I’m no sexist but when it comes to sports, the men dominate. Take the PBA or NBA; the Azkals or Lionel Messi. There’s F1 racing, Cesafi basketball, Michael Phelps, ALA Boxing, LeBron and Steph, Gilas Pilipinas and Donnie Nietes.
The one sport where the women prevail? Volleyball. Last Saturday, Jasmin, Jana and I were witnesses to this phenomenon.
It started with the UAAP men’s volleyball championships between NU and Ateneo. I entered the ticket booth and there was no line. The Patron tickets sold for only P200 and it was near-ringside. We entered the gates of Araneta Coliseum at 12:45 p.m. and saw no spectators at the Lower and Upper Boxes and General Admission — and this was the men’s final!
Women’s volleyball? As early as 12 noon, or four hours prior to game start, a long line snaked outside. When the game started past 4:30, over 20,000 jampacked the Big Dome. People screamed D-L-S-U while pounding on balloon cheering sticks. One half was all-green while the other was blue. Drum-beaters smashed their drum sets with the booming sound reverberating throughout the circular arena.
In my many decades of watching sports — from the Knicks in MSG to Agassi at the U.S. Open to Pacman in Macau — few compare to the hair-raising and ear-defeaning Ateneo vs. La Salle atmosphere.
But this wasn’t men’s basketball; it was something more — and even louder and more thrilling. It was women’s volleyball.
It’s amazing to think that the most popular female athletes are collegiate volleyball players. It started with Alyssa Valdez. I cannot think of a lady athlete who’s more photograhed. When she visits SM, she’s swamped with fans like she’s Anne Curtis. Last Saturday, despite her collegiate retirement, plenty still wore her blue-and-white jersey. Same with the names DE LEON, MORADO and MADAYAG. Their shirts are worn by hardcore fans.
While watching the DLSU-ADMU game, what struck me was this: majority of spectators were female. This is terrific. I cannot think of any other sport where the men are outnumbered in the audience.
Game 2, as many of you saw on TV, was a seesaw battle. You can see it from the faces of the spectators. In one set, you’d stand and clap and scream. In the next, you’d sit downtrodden, quieted by the cheers of the other color. In the end, while Blue won among the men, it was Green who claimed the ladies crown.
My daughter Jana, a resident of Eliazo Dorm, was sad especially because most of the Lady Eagles are her dormmates. It was heartbreaking for team captain Jia Morado, who will be graduating from the Ateneo this month and won’t join next season. Had Ateneo won last Saturday, Game 3 would have been tomorrow — Jia’s birthday.
But this is sport. At game’s end, there is ecstacy and agony. Four years ago, Ateneo won back-to-back; now, they’ve lost the same. But if there’s any consolation, it’s this: the women have triumphed. As the saying goes, “Men rule the world but women rule the men.”