MANILA, Philippines – The fans of the University of the Philippines (UP) made sure that they were heard on Sunday, when they felt that the Fighting Maroons were getting the short end of the stick in terms of officiating.
In the third quarter of their UAAP Season 80 game against Adamson University, the UP fans showered the game officials with chants of "luto, luto" as the Soaring Falcons began to break the game open.
They expressed their unhappiness at virtually every call, hurled curses at the referees every time they blew their whistles, and clapped sarcastically whenever an Adamson player trooped to the free throw line.
Towards the end of the third frame, a UP fan had to be escorted out of the patron section after he was caught throwing a balled-up piece of paper onto the court. The fan later said that he simply got carried away, as he believed that none of the calls were going their way.
He wasn't alone in his anger. Former UP courtside reporter Niña Alvia unleashed a series of increasingly irate tweets, saying that it was "the worst officiated UAAP game I have ever watched," even offering to show video evidence of unfair calls.
The UP crowd had reason to be angry, as the Soaring Falcons were awarded 28 free throws, against only 10 for the Fighting Maroons. Nevertheless, their criticisms had little effect on how the game was played: Adamson scored an 86-70 victory that gave them a Final Four spot, and made UP's road to the semifinals all the more difficult.
After the game, however, UP coach Bo Perasol had nothing but love for the crowd that fought with the team every step of the way against Adamson.
"I welcome that, in the sense that they are into it," he said. "They care, they are passionate about winning."
"Kasi ang susunod diyan, magku-kumento and all of that, and that's a positive side in a community that cares. It gives pressure to the team to deliver," he explained.
Perasol feels that the UP crowd's display of passion – something that they have shown over the past couple of seasons, as the Fighting Maroons competed their way to relevance – is a sign that they are progressing towards their goal.
After all, the coach has been vocal in saying that he wants the UP community to become invested in their basketball team in a way that they were not before, when the Maroons were mired in mediocrity.
"Yun ang sinasabi nating proseso of the community being part of the team, and the team being part of the community because you cannot veer away from each other. Hindi mo mahiwalay 'yung bawat isa," he said.
This kind of investment of a community in its team is a sign of a successful program, he added.
"If you are going to be comparing all the successful programs, ganoon lagi -- Ateneo, La Salle, FEU, UST, 'di ba? Kaya ngayon, si UST, galit sila," he said, referring to the still winless University of the Santos Tomas Growling Tigers. "At least ngayon, si UST, nakikita mo, nagagalit sila, kasi they know that they have a history of winning."
This is in stark contrast to his years in the team, noted Perasol. In his time – from 1990 to 1994 – the community did not care if they lost.
"Noong hindi kami nananalo, walang nagagalit," he recalled, laughing. "Si UP, noong natatalo, 'Eh wala eh, ganoon talaga 'yan. Good luck, guys.'"
This kind of passive response was seen again when the Fighting Maroons slogged through a fruitless decade that saw them rack up winless or one-win seasons in the UAAP. Perasol, in his second season of coaching his alma mater, will gladly welcome a passionate, fired up crowd that argues with officials rather than one that simply cruises through games.
"This is something that's really new," he said. "Kaya nga sabi ko, kahit magalit sila, okay lang 'yan. In a way, they are now involved."
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