This appears in the Monday, March 26, 2014
Tracks of my tears
by rick olivares
If Tom Hanks famously claimed that there is no crying in baseball, there sure is some for other sports.
In an ESPN poll last March 20, it was asked if you ever cried about anything related to your favorite pro/college team. This was after former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith surprised seven-year old fan GavinSimone on ABC’s “Good Morning America with a hug and a Baltimore Ravens jersey bearing his surname in the back.
Simone famously teared up in a video taken by his father after he found out that the Panthers had ditched Smith.
I checked on “yes”. Truth is, I outdid Evelyn Gardner (the subject of the ire of Hanks’ character of Jimmy Duggan in the splendid film, A League of their Own that begat that famous movie quote) in bawling out on more than one occasion.
During my grade school days, we were playing for a football championship and I didn’t suit up for the big one. My parents never really liked me playing sports because I was one of those students who found it hard to balance it with my studies. One of them usually suffered and more often than not it was the latter. By the time I got home from late afternoon practice I was exhausted and after I scrubbed myself clean I jumped into bed and into dreamland. The following day, I crammed for my long tests or recitation.
Back to that championship game, my uniform was in the laundry. They didn’t give two jerseys back then. You washed your one set after the game and wore it for the next one. I told my folks about the title game but they didn’t tell the house help to wash them.
I found my gear in the same muddy state that I left them when I dumped them in the backyard sink several days prior. I was devastated and scared. I remember my folks scolding me that night about prioritizing sports over my studies and the dread I felt about the morning to come.
Someone else played my slot at fullback and well, we lost that game. It might be presumptuous to say my absence caused us to lose but it certainly contributed to it. Furthermore, when a team suffers an agonizing defeat fingers are pointed in all directions and I had the big bulls eye on my forehead and back. I could feel the anger burning holes in my back on our way to the school bus. There were snide remarks from my teacher and my classmates. It was a painful lesson about commitment, responsibility, and unity. It was a no-win situation for me.
Once in the solitude of my room, I let my tears loose.
I hardened myself after that and preferred to hide any emotions. That is until well into my adult life when my emotions got the better of me. So much for maturity.
In 1989, the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ two-year reign atop the UAAP Men’s Basketball standings was unexpectedly coming to an end. The team had lost key players to academics and injury and came into the season a vulnerable squad.
A second round loss to UP put them in a precarious situation where they had to beat FEU and hope another team would lose. None of it went their way. Up in the bleachers section of the old Rizal Memorial Coliseum, I watched as the Eagles caught fire late in the game to rally from a late deficit but time simply ran out on them. The “dynasty” short-lived. I sat with several dozen others in the stands stunned. But I shed a tear or two.
There was the 1997 PBA Commissioner’s Cup where the Gordon’s Gin Boars defeated the Alaska Milkmen 4-2 in the Finals to stop a two-finals losing streak to the latter that was building its own dynasty. Gary Granada’s song, “Kapag Natatalo ang Ginebra” was what every Ginebra die-hard felt in his or her heart. When the Boars finished off Alaska in an unexpected rout in Game Six, the tears flowed.
There was the 2006 World Series where the New York Yankees lost the title after the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Luis Gonzalez’ bloop single into the shallow outfield scored the winning run. The championship series was overshadowed by the harrowing events of 9/11 as almost every match – especially those played in New York that had that surreal endings to all of them -- had an emotional fell to them. The Game 7 loss was the last for my favorite Yankee, Paul O’Neill who retired after the season (they also lost third baseman Scott Brosius to retirement) and a few others who were instrumental in New York’s dynasty.
When Liverpool defeated AC Milan in the 2005 UEFA Champions League Finals, it was around 6am of May 6th (just past midnight in Istanbul) on penalties. After Andriy Shevchenko missed a penalty against LFC keeper Jerzy Dudek to give Liverpool, a 3-2 edge in a penalty shootout, I couldn’t contain my tears. My favorite football club in the world, one I followed since I was a kid, had finally won a major trophy after a drought of 15 years (unless you count the FA Cups of 1992 and 2006)! Not since the 1989-90 season when Liverpool midfielder John Barnes scored on a penalty against Queens Park Rangers on April 28, 1990 that secured their last domestic league title have I felt that rapture associated with that Merseyside club. In the intervening years, I had to suck up all the ribbing from friends who rooted for Manchester United as the Red Devils overhauled their trophy total in the next two decades.
This sure felt good even if only for a while (as MUFC overhauled LFC’s league trophy total to continue to stick in our faces).
There are others – Ateneo’s 2007 Final Four defeat to La Salle and Liverpool falling short (four points) to United in the 2009 Premiership race comes to mind.
One time in August last year, my youngest son asked me why I was so passionate about sports. I wrapped my Gilas Pilipinas jacket around him and said, “You watch.”
After Gilas Pilipinas defeated South Korea in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships to end years of heartbreak (and to book a ticket to the World Cup), it was an emotional household that I came home to. The look of happiness disguised as tears were all I needed to know.