FTS Spotlight: Stages and Crossroads

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was submitted by Lorie Abing. As you’ll read in her story, Lorie is a basketball fan that grew to love Rain or Shine during the Yeng Guiao era. And when the Elastopainters went through some radical changes in the offseason last year, it posed a challenge to Lorie: Is this still the team that she fell in love with? And if that’s no longer the case, was it time to move on?

Stages and Crossroads

Written by Lorie Abing

THE BEGINNING

My oldest basketball-related memory was in the stuffy Cuneta Astrodome – I was just a little girl, young enough to still be deemed acceptable to be carried on the shoulders of my father, excitedly high-fiving the Ginebra players who were kind enough to indulge a little girl’s request. Funny enough, I could only remember EJ Fiehl in that memory (Vince Hizon high-fiving me is still debatable).

But that wasn’t the moment I fell in love with Ginebra, not even basketball in general. Nope. My love affair with basketball started years and years later – the schoolgirl crush began in the NBA, and the passionate love happened in the UAAP. So which area of the spectrum did PBA fall into?

Strongly influenced by my UAAP team, I cheered for the squad of the PBA coach who greatly reminded me of then-UST coach Pido Jarencio. The resemblance was not only in hairstyle (or lack thereof), but with their demeanors, the transparency of their emotions, and the intensity of their reactions to calls and non-calls.

 

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(photo credit: Nippa Images)

Slowly, gradually, eventually, I have come to know the squad’s identity – a no-superstar, equal-opportunity system where the last man sitting on the bench gets his moment on the court; where the starters for every match have always been unpredictable; where the rookie status doesn’t carry much weight as long as your game speaks for itself; and where the coach gets furious at an open man who didn’t take the shot.

It was then that I was certain – this is the team I’d like to take my PBA journey with. From then on, I pledged my support to Coach Yeng and the Rain Or Shine Elastopainters.

THE RELATIONSHIP

Relationships – in all forms – are emotional roller coasters. Undeniably, emerging as Governors’ Cup 2012 and the Commissioner’s Cup 2016 champions were the highs of this ride. But to get there meant getting through the heartbreaks as well – injuries, breaks of the game, and having the championship almost graze their fingertips only to have it snatched away, twice, in one season. And who could forget the P2M Walkout of 2014? What a crazy one that was.

Critical to the team’s success is their effort to remain intact. Personnel movement was minimal. It didn’t take a lot get attached because in the age of social media, seeing the players on your timeline felt like seeing an update from a friend. It meant seeing them other than in their jerseys – a friend, a brother, a father. There’s this aura of comfort and familiarity that gives a fan the feeling of something constant in the very variable world of basketball.

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(photo credit: Winston Baltasar)

I thought that this team would stay together and win championships for a long time. But last year, it all changed.

THE BREAKUP

I couldn’t remember where I was when the news broke out. But what I do remember, is the utter shock that flowed through me and the heartbreak(s) that followed. Coach Yeng to the NLEX Road Warriors? What? How? Why?

A few days after, another headline bannered the different sports sites: Paul Lee for James Yap in a blockbuster trade.

Another one: JR Quinahan to Globalport.

The franchise was clearly headed to a new direction. A couple of conferences went by with minor moves. It was only a matter of time before a decision would shake up most, if not all, RoS fans.

It felt like witnessing the end of a long-term relationship – a divorce – and I was torn. Should I remain with the team that had nurtured my love for the PBA, or the coach that had made me want to immerse myself in the league in the first place?

I pledged my support to Coach Yeng AND the Rain Or Shine Elastopainters, without thinking that the “AND” was variable and time-bound.

Breakups are always messy, and basketball breakups are no exception.

THE LIFE AFTER

The initial meeting between the two parties after a split will always be weird in some way. Seeing the RoS squad on one side of the court and Coach Yeng on the other stirred unexplainable emotions. It was like seeing Kevin Durant don the Warriors jersey for the first time, something I couldn’t get used to anytime soon.

Rain Or Shine has been the one faring well after the divorce. After losing their head coach, star guard, and a few other players, an identical 5-6 record in the Philippine and Commisioner’s Cup doesn’t sound that bad at all. But to wholly attribute this “okay” record to Coach Caloy Garcia’s familiarity with the team would be to discredit him and the players’ efforts, individuality, and maturity. He is his own person as much as each and every one on the squad is.

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(photo credit: Paul Ryan Tan)

On the other hand, Coach Yeng has yet to find NLEX’s groove after two conferences. The transition had been anything but smooth.

After opening the season with an overtime victory, they lost their succeeding assignments and didn’t notch another win until January the next year. They finished the Philippine Cup with a 2-9 record which they replicated in the Commissioner’s Cup. The bright side, should anyone choose to look, is a two-game winning streak to end the conference.

It’s probably fallacious to assume but for the sake of comparison, Coach Yeng steered the RoS franchise to its first semifinals appearance during his first season. With him expanding his arsenal by acquiring additional firepower in the form of Alex Mallari and a proven sniper in Larry Fonacier, a repeat of that accomplishment is not out of reach.

Their final matchup of the season (unless they face each other in the Playoffs) is on Wednesday, July 26.  And while I will always support Rain or Shine, I can’t help but feel like NLEX is also slowly starting to win me over. At the start of the season, I cheered for the Road Warriors simply because of Coach Yeng. Now, i’m starting to cheer for this squad because they’re beginning to feel like Coach Yeng.

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(photo credit: Paul Ryan Tan)

 As to which side of the court should I choose to be, I still don’t know. But then again, while I try to figure it out, I have the best of both worlds. Because with Rain or Shine you can never forget your first love. With NLEX, I can also be excited about what’s to come.

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