I’ve been fortunate enough to witness a bunch of great basketball moments live and in person.
Just last year, I covered Ateneo’s incredible run to a championship highlighted by the Isaac Go reel of clutch shots. In 2010, still in my Ateneo High School uniform, I witnessed Ryan Buenafe nail the greatest “No, No, No… Yes!!!” shot of all-time in the Season 73 Finals between Ateneo and FEU. And in 2012, I was in the nosebleeds at Staples Center during the infamous Metta World Peace elbow to then-OKC Thunder Sixth Man James Harden.
But 2018 was an extremely different year for me because it was a transition year into a new chapter in my life. I graduated from college and got my first job, and its’ had me working in Cebu since August.
I was honestly ecstatic when I found out about the opportunity to live and work away from home, but I knew I was also moving away right around the start of the UAAP season. I was less than a year removed from watching UAAP live at least once a week for three months straight. But now, I was preparing to have to watch all these games on livestream in my boarding house.
Away from the crazy atmosphere inside the arena, from the passionate fans from all the different schools, and from actual humans who cared about Metro Manila universities playing basketball against each other.
It was a little sad, but it’s not like I had that many things to occupy myself with on weekends, so I was able to watch to still watch the games. Plus, this was going to be the first year that I was going to have to write about UAAP basketball as a whole, and not just for my alma mater. I needed to follow all the teams.
When Season 81 finally tipped-off, I decided to trap myself in the room for most of my weekends to finish the weekend’s four-game slate. I’d only ever leave to have dinner after the games, or head over to friend’s to watch the games there. He didn’t care as much about the UAAP, so I’d watch on top of our ongoing conversations, while jabbing in with occasional updates on the game.
But one day, I got amazing news: My department in the company had to be back in Manila for an entire week starting Monday, October 8.
Perfect. Round 1 of Ateneo vs La Salle was scheduled the weekend prior on Saturday, October 6. This meant I could take an early flight home and catch the game live in MOA arena.I flew in on October 6th at around 11 in the morning, and, luggage in hand, was at the arena by 11:30.
At that point, I was standing by the ticket booth, undecided on my next move. There was more than four hours left until the highly-anticipated Ateneo-La Salle tilt, but there was also a － let’s just say －less-anticipated UST vs UE game at 12 noon.
I was alone, had yet to eat a full meal, had not a lot of emotional investment in any of the teams (yet), and was not willing to spend a lot of money now that I was no longer dependent on my parents. But I was craving live UAAP basketball so badly that I found myself purchasing an Upper Box ticket to the UST-UE game.
That proved to be the defining basketball decision for my 2018. Because a trivial UST-UE game that was a blowout from the first half alone, and that I watched from an Upper Box section which had around twelve people in total, was my favorite basketball moment of 2018.
Why? Because it was my basketball equivalent of everyone’s favorite hugot quote: You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
I stared down at a steep angle from MOA’s Upper Box, hearing both the drums and the courtside sounds in the mostly empty arena, and it was serendipitous.
Currently alone in upper box and with no real equity invested in UE or UST, but just so happy to be here. The atmosphere of ANY UAAP game is one of a kind.
— Colin Salao (@colinmaybe) October 6, 2018
It didn’t matter that I was watching alone or that I was seated faraway; I was just so incredibly happy to be in the arena and watching live UAAP basketball again.
It was one of the moments when I realized the value that basketball provides in my life. It’s more than just escapism; It’s a feeling of adrenaline-filled happiness brought by an atmosphere of competition and camaraderie.
So while 2018 was a slow year for me in terms of witnessing actual basketball history, this specific moment highlighted what basketball has become for me. In the year that I graduated, began working full-time in a corporation, began living alone and away from home, and needed to become a real adult, I realized even more how much I love the game of basketball.
I can’t live without it.
This was also the game that I truly began to believe in CJ Cansino. He had his best of the game of the season to date at that point (17 points, 17 rebounds), but what really got me drooling was this amazing one-handed cross-court pass in transition:
Can’t wait for him to be back.