Amid the heartaches, a UP Maroons fan cheers onBy Aaron Rivera
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(Editor’s note: If there’s one thing we love about the UAAP, it’s the fact that defeat never puts a good fan down. With this in mind, we searched for proof of this indomitable cheerful spirit. We picked this gem of an essay from a Maroons fan.)
They win and lose games unnoticed. Well, mostly they lose. Wins are so rare that they are celebrated the way other teams celebrate championships.
Critics do not expect them to win more than 3 games in a 14 game season.
They’re called disheartening. Disappointing. Agonizing.
To me, they’ll always be the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.
When we talk about the UAAP, we talk about the powerhouses—Ateneo, La Salle and all other schools who have taken turns making it to the Final Four.
Come to think of it, all the other universities have had their own runs of brilliance and string of winning games that put them in Final Four contention.
Not the Maroons.
Not surprisingly, very few people talk about UP men’s basketball unless you are from the other school pondering on which games are winnable. Then you mention the Maroons.
And as a basketball fan since the mid ’90s, it sucks to be in a school where the basketball program isn’t clicking. Taking consolation in morale victories and almost-got-that-win type of games.
I’ve been a Maroons follower since high school, way before I even knew what university I’d be in. They don’t look flashy nor do they have their army of fan-favorite superstars. They look like a decent team who could win some games, just not enough to make it to the Final Four.
I remember very clearly how I literally rolled on the floor, I don’t know how or why, but I rolled anyway, after a Marvin Cruz breakaway layup to take the lead on a particular game—which they eventually lost.
I promised myself I’d continue watching them until they win a championship. And speaking of which, after my research, I discovered that their last UAAP men’s basketball title was in 1986 and their last Final Four appearance was in 1997, so my UP fan duties may take longer than I expected.
There was a time when UP went on a rebuilding phase. This was almost the same time I entered UP. They signed Joe Lipa to spearhead the team’s rebuilding process and I hoped it was for a dream to put UP back into the Final Four. I spent preseasons scouting and researching about players and possible recruits and was always thrilled that they got players, year after year, who could turn things around for UP.
My first time to watch them live was against UST, where they lost by three. Like every UAAP newbie, I collected flaglets and balloons. They were my treasures then. I was so giddy to see the Maroons play live that I wanted to always have courtside tickets in every game. I wanted to see them practice and to contribute whatever I can just to see them win. Maybe we as fans can do something to help UP stop the bleeding?
I watched good players come. I watched them transfer. I watched them graduate.
But the end of the heartaches never came.
Hope would die as quickly as it would come.
I would watch each game either live or inside the classroom using my sister’s phone. I would celebrate each point with hands raised in the air or with a subtle thud of my classroom chair. I would hold on until the last second, completely convinced that a miraculous rally would start a UP uprising.
And always, it would end the same: There would be winless seasons, tons of tears shed, bowed heads game in and game out. There would be coaching changes, issues and injuries and even more years of a UP free-fall.
But one thing also remains constant.
I remember a particular scene during the last game of Marvin Cruz and Nestor David, they were losing yet they celebrated each point they scored. They were smiling. Fans were crying and cheered on.
That’s when I realized that one thing’s for sure: We may lose, we may be pushed and bullied on the court, but always, always we have but one cheer for our beloved team.
(Aaron Rivera is a 24-year-old graduating dentistry student from UP Manila.)