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MX News Update 2024

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Volleyball has replaced basketball as the Philippines’ No. 1 sport?

VOLLEYBALL – we’re talking women’s volleyball, not men’s volleyball, which is still a work in progress – is crushing the box office, shattering old attendance records and gaining national attention like no sport has in a decade. The outburst was first felt around the time archrivals Ateneo and La Salle were battling for the UAAP women’s volleyball championship, La Salle leading by three and Ateneo taking home the prize after the heroics of team captain Alyssa Valdez.

What stands out today is that fans come out in droves for both collegiate and professional volleyball. It’s not easy to understand why. We can only guess that it is the intensity, the speed of the lawsuits, the team rivalry and the top quality athletes who play with heart and soul.

And whether the game has meaning or not, as long as it features a popular team, the stadiums are great. Fans dance and shout and wave signs. They exhibit frenzied crowd behavior. It is a behavior that is now standard in tournaments, whether under the UAAP or the Philippine Volleyball League.

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Take last week’s slam-bang semifinals that took place at the same time: the UAAP at the Mall of Asia Arena and the PVL at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The halls, each with more than 15,000 seats, were full. Outside, hours before the game, the lines were long and the atmosphere was electric. Inside it was pandemonium.

At the MOA, where the University of Santo Tomas battled Far Eastern University in the men’s and women’s Final Four, 19,505 fans screamed at every count and kill, cheering and shouting over every disputed point.

The same scene was repeated at the Araneta Coliseum during the 2024 PVL All-Filipino Conference where 17,834 people descended to watch Creamline and Choco Mucho battle each other. Mind you, the two are sister teams. (Yes, they play for one owner.)

A total of 36,889 volleyball fans are watching this mind-boggling weekend! And that only applies to a semi-final. Imagine what the scene would look like if the finale takes place in the coming days.

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VOLLEYBALL VS. BASKETBALL

Meanwhile, the PBA held a double-header last Sunday at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila with Barangay Ginebra, labeled as the people’s team and the most popular in the country.

Reporters counted about 4,000 fans. Not shabby, but nowhere in the same league as the UAAP and the PVL. Interestingly, the PBA never releases attendance figures unless it exceeds the box office.

The PBA must be looking at the volleyball scene with envy. After all, basketball has long been the country’s favorite sporting entertainment, the staple of Pinoy conversations, the subject of heated debates and the source of national pride after heroics and victories in FIBA ​​and the Asian Games.

So has basketball lost its luster? Its relevance? Has volleyball been dethroned as the new sport and entertainment of choice?

If not already, it looks like volleyball is on its way.

I feel sorry for the PBA. There are observers who now say the basketball has gone stale, much like a beer bottle left open overnight. Or dry and anemic. Or worse, predictable.

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Check out the current Philippine Cup Quarterfinals roster. There are eight teams in it: three are owned by the RSA group (San Miguel, Ginebra, Magnolia); three owned by the MVP group (TNT, NLEX, Meralco); and two are the so-called independents (Rain or Shine, Terrafirma.)

Guess what: who do you think will make it to the semi-finals and finals? Not difficult to answer. If Rain or Shine or Terrafirma survive the neighborhoods, an investigation may be necessary.

In the past 14 years, or since 2010, only three teams outside the RSA (Ramon S. Ang) and MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan) contingents have won championships: Rain or Shine twice and Alaska once. All other wins went to the two titans of Philippine basketball: 23 to RSA and 7 to MVP.

This makes the rise of volleyball almost a godsend for the local sport. Suddenly there is variety. Suddenly there are two sporting events to entertain the crowd: basketball and volleyball. But, and this is where volleyball can cement itself as The Next Big Thing, it needs to get out of its nice, comfortable space and risk making its mark somewhere much bigger.

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It has to go international. It needs to win matches against the region’s reputed giants – first at the SEA Games and then at the Asian Games. If Philippine volleyball can do that, then the sport has truly arrived.

Get more of the latest sports news and updates on SPIN.ph