Improved UP in #UAAPSeason78 (so far): Real life or fantasy?

Barry Viloria on Sep 10, 2015 04:43 PM
Improved UP in #UAAPSeason78 (so far): Real life or fantasy?
Love and support are all there is for the UP Maroons from resident students and alumni alike, hoping for a spot in the #UAAPSeason78 Final Four. (Photo by Ria Regino for UAAP Magazine)

I reeled from my seat yesterday upon learning the UP MBT’s win over DLSU, 71-66. “UP won? Against La Salle?” I asked an officemate who was closely following the game on Twitter. It’s not that I didn’t have faith in the Maroons, the squad I’ve been cheering for once I got into the whole school spirit thing back in college. For the record, last weekend, I was there to support the team as they clinched their first win for the season. UP kept it in the lead—from the first quarter to the end, 62-55. It was just nice to hear that UP won, again and again, without having to pinch yourself afterwards.

I then went online only to see most of my friends celebrating. See, every UP win in the UAAP is always big news—from our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds spurting with genuine exclamations by resident students, alumni, fans, and longtime alumni who—all of a sudden—have become fans, to news and sports sites putting meaning to their headlines like never before: “shocks,” “upsets,” “dominates,” “ambushes,” “remains undefeated.”

 

 

 

In news writing, we point the newsworthiness of a story if it’s odd and exciting. A UP loss is not news. One that’s won is odd and exciting, and is thus news. Two wins with zero loss to lead the race (UST is also at 2-0, but it’s in alphabetical order so your argument is invalid) is The News.

It’s still early, you’d say, for it’s just two games so far...

But you don’t understand.

The last time UP had won against La Salle was in August 2009. I was there. That was six years ago, too long ago that it could have been forgotten. But I can still remember such moment of pure joy. Mikee Reyes, who is now one of the NCAA commentators and a fellow here on ABS-CBN Sports, was the player of that epic game. I watched it with an Atenean friend who was all smiles for La Salle’s loss. We had another friend who used to play for DLSZ but went to UP for college. He had mixed feelings, but turned ecstatic for UP in the end.

The wins never came so easily for UP. In that season, the Maroons had 3 wins and 11 losses. If you count all wins since, it wouldn’t reach two digits (0-14 in Season 73; 2-12 in Season 74; 1-13 in Season 75; 0-14 in Season 76; 1-13 in Season 77). Every win was so momentous that during last season, UP’s lone win dragged me to the Sunken Garden for the Bonfire. There, I met generations of other hopefuls cheering for the team. Our Team.

So, pardon us, for making this moment about us, we who have longed for a spot in the Finals after UP’s last championship in 1989, long before many of us were even born. (That title was courtesy of Benjie Paras, now a family man with basketball-playing sons himself, and team--if you're curious.)

I recently chanced upon team captain JR Gallarza who said it wasn’t surprising why some were, well, surprised by UP stepping up, even against a team with Jeron Teng on it. I refused to believe the recent wins are out of pure luck. So, JR, a transferee from the La Salle team himself, assured me and the rest of the hoping Maroons.

“We’ve been going crazy putting man hours of training,” he said, adding that it’s on Mondays—when they don’t have class—that they have more time to condition and train. “Every game is a different challenge and adjustment. We just hope to keep on playing. Every game, there’s a different top scorer. Everyone is contributing in his own special way. We are on to our defense as well.”

Citing team manager Dan Palami and coaches Joe Ward and Rensy Bajar at the helm, the skipper is seeing a reformed team—and the change that will come is for us who have believed. And will forever believe.

“We understand that it’s been a while, especially for the fans and the alumni who have been there since day one and for those who claimed they’ve been following the team for a number of years now. We all know that it’s been hard to cheer for us.”

“This serves as a kind of reward for them.”

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