Boo Chanco

The Philippine Star

If you have been following the championship round of the UAAP basketball tournament, you will get the feeling that the Ateneo team is pretty much like the country. Halfway through the season, you would have given it up as a hopeless basket case. How, you must have wondered, can this team hope to dislodge the champions La Salle, if it allows easy victories over weaker teams to slip past them? Even my UP beloved, not known to be of champion breed, won over them.

Then the Ateneo team sprung a surprise – a string of victories that landed them precariously, among the top four and eventually, a secure position to challenge the champion team. The Ateneo team surprises us further by beating the champion team twice.

While they were at their best, the Ateneans displayed what’s great with this country when we Pinoys put our minds on something, like Edsa 1. There was teamwork, no superstars who must shine at the expense of the team, everyone knew their roles and played them and you can sense an almost systematic conquest of the foe. They knew they had to win or it is all over. Pinoys behave like this abroad because they know they must be at their best or else. We behaved that way during EDSA 1, because we knew Marcos and Ver would slaughter us, if we behaved like everyday Pinoys.

Of course the Ateneans lost last Sunday because like most Pinoys on a winning streak, they succumbed to the temptation to relax prematurely. Something like the week after Edsa 2. The Ateneans overestimated their abilities and underestimated the desire of the other team to redeem themselves. The Ateneans didn’t seem to feel the same pressure they did the last two times they faced La Salle because last Sunday, they knew they could lose and live to play the last game. That attitude also explains why Edsa 3 happened.

How will it all end? It is entirely possible that Ateneo, the team that almost got eliminated, will end up the champions. We know they have what it takes to be champions. But they don’t seem to have the discipline nor the obviously honed skills of La Salle to make it a sure thing. There is a little bit of the bahala na for Ateneo, which makes them interesting and maddening.

At some point in the season, you wanted to impeach Ateneo coach, Joel Banal for losing to the non-entities in the league. You yearn for coach Joe Lipa or Fernando Poe or anyone who can maximize the productivity of the team. It is the same feeling you have for Ate Glo, as measured by the latest polls. Like Joel Banal, she may be good and professional but unable to make the most of this talented but seemingly unmotivated, unorganized bunch. We need someone who knows how to make gems out of these raw diamonds.

In ASEAN terms, La Salle seems more like Singapore, methodical, well trained, successful and maybe a little boring. Given their precision, you wonder if La Salle’s team is ISO-certified. Ateneo’s more like the unpredictable Pinoys, surviving on sheer guts, native talent and a lot of hubris from the stands. You can’t out shout them even when they are down and out.

But like Pinoys today, they need a Dick Gordon to cheer them on. You can almost imagine what the Ateneo team (or the Pinoy nation, for that matter) could be if it had a little more system, a little more faith in themselves and not so faint of heart so as to falter when pressure builds up at the homestretch.

I guess that’s what makes them (and us) interesting. You never know what they (or we) will deliver until they (or we) do. The Ateneo team thrives as an underdog. They are so Pinoy. And you know how being a Pinoy is an adventure in itself. And that’s what makes Ateneo a team to cheer for, even if you aren’t an Atenean. You feel like you are cheering for yourself, for your hopeless and pathetic country. You know.the only one you’ve got.

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