(Taken from the upcoming issue of the Loyola School Bulletin)
It's that time of the year
by rick olivares
People should correctly adjust their Philippine almanacs. There aren’t two seasons – rainy and hot – but three. You have to pencil in the basketball season for the hold the games have on people from all over the archipelago. And depending on the results, they alternate between tropical depressions and bright and sunny dispositions in certain parts of the metropolis.
And if you’ve browsed through the first five pages of pinoyexchange.com lately, you will have noticed that there are at least 30 threads with “Ateneo Blue Eagles” or an Atenean as its direct topic. And that is not counting the generic threads that discuss power rankings to Final Four odds to officiating; all with a heaping helping of ye good old blue and white.
As of early September 2008, if you googled “Ateneo Blue Eagles,” you will have received at least 46, 900 entries on the World Wide Web to feast your eyes on. A few weeks later, it jumped up to 57,900 and counting.
For the visceral types, on youtube, there are more than 200 videos of the blue and white for fans to relive sensational plays and highlights regardless whether we won or lost.
Adidas which has been sponsoring Ateneo over the past few years has since last season, put out various Blue Eagle apparel. Last year, they sold out nearly everything save for a few kiddie wear. This year, with orders up by 27%, there are now two kinds of windbreakers and golf shirts, replica jerseys, and a hoodie finding their way into stores everywhere. And if you haven’t got one, then maybe you should because they’re going, going, and by the time you’re reading this, they’ll all most likely be gone.
The incredible fact about that is not all the Ateneo team wear is bought by current students or alumni. Paul is from St. Nicholas College in Pampanga, but every chance he gets, he watches the Blue Eagles on television. Having an Ateneo jacket is the closest thing he’ll get to being affiliated with the school or the Blue Eagles and he had to take an hour-long bus ride to Manila to buy a jacket.
Explained one retailer, “It is aspirational kaya binibili. It helps that the team is popular and clean-cut yung image. And maganda rin yung color combination… blue and white.”
Most recently, adidas placed “higantes” standees of each member of the team on either side of Fr. Masterson Drive fronting the Blue Eagle Gym. They have become a landmark and a photo op for fans. Word is some overzealous people are offering several grand for someone to pilfer the Chris Tiu standee. It also prompted the mother of one female volleyball player to wonder why there aren’t any similar standees for other athletes. “But mom,” explained the Blue Spiker. “Men’s basketball is the most popular sport in the country.” The mother harrumphed and said no more, but obviously she stewed on it.
It’s also that time of the year when there are frequent one-day leaves during the working week. “I save up my leaves for the UAAP basketball season and for the summer,” said Mark who asked for his surname and company not to be revealed. “But our HR Manager has seen a pattern for my leaves over the last couple of year. They tease me na seasonal ang fever ko… ‘Blue Eagle fever.’”
For the higher-ups, when possible, employers schedule meetings around the games. If they can’t, then they set meetings during the games. “It helps if yung ka-meeting mo or ang boss ay Atenista,” joked PJ (not his real name), an executive with Ayala.
Alumnus Jem Bengzon tells of an incident a couple of years ago when an employee of his set a meeting outside the office. Bengzon thought nothing of it until he saw his staff on television watching the games at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. “Kitang-kita,” laughed Bengzon of the incident. “He was cheering and jumping up and down. Of course pinagsabihan ko siya. He was lucky he didn’t get suspended for that even if Ateneo lost (to UE) that day.”
Moral lesson, never sit where the TV cameras can spot you.
Another alumnus, George has been long retired from work and spends his time watching as much collegiate basketball as he can. “The hardest part about watching the games is that after having come so close to winning a couple of titles in the past few years you have to wait an entire calendar year before you have another chance at it. Any off-season or summer league title helps but it’s not well, the UAAP. We’ve got a very good team this year. I hope that this time around, it’s going to be a year-long celebration.”