I had the golden ticket. And I blew it.

There are many ways to waste a free, all-access pass to the Cheerdance Competition. One way is to come late, like I did. Because of this, instead of sitting in the patron area, I ended up in the upper box where the best view I could get was a grainy widescreen telecast of Studio 23. What a way to waste an all-access pass.

But the worst way is to watch passively, like it was not the UP Pep Squad literally risking like and limb just to represent. That is the hardest slap a UP student could give the pep squad.

Which is why, when Araneta still boomed with the school cheer after it was announced that our pep squad won third place, it showed just how much the students love UP Pep. Everyone still had faith that next year they are bound to do better. UP rarely shows school spirit, but at that moment, the thousands who showed up became one cheer.

Yes, September 13 showed the best of the university, but on that day, UP also showed some of its worse sides. Even though it is not the worst way to waste a seat in Araneta, shaming the university is almost as bad as not caring about the pep squad.

The UAAP is not just about the teams who represent. Every single fan is part of the team, and when that team wins, the fans win too. As part of the team, the audiences' actions become part of the team's play. The audiences, in fact, represent their schools.

Here's where UP fans failed. During UST's performance, UP students cheered whenever a pyramid fell. While Ateneo and FEU were on stage, I could hear people praying they would make mistakes. It is not against the rules, but to root for another person's misfortune ruins the spirit of sportsmanship.

When the UP cheer died down during the results, I could tell many hearts sank. On the other side of Araneta, rival UST cheered when the announcement was made - they should not be proud of that either. Neither should UP be proud of cheering for Ateneo and FEU when they got second and first place, respectively. The fact is, UP was not cheering for Ateneo and FEU to win - th students were cheering for UST to lose.

Sportsmanship. Isn't it about smiling at the face of defeat? Isn't it about congratulating the other team for winning, regardless of who it is? Isn't it about wishing good luck not only to one's own team, but also to the competitor?

UST performed badly this year, no doubt, and some students may have been cheering because Ateneo and FEU did relatively well. But had UST done well, would UP have cheered for them the same way it did for Ateneo and FEU?

Watching Cheerdance for the first time, I was not one of the Pep Squad members who tired to tell the crowd not to bash the other schools. I was not one of the sane fans who quietly congratulated everyone for doing a good job. I ended up joining the bashing, a member of the crowd who had forgotten the basic rules of sportsmanship and audience etiquette.

I was gullible enough to think that was sportsmanship. Now that I look back, we just made UP look bad. What a way to waste a golden ticket. ▪