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Cheerdance Doesn’t Count

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Another year, another Cheerdance Competition.

Last Sunday, we were treated to the high-flying  moves of the different pep squads of the UAAP. There were back flips, somersaults, arguably some back-bending contortionism, and of course some women who lifted up men like it was no big deal. The cheerdance competition is the time of the year where the usual faces on the sidelines become not the half-time show but the stars of the show themselves.

As an onlooker, you couldn’t help but marvel at both the grace and strength of the cheerdancers as they entertained and performed their hearts out for what else but their alma mater. Nevermind that your viewing experience was interrupted by the many—and I do mean many—advertisements on TV. Or if you were among the lucky few who were able to watch the comeptition live, your wait to the tensely anticipated results were interrupted by many of the sponsors’ games and gimmicks. This is all well and good, I should say, as sponsorships play a big role in financing teams who would otherwise have to rely on school funding that may in turn be lacking. Viewership also never hurts because at the heart of the spectacle of performance is performing in front of an audience.

All of these things are good things but it’s not good enough. Cheerdance is not a sport.

 

Ambiguous UAAP Status

Cheerdance is not a sport at least according to the official list of the sports in the UAAP. The country’s premiere collegiate competition lists 15 official sports, among them: basketball, badminton, beach volleyball, taekwondo, table tennis, judo, swimming, volleyball, football, softball, track and field, fencing, baseball, tennis and chess. All of these sports contribute points to the pursuit of gaining the over-all UAAP championship. Cheerdance is the notable exception.

While the cheerdance competition is among the most watched and most anticipated events of the schoolyear, the squads who finish at the podium do not add to the official UAAP tally. They do not count, at least officially, as varsity athletes.

But you really only had to look at the chiseled arms, rock-hard abs of the different competitors who showcased their talents last Sunday. Who among us can do back flips, handstands, or even the basic cartwheel? Even among varsity female athletes pull-ups are hard to come by. It is the rare female, athlete or otherwise, who can proceed to perform a full pull-up. I can bet you that a significant number of  UAAP female cheerleaders can pull off this feat. That we were treated to a host of complex stunts last Sunday should be a testament to the mettle of our cheerleaders as athletes. That they also performed these complex stunts with a smile should further appeal to your admiration.

 

The Sport and Spectacle of the Cheerdance Competition

In other sports, competitors are tasked with completing any number of tasks. Whether you’re dribbling, shooting, or rebounding, your task is to do all these to the best of your abilities against the other team or individual who is out to do the same. If I should quote the tagline of Survivor, outwit, outplay, outlast your opponent—that is the name of the game. Often times you are face-to-face against your competitor, probably grimacing in pain or panting out of exhaustion while you are appealing to the referee for a call or a violation (in your favor, of course). This is not the case in cheerdance.

The Cheerdance Competition, as we have all seen, involves a performance where the goal is to pump up the audience and wow the judges. The different squads last Sunday were evaluated based on a criteria of cheerleading and dance. There was a tumbling judge, a stunts judge, a pyrmids judge, and a tosses judge for the cheer portion. For the dance part, there was an eqaul number of judges who based their evaluations on choreography, technique, group execution, and over-all effectiveness. I can only begin to understand the technique and skill involved in this competition. I can only imagine how it is to be a cheerdancer in the UAAP.

Whereas tournaments and games in other sports are structured along the lines of a semester-long tournament or at least an entire weekend devoted to competition, routines in the CDC last a little over a few minutes. With just seeing the physique of the cheerdancers in competition, I imagine the numerous resistance work outs they needed to do to safely perform the stunts needed for competition. The routine itself would have taken months to conceive, polish and then perfect. While practice for any other sport means the repetition of drills, plays, general and specific movements that will prepare the athlete for the day of competition. You can only practice and prepare enough for there will be no script on game day. You can only anticipate the tactics of the opposing team, sleep well and put on your meanest face on the day of judgment. Contrast this with the preparation it takes for a cheerdance routine and you will see a difference. Cheerdance as a sport has two edges. It is participated by athletes who are tasked to pull off a perfect performance. Perfection is their burden.

Nevermind that their perfect performance has to out cheer and out dance the perfect performces of the other squads. All sport is competition, but an athlete belonging to any other field by his/herself only needs to perform complex actions, masterful to the eyes of the onlooker, but actions that need not be hidden under the facade of a smile. It is the case that we usually see our athletes in the different sports struggle. Performance artists rarely have this luxury.

Cheerdancers in the UAAP have a unique place, not only as athletes, but also as performers and then again as artists. For what is a dancer but also an artist? Dance is movement, grace, elegance, sometimes power, always art. They are all these things, and as the UP Pep Squad showed us last Sunday, they can be more.

 

Transition to Advocacy

Viewed from the lenses of art and society, the transition of the Pep Squad ng Bayan from performers to advocates is not new or even a surpise. It is what our art and literature teachers have been saying since grade school: read between the lines. There is always a connection. There is always something more. But it took the spectacle of a cheerdance competition to make us aware again of how artists, athletes, and performers can become socially relevant. The UP Pep Squad advocated for equality in the broader sphere. In sports, the fight continues, and it is wrong that cheerdance should count for less when it gives so much.

Cheerdance is not a sport but it should be. Perhaps we can more fully recognize the efforts of our cheerdancers by helping to make the cheerdance competition an official sport in the UAAP.

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Basketball

Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao called Chris Ross the “N” word that caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also against Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Basketball

Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Basketball

Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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ABL

Jason Brickman flirts with triple-double as Mono holds off Singapore

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After playing his worst game of the season last Sunday against Tanduay Alab Pilipinas, Jason Brickman bounced back, steering the Mono Vampire to a 91-88 road victory over the Singapore Slingers, Friday evening at the OCBC Arena.

The 26-year-old, who finished with just seven points and three assists in their 71-104 loss to Alab, tallied 10 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. The league-leader in assists did not take a break, playing all 40 minutes.

But it was not a walk in the park for the Thailand-based squad.

Mono led by as much as 22 points, 60-48, with 7:46 left, 16 points entering the final frame. A furious fourth quarter rally by Singapore sliced the lead, turning the game into a single-possession contest with a minute left. The steady hands of Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary from the stripe fended off Singapore.

Brickman’s compatriot Paul Zamar chipped in 13 markers for Mono.

Since torching Alab last January 3, Filipino-Canadian AJ Mandani has been on a slump, going just 3-for-11 from the field for nine points.

Mono’s World Imports Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary both finished with 26 points with the former hauling down 18 rebounds. For Singapore, Xavier Alexander paced the Slingers with 29 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

With the win, the Vampire kept solo third with a 7-4 slate. On the other hand, the Slingers dropped its second straight game since winning against Alab, falling to 5-6.

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