character in one war movie (he was a diarist) said something like, "I learned something today. People believe in things I write. The minute I put my thoughts on paper, something magical happens. They figure if you put so much effort in writing it down, it must be true."****
* The Coach got a call sometime yesterday evening about a scuffle between UP and Ateneo supporters at the Dencio’s branch at the Araneta. I heard UP might have started it, and an Atenean might have been hurt. Sad. And sorry. For both schools, as well as the league.
** To clarify to the innumerable Marvin fans, lest they flash-mob me, I use the word lackluster to mean lacking in brilliance, which, given Marvin's extraordinariness, may mean he played only average. Which, to me, was sadly not enough.
*** Marvin is an incredible player. There is no one in today's league who can stop him. But his fourth-quarter play is killing his chances at the MVP plum. He reportedly said that he gets rattled at the end game, a condition—choking, it is called—not uncommon among, say, golfers and tennis players. He might want to work on that: it is also killing UP's chances this year. Perhaps it's unfair to foist that much responsibility on him, it's true, but the fact of the matter is that he's one of only three veterans in the team. Circumstances are such that he could either be a savior or an ordinary player.
**** A superfluous footnote--for the Polymath.