The tendency to identify oneself with a team is universal. This is exactly why sports, as an industry, has always been profitable, and why loyalties based on affiliations last throughout a person’s life.
Filipinos especially love their basketball. This season’s UAAP championship, pitting players of Ateneo de Manila against those of the University of the Philippines, is always a rich source of conversation and good-natured ribbing.
The fight is even made more compelling because of the two schools’ proximity to—and affinity with—each other and because this is the first time in more than three decades that the UP team made it to the finals. There was even an exhortation on social media that those rooting for the teams should wear black instead, to show their unity in protesting human rights violations and other social ills.
Reactions to the rivalry had been mutually respectful thus far—until a member of the Board of Regents made a disturbing post on social media. “Sayang hindi kumpleto ang
injured. Pili na kayo kung sinu-sino mga yon
.” (It’s a shame Ateneo players won’t be complete on Wednesday. Three are injured. Just choose who you’d like them to be.)
The board has distanced itself from the statement of Frederick Mikhail I. Farolan, and rightly so. “There is no excuse for sowing fear and confusion...we view [the statement] with extreme disapproval and strongly condemn violence in any form.”
This is an issue that is not at all unique to collegiate basketball. People who are expected to know better reveal themselves to be susceptible to simplifications. We see how an excess of us-versus-them mentality can bring animosity and even violence. This could happen between and among sports teams and schools, but also religions, geographic locations, race, political clans and parties.
We should check our own tendencies to get wrapped up in differentiating ourselves from others. It is easy to get blinded and to forget the spirit of diversity, healthy competition, acceptance, and respect—reasons why sports and similar activities are organized in the first place. Ultimately there is no greater team than the nation. We need all the unity we can muster to fight the real adversaries: impunity, entitlement, hatred, and grossly narrow minds.