Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Looking at the Gilas newcomers

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Looking at the Gilas newcomers
by rick olivares

After national coach Chot Reyes announced the line-up of the new Gilas Pilipinas team, my first thought was, “not bad.” I’m intrigued definitely. It’s a mix of veterans and newcomers with potential.

The veterans include Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Paul Lee, and to a certain extent, Raymond Almazan. Nice to see these guys back as they add continuity and they’ll be familiar with the system that Reyes wants to run.

We all know what the veterans can do (experience and scoring sock) so let’s look instead at the newcomers.

Arthur dela Cruz (BlackWater)
Stands 6’4” and plays the three-spot. Plays both ends of the court, can bring down the ball. Can shoot from the outside, post up, and find open teammate. Talks on defense which is important.

Jonathan Grey (Meralco)
I have to admit he is a surprise. For all his showing this past Philippine Cup, I still think he needs more seasoning. But make no mistake, this kid can shoot though. Doesn’t need screens to get his shot off. Can manufacture them. Not sure he is defensively though.

Bradwyn Guinto (NLEX)
This 6’6” Fil-Australian has a nose for the ball. Knows how to position himself. Isn’t afraid of battling inside the paint. If he can hit that medium range shot more consistently, he’ll be a huge help.

LA Revilla (Mahindra)
Crafty and smart. Makes teammates better. Shifty. Can shoot and break down his man. Can play a half-court offense or even run. Whatever the coach wants. But if you ask me, what makes him very good is his very good attitude towards the team and the game. He will learn a lot playing behind Jayson Castro.

Norbert Torres (Phoenix)
If he can drive to the basket better, he’d be the second coming of Ranidel De Ocampo. I thought that he grew into that big man role much later. In La Salle, I felt he wasn’t comfortable as he seemed like a three or four player (at 6’6”). Unfortunately, in this country, most coaches will shunt you to the four or the five. But he has done much better in the pros. His draft combine performance was awesome.

I like this team’s ability to stretch the floor with their over-all range. The newcomers add some height and passing savvy. They’re all smart and canny players. Not sure if they can run like the previous one.

But you gotta trust the system and the coaching staff. The Seaba tournament will be a good place for these players and this team to get their feet wet.

And it is good to know that Andray Blatche will be back. The man is talented and is a game changer.

Unboxing this Paris St. Germain gift

Angel Di Maria, baby!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Goodbye, Arthur.

Goodbye, Arthur.
by rick olivares

The success of a sporting program will always be attributed to the coaches and players as well as the organization. In the case of scholastic sports, athletics officials as well.

However, there too are sometimes, individuals who aren’t exactly patrons in the sense of business moguls or tycoons who have backed many a sports program.

Although my friend Arthur Lim represented Rebisco which was a corporate sponsor of the Ateneo Lady Eagles volleyball team, the man in life, was more than just the person who helped ensure some spending money for the team. He was a father figure to the girls who dispensed advice, was the go-between with the tough coach, and who helped them with their on-the-job-training. He was also a huge part of head coach Anusorn Bundit's assimilation into the Philippines. 

Arthur, or Thor, as he was nicknamed, was a silent operator behind the scenes. He served as a liaison between the Ateneo University Athletics Office and the fans, especially the non-Ateneans fans who religiously watched the matches. He ensured that they got their match tickets and even provided some food and freebies. Furthermore, Thor always took the time to acknowledge them before and after the game.

As for the recruits, he too was the middle man between the athletics office and the players.

He wasn’t any secret agent or Jerry Maguire-type but he was close to one. Except that it was pretty hard to miss him and his huge frame.

Last Saturday, January 14, he called me around noontime and expressed surprise that I had left San Juan and gone back to the old homestead in Marikina. We spoke for a spell about Ateneo volleyball, the (then) upcoming Liverpool-Manchester United match, Rebisco forming a team that would compete in the V-League, and others.

Surprisingly, towards the end, he said that he “was going to miss those nights in San Juan where we had coffee at UCC and meals at Tung Lo Wan or Mann Hann. Those rides to and back from the Ateneo basketball and volleyball games (we lived a few streets apart from one another in San Juan)”.

I found them such strange things to say and said, “Thor, I am only a phone call away. Katipunan isn’t too far from Greenhills”.

And he left me with one bit of advice, “I am always guided by what is good for our alma mater and what is her policy”.

He asked me if I wanted to join him for lunch with some friends – Coach Tai Bundit and MG Ebro -- the following day in San Juan but I declined because I was headed for Olongapo on some National Basketball Training Center business.

The following day as I got home, I received a message from a common friend that something had happened to Arthur. I rang his phone and was surprised that it was his wife, Mylene, who answered. “Rick, our Arthur is gone.”

I sat down, dumfounded and taken aback. The man was a friend, confidant, and a brother from another mother. He took great interested in my career and has been a huge help in every endeavor. And we just spoke. In fact, we made plans to meet up that week. Wednesday, in fact.

We did meet. Only it was at a funeral parlor.

My friend passed away due to a brain aneurysm. He left behind a wife and four young children all of wo are still in school.

Less than 24 hours after he passed away, there appeared in Facebook that feature, today is 7th anniversary of your friendship with Arthur on Facebook (although we were friends far longer than that).

In one of the Masses that celebrated his life prior to his cremation last Saturday, the priest said that death was one more journey. However, in the mystery of one’s passing, we must look to the examples he set for us.

So when I think of Thor, he was a problem solver. He’d listen to the problem then rather than more or whine, he’d look for a solution. And all that time, he’d be smiling. He was that kind of man – one who never let problems get to him. He’d always listen and lend those massive shoulders of his for one to lean on. As he would always tell me, “There is always a solution”.

He’s gone now. And there’s that space between. I have no clue who will fill that void for his family, the volleyball team, or even amongst his close friends. He left clues though. Examples of how we deal with things. How we face life with dignity and the clarity of being in the right.

And I guess that’s as good as any place to continue.

Thanks, Arthur Lim. Until the next adventure.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

AMA joining the PBA is good on many levels

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AMA joining the PBA is good on many levels
by rick olivares

AMA University announcing that they have applied for a slot in the Philippine Basketball Association is great. On a couple of levels that is.

For one, it is always good to have more teams in the PBA. So much talent and not enough playing time let alone teams. And there are lots of very good coaches on the sidelines, many who are working as assistants or consultants. Why let all that talent and smarts go to waste? So realistically and in my opinion, 14-16 teams sounds about right.

It’s a coup for AMA because they are – at least to my memory if it serves me well – the first school to apply for a slot. That enhances their image among their peers and would really help in recruiting for their college team that participates in NAASCU. It would also be a nice thing among college-bound students who could surmise that AMA is really huge that they could afford to apply for a PBA franchise.

This will have some major schools thinking about that as well. That’s a plus too for the pro league that has always tried to tap into the college basketball crowd to follow the games.

It doesn’t follow that college basketball fans also watch the PBA. Although college ball has become commercialized in many ways and the spirit of amateurism has long been dead, many still hold on to the premise of playing for the sheer love of the game and the school.

I believe that sometime during the start of the new millennium, there was that exact migration of college hoop fans who followed their schoolmates to the pros. We’ve seen iterations of pro teams featuring a bunch of players from one school such as Alaska with quite a few La Salle Green Archers and Red Bull, San Miguel at one point with many former Ateneo Blue Eagles.

While semi-pro or even pro teams with the majority of players from one school doesn’t guarantee hardcourt success, it remains intriguing. Can it be done?

But I have to give it to AMA and of course, the PBA. Whether the application is approved or not, it is good for both parties. While we know the league is fine, is furthers the thought that the league is healthy.

I remember back in the mid-1980s when an article was floated that the Tanduay Rhum Makers were considering tapping then-Philadelphia 76ers forward Charles Barkley as an import. Man, that was newspaper fodder back then! Imagine if there was social media at that time. While it ultimately proved to be false and was in all likelihood generated for some publicity it had people buzzing about the Rhum Makers and the PBA.

Now if AMA does join in three years’ time, the last couple of teams to join – BlackWater and Mahindra will have been fully developed and have built themselves up. So it will be good for some new kids on the block – and I figure there will be another to follow in AMA’s footsteps – to find their way.

For now, it’s good news.