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I recently started following the UAAP men’s basketball. I mainly have lost interest in it due to the fact that UP has been losing and that I have been critical of the lack of coverage of the other sports. But what can you do when you live in a basketball country?

What piqued my interest this new season is the surprising start of the Fighting Maroons, having notched wins in their first two games. I am still secretly hoping that this would be the year when we could stop joking about winning and actually win. As I write this, the Maroons stand at 2-3, having dropped their last three games. Excitingly frustrating and frustratingly exciting is how I describe their game this year but this issue is perhaps for another discussion.

Besides, having attended two member schools (UP and Ateneo), I have the luxury of supporting a couple of teams as a fan and can cheer on my “backup” team when the elimination round concludes. In addition, my newly renewed interest in the strategic side of sports prompted me to hopefully view the game through a different lens as well.

My very early realization, however is this – disappointment. With either perspective of a fan and a student of the game, I am quite appalled by what has happened to the sport.

My main beef with the UAAP, men’s basketball in particular, is that it has become a commercial vehicle rather than a celebration of collegiate sporting competition.

I’ve always suspected that ever since a television network obtained rights to exclusively cover, it would be treated as such. I wasn’t expecting it to be this bad. There’s no real difference with prime time telenovelas where you get smigens of poor acting in between lumps of laundry detergent, skin whitening, and instant noodle commercials. It’s the same thing.

Not that I am seeing appalling basketball. There are moments of brilliance. I am not expecting NBA-level basketball from the UAAP but I am more interested in seeing how young players play and if they’re playing it right. I have always been critical about how many Filipino players grow up lacking fundamentals and it’s supposed to be in college where they pick up some good habits. Being one of the more structured pools from which Philippine basketball will be drawing its future, I would really want to be hopeful.

I would like to see some basketball. Unfortunately, ABS-CBN just won’t let me.

Every damn thing has a sponsor. Forget play-by-play and color commentary. I wonder how these guys earn they keep. All it takes to call a game is to be a ble to string sponsor names to the last thing that happened on the floor. The mention of active lineup has a sponsor. The three-point shot has a sponsor. Even a basic pass becomes an *insert product sponsor* “assist of the game” right in the middle of the first quarter. Really? Basic logic. You can’t call all assists in a game the assist of the game.

Now, even if I go full-on Brian Clough and just put the TV on mute but all these sponsored cuts just don’t show the basketball that I want seen. Time for replays and analysis are swapped in favor of “campus crushes” with goodie bags from sponsors, sponsored selfies, and sponsored dance-offs. Courtside reports are done by kids who display nary an insight about the sport or journalism.

Nothing’s going to change as long as the network decides that it’s going to milk every cent from the sport. UAAP on TV is just bound to get worse. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start getting sponsors and celebrate errors. I’m sure the government would be fitting sponsors for Shaqtin’ a Fool moments. How about getting Philpost for mistimed deliveries? Or the Comelec for wrong stats and scores? “This erroneous scoreline on your screens is brought to you by Comelec. Comelec: Basta dagdag bawas, walang kakupas-kupas.”

The best course of action is to ditch the broadcast and just go out and watch the games live. But now, who has the time? And money.

Ugh.

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