Paint it black - AN EAGLE'S NEST SPECIAL by A.R.Samson
|Photo by Arvin Lim|
It felt strange to be wearing a color other than blue when watching a college basketball game, most specially this one. I do recall a game many years back when this same crowd gave up the school colors to wear yellow as a political statement. (I think we won that one.) Anyway, at least 70% of the crowd on game-day Sunday either did not get the memo or chose to ignore it. The preponderance of the color associated with forests and geckos showed something for sure—mostly, the confidence in getting to sing first the school song at the end. Other schools have dispensed with this healing ritual.
Even the supposedly blue (or black) sections had a sprinkling of algae, not the quiet kind that cling to slippery rocks, this one yipping away and jumping up and down at that show reel tomahawk slam dunk of their highest pointer. Etiquette question of the day: is it proper to be raising the noise level and doing the jig in the midst of the other team’s allocated section? That’s a rhetorical question, Miss. This unusual situation could only mean that the allocated tickets for one side somehow found their way to the overflow demand of the other. The blue babble chorus line on the steps must have felt awkward exhorting a not-so-solid block of supporters.
Yes, the title is from a Rolling Stones hit—I see a red door and I want it painted black/ no colors any more I want them to turn black. This of course has nothing to do with basketball, but everything to do with feelings over some trauma like separation anxiety and having one’s psyche blown to bits, or yes, losing a game badly. Your English teacher is sure to catch that bad rhyming couplet, using the same word to end the lines. But it does capture the repetition that the mind undergoes replaying the reel of the game over and over, like a stuck needle in a vinyl record. In both cases the screeching sound is unbearable.
In a parallel universe, a basketball game really lasts only twelve minutes. The score is at 26-20 and the buzzer sounds—sorry that’s it, folks. The big guy with a dubious look on his face has to sit down and weep at the corner. Or else, a technical foul may be called for “resenting the buzzer”. But at this time and in this world (paint it black) the game continues to its relentless conclusion of the second quarter with 33-10 score after that wispy lead by the Blue Eagles.
At half time then, when the cheer dances and gymnastics on the floor were going on, the lighted box score told the story of the half. There was no need for the statistics—what good news could they possibly tell? No one kept score of which side had more black shirts.
With 30 turnovers producing 33 points (yes, I’m not making this up), mostly from the body-banging press in what is described by post-game interviews of the winning coach as “mayhem defense”, and just as possibly nicknamed, the bulldozer press (which the referees considered just a night at the opera) there was no way for the rallying team to pull off a surprise. In the previous six games the Blue Eagles had the best (lowest) turnover number of 18 among the 8 teams. But the mayhem crushed the statistics and maybe a bit of the team’s spirit. At one point the lead was 27 points (or nine triples).
True to the rotating nature of our go-to guys, this one was top-scored by yet another starter, Adrian Wong (15) with three other Blue Eagles at double-digit: Nieto (13); Asistio (11); Ravena (11). In any other game, a score of 81 at the buzzer is a winning number. It is higher than the average for the previous six games. Unfortunately, the winner is not determined by the number of points that a team has racked up, but the one with more points (say, 16) than the other team. You do the math.
It’s the end of the first round for the team. The record is 4-3, which is what Friend M calls “punching above our weight”. (This was after the surprise victory over the defending champions.) This is a boxing reference which can sometimes be applied too to basketball, although here some assaults may not draw a whistle, but a reaction to them can be called “flagrant”—like mixing the primary and secondary tenses in one paragraph.
It’s not the end of the series.
There are seven more games left and if the coaching team can figure out a way to get back to the 18 turnover statistic in the previous six games, there’s hope. It seems all the teams now like to use the full-court press, usually testing the referees’ threshold of allowable physical bumps—if the offensive team player doesn’t need to be hospitalized, please continue the harassment.
Breaking the press goes beyond crossing the timeline. The pushback continues outside the three-point arc, and in the mayhem version, it anticipates the passing lanes when the double-teamed ball carrier is forced to give up the ball. It runs down the clock and only makes available impossible shots.
Here are five things to remember going into the second round.
1) The season is just halfway through and the team is beginning to jell. Roles are taking shape and the go-to for a particular situation is becoming clearer. We can expect the players to improve ball movement and the coaching staff to rotate the bench better and allocate appropriate playing minutes even for foul-troubled key shooters.
2) The poor turnout of the Blues in the last game (30% of the seats?) shows a bad case of fair-weather support. Still, the intensity of the small crowd of Blues (wearing black) that showed up did not wane. They too were shouting above their numbers. And to be fair, the infiltrators in the blue section were treated with respect…or close to it. (I even high-fived the dancing queen in front of our row after the tomahawk dunk. The sarcasm was lost on her.)
3) The standings still show us in the upper half though hanging by the fingernails.
4) Whether it’s a blowout of double-digits (the last game) or a squeaker of a buzzer beater defeat (against the falcons), it’s still just one loss. I’m not sure which hurts more. They both do.
5) It’s still a possible dream.
It must be some kind of irony to have called the game day “Black Sunday”. It certainly was that. We were just feeling blue; wait…make that, black and blue from the thumping. We still have the heart…blue and beating to the sound of distant drums.
Go Ateneo, One Big Fight.
Photos by Philip Sison and Arvin Lim