I am often asked “Why do you build your world around a league that doesn’t even pay you for the passion and the heart you have for it?” I would usually just smile and let it slide. I’d tell myself they don’t understand. That they will never understand. Unless they see what I’ve seen for the past 10 years of supporting the UAAP.
So, what exactly did I see?
I have seen students coming inside the Araneta Coliseum in droves wearing their school color loud and proud as if they are about to go to war with their yells and school cheers as their only weapons.
I have witnessed fans who would file leaves or skip work just so they won’t miss a game, be it a crucial or non-bearing one.
A group of friends who would camp out of the MOA Arena overnight, for 17 grueling hours, to make sure they’d get a ticket to one of the most sold-out events every year, the UAAP Cheer Dance Competition.
Supporters who are willing to wait outside, at the exit of the venue, while their idols are at the dug out, taking a shower, just so they can see them leave. In a bus. Not getting a chance for a photo op. Just a wave and a smile. Sometimes, not even. They are happy, nonetheless.
Then, there are the teenagers from different public schools who lack funds to go and study at a UAAP college. These kids would work harder than the rest of their batchmates just to graduate with honors and get a chance to snatch a scholarship just to legitimize their inclusion in the league.
Non-alumni fans who would stand up after the game, pump their fist, and do the patented forward-backward motion while the drummers play the school hymn. They are not from the school. They don’t know the lyrics. But in their hearts, they belong.
Parents of the players who would bow their heads and pray for a Hail Mary when their son’s/daughter’s team is seconds away from a loss and a big heartbreak.
The pep squads and their undying spirit in their efforts to pump up the crowd to cheer and never give up until that one last second is up because for them, that’s the only acceptable time to throw in the towel.
And then there are the players. Players who would train twice a day, before and after they go to class. Athletes who would play hard, not because they are being paid to do it, but because they consider it a serious job to bring glory to their alma mater. Players who believe that losing would mean breaking the hearts of thousands of fans, students, professors and other school personnel which would be the last thing they’d ever want.
I have seen a lot. But in my opinion, it is not just the cute guys or the hot girls from the league that got us hooked. Not just the games. Not just the school pride. Not just the excitement.
We keep coming back because in some ways, we found a family. A family that shares the same passion. Passion for a league that inspires us with the wins, breaks our hearts with the losses and allows us to look forward to tomorrow just because there is a game even if we’re going through the worst times of our lives.
And now that we are just a day away from raising the curtain for Season 76, I can’t help but feel excited, proud and reminiscent. Excited because here we go again, in for another roller coaster ride. Proud, not just because this league I loved has come a long way, but because with it, I have, too! From just a simple fan to writing this piece. And reminiscent because I look back to all the events I’ve been in and I remember thinking “It cannot get any bigger than this!” I was wrong. It is bound to be bigger. Larger than life.
With the constant changes that keep happening in our everyday lives, it’s good to know that as long as these schools have students, we will continue to be treated to sports programs that will let us forget our problems, our social standing and most of the time, our age. Thank you, UAAP! We are ready! Fight!
Originally posted on Rappler: