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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ballad of a PBA journeyman



Ballad of a PBA journeyman
by rick olivares

For Alaska, there was Sonny Thoss, John Ferriols, Reynel Hugnatan, Jun Jun Cabatu, JR Quiñahan, and Poch Juinio.

While at San Miguel there was Dorian Peña, Jay Washington, Danny Seigle, Danny Ildefonso, and Samigue Eman.

Over at Barako Bull, there was Mark Andaya, Mark Isip, and Mark Yee.

Playing for the Coca Cola Tigers, there was Asi Taulava, Dennis Espino, Larry Rodriguez, and Ricky Calimag.

Moving to San Mig, there was Rafi Reavis, Yancy De Ocampo, Joe Devance, Isaan Holstein, and Marc Pingris.

Oh, and there was Jerwin Gaco.

Ken Bono knows all their names.

After all, he sat on the bench watching all those people get playing time ahead of him while he burned a hole on the seat of his pants for five different PBA teams.

Maybe the sixth time will be the charm for Ken.

He’s like a 2K version of Cris Bolado, a perennial back-up/bench player who was like a lucky charm for mostly for Alaska during its 1990s heyday and later Ginebra as they won titles.

The 6’5” Bono, of course, hopes that he won’t be remembered for that. He knows he can play. “Hangad ko more than the championships (he was a part of title teams with San Miguel and B-Meg/San Mig Coffee) and bonuses ay makapaglaro na talaga.”

The constant benching has greatly told on his confidence not to mention his self-esteem. There are days when he is sullen and morose. The joy that the game gave him for so long has changed to one of survival.

“Ang hirap talaga,” admitted Bono who was a star for Iloilo Central Commercial High School and Adamson University where he won the 2006 Most Valuable Player Award. He was also named to a couple of Mythical teams in the Philippine Basketball League before jumping to the pro circuit. “Di naman tayo nagkukulang sa effort pero baka talagang marami lang tayo ka-position sa PBA. At puro star-studded ang mga napupuntahan kong teams.”

Bono did get a few chances. He once scored 16 points in a victory by San Miguel over Ginebra in 2009. While at Barako Bull he scored in double figures several times. Just when it seemed that he was going to be inserted in the regular rotation, the team disbanded.

“May chance sana sa Barako Bull pero nag-disband naman kami mid-season…”

Coincidentally, he oft found himself on the same teams as Wesley Gonzales who was in a similar predicament. When the stars were injured, they got playing time and produced. When the starters returned so did Gonzales and Bono to the bench where they were once more nailed to the bench.

“Mahirap naman din magreklamo kasi kahit paano nandito pa tayo at may hanap buhay,” noted Ken who aside from supporting his wife and son also sends tuition money back home for some relatives in Iloilo. “Ako din kasi sumusuporta sa amin sa Iloilo sa lola ko at sa pag-aaral ng mga pinsan ko. Tapos nag-aaral narin anak namin ni Maya (his wife).”

While the average playing career of a PBA player is five years, Bono has exceeded that as he will begin his eighth season (he also suited up for the Bangkok Cobras in the Asean Basketball League for one tournament)… provided he is able to latch on to another roster.

“At least nag-expand yung number of PBA teams (with the arrival of KIA and Blackwater),” Bono reasoned. “May chance to play.”

Of late, he has been trying out for Norman Black’s Meralco Bolts. He plans to pick the mind of the former Best Import and Grand Slam-winning coach on not only improving is game in order to get more meaningful playing time. “Sana maka-pirma sa Meralco,” closed out Bono. “Pero sana din bigyan din ako ng chance na makapaglaro. Gusto ko lang maglaro.”




Gatorade's latest commercial for the Captain of the New York Yankees

The last week of baseball for Derek Jeter. And I am both happy and sad. Wish I was in the Bronx for this. At least I got to watch him play live several times.

Here is Gatorade's latest commercial for the Captain of the New York Yankees.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Am working on the new PBA Lifestyle magazine titled… CrossCourt

This came from left field. An unexpected but most welcome opportunity.

I have been asked by the PBA to be the editor-in-chief of their new and official lifestyle magazine titled, "CrossCourt". The maiden issue will be out early December.

Honestly, it's difficult but also challenging yet also exciting.

It wasn't too long ago I was buying Sports Flash, Atlas Sports Weekly, and Champ every week at the market. To cover the games and to even write for the website is a dream come true and a honor. To sit alongside many of the people I read as a kid always always brings a smile to my face. In fact, some of them have become cherished friends!

And now I get to chip in for the league. I am so thankful to the folks at the PBA (Boss Chito, Mam Rhose, Boss Rickie, and WOM) as well as to the Man Up Above who opened a door when one was painfully closed to me several months ago.

I am bringing in some new but talented people for this ride. I was never given much of a break and more often than not, am still not. That will not stop me from giving others who are deserving a break too, hence, my talented team who I will introduce at a later time.

The one thing I learned from my grandparents and parents is to always put my work boots on and earn my pay every single day. In fact, I have a sign on my work station that says, "Today, I will do the best work of my life."

Am looking forward to the challenge. The last week or so, I have been wracking my brain with some folks on putting out a quality magazine. And wait til you see the content for the first issue! I can't wait to get it going.

How do I fit this in my busy sked (Mindshare-Gatorade where I have the bestest teammates in the world, writing for the NBA, ABS-CBN, Philstar.com and Business Mirror and occasionally Men's Health/FHM, Shot, Futbol Balita and running the media for Filoil and something…. oops I cannot say just yet)? As I always say, it's about time management and compartmentalization.

I do hope you guys like the product when we come out (bi-monthly) beginning this December.

I would also like to thank some of my dearest friends Kenneth Ti, Mike Yu and Raddy Mabasa for our time in Rebound that gave me the opportunity to learn the ropes. That was one hell of a ride we had.

Still pinching myself. Am thankful and always grateful.


That tough little guy named Nico Elorde



That tough little guy named Nico Elorde
by rick olivares pic respectfully borrowed from arvin lim

There’s a rule of sorts when it comes to sports writing. On how you are not supposed to use terms commonly associated for one sport for another.

Since it is not a hard and fast rule, sportswriters and sportscasters like to take liberties. For instance, there’s “hitting a line drive jumper” that’s from baseball. There’s that long heave for a bucket described as a “Hail Mary shot” that is all American Football. And there’s “pound-for-pound” that is oft reserved for boxing’s kings.

While Roi Sumang owns that tag in the UAAP, there’s another guy tugging the UE Red Warriors star’s cape – Nico Elorde.

Before you picket outside my house, I know that the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ point guard isn’t tops in any category be it points, rebounds, assists, or steals. But he might very well lead the league in a couple of categories that will never make the official stat sheet of Pong Ducanes’ Imperium Technology – floor burns, split lips, bruises, knockdowns, and elbows.

It seems strange that even after all these years there’s an “Elorde” playing hoops when the family name is synonymous with boxing (and should you open an encyclopedia for Philippine boxing, the late Flash Elorde will be right there next to Manny Pacquiao).

Older brother Mig Elorde recalled how as kids they would spar. Mig couldn’t defeat the eldest of the Elorde brood, Bai, so he would take it out on the younger Nico. “Halos iyak si Nico tapos magsusumbong sa parents namin.”

When the Elorde brothers see Nico get roughed up or double up in pain, they suck it up. “Every time na bumabagsak siya naiisip ko na part ng game yun,” admitted Mig. “Experience din para sa kanya kasi kung makapag-PBA siya mas malalaki at pisikal yung makakalaban niya.”

Mig paused on that thought, “Pero minsan may mga times na gusto ko gantihan yun kalaban lalo pag intentional yung pananakit sa kanya katulad nung ginawa sa kanya nung isang player ng FEU dati nung si Coach Norman pa yung coach nila. Saka yun tinira siya nung player ng Adamson nung nasa Team B pa siya tapos sobrang laki ng sugat niya sa ulo.”

“I tried boxing but only for self-defense and physical fitness,” clarified Nico who smiled when reminded of his spills on the UAAP hardcourt. “I enjoy basketball more and I wanted to be different from my brothers.”

Different.

During their Elorde brothers’ younger years, they all went to La Salle where they booed Ateneo whenever they played their rivals from Loyola Heights.

Little did they know that Nico would transfer to Ateneo.

After he was cut from La Salle’s senior team, Nico made the decision to transfer to the blue side. “It was not an easy decision to leave La Salle because I was there since prep. I built my foundation there and the community became close to my heart. My family and I sat down to discuss my options. I then decided to transfer to Ateneo.”

“Ibang-iba po yun feeling lalo na po nung first game ni Nico bilang player ng Ateneo,” recalled Mig. “Tune up game po yun kalaban Chinese team versus Team B. Sila nila Chris Newsome yung nasa team. Yun po yun first time namin buong family na makita siyang naka-blue at kami din naka-blue!”

The entire Elorde family shows its support when one of the sons is competing whether it be boxing or basketball. They all pile into the family van to go to the venue.

“Pati nga yun isang van namin pinapalitan ng papa ko nung color. Dati green talaga original color nun kase lahat kami taga-La Salle. Ngayon, color blue na yung van.”

After his benching in La Salle, quite a few basketball observers wondered how he would hold his own on a Blue Eagle team that was gunning for an unprecedented five straight championships in the UAAP. However, Nico has proven to be a valuable player for the blue and white whether under former coach Norman Black and now, Bo Perasol. After a trying first season, Elorde has gotten better not only with his playmaking but also his scoring and defense.

Now in his final playing year for Ateneo in the UAAP, the Blue Eagles are in an excellent position to make the finals for the sixth time in the last seven years. Nico would love nothing more than to end his college days with a championship.

“Nico,” described UAAP Commissioner Andy Jao, “is a tough player. He’s a throw back and take that as a compliment.

“I am very grateful and honored that I was given the opportunity to play for the Ateneo team,” glowed Nico. “It was a dream come true for me to be part of the five-peat run. I will always treasure that and never forget that moment in my life.”

“I'm very happy with the situation that we have right now in our team. My goal is to graduate with the championship trophy going back to Ateneo and eventually achieve my dream of playing for the PBA.”

It surely won’t be easy but knock Nico down, you can be sure he’ll get right back up and give it that old college try.


UE Red Warriors on the warpath


This appears on philstar.com

UE Red Warriors on the warpath
by rick olivares pic borrowed from rappler

When the final whistle blew on the University of the East Red Warriors’ 78-73 victory over University of Santo Tomas to forge a play-off for fourth spot in the Final Four of UAAP Season 77’s Men’s Basketball Tournament, Chris Javier jumped on center Charles Mammie in celebration.

In was a stark contrast when the two nearly came to blows during the halftime break of what ended up as an 80-63 loss by UE at the hands of the Southwestern University Cobras in summer match last May 26 in Cebu.

Nearly four months after that dust up, the two were arm in arm in a bromance show of celebration. The Red Warriors, the hottest team in the UAAP Men’s tourney, finished the second round with a five-match win streak and a 6-1 record to go 9-5 and a chance to play in the Final Four.

Javier finished with eight points while Mammie ended up with a paltry seven as he only entered the game in the second half following a first half benching by head coach Derrick Pumaren for being late for the agreed call time.

It was UE’s back court trio of Bong Galanza, Dan Alberto, and Roi Sumang that carried the team scoring-wise for a total of 42 points while Mammie supplied some rebounds and assists to go with plenty of intimidation in the lane (in spite of not recording a single block).

How did UE arrive at this position when they looked on the verge of flaming out for the second consecutive year?

They are finally getting what Derrick Pumaren has been preaching since the summer.
When Pumaren was named head coach less than 10 days before the start of the summer basketball leagues, he made it clear that the team will have a different philosophy when it comes to their game plan. “I am a defensive coach,” he declared.

What defense you may ask after UE finished 3-4 in the first round. Yes, the Red Warriors were a middling pack. They forced the most turnovers with 24.9 and scored the highest turnover points with 18.9. That’s 18.9 points out of a possible minimum of 50 points.

The high-pressing full court press harassed opposing teams and kept a UE team that didn’t have too many dependable weapons in the game. The problem was they got tired in the endgame.

Save for the blowout wins against Adamson and UP, they lost by a bucket to La Salle, in the final two minutes of play to FEU, and another pair of two-point losses to NU and Ateneo. “We could have easily been 6-1,” lamented Pumaren after that crushing 93-91 loss to the Blue Eagles.

Well, they did go 6-1 in the second round.

From that middling pack on defense, UE has climbed the defensive charts in the second round.

They are second in points allowed (66.1 ppg), third in field goals allowed (36.8 ppg), tops in perimeter defense as opponents are only able to score 15.0 points per game. They remain the best in forcing turnovers with 24.4 per match.

“I’d say that were only up to 80-85% in our capacity as a defensive unit,” described Pumaren of his team’s capability after the UST win. “But there is a caveat there – we still give up a lot of free throws (a league worst 17.1 free throw points per match). Even with Charles’ presence, our opponents are still able to get to the basket a lot. So we have to look at improving our perimeter defense.”

Another thing that UE did was to ease off the gas pedal. In the first round, players simply got tired from the full court pressure defense. Stepping off the accelerator for some stretches allowed the players to conserve themselves for the crucial fourth period where they had suffered many a meltdown.

It’s all hands on deck.
If you look at the individual scoring statistics of the Red Warriors.

Player
1st Round
2nd Round
Roi Sumang
14.1
12.5
Bong Galanza
11.3
12.5
Charles Mammie
8.3
10.8
Dan Alberto
6.7
7.4
Chris Javier
6.6
6.1
Paul Varilla
5.7
5.6

While the scoring has gone slightly down for Sumang, Javier, and Varilla, others have picked up the slack by hiking their stats even every so slightly.

Their key players are able to get a few more minutes’ rest in time for the endgame as the bench has come up big. The bench has come up big with a league best 32.7 points per outing; over three more points than second place, FEU.

The Red Warriors gave Mammie more minutes on the court.
The center from Sierra Leone is playing slightly more minutes – 20.6 to the 18.6 minutes per game he got in the first round.

Charles Mammie
Points
Rebounds
Assists
Steals
Blocks
Turnovers
1st Round
8.3
8.1
0.4
0.6
0.9
3.6
By 2nd Round’s end
10.8
9.1
0.9
0.6
1.1
3.3

“Charles is starting to play better and with that swagger that he showed last year,” noted one long time UAAP official who requested anonymity.

In the total rebounds category, leaders Jason Perkins, Karim Abdul, and Alfred Aroga have less than a full point advantage in rebounds against Mammie. Except they play a lot more minutes than the second year UE center. How much more when Charles is into the game?

And despite playing two minutes more, Mammie’s fouls haven’t increased much – from 2.4 to 2.6. “The big guy gives us a chance to win,” said Pumaren who immediately offered a caveat. “As long as he comes focused and without the other things that distract him whatever they are.”

“Last year, even with a better team, we didn’t get the job done,” said Mammie after the win against UST. The Season 76 Red Warriors who handily defeated NU for the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup title were favorites to barge into the Final Four and contend for the title. Instead they crashed and burned to a 7-7 record.

“We know we have a chance to go all the way,” added Charles. “Now, we just have to do the job one game at a time.”