The Ateneo Blue Eagles defeated the UP Fighting Maroons 89-63 last Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum. But despite the convincing win, some fans have claimed that the game was rigged, citing many bad calls and non-calls. A quick browse on Twitter will show you allegations of “luto” and cooking-related memes. Although I expected such reactions, I could not help feeling disappointed.
I honestly felt that the calls were more favorable to Ateneo and the refs were terribly inconsistent. But the game was far from being rigged. The Ateneo Blue Eagles remain to be the gold standard to which all UAAP teams are measured against. In the offseason, the Ateneo Blue Eagles faced the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian professional basketball team in the National Basketball League (NBL). Ateneo beat the Adelaide 36ers, 91-87. The Adelaide 36ers defeated Gilas Pilipinas, 85-75, mind you. Ateneo beat a professional basketball team who beat our national team. Let that sink in.
Ateneo dominated the boards in their win versus UP. Thanks primarily to Ange Kouame, Ateneo had 19 offensive rebounds. UP only had 10. They scored 23 second chance points compared to UP’s 10. Kouame had 7 blocks while the entire UP team had only 4. Ateneo shot the ball well too. They shot at a handsome 48% on 19 assists. The Fighting Maroons shot at 37% and only had 10 assists. I honestly think if UP were allowed to play 6 guys on the floor during the game, Ateneo would still have won.
The UAAP officiating has always faced controversies. Ask anyone who has lost a game in the UAAP and they’d tell you that their team was a victim of bad calls. I, for one, think that the officiating in the UAAP could be better. But calling a game “luto” does a great disservice to the players of any team, to their coach, to their staff, and to their community. “Luto” implies that the team you faced cheated. “Luto” implies that their win is not acceptable. It was not earned.
Prior to the UP-Ateneo game, many teams have cried foul over the officiating. UST has shown great disdain to the missed call on their Adamson game. Coach Aldin Ayo has expressed his dismay on Twitter. Heck, parents of one UST player even tweeted that those refs should be sanctioned. Some students and alumni said the refs were biased. It was the same thing when they lost to La Salle. Some even said that the refs should have worn green. This is despite the 16-point rout behind Encho Serrano’s 29-point explosion.
UP should know better. In the semis versus Adamson last year, Jerrick Ahanmisi drove in the middle of the lane, got hit and made the basket. It was a crucial play. The refs waved the basket off and said the foul was made on the floor. No and-1. If it were counted, the game could have ended differently. Instead, UP won by two via Desiderio’s heroics. Many fans from Adamson question the call and rightfully so. I really think that that was a bad call. But I doubt that the UP community would accept any allegations of “luto”. That was last year. This year, UP won versus Adamson again. This time, thanks to clutch free throws by Bright Akhuetie. An Adamson player tweeted that he still has no idea where the foul was. Another Adamson player even RT’d a tweet that said the game was rigged. The tweet is now deleted. I strongly doubt UP students and alumni will accept “luto” allegations for that game as well.
We all wish for better officiating in the UAAP. In an ideal world, there would be no missed calls and bad calls. But referees are human beings and are prone to errors. I mean, some possessions even after being reviewed and replayed over and over again are still too hard to judge. What more real-time plays in a highly anticipated, emotional game? This concept seems to be incredibly hard for people to grasp, especially when their favorite teams are involved. However, this is the reality. A game with no missed calls will be forever out of reach unless we could build a robot that is immune to making mistakes.
The best referees are arguably in the NBA, where the accuracy of calls and non-calls sits nicely at around 94%. Still, salty fans, hot takes, and ridiculous allegations are abound. In the 2016 NBA Finals, for example, many fans believed that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the title because the NBA was rigged. The Cavs were down 3-1 in their championship series with the Golden State Warriors, a team who finished the season with the best record in the history of the NBA. Draymond Green was suspended in Game 5 because he was slapped with a flagrant foul in the game prior. Stephen Curry was ejected in Game 6 for throwing his mouthpiece into the crowd after he was called for his sixth foul. Many fans claimed that the Cavs only won because Green did not play in Game 5 and they had the referees help in Game 6. Never mind that Draymond Green played marvelously in Game 7 at the Oracle Arena. He scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Never mind that LeBron James made the most iconic playoff defensive stop in recent NBA history. Never mind that Kyrie Irving had ice in his veins. Never mind that Steph Curry could not score against Kevin Love in the last possession. If the Golden State Warriors deserved the championship more, shouldn’t they have found a way to win without Green? Shouldn’t they have won with Green playing in Game 7 in their homecourt?
UP students and alumni of all people should know that bad breaks and bad calls are not the end. We’ve had to overcome incredible amount of hurdles and stress just to survive a single semester in the university. What’s that saying in UP? Kapit lang sa removals. Laban lang. Sasablay din. There’s a reason why our battlecry is UP Fight.
It’s like receiving a 2.75, the lowest grade you ever received in college, instead of an uno because your MST prof can’t believe that a student from the College of Arts and Letters can ace both his exams. You complain to your prof, demanding an explanation. But you’re not even given one. You get mad. You get frustrated. And yet you persist. There are 4 more MSTs to ace. There are 4 more chances to get an uno. You work hard, you study, and ultimately, you get to wear that sablay. You graduate with latin honors. And suddenly that one bad call does not matter anymore. Victories erase all the bad calls, missed shots, and botched opportunities. But you just have to rise above all these unfortunate things first, even if you feel you don’t deserve them. The world does not owe you anything. You just have to be better. In life or in basketball, one just has to always choose to be better.
Basketball is an extremely emotional sport. And it has been part of our daily lives as Filipinos. As a basketball-crazy nation, we should learn to respect the game more. There will always be missed calls and bad calls. But sometimes fouls are called because they should be. And our team is in foul trouble not because the game is rigged but because our team is not disciplined enough to defend without fouling.
As UP students, we should know what honor and excellence demand of us. Honor does not only come in times of successes and victories. There is honor in accepting defeat. There is honor in acknowledging that you’re not yet as good as you should be. There is honor in knowing that there is so much work to be done. Honor and excellence do not only come in favorable results. It comes in any situation where circumstances not only test your skills but also your character. We pride ourselves for being the nation’s “best”. We pride ourselves for producing the sharpest minds in the country. And yet, the biggest crooks and criminals in the Philippines have also come from UP. Being excellent does not only mean being the smartest or being ahead of everybody else. Excellence entails many things. And that includes being humble in victory and being gracious in defeat. If we are truly excellent, we should also learn to appreciate the excellence shown by others. And we should be humble enough to admit that there’s a long way to go before we can catch up.
At the end of the day, I will forever be loyal to the UP Fighting Maroons. And I will forever be proud of the UP community. But as a UP student, I could not accept that we’re subscribing to what I think is toxic behavior. I know we are better than that.
At the time of publication, the UP Community has thankfully calmed down. The community is brimming once again with hopeful energy and positive vibes after Coach Bo Perasol’s open letter, and Twitter posts, statements, and articles by former UP players like Paul Desiderio, Mikee Reyes, and Fighting Maroons top patron and UP alumna Robina Gokongwei-Pe. And this incredibly inspiring post of one of the founders of the Nowhere to go but UP foundation, Renan Dalisay about the struggles, sacrifices, and financial limitations of the UP MBT. Some may say that these reflections are too much a reaction for a first round game.
OA talaga tayong mga taga-UP. Nakakaloka. But #UPFight forever. On to the second round! #BOlieve
Side note: If any Ateneans are reading this, after the game, the UP community cheered for UP despite you singing your alma mater song. I know this is disrespectful and I deeply apologize. But I really think that the UP community did not intentionally do this. There was no music played, and we stopped immediately when we realized that you have started singing. And many UP students urged people to stop cheering as well. I know that it’s an unspoken rule to stop cheering after the game as a sign respect for the winning team. The UP community is still new to all these unspoken rules. We’re still navigating our way through. But we’re fast learners. I think we’ll be better next time.
For more insights on the UAAP or pop culture in general, visit our website at https://theamprsnd.com/.
Patriz Biliran and Regina Peñarroyo co-run The Ampersand and write blog articles in their free time.