Be Brave, Tamaraws!
The journey to the finals ended in heartbreak; the Tamaraws fought the good fight, and lost to the NU Bulldogs – putting an end to a 60-year drought in their quest for a UAAP championship. And, because basketball can be a cruel sport, there does not seem to be a place for the runners-up. The champions ascend the podium amidst the cheers, and the vanquished descend to the dugout.
Losing with Grace is Part of One’s Education
In sports, as in life, you can’t win them all; in fact, for a number of us who have worked in difficult fields of endeavour, it may be more accurate to say, you can’t lose them all. The Tamaraws of 2014 have in fact achieved more than what the pundits had predicted at the beginning of the tournament. Crashing the Final Four would have been a feat in itself, and playing in Game 3 of the Finals perhaps a dream too far.
But the team proved us wrong. It was an imperfect team from the very start, without their standouts of the previous years, but it was blessed with young men who were willing to work together as a team, practice hard, live together in the far off campus of FEU Diliman, and play their hearts out every time they graced the hardcourt.
They gifted the viewers of the game a fast-paced brand of aggressive basketball, running down the lanes for fastbreaks or looking for the open man, driving in with artistry, guarding with intensity, and rebounding with strength. The memories abound, and none more memorable, than Mac Belo’s buzzer-beater that dethroned the defending champions Green Archers.
Yet, when it came to the crunch they fell at the last hurdle. It was Chair Gigi Montinola who quoted eminent alumnus former Chief Justice Art Panganiban’s text message: “…Part of winning is accepting loss with grace and sportsmanship. That’s what education is all about.”
After pouring their hearts out, our team came short. It was not meant to be. Accepting defeat with grace is perhaps one of life’s most difficult yet valuable lessons. In the twists and turns that describe the lives of most young people, athletes and students alike, dealing with failure as a friend and learning from setbacks prepare us for the roads-still-to-be travelled. Losing is par for the course and part of our learning is “losing with grace”.
Bringing the Tamaraw Nation Together
Few people believed that an FEU-NU finals would bring in the throng. In fact, the two final games breached the records of the “Big Dome” for a single basketball game registering crowds of nearly (in one game) or just over 25,000 (in the other). A sizeable number of those who came and those who followed the games through radio, tv or online were members of the “Tamaraw Nation”.
If one walked on one of the FEU campuses, or read the exchange at the social network sites or listened to the incessant chants or saw the lines of students and faculty alike lining up for tickets – it was like witnessing a community reborn, brought together by a common cause.
Around the team and support for this band of brothers who displayed a joyful brand of play gathered a following of students, alumni and supporters from far and wide thanks to the reach of the TV networks and the Filipino channel watched by sports enthusiasts and alumni from different parts of the globe.
If one donned the FEU colors around the Araneta Center or the MOA Arena during the final four, people would stop you in the streets and say, “Go Tamaraws” as if a light had been lit. Familiar faces of former athletes and former students graced the games, and there was pride in the school. The team and the way they played the game somehow brought together the university community like never before.
Moreover, after the Pep Rallies, the founder’s last words to his daughter who would carry on his life’s work, “Be Brave” became a battle cry as well as a reminder of the roots of the school, its tradition and values. Be Brave stands for Fortitude; just as Be the Best stands for Excellence, and Be Better for Uprightness.
It became a mantra that was both brief and bold, and inspired people to think beyond themselves and as a part of a school that was built on the belief to do better in life despite the challenges faced by working class students or those with modest means in life.
Continuing to Pursue the Dream
There is a book written by a Nobel laureate for literature entitled, “Next Year in Jerusalem”. It is a tribute to the yearning and the spirit of hope instilled in the hearts of people living in a contentious part of the Middle East. We, on the other hand, live in a country – imperfect though it is — that we can call our own, where we can pursue our dreams.
Moreover, it is a country where a young man who needed to save on transport money persevered and pursued law in Morayta to later become the highest magistrate of the land; where a scholar athlete of the university rose to become mayor of the country’s capital city; and where a lad from Midsayap, Northern Cotobato, even now has become a member of the “mythical five” of the country’s premier collegiate basketball league; where a boy in short pants from Zamboanga City entered high school and then university at FEU to weave his wizardry on the court and generate a following of young and old alike.
The Tamaraws represent a perennial quest to continually better our lives in the style of an Arwind Santos who led the last Tamaraw champions of 2005 or a Johnny Abarrientos who led not only the Tamaraws but the teams in the professional league that he played for to a total of 18 championships.
It’s more than just a game. It is in fact larger than life. It represents the dream of every schoolboy in the land who has ever handled an old ball in the dirt court in the barrios or the inner city streets where FEU stalwarts like Johnny begun.
Next year, perhaps.
The dream beckons, as we continue to pursue hoop glory or different dreams.