By José Abeto Zaide
Filipinos love sports, and regardless of anatomical challenge, our favorite sport is misplaced in the game of towering giants — basketball, (pintakasi excepted).
We love sports because results are conclusive at the end of every game. (Before former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza disembodied the Jai-Ali fronton, a tell-tale sign advertised what was my first lesson in the Spanish language: Los árbitros decisión si final.)
ONLY IN THE PH? We also love politics, but differently. Nobody loses an election: (But he/she wuz always robbed). Moreover, our politics have gone even further with a paradigm shift – Nowadays even the referee is placed on the carpet – like when Congress wants to hail the referee (the Supreme court chief Justice) to a trial at the Senate. (With intimation that the Ombudsman will follow.) If we recall correctly, the decision on impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona has some unresolved after-thought.
Oh, not everything in the hardcourt is always perfect. Without taking away from De La Salle’s win over Adamson University in Final Four, a big cloud resulted in preventive suspension of the three referees.
In the other match, the Ateneo had to thread the needle and needed the second of its twice-to-beat advantage to put away the FEU Tamaraws.
We all know what happened in the first finals game last Saturday: the Blue Eagles bested the Green Archers 76-70. I had thought that since they had to go through a grueling second game against a formidable FEU, the Blue Eagles were a spent force against a well-rested Green Archers. But the situation was reversed.
The Green Archer’s Mayhem defense was, er, Ahem; and the Blue Eagles even led by as much as 13 in the first half. Yet De La Salle wasn’t going to keel over. The biggest play was Archer Kib Montalbo’s behind-the-back dribble which tied the game, plus a foul shot which gave La Salle the lead 57-56 in the 3rd quarter and threatened to turn the game around. Aljun Melecio kept the Archers in the fight, top-scoring with 24 points; R. Rivero added 10. But Ben Mbala was held down to 8 (his lowest, because of double-teaming on him).
EAGLE WOUNDED. An incident in the 4th quarter nearly marred the game. When the crowding Eagles ganged up on Mbala, his errant elbow knocked down Matt Nieto for a full 10-second count. Surprising that this earned two free throws for Mbala; but that was a referees’ decision.
NO MERCY. More surprising from where we sat was the De La Salle hecklers cajoling, as if to fault the wounded Eagle for play acting. Wasn’t there enough blood flowing from above his left eyebrow?
The reaction of twin brother Mike Nieto was a harder fight back, no fouls or dirty tricks. So, too, with the rest of the spirited Blue Eagles. A stitched-up Matt Nieto returned with vengeance; and in the closing minutes he scored a two-pointer and followed with a trey. The gentle giant Isaac Go connected a Thirdy Ravena pass for an under goal stab cum free throw to put the game out of reach.
GAME 2, BILOG ANG BOLA. At 4 this afternoon the two teams collide again at the 25K seat Smart-Araneta Dome. The two sides stake all their marbles. Mbala is determined to bounce back from the slack, and so will the rest of the Archers. The Eagles will want to close it today; the Archers want to live to fight another day. At this afternoon’s day of reckoning; hopefully we will have only heroes, no heels
Colombia Honorary Consul General Jorge Araneta hopes that De La Salle takes this one to even the score – not just because it is his alma mater…but because a third deciding game is good for Smart-Araneta gate receipts and good for the economy.
COACHING FROM THE BLEACHERS. Oca Violago, Ben Maynigo and old fogeys of my generation remember that before the team comes out of the dugout, the Blue Babble Battalion thunders the “Blue Eagle Spelling!” As team does the round robin, the Ateneo bleachers belt out “Blue Eagle the King!” by the perennial cheerleader Raul S. Manglapus, (music transcribed by the former bandmaster and would-be national artist Lucio San Pedro). In the sincerest form of flattery, the American Brooklyn Preparatory School adopted the lyrics and music as their own and called their team the Brooklyn Prep Blue Eagles. Fr. James B. Reuter’s “A song for Mary” is sang – win or lose! – to cap the game.
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