Manila Clasico (Ginebra vs San Mig Coffee) : 7 Amazing Things You Don’t See on TV
When in Manila, you should realize that you’re walking on the stomping grounds of the most passionate basketball fans in the world. And nothing depicts that more than catching a live game between two of the land’s most popular ball clubs – Ginebra San Miguel and San Mig Coffee of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
The rivalry between these two sister teams, both owned by San Miguel Corporation, is dubbed as “Manila Clasico”, a play on the Spanish Football League’s ‘El Clasico” between their most popular teams – Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
I finally got a chance to watch this game live when when a close friend of mine from Dubai wanted to watch his darling Ginebra play live. So off we went one Sunday afternoon and saw a dandy of a ballgame. But what struck me most were the subtleties of an in-arena game experience that you don’t see on TV – from a secret dunk show to heartwarming gestures to comedic trash talkers.
1.Well-Behaved Mammoth Crowd
I knew this game was a hot ticket, but I didn’t expect it to be this BIG! Over 20,000 people went to watch this REGULAR season game between the two squads.
It was standing room only and I really felt sorry for the security guards who went back and forth to make sure people didn’t sit on the stairs during the game. This mass of humanity, though, was surprisingly well-behaved (except for some rotten apples now and then).
It was so tight that people were standing behind my seat. I half-expected this to be a bit annoying, given the proximity of their popcorn/fries/chips to my head, but it went rather smoothly – I ended up with a clean head and heard no hecklers. Well, except for one – we’ll get to him later.
2. Warm-ups (a.k.a. Secret Dunk Show)
Since my team wasn’t playing (I’m a Petron/San Miguel fan), It didn’t really matter to me who won. I was just secretly rooting for a monster Japeth Aguilar breakaway dunk to happen – it didn’t.
But we, yes all 20,000+ of us, surely got a private dunk show courtesy of Japeth and Chris “Air Force” Ellis during the warm ups. They were flying in the air with ease and slamming those babies home! It was entertaining to fans and foes alike.
It was so good, I almost didn’t want the game to start.
3. Mark Caguioa’s love for the fan
Still during the warm-ups, I caught a glimpse of a small crowd gathering at the corner. Apparently, Mark Caguioa, former PBA MVP and Ginebra’s most popular player, was accommodating fans for photo-ops. What’s surprising was, there wasn’t a line to take pictures with him, he was the actually one moving around and approaching the fans who wanted a photo.
I always take player interviews about thanking the fans with a grain of salt, you’ll never know if they just want to appear affable on TV, but this was really a genuine moment of fan appreciation. So even though you didn’t score in this game, you made a pretty good mark in my books, Mr. Caguioa.
4. Fun T-Shirt-firing Slingshots!
During intermissions, three fellas would come out and bring a huge improvised slingshot and fire t-shirts in all corners of the arena, we even came close to getting one.
It was nothing grand and come to think of it – it’s pretty trivial, but it was shamefully fun seeing that projectile go waaaaayyyyy up and seeing people jockeying for position to grab the freebie. It must be pretty neat to be the guy shooting those shirts, so neat in fact that my wife and I looked at each other and asked…
“How do I apply for that?”
5. Trash Talking Fan
Of course, this is still competition and you’re going to have that one out of control heckler that will shout his voice out hoarse. This San Mig Coffee fan was just giving it to Mark Caguioa like nobody’s business.
It was already crunch time with around two minutes left, Caguioa still hasn’t scored and was having one of his worse games of the conference. This guy was shouting “Caguioa laos ka na!” (Caguoia, you’re a has-been!), “mamasa ka naman!” (pass the ball!). Ginebra fans all over were just letting it go.
After a bad play by Caguioa, James Yap, San Mig Coffee’s star player, was about to check in to the game. Sensing the impending substitution, the heckler shouted…
“Yap, palitan mo na si Caguioa!” (Yap, go in for Caguoia!)
Everyone in our gallery got a good laugh! Even my friend who was a die-hard Ginebra fan couldn’t help but to give a smirk.
Definitely one of those only-in-the-arena moments.
6. Boisterous San Mig Planet
Although that’s the only guy I’d consider to be a heckler, he represents the fans of San Mig Coffee very well. Obviously outnumbered by the Ginebra crowd, they still made their presence felt.
The San Mig Planet (collective name for San Mig fans) was boisterous and very proactive in their cheering. They would chant “defense!” right on the first quarter. They were a very loud and passionate group of fans.
Collectively, the Ginebra crowd was louder, but pound for pound or better yet, decibel for decibel, San Mig Planet definitely won.
7. Ginebra! Ginebra! Ginebra!
Of course, at the end of the day, nothing really beats that feeling of people who come from all walks of life chanting “Ginebra!” “Ginebra!” It was a moment of unity that crosses social, political and economic boundaries. Heck, even kids who aren’t even old enough to know what Ginebra is are chanting it.
The history, mystic and allure of Barangay Ginebra is really something worth experiencing first hand.
One More Thing…
So I know the title says “7 Amazing Things…” but here is one more, because at When in Manila, we want to over-deliver. This one has a little twist to it, though.
This is one thing I didn’t see on both on TV and at the arena.
Remember that “Manila Clasico” came from Spanish football’s “El Clasico”? Well I want to see the PBA adopt more than just the name but also the tradition of football worldwide of it’s players going around the pitch at the conclusion of the match and applauding their supporters.
It’s one of the classiest things I’ve seen in sports and wouldn’t a sign of mutual appreciation between players and fans be a perfect conclusion to a very hard-fought, entertaining game?
I’d say it’s “Mucho Clasico!”