We All Bleed Blue - by Jose P. Ompoc Jr., AB 1973

Photos courtesy of Arvin Lim and Erwin Cabbab, Fabilioh.com

(Foreword: Last Sunday evening – the day after the bonfire celebration - I wrote the piece below as a bedtime story for my friends, most of them season ticket holders for as far back as I can recall.  The story is a tale of disappointment, redemption and closure.)
As the echoes of the weekend’s celebrations start fading into recent history, a few persistent memories about that inglorious Season 69 keep darting in and out of my consciousness.
I found it odd that Season 69 would intrude as the euphoria of Season 75 has yet to taper down.  But more of Season 69 later.
Yes, Season 75 will forever be special.  As in seasons past, we screamed our lungs out.  Held our breaths while our hearts beat in resonance with the Babble’s drums.  Became catatonics when UST and UE gave us a spanking.
Yet this was also a strange season.  Never did I imagine that we would be in pectore rooting for DLSU for a couple of games.
Neither could I have imagined that my coterie of season pass friends would try to pick a “fight” with a grade school kid.   A “fight” that begun with a stare down from the grade school kid who – in his innocence and lack of understanding of the quotient system – couldn’t comprehend why his elders were rooting for the enemy, the Green Archers.  A “fight” where my season pass friends equally returned the stare.
And never in my wildest dreams did it also occur to me that – on a day where the Blue Eagles were not playing – we would be watching live an NU game to cheer the Bulldogs.
And if we surprised ourselves with watching the Bulldogs, I think we gave Ricky Palou a far bigger surprise: on a lazy Sunday afternoon, he hardly expected to see a bunch of season ticket holders cheering for NU.   And closing in on the Final 4, the people that Ricky tries mightily to avoid are the season ticket crowd, whose appetite for extra tickets is insatiable.
But these anecdotes are not what I wanted to share.  This is the story of something that has been tugging at my heart since last Thursday’s win over UST.
Over at the Gesu while waiting for the players to arrive, I called up my son (his name is Javin) just to catch up on our day.  He was at the Superbowl Restaurant at Gateway having dinner and celebrating with his office mates and bosses.
“JD was out-screaming the Babble for the entire duration of the game,” my son told me.
JD stands for Joseph Roman de la Cuesta, AB Political Science class of 2007.  Batch mates in college, JD and my son were also batch mates at the Ateneo Law School.  And they are now both lawyers working at the EMSAVVIL Law Office, whose senior partners and lawyers are all Ateneans, save the founding partner.  (That said, EMSAVVIL declared a half-day and scrounged around for scalped Upper B tickets for all of its lawyers.)
You’ve probably seen JD.  After all he was captain of the Blue Babble Battalion in Season 69 when we lost to UST.  I do not personally know JD.  But I do know of JD for he was an impassioned spirit whom I’ve witnessed goading the crowd during down-times, during time-outs and during the half-time.  His battle cry was “PUSO”, long before this word became part of our cheering lexicon.  And to my recollection, JD popularized “PUSO”.
Anyway, let me go back to my conversation with my son.  In a private moment – I am not sure whether at their office or at the Coliseum – JD told my son that he has always wondered whether he did enough to coax the 6th man, done enough to cow the 2006 Growling Tigers into submission.
I imagine that in his mind JD probably wondered whether 10 decibels louder could have led to a more favorable outcome.
And as the captain of the Babble, whether his Babble mates failed to match the din and fervor of “Go USTe”.
JD’s musings brought me back to the year 2006.
After that loss, my heart truly bled for the Babble.  These are young kids who invest a great deal of time for a backbreaking job.
These are young lasses who look cute as we watch them do their stuff on court.  Up close, these same lasses still look cute but if you’re observant enough, you’d see ugly patches of black-and-blue and purple blemishes on their gams and thighs – the result of poundings and bruises from hard, nasty falls during rehearsals.
These are drummers whose hands are full of blisters from the continuous pounding of drums.  And the pain, the pain magnifies when they have to take a written exam.  The blisters never go away since the next game is, at the most, just a week away.  They only truly heal at the end of a season.
But I digress.
It has been my custom AFTER EVERY LOSING SEASON to personally thank and reach out to as many Babble members.  The last time I did this was in Season 70.
I stay behind at the Coliseum so that I could go up the stands and thank these grieving young men and women before they pack up for the trek back home to Loyola.
Going back to 2006, I still remember being with the Babble at the stands, long after most everybody had strolled out of the Coliseum.
Making it more painful was the final act that the Blue Babble Battalion 2006 had to endure.  Many years have passed, the circumstances are hazy and I do not exactly remember who started it first – whether it was the Ateneo or UST.
Yet I faintly recall that UST’s drums began rolling as they paid tribute to a worthy fallen foe by thumping to the beat of One Big Fight!  I was mesmerized and frozen in place at the tableau that unfolded then.
As UST’s drums faded out, the Babble – in its final curtain call for Season 69 – equally paid tribute to the better team by beating our drums to the tempo of “Go USTe”.  I remember seeing one young man taking out his frustrations by furiously punishing his drum to the cadence of “Go USTe” as copious tears streaked down his face-paint.
After that 2006 loss to UST, JD refused to watch any live game versus UST – that is, until the second round of Season 75 when it looked like UST would take the second finals slot.
And of course, last Thursday 10/11/12 was payback time to exorcise the ghosts of Season 69.  That JD screamed decibels louder in that game was probably to quiet his imaginings of past failure.
Yes, we bleed blue.
But some of us, like hemophiliacs, bleed more and for far longer – wondering for six long years whether we did enough to change the course of events, whether one decibel more could have made a difference.
In the enduring saga of defeat, all too often we grieve and bleed for the main cast – Doug Kramer, JC Intal, Macky Escalona.  Lost sometimes in the fog of memories are the unheralded role players – the Blue Babble Battalion, whose drummers and cheerleaders are among the last to leave the Coliseum of fulfilled or broken dreams.  For after every loss, their drums seem heavier, their hearts more so.
Good night, season pass friends, and I hope JD and his Blue Babble Battalion 2006 have many sweet dreams from hereon.