I first met Al Mendoza, the sportswriter I admired since elementary, in 2001 but it was only five years later that I got to talk to him. I was with fellow writers from Davao when Al joined us and I got to tell him that I started following his column when I was an elementary student.
“Pucha, you’re making me feel old,” he said, while laughing and saying his signature, “Cheers.”
A few rounds later, I floored him with the story of our first meeting in 2001. It was also the PAL Interclub and the media center was at the Cebu Country Club (CCC). Fresh from my classes at USC-Talamban, I went there as it was my assignment.
I was giddy and excited. Seeing the faces behind the names of writers I’ve read since elementary — Lito Tacujan and Al among them. Lo and behold, just as I got to the media center, Al called me, rather, he signaled for me.
“Boy, halika,” he said, in between puffs of his cigar while there were some 10 “No Smoking” signs.
It never crossed my mind to ask why he’d call me when he never knew me. I got the answer immediately.
Fresh from school, with the usual “TC” getup of a plain white shirt and pants, I realized I looked like the CCC waiters and my idol mistook me for one. So I did the best that I could and got him coffee. I don’t remember how I got my stories for the rest of the tournament but I do remember making sure to avoid Al.
I told him all of these and we sure had a good laugh. A couple of times in the PAL Interclub, during our SMB sessions, I’d sneak out, order coffee and serve it to him.
I was reminded of that a few days ago when during a meeting with the Cesafi pool of writers, one of them told me that he’s been reading my column since third grade.
And while we were laughing at how that remark showed my age, they served me coffee. Boy, that sequence transported me almost two decades ago.
The Cesafi meeting was an initial discussion to establish the College Press Corps, which, if done right, will finally kickstart what Sir Felix Tiukinhoy always wanted for the league, for the non-sports fans to be involved in the league and to develop school spirit.
The initial discussion went well and since the Cesafi writers will form the core of the College Press Corps, I told them that they shouldn’t be intimidated when they’d meet with the mainstream writers.
Space in the sports pages is limited. That’s why the other events don’t get the attention they deserve. The College Press Corps, hopefully, will change that as each school is expected to devote space to their own teams and won’t be relying on the output of the mainstream.
That’s the idea.
That’s the dream.
Will it succeed? I don’t know. I think it will.
Sometimes, dreams have a crazy way of coming true, when you least expect it. And for Sir Boy’s dream to light the school spirit among students, especially the non-sports fans, the College Press Corps will play a key role.