Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #113 The Price of Being Blue

(This appears in my Monday, June 30 column in the sports section of the Business Mirror.)

by rick olivares

Even during a school test, the young girl couldn’t get any relief. She hung her head and let her long black and brownish hair hide her face but from the corner of her eye, she could see and feel her forty-something classmates’ laser-like looks boring holes right into being.

It was a bonus question albeit a loaded one, “Bettina was absent from class yesterday. She was at the Ateneo game yesterday where the Blue Eagles lost. True or false?”

The young elementary student from Assumption bit her lip and thought to herself, “I’m not giving you the satisfaction of seeing me squirm.”

The “bonus question” was in relation to her predictable absences during game days and penned by her teacher who went to a certain school along Taft Avenue and never failed to take the opportunity to rub in the team from Katipunan’s hard luck.

And as surely as the sun rises from the east, Bettina’s teachers would receive a letter from her parents the following day asking her to be excused as she had to urgently attend to a “family matter.”

The “matter” is an Ateneo basketball game which is about as family as any game can get for the alumni base span generations of kith and kin. And for the brood of Raffy and Marichi Jose and their four children, they wouldn’t want it any other way. Of the four, young Bettina is the only one not yet in Ateneo and yet is perhaps the “famous” one of them all. Everyone knows her as “the cheerleader.”

Several years ago, Bettina first asked to tag along to a game much to her mother’s concern. “We were afraid that if the Blue Eagles lost she’d be affected.”

Ateneo did lose the first game Bettina ever watched and she admitted that she bawled herself out. And though she has three older brothers all who are all in Ateneo, she is perhaps the most rabid in terms of devotion.

The young and impressionable lass found herself attracted to the brightly garbed cheerdancers of the school and inspired by their spirit. Her parents cut out pictures of the Ateneo cheer dancers and paid a tailor to copy the uniforms. And dressed in a cheer dancer’s outfit, she was a sight up in the stands where she joined the Blue Babble Battalion’s motions and raised her fist with fervor after every victory.

She was even asked once to join the cheering squad on the floor during halftime which left her grinning from ear to ear. “That was thrilling and memorable except for the fact that we lost in that game,” she smirked.

On one occasion, he parents threw a surprise birthday party celebration for their daughter. They brought her to a darkened village clubhouse where upon cue, the lights were switched on to reveal her classmates, friends and the entire Blue Eagle team which was on hand to greet her and share some cake. “Of course I cried,” smiled Bettina. “It’s a great birthday present.”

Even with the highs there are the lows and not just in the stands of the Araneta Coliseum. During a recent school fair in Assumption, people paid money for her to be thrown into “jail” where bail was set to her cheering the opposing school’s yells and songs into a microphone. “I did it,” she said as a matter-of-factly. “I needed to get out.”

But it isn’t only from fans of other teams where she gets her ribbing. One time during an Ateneo game, one fan in blue and white admonished her to do her job -- to cheer its team on. “I guess he didn’t know that she was only in grade school,” remembered her father who along with his sons take great care to shield her from the slants and ugly side of competition.

“Sometimes people get so affected by what happens on the court that they forget there are minors in the stands as well,” added the elder Jose who admitted to previously being unable to curb his emotions. “It does get frustrating but we really have to watch what we say and do up there because there are so many others watching.”

And so were people watching Bettina. Like supporters of any other team, dinner outside after the match, one’s mood, or the day’s activities largely depended on the result of the games. “If we won and ang sarap ng kain. But if we lost, we’d all go home and no one would be talking,” confided Marichi. “We’d just eat a quiet dinner at home then go to bed. But for Bettina, it’s a little harder.

The majority of her classmates support the rival school and whether the two arch-foes play one another or not is beside the point. Any loss by Ateneo and it was going to be a long day in more ways than one from the constant teasing. “Sometimes they’d place a picture of me in the game on my table,” she said shocked at the great lengths people would take to spite her.

But that has changed just as she shed that cheerleader’s uniform that was a fixture during games. She’s no longer the young girl in ponytails and the teasing has largely stopped now – “Maybe it’s because I’m taller now, “ she snickered.

The television cameras that time and again are trained on her because of the raw emotion on her face has revealed a young girl in bloom. During one of last year’s games, color commentator Sev Sarmenta marveled how Bettina had all grown up and grown up right on our television sets. She smiled at the thought as she’s now taller and her voice huskier. “Yuck,” she cringed in horror at those pictures of her younger self.

“She was in an exchange student program in France last year that’s why she missed half the games,” related her mother. “Her immediate concern was… ‘What about the Blue Eagles?’ I told her that the exchange program wasn’t an everyday thing and she’d be back after a bit. She really is such a die-hard fan that even in another country she would always ask to be updated.”

Incredibly, if and when she does get into the Ateneo, she has no desire to be a cheerdancer. “I’d want to join the band and be a part of the drumline. That would be the coolest.”

What about any potential suitors from the other side?

“He’s going to have to get an application to Ateneo and transfer.”

No comments:

Post a Comment