The Bleachers King: On Ateneo's re-engagement

Posted at 12/05/2012 4:20 PM

When I heard of the “disengagement” I was not entirely surprised simply because all things come to an end. But I was shocked by the timing as it was during the homestretch of the UAAP basketball season and because of the manner of the parting.

The shock was replaced eventually by some anger and a sense of betrayal. This is something that shouldn’t have been played out in public. If the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ Drive for Five was unsuccessful, I can only imagine the recriminations that would have followed.

I have and will always be grateful to those who help out Ateneo de Manila University in any way from scholarships to the facilities to the sports programs all the way to the drives for charity and poverty.

Like everyone else, we will always have issues with other people, institutions, communities and so on. I myself have my issues with my alma mater, including one that made me, at one point in time, think of severing my ties with the school. However, because of the deep roots that have been formed through the years, I know that whatever disagreements or spats that take place, I will always find my way back to Loyola Heights that has been my home away from home.

Truthfully, I wondered what all the fuss was about the Society of Jesus’ position on mining. It is the position of the Society and not the Ateneo de Manila. The paper is more reflective than combative than some in the Society would have wanted it to be.

As for the RH Bill, wherever side you are, that is never cause for parting ways. I do not like all the laws of our land as many are pro-rich and very unfair but that doesn’t mean that I will not follow or obey the law. If you want to put this in a sports context, current Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins once said (during his time with the rival Detroit Pistons): “Agree or disagree in the room, but when the meeting’s over, align. We always align.”

I can only surmise that it was really bad week but was the Ateneo the most convenient punching bag? That’s twice now that we’ve been disengaged. Every time that it has happened it looks like the school has been orphaned or kawawa.

During the “disengagement,” I was a little disappointed by the basketball team putting up a simple message on their jerseys during the Final Four. Sure, I understand their being grateful for all the help, support and opportunities that have been provided their way by the team benefactor but I have always thought that the name in front of the jersey was more important. It’s like by putting that tag, it was like they had chosen a side.

In FIFA, they do not allow anything outside the name of the club and the sponsors on the kit. Anyone violating it is given a yellow card and can even be suspended. Even during matches, placards and streamers that have political, race or religious overtones are disallowed. And that is the way uniforms should be – kept free from the non-essential matters.

The only professional sports team in this world that has permanent markings commemorating a person is the Chicago Bears with its “GSH” on its sleeves. That is in memoriam of their late founder and head coach George H. Halas who passed in 1983 and the Bears added his initials on their left sleeve permanently a year later.

Regarding the name of the school, if some recruits were in doubt of going to Ateneo because of whatever is promised them was suddenly up in the air then I say that we drop them. If playing for the school and getting a diploma there isn’t enticement enough, then we are getting the wrong people. We used to take pride in the graduation rate of our players. Now we have a few who have not finished. Whatever moral high ground we put ourselves on while lampooning our rivals is gone. We win the right way, ladies and gentlemen.

While in Bangkok the past two weeks for the Suzuki Cup, many asked me my thoughts on the re-engagement, Perasol being named the 36th head coach of the Blue Eagles, and Ateneo’s Sports Endowment Fund. I replied to wait for me to get back so I may assess everything and make an informed opinion.

What is my point in writing this?

I knew that it was a matter of time for the “reengagement.” Chalk it up to those deep roots. Now I am all for forgiveness. After all, the man has done so much. And as a parent, my children commit mistakes not once, not twice but many times over. But because I love them and I know that it is all part of a maturation process, I forgive them. And I am sure that if you are a parent then you do the same thing as well.

However, we cannot simply dismiss things and say, “The past is the past.” Sure it is. But let’s make sure that we really learn from them.

Now I was surprised at how some quickly rejoiced because that meant the basketball program funding that had been so crucial to the team’s success would continue uninterrupted.

This is and should never be about basketball.

This is what it has come to for some – that winning has become addictive. I thought that the school taught us much more than that and that there are values we adhere to.

I understand the vitriol that some have levied the way of Bo Perasol. If the “disengagement” had not happened then I don’t think the comments would be this bad. On one hand, it does look like it’s a package deal but the truth is, when this re-engagement happened, the search for the next coach was sent back to the committee and they agreed on Perasol still being the top choice.

Is Perasol my choice? No. I am the one who threw Alex Compton’s and Louie Alas’ name in the hat (I verbally told the chairman of the search committee and I guess others picked that up from my writing about it on my blog). But if Perasol was deemed to be the best by the committee then I will support their choice. Align, remember?

During times of adversity there is a silver lining. At the time the school was disengaged, we saw support come out from sectors that were once dormant. There is also a call for real support for other programs and not simply basketball. It’s about time. Now the task is to make sure that this translates into real support and action.

In conclusion, I am saying that I welcome these developments and yet let’s all be wiser from what transpired. Let’s welcome back with open arms those who have come back. Let’s also welcome new additions to the family.

And while doing that, let’s temper our expectations for our basketball team because we all know that we are in a rebuilding stage. Therefore, we should support the new coach. He’s going to need all the help he can get because when the losing starts, he will be compared. And that is tough because it is a wholly different time.

It is the season for not just being merry but also a time for reflection and of hope especially in the light of all these new changes. And this is a good time for our Atenean family to get together to celebrate and look forward to the future.