LONG after last Sunday’s hotly contested Ateneo-La Salle game, people were still talking about the commotion that occurred in the passageway leading to the dugouts of Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Reports in various media said that a La Salle fan, later identified as JJ Atayde, had rushed from his ringside seat to within earshot of Ateneo coach Bo Perasol, who was on his way to the dugout with the Blue Eagles and his coaching staff after the team lost to the Green Archers, 62-64.
Good thing, a steel fence separated the passageway from the ringside section. Otherwise, there’s no telling how or where the fan could have ended up.
Nobody anticipated the reaction that the fan’s heckling elicited from the usually cool-headed, mild-mannered Perasol, who has no history of losing his cool even when he was still coaching in the PBA.
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Perasol’s transformation into a very angry Incredible Hulk happened in an instant, triggered by words uttered by the heckler.
What exactly did the heckler say, some fans wondered.
It took four or five big, strong men to restrain Perasol and stop him from going after the fan.
Later, when Perasol had calmed down, he apologized to everyone.
Except to the La Salle fan.
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“Right at the very beginning of the game, just after the tipoff, the heckler already made his presence felt,” said an Ateneo insider who requested not to be identified. “I saw him standing, I heard him shouting at Ryan Buenafe. For all we know, that’s the role he’s supposed to play—to get the opponent’s goat.”
The insider said he couldn’t blame Perasol for losing his cool.
“Imagine, we had just gotten from a bitter loss, and to our arch rival at that, when Coach Bo was met by this heckler who was shouting, “Perasol, salamat sa panalo! (Perasol, thank you for the victory!) O, di tanggal ang yabang mo! (Now, there goes your ego).”
“Coach Bo just blacked out and went after him,” the insider said. “Of course Coach Bo later regretted that he had allowed the fan to succeed in getting his goat. This was the reaction that the heckler had wanted to elicit from him. Coach Bo promised not to allow this to happen again.”
Well, heckling is all part of the game—as long as it does not get out of hand. The violent reaction to the heckling as well as the fierce partisanship—these will always be part of a La Salle-Ateneo duel.