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.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My votes to the MLB American League All-Stars

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The colors of Italy and unity towards the Fiba 3x3 World Cup championship

The colors of Italy and unity towards the Fiba 3x3 World Cup championship
by rick olivares

Remember the slogan of Italian clothing brand, “The United Colors of Benneton”?

Well, this Italian Women’s 3x3 Basketball Team can claim close to the same.

En route to the 2018 Fiba 3x3 World Cup gold medal, the Italian not only painted the town red (largely due to pint-sized dynamo Rae Lin D’Alie’s exciting and “puso” type of play), but they also painted their fingernails with every achievement they made in the tournament.

“It was a sign of unity and a way to have fun,” explained Marcella Filippi who hit the match winning trey, 15-13, over top seed China to enter the finals of the women’s division.

“There’s a lot of pressure in a competition like this,” said the Wisconsin-born D’Alie of the Italian’s unique way of coping with the pressure. “We felt that it was an easy, natural, and fun thing to do which is to paint our fingernails and look good while playing.”

“We’re came in ranked eighth which might seem lofty but it isn’t to be honest,” said the Wisconsin-born D’Alie during the press conference that kicked off the five-day tournament from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena. “We’ll just go out and give it our best.”

And the best they gave. In nine games in seven days, they won six matches. And with every hurdle, the fingernail paint came on.

“We started with the red (on the pointer finger) for the first day of the competition and we won both games (22-9 over Malaysia and 22-10 over Turkmenistan),” explained Filippi of the process.

On the second day, which was actually a rest day between elimination games, the Italian women put the white color.

By the third day, the color green was painted on the fingernail of the ring finger (Italy crushed Indonesia 19-5 but lost to the Czech Republic 21-20) to signify making the quarterfinals.”

The color blue was painted on the thumbnail after the team made the quarterfinals where they beat erstwhile undefeated USA, 17-14.

Another shade of blue was applied on the pinky after Italy sent China packing in the semi-finals, 15-13, to make the semi-finals.

Any more colors after they defeated defending champions Russia in the finals, 16-12?

“Oh, there’s no need,” summed up Filippi. Then brandishing the medal around her neck, “We got the gold.”

Learning to fly: The Philippines Women’s 3x3 Team

Learning to fly: The Philippines Women’s 3x3 Team
by rick olivares

The Philippine Women’s 3x3 Team to the 2018 Fiba 3x3 World Cup looked outclassed against the Netherlands, their opening assignment. The Filipinas fell, 21-11. They looked out of it that they didn’t even shoot a single free throw.

After the game, it was an upset head coach Patrick Aquino who gathered his team around him by the practice courts of the Philippine Arena. He didn’t yell. He was careful not to rail at them too much. Not with another match looming in four hours’ time.

“We need to toughen up,” he said looking at Jack Danielle Animam who only registered a point and a block in the loss. “We rehearsed this. You know what to expect. Play our opponents tougher. If not, they will walk all over you.”

The girls did just that against Germany, the 11th seeded women’s team. It was more than a basketball game. At time, it was like a UFC match as the Filipinas came out a lot more physical.

While the physicality of the game is nothing new to the Germans, they weren’t used to smaller players pushing them around. The Filipinas outrebounded and outhustled the German women that allowed them to attempt 33 shots to the 26 of the Europeans.

Unfortunately, if Janine Pontejos was on target from three-point range against the Netherlands, she missed all seven of her attempts from that area this match including three in the final 40 seconds of play. As such, it was up to Afril Bernardino to carry the scoring cudgels by her lonesome. Bernardino scored on a variety of daring drives that had the partisan crowd cheering. However, her guns fell silent in the last few minutes as well and the Philippines fell short, losing 12-10, to drop to 0-2.  

This time around, Aquino wasn’t upset. “See,” he pointed out. “Kaya natin.”

But the girls were in tears. Pontejos was disconsolate. “Babagsak din yan,” encouraged Aquino. “Tira ka lang, bata.”

Yet on his way to the media room, Aquino was shaking his head and biting his lip. He is a man unaccustomed to losing having won a lot with National University over the past four years. Internationally, it was harder, but this Fiba 3x3 World Cup, he knew his team had chance of winning a game or two.

“Now all we need if for Afril and Janine to be click at the same time,” he told me.

The day off allowed the Filipinas to recover from the disappointing losses. The girls were in smiles at the outpouring of support from the fans and media. There was still hope. They had to win their last two matches. Unfortunately, they had to go up against Spain and Hungary; two seeded teams.

Aquino’s fears were once more realized as Bernardino and Pontejos the two couldn’t get going at the same time. Bernardino once more couldn’t find the range. Pontejos though was lights out scoring 13 points including five triples. Spain, though had an answer for Pontejos – their very own spitfire in Paula Palomares who finished with 11 points including three triples.

While both players came close to cancelling each other out, Palomares got early support from Aitana Mediavilla and Nuria Martinez.

Spain, eked out a 21-17 win to advance while ousting the Philippines from quarterfinals contention.

This time the tears flowed freely. Aquino himself had to bite his lip.

The final match against Hungary was just a chance to finish strong. The girls and the Filipino crowd weren’t the only ones praying for a miracle win. Seated at the players stand were the Dutch who prayed for either an upset by the Philippines or for Hungary to score less than 14 points.

No one got their wish.

This time, the more physical game of the Filipinas took their toll as they entered into penalty situation earlier. The Hungarians took advantage and their star, Dora Medgyessy took charge down the stretch and scored the killer blows. She also got capable support from Bettina Bozoki who like Medgyessy, scored 8 points.

“Hey,” sounded off Aquino to draw his wards’ attention, “Lumaban tayo. We earned everyone’s respect these past few days. Taas noo tayo. Alam naman natin that if we had more experience, we would have gotten a win or two, maybe more. Be proud.”

Added Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Executive Director Sonny Barrios, “Tama si coach. Be proud of yourself because you called attention to women’s basketball. Ngayon pioneer kayo diya sa 3x3, World Cup pa man din. You’ve become a source of inspiration.”

After an uplifting pep talk from the basketball official, Aquino told his troops to head out to the meet the media, “Let’s go talk to the press.”

Gemma Miranda who struggled for much of the tournament quickly went over to her partner for a kiss. And she made her way to the back room waving her hands to the appreciative fans.

When the Filipinas first faced the media after the loss to Germany, Animam couldn’t hold back the tears in front of the media. There were no tears this time. There were pained smiles. But smiles nonetheless. And perhaps more importantly, their valiant showing demanded attention to women’s basketball, five-on-five and three-on-three.

“You know,” postulated a beaming Aquino after Pontejos won a gold medal in the Shoot-out Contest, “sometimes, we need to fall before we can fly. But we didn’t really fall, did we?”

No, we didn’t, coach. No, we didn’t.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A post-script to the RP 3x3 team’s Fiba World Cup stint

A post-script to the RP 3x3 team’s Fiba World Cup stint
by rick olivares

You would think that after a jarring, no, devastating loss, the last thing a team would do is to immediately go back to the game tape. Whether as a means to prepare for a non-bearing match, to understand what just transpired, or self-flagellation, the Philippine Men’s 3x3 team immediately watched the 20-19 loss to Canada inside their locker room.

Christian Standhardinger, who Canadian Michael Linklater ditched with a quick first step for the game winner, pounded his two fists on his head. “Why can’t we win this stupid game,” the Filipino-German blurted out to no one in particular.

At the far end of the room, the Kyrgystan team sat in silence. They had yet to vacate the expansive room following their ouster by Serbia two matches earlier. They felt the Filipinos.

Shakirzhan Kuranbaev, their team’s version of Linklater and the Philippine’s own Stanley Pringle Jr.; he of the lightning quick first step and the heart of a lion, nodded quietly as the Filipinos voiced their dismay.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Al Panlilio joined the team inside. “We need to get better,” he said to no one particular. Philippine 3x3 coach Ronnie Magsanoc nodded in agreement. “What we need to do is to create a separate national team program for 3x3. It’s going to be a challenge but we have to look into this.”

The room fell silent as the game viewing continued.

“Puro kanan,” noted Magsanoc of the Canadian’s penchant for driving one way.

“We still had two fouls to give,” said Pringle Jr. “Just like the Cavs.” Pringle referred to the Game 1 gaffe where the Cavaliers’ coaches failed to call for time before that fatal play that led to an overtime loss which ultimately cost them the finals series.

And it was the same for the Philippines which would go on to beat Russia but the 2-2 record wasn’t enough to send them into the quarterfinals.

After the opening day win over six-seeded Brazil, Standhardinger was euphoric: “Hey, I feel incredible. Let’s get another win.”

Unfortunately, the Philippines was put on the ropes by Mongolia with a 21-17 loss. After Standhardinger scored on a lay-up to put the Philippines two points behind, 19-17, the ball swung out to Mongolia’s Tserenbaatar Enkhtaivan shot a triple over token resistance by Pringle for the game winner.

Said the Mongolian through an interpreter, “I wanted to show them (the Filipinos) that we (the Mongolians) can also be good at basketball. And I wanted to get back at Pringle (whose triple over Enkhtaivan ignited the late Philippine charge).

After that loss, Pringle Jr. apologized to his teammates inside the locker room. “My bad, fellas,” he humbly said. “I should have not let him take that shot.”

The Filipinos earned back a measure of respect when they dumped Russia, 19-12, to end their maiden Fiba 3x3 World Cup stint.

The Filipinos were in a better if not jocular mood after the strong finish. Standhardinger, whose wit, WWE-like broadsides (that reminds one of Rudy Hatfield in his prime) and open-mindedness makes him one of the most quotable athletes, was in his eloquent best, “As frustrating the loss to Mongolia and Canada is, let’s put this in perspective, we beat fifth ranked team in the world in Brazil and we beat the third ranked team in the world in Russia. And this is our first tournament. If this is not clear for everybody about how much promise, we have as a team for the next tournament if we have more practices.”

“In crunch time against, we were up two against Canada. It was just experience (that got them the win). In five-on-five, we know what we’re going to do and that is to give the ball to our best ball handler and contributor, sprint, and screen with shooters in the corner. 3x3 is different. What are we going to do there? That’s what we have to learn. Our coach did a good job of preparing us. We showed great promise here.”

In the team’s final huddle of the tournament, Magsanoc said, “Enough basketball.”

Pringle Jr. wondered, “What we going to say, coach?”

“The Lord’s Prayer, of course.”

And this… is how we roll.