The first time I saw a crowd in a sports event made its almost unanimous choice known for a presidential candidate was back on April 23, 2016. It was Nonito Donaire Jr. vs Zsolt Bedak at the Cebu City Sports Center.
When Donaire’s name was mentioned during a lull in the undercard, the cheers for “DO-NAI-RE!!!” morphed into “DU TER TE!” before ending with the crowd laughing. I joined in both the chants and the laughter. It was fun and nobody seemed to mind, no Twitter threads or essay contests about how politics should be kept out of sports came out of it.
Now, six years later, under a president who promised to unite us, a crowd in a basketball game showed its almost unanimous choice for a presidential candidate. And boy did some eyebrows raise. Politics and sports should mix. Or to be more precise, politics and school sports should mix.
But they’re wrong. Politics and school sports have always mixed, though not in the way that have raised some concerns now.
Every municipal or provincial level meet of the Department of Education almost always have the local chief executive as guest speaker. I remember, a decade or so ago, a former governor talking about the elections in his opening speech, while thousands of students-athletes not old enough to vote were forced to listen under the sun.
Sports and politics have always mixed but it’s the kind of politics that we’re used to, where we listen to those in power extol themselves and make fun of others; hey didn’t we all enjoy when President Duterte doubled the prizemoney for the 2018 Philippine National Games hosted by Cebu? I later learned it was yet another of his populist practice from Davao, where whenever he’s the guest speaker, he’d double the prize money.
So, why the fuzz for Ateneo and La Salle showing up in one color? Is it because it’s a different kind of politics? Is it because it’s the crowd sending a message and not them listening to a message?
The critics say sports should unite us not divide us. Yes, that’s true but Philippine sports, again, isn’t in a vacuum; the two schools certainly showed they aren’t in one and that they are aware of what’s happening.
And what’s happening is that we are so getting divided over politics because of a social media feed induced by an algorithm that feeds division and disrespect.
Sports and politics have always mixed in the Philippines, just check the number of political figures in our national sports associations or even the Olympic Committee.
But, once in a while, sports and politics in the country mix in an unusual way that makes you think.
And I think, that’s not a bad thing.