This appears in the Monday October 31, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.
Thrill & agony in these games
by rick olivares
Sporting events are supposed to be memorable because -- if I may borrow from the late great Jim McKay -- of thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But they can also be memorable or forgettable due to controversial calls, the incompetence of tournament officials, or the light and funny moments.
Going to the 16th Philippine Sports Commission University Games (October 22-29) at Roxas City, Capiz, I went through the whole gamut of emotions of a sporting event.
As soon as I arrived, I proceeded to the media center to ask for information regarding teams, results, the history, and the works. I was told in return that I cannot be given all of that because I might out-scoop everyone else. Okay. Now I knew what I was up against. I tried a different tactic by requesting for the previous day’s updates and if it could be sent via email. I got a look like the word “email” has gone the way of the carrier pigeon. When they finally got around to sending the information via email, it arrived two day’s late.
When I went to the sports venues, practically almost all the games were delayed not by a few minutes but sometimes for as much as two and a half hours. That screwed up everyone’s schedules as teams were forced to miss meals and coaches had to worry about keeping their players’ focus a whole lot longer.
Prior to matches, when I inquired about team lineups, table officials would refer to me to the supervising officials who would direct me back to the table officials. But the record books only have their surnames,” I explained. “I need to get their full names.
“Doon sa media center meron silang mga kumpletong lineup,” replied one official who in all fairness said it rather nicely and tried to be helpful.
Forgetaboutit. Been there. Done that.
While at the Capiz Gym to watch some of the men’s basketball games, I went up to the john to take a leak. Not only were the urinals overflowing with urine but also there was no running water anywhere.
I went back to the bleachers and groaned about the poor facilities to no one in particular. One female athlete shared that in the school where they were quartered, you could smell the bathrooms from some 20 feet away. It was that overpowering. The bathrooms were so poorly maintained that the girls had to place tissue paper on the toilet seat. So much for comfort.
The games too had their own bit of comedy relief.
During the women’s volleyball match between the University of the Philippines (Diliman) and Ateneo de Davao University at the Colegio de la Purisima Concepcion last Tuesday, a dog wandered onto the court in the middle of the third set that saw some Davao players comically scampering away. The stray dog eventually left after about a minute perhaps unhappy about being the butt of jokes.
Last Thursday, during the semifinals women’s football match between De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas, the two teams went into penalties to decide who will advance to the finals. As both squads trooped to the far end for the shootout, another dog wandered onto the pitch and this one took a dump right on the touchline!
I guess with the success of the Azkals and the rise to prominence of local football, the beautiful game I should say is going to the dogs.
But ultimately, the games belonged to the athletes who put on a thrilling show despite the terrible organization.
There were spectacular upsets (Dipolog Memorial Medical Center thrashing UP 3-0 in men’s football and De La Salle University’s 89th minute goal and game winner against University of St. La Salle that thoroughly dominated the match) and there were tense matches such as the penalty shootout between the women’s squads of UST and DLSU that saw 12 players take spot kicks that the former won 10-9.
There was a story of revenge after the La Salle men’s football team abandoned a match against the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos following a controversial goal that saw the Rams collected a 1-0 win. The two squads faced each other once more in the finals with the Green Archers this time routing UNO-R 4-1 for the crown.
The volleyball matches were always packed with people who came out to watch the volleybelles they only saw on television during the V-League and UAAP season. The crowds were lined up three, four deep. Some even climbed up construction scaffoldings to get a better view.
And speaking of crowds, the quarterfinals match between Ateneo de Manila and local side Hercor College drew 7,000 people to a 3,000 capacity gym that police officials dispatched their SWAT team for additional security. The Blue Eagles were easily the most watched team of the games.
The Roxas City crowd was gracious with their applause and praise (for sure there was some heckling). Although they had their clear favorites, they cheered for all sides. They also made their displeasure known for bad basketball and were embarrassingly quiet when the referees made dubious calls that favored local sides.
It’s a great sports event. In fact, the PSC for the first time adopted the University Games as its official tertiary competition and a part of its grassroots program.
As I waited for my flight back home to Manila last Saturday and reflected on the week that was, I was thinking of how to write this column and what the lasting image of these games were for me. As I sat in my seat, typing on my laptop, across me was an athlete fast asleep after all the intense competition.
In her arms was the trophy that her team fought hard for.