Silence. That is the mood inside the bus of the National University Bulldogs as they headed to the Mall of Asia Arena for Sunday's main game of the UAAP Season 75 against the Ateneo Blue Eagles. And this is unusual, I could tell, being part of this team for half a year now. They used to play around, tease each other out and have their own concert inside the bus. They laugh, smile and sing.
When the boys reach their new dug-out, the awkward silence is still there. Again, this is unusual, because they all have a sense of humor and like to joke around. This silence means something.
Focus? Yes, I think, maybe, maybe not. Nobody can tell what's on their minds. It's hard to guess.
It's not the Bulldogs!
That is the first thought that comes to mind at the onset of the game. I don't know what's in the minds of the boys while entering the game, all I know it's not the Bulldogs! An 8-0 run by the Eagles. Are the old Bulldogs back? This is not the same Bulldogs team that went 11-0 in the offseason, the same aggressive, fierce guys who won the 2012 Fil-Oil championship. All I saw were the old Bulldogs who were former whipping boys of the UAAP. They did not take pride in their defense. And now, there is a question about maturity. But these boys already conquered this same situation before, many times during the pre-season. Who can forget the thrill that they provided when they faced the Adamson Falcons? Or even the Growling Tigers of Coach Pido Jarencio? Did they lose their composure in those crucial circumstances? Not at all!
Yet there was a marked difference inside the locker room of this NU squad from the repeated blow-outs of years past. They are honest with their mistakes. They are very true to themselves to be able to acknowledge their missteps. Sadness? Yes, there is! Painful? Yes, it is! I could feel it, because I felt the depression myself. But their eyes are saying something. Those ferocious looks say "it's not yet over" and "we are going to come back". And I think the answer to their questionable maturity will be satisfied after this loss. Their following games will continuously test their will. How are they going to come back? What more can they show this league? We don't know yet.
For the NU crowd, it was a frustrating game for the Bulldogs. A what-could-have-been glimpse of the finals turned into a laugher. But for the team, it's an eye-opener. They haven't experienced losing for the past three months! Sweeping the Fil-Oil tournament in June and defeating UE a month later, they were on a high. But reality bit them. There is still a lot of work to be done. And this loss explained everything. Detail by detail, from head to toe. And if this team really wants to go far in this league, they should do their homework now, the earlier the better.
This team can do a whole lot better than what they showed last Sunday. On the brighter side, the good thing about this loss is there is always tomorrow and another chance. They just need to grab those opportunities while they are there.
So there, the appetizer was served, HUMBLE PIE for the Bulldogs, and they have no choice but to accept it.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.
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