I’ve always liked the FEU team even before the Arwind Santos days. This is a team that really understands the game. Obviously well – coached they seldom ever hang their heads, never dwelling too long on errors or looking like they don’t belong – because plainly, they do. Amongst the elite teams in the UAAP, the FEU Tamaraws bring a tough and very high level of game year after year.
As I write this, the FEU players are headed towards their dugout – many of them with tears and their eyes. At the start of Season 71, I mentioned how I didn’t even know who they were. Today, I will never forget the names JR Cawaling, Benedict Fernandez, Mark Barroca, Robert Kave, Marlon Adolfo etc., because they played with a level of intensity I HAVE NEVER SEEN SINCE I CAN’T REMEMBER ANYMORE. Forget the NBA Finals, the UE vs. FEU game that ended a few minutes ago brought me near tears myself. It is quite plainly, the closest thing to a perfect game I’ve seen in years.
Of course it’s one thing to say that, and quite another to show stats to prove it, but unfortunately since those are still to be published in the papers tomorrow, I’m only relying on memory when I say that at one point, UE was shooting 50% and FEU an astounding 70% field goal percentage. Not only were offenses clicking, but defense was terrific as well, which is amazing for any one team, but BOTH TEAMS? AT THE SAME TIME? That is just incredible.
A few situations I remember very clearly though. With a little over a minute left the camera focused on an FEU Tamaraw on the bench. He saw the camera pointing at him and instead of goofing off with the usual hand under his chin ala ‘pogi’ pose, he pointed to the number 12 sewn on the left hand portion of his jersey, saying what I imagine that he is dedicating it all to Mac Baracael’s cause.
That of course clinched it for me, and I started wondering how painful it would be if their hoped for win was not meant to be. But after a well designed play by Glenn Capacio, a badly timed foul by Elmer Espiritu (which caused him to foul out), and a UE play that did not materialize as Coach Pumaren would have hoped it would, an FEU win was destined. A rebound off a missed freethrow taken by the shooter himself (Barroca) later, and FEU erupted in what could possibly be the sweetest celebration of a win I have ever been lucky enough to have seen.
Such beauty there is in teammates caring for one another. True, up to a few seconds left UE could’ve won that, which is why I believe I would still write this whether FEU won or not. The sight of Cawaling and Fernandez trying vainly to cover their red eyes bely the tremendous emotion that only friends of a fallen comrade can understand. Baracael, FEU and the whole UAAP is lucky to have young men such as these in their ranks. It speaks highly of the fibre with which Filipino young men are made of.
But at the same time, I cannot help but think of the shadow cast upon all of us as well.
Such a horrible situation we find ourselves in, if it is revealed that fixers were involved, where people find it an acceptable course of action to attempt to take a man’s life purely to force a result in a basketball game. Basketball, to my knowledge of it, is only something we do for sport. To enjoy ourselves, to participate in, to make friends, to learn of life, to exercise our bodies and minds. Never never never did it cross my mind that people would ever find just cause to take a life in order to influence it. I’d never have thought we should ever take anything, let alone basketball, so seriously to make it come to that. NOTHING should ever need for it to come to that.
Having said that, I submit that dark thought should take a backseat if only for a moment, for the proud FEU Tamaraws to soak in their win tonight. They delivered a fantastic game. They played with their hearts, and they are truly deserving of their name. #12 should sleep well and get his rest tonight, assured in the fact that his team loves him.