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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Edson Battiler has his first moment as a UE Red Warrior

Edson Battiler has his first moment as a UE Red Warrior
by rick olivares

Edson Battiler drove to the basket. One step inside the lane, the ball was swiped away from him leading to a fastbreak bucket by a CEU Scorpion.

One play later, he was given the ball on the baseline and he short-armed a jumper with the rebound by another Scorpion igniting the fastbreak.

Battiler shook his head and apologized to the bench. Dindo Pumaren standing in for older brother Derrick who was late pending another appointment that took too long to finish shook his head in dismay.

Sometimes, errors and bad play can be contagious. In the UE Red Warriors’ case, center RR De Leon was soon infected. He turned the ball over and airballed a jumper.

Pumaren called for time and subbed out the two players. Battiler went to the bench with his head hung and feeling downcast.

In three previous games for UE in the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, Edson averaged 1.3 points per game. Worse, he had more turnovers than points – five to four. And on defense, more often than not, he was burned.

Homesickness wasn’t the problem. After all, it has been more than a year since he moved to Manila. “Sa Holy Trinity, run and gun lang kami,” said Battiler. It was his way of saying that defense was an anathema to his team.

Unfortunately, Derrick Pumaren is a defensive-oriented coach. That fullcourt press has been a staple of his squads for more than two decades.

Battiler admitted it is taking time to get used to what his coach wants. But he is quick to say that his Red Warriors mentor is the best coach he’s ever had. “Sobrang galing ni Manong (as Pumaren is fondly called by his players because of his fatherly approach off the court). Ang dami ko natutunan. At marami pa akong matututunan.”

The Red Warriors have been offensively challenged since the departure of some of its former stars. This season, they have struggled to put points in the basket. Their 3-0 record is the result of defense. Winning ugly by putting the ball into the hoop or through free throws.

Against the offensive juggernaut that is the CEU Scorpions with its bevy of talented players who have gained a lot of experience in the D-League, it was a yin yang challenge – offense versus defense. Youth and inexperience versus championship caliber and loads of experience.

For three fourths of the match it looked like the latter would prevail as UE fell behind by 12 points in the middle of the third as the Red Warriors struggled to hit the side of the building.

With Edgar Charcos, the hero of the win against Mapua, misfiring (he finished with a measly two points; with Pau Varilla unable to get going (until the final minute of overtime); with Renz Palma, the adjudged Player of the Game also against the Cardinals on the bench, UE was in need of a hero.

Into the breach first stepped Chris Javier and rookie guard Philip Manalang.

Javier had hoped for a bright college career. He was a stud on a San Beda Red Cubs team alongside Alfonso Gotladera. When he got to UE, the team was an underachieving one that had gone through multiple coaching changes. Yet somehow, he looked to be doing well particularly after hitting consecutive game winning shots first against UP and then Ateneo. His confidence and morale greatly eroded with the arrival of Charles Mammie and then Moustapha Arafat. Against Mapua, Derrick Pumaren consigned him to the bench after Cardinals center Allwell Oraeme blocked his ill-advised shot and forced him into two turnovers. “Kung ayaw mo maglaro ng maayos umupo ka na lang,” sternly thundered Pumaren. Even if UE eventually won the game, Javier wore a long face.

Manalang was not picked up by the National University seniors team. “Too loaded, they said. So he went on to tryout for Adamson and UST before deciding to go to UE. It hurt the young point guard that he was left to find a team. But Manalang was all to glad to be going to UE.

During that third quarter crash and burn, both Javier and Manalang presided over the rally. The former by putting points on the board; the latter with his defense.

In the waning moments of the fourth period, however, the torch was passed to Battiler. He scored first on a fastbreak lay-up off a long pass by Bertrand Awana. Then with time running out, he hit a triple from the top of the arc to bring UE within four, 58-54.

Come overtime, he hit another triple, badly missed an open one, before using a Javier pick to hit a fadeaway shot with 33 seconds left “that was in the flow of the game” as Pumaren would later describe. “It was all net,” beamed Pumaren. “All net.” It was the game winner as both sides would not score again. UE had won, 65-62, and were now 4-0 in the Filoil Cup.

As the buzzer sounded, Battiler’s teammates mobbed him at center court. The Pumaren brothers shook his hand with Dindo giving him a playful rub on the head. Inside the press room, “Manong” was effuse in his praise for his first ever recruit for UE. “Today he showed what I saw in him two years ago. Hopefully this will give him the confidence to be consistent.”

The kid from General Santos City who scored 15 points in what is hoped will be his breakout game, had his UE moment. “Sana hindi to ang last,’ he quipped. He then packed his bags and left the empty dugout.

He was the last one on board the UE bus where his teammates once more clapped and yelled.


Additional reading: Edson Battiler during his time with the Holy Trinity Wildcats

Sunday, May 10, 2015

10 Reasons to Watch the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup Part 1

This appears on the May 11, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

10 Reasons to Watch the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup 
Part 1
by rick olivares

The Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup has gone from a merely tune-up tournament that teams didn’t take seriously and where they only wore practice jerseys to one they take seriously. It also provides an ideal setting for squads to test rookies and schemes from new coaches.

Here are some reasons for you to check out the best hoops played outside the PBA this summer.

Is this the last run for this San Beda era if dominance?
It has been an unparalleled era of dominance for the Red Lions. This year, they stand to lose seven seniors following the NCAA wars and there is word that the pipeline of studs to wear the red and white has dwindled. But that bridge will be crossed when they get there. For now, these guys keep on trucking and they still play some of the most entertaining basketball around with some really savvy players in Baser Amer and Art dela Cruz. And there’s Ola Adeogun who not only has become a very good basketball player but someone you watch for his funny antics and good-natured heart.

This tournament is one of three major tourneys San Beda will compete in this season with the others being the NCAA and the Champions League. Can they achieve a "grand slam" of sorts?

A prayer was answered for these Perpetual Help Altas
Before Aric del Rosario decided to agree to coach the Altas the team was in the midst of the fallout of a major tussle with the NCAA for allegedly fielding ineligible players (it is not true but merely the usual power tripping to knock down as team on the rise). True to their promise, they became really good but relied on a Fab Four of players whose production was 90-plus percent of the total team output.

After losing three of those do-it-all players, they are still trucking behind the amazing Earl Scottie Thompson and newcomer Bright Akhuetie who is probably the best reinforcement in college basketball at the moment not named Alfred Aroga. Akhuetie has a great attitude and incredible athleticism. Really fun to watch. With more experience he will be really outstanding. On the homegrown side, Gerald Dizon is emerging as a go-to player but the Altas will be a whole lot more dangerous if Gab Daganon and Ric Gallardo focus on the task at hand. Aric magic on display for those who missed UST’s great basketball of the early 1990s.

How does National University respond to the challenge of the hunted?
It isn’t like the NU Bulldogs have become instant challengers overnight. They have been good over the last three, four years. They won every tournament in sight save for the UAAP. That is until last season. Now there is the confidence of a defending champion in their gait. But it also means that teams really go hard at them. “If they used to go hard at us before,” noted junior gunner JJ Alejandro, “now they redoubled their efforts. They want to prove something to us even if we are clearly not the same team as last year.”

How different is this team? They try to push it up with a three-guard line-up at time with Rev Diputado, Gelo Alolino, and Reden Celda on the floor at the same time. This team is going to run if they can.

The CEU Scorpions are probably the best team you have never heard of.
Okay so the NAASCU champions played in last year’s Filoil tournament and turned a lot of heads with their third place finish while beating some good teams.
Now, if you claim to be a fan of college basketball (and not merely that of your alma mater), then you must watch these dudes of coach Edgar Macaraya who play the game the right way. Pass, rebound, hit the open man, play terrific defense, and hit the open man. Kind of repetitive? Nope. They average 18 assists as game as led by the amazing Mon Abundo who his an underrated passer. They’ve got a very good shooter who can attack the rim as well in Samboy De Leon (named after some Skywalking dude from Letran). They’ve got a power forward with some nifty moves in the post and probably the best three-guard rotation in college hoops in Abundo, JK Casiño, and Aaron Jeruta. And oh, there’s the amazing Rodrigue Ebondo who will give everyone a lesson in hustle and heart.

How will these FEU Tamaraws fare?
If you ask me, they could be plenty dangerous. More so if Prince Orizu can be counted on to score from the post and rebound. Last year, you weren’t sure what you were getting from Anthony Hargrove day in and out. The key here is Orizu who backstops a talented team that will lose a lot of veterans following this season. They still have Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, Mac Belo, and Russell Escoto, and Achi Iñigo to lead this team. Picking up the slack from the graduated Carl Cruz is Monbert Arong who first showed his wares two years ago while playing for Southwestern University during their first stint in Filoil. Arong is a better offensive player than Cruz and he will add another dimension to their attack. And there’s guard Jojo Trinidad who will get a lot of minutes if Francis Tamsi cannot get going.

The trick for the Tamaraws of coach Nash Racela is trying not to peak to early and in time for the UAAP season. If they manage that well, these Tamaraws will challenge once more for a Final Four slot.

Games to watch out for this week at the San Juan Arena:
Wednesday May 13
3:15pm UE vs. CEU
5pm CSB vs. NU

Friday May 15
5pm CEU vs. San Beda

Saturday May 16
3:15pm NU vs. FEU
5pm  DLSU vs. UE

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Five reasons why you should feel hopeful about these UP Fighting Maroons

This appears on

Five reasons why you should feel hopeful about these UP Fighting Maroons
by rick olivares

“Mananalo tayo, boy!” yelled second year center Gelo Vito to Jet Manuel who was seated at the far end of the UP Fighting Maroons’ bench after cramps knocked him out of the game.

Manuel replied with a resounding, “Yeah!”

All match long, the Fighting Maroons showed tenacity and resiliency in battling the favored La Salle Green Archers in the main game of the Friday edition of the Filoil Flying v Hanes Premier Cup.

They showed a lot of heart and hustle in nearly piping La Salle that also gave a glimpse of how good they can be with their rookies and sophomores putting the game in the bag for their third win in four outings. And to think they were without some of their stars that were either unavailable due or injury or checked out in the middle of the match for the same reasons.

The Fighting Maroons remained in the fight even as they lost third year guard Kyles Lao to a knee injury. But they battled back to spot the Green Archers a four-point lead late in the game. They were unable to build on the lead as they missed on crucial possessions with Henry Asilum misfiring on three of them while Andrei Caracut showed that green and white fans why he is perhaps the best go-to player now. La Salle took the match in overtime, 82-79.

The Maroons dropped to 1-2 after winning their tournament opener, a tight one, over Mapua before falling to powerhouse CEU and now La Salle. However, rather than an atmosphere from a morgue (especially with Lao confirmed to have injured his knee and will be out for at least six months), there was positivity in the UP locker room post-match

Here are five reasons why you should be excited about this UP team:

They have the offensive firepower to compete with others
They have players who can put the ball in the hoop even without Lao who will be out for some time – JR Gallarza, Diego Dario, Paul Desiderio, Dave Moralde, and the second coming of Rain or Shine’s Jeff Chan in look-alike Jet Manuel. You can even Jan Jaboneta. All those players – you can throw in Henry Asilum there when his shot is on – can drill the three-pointer as well so you know this will be a huge weapon for coach Joe Ward.

However, as much as they have scoring punch from the outside they need to balance it out with some points in the lane.

I wish though their coaching staff would give Gelo Vito and especially Paolo Romero meaningful minutes because they need some scoring in that area. They got away with Desiderio and Moralde posting the smaller La Salle guards but come UAAP time that will not happen much.

Their African players are rapidly improving.
With more high-level exposure Cheik Kone and Lionel Tekoudjou can plug that hole in the middle with scoring and defense. When they get those rebounds, it will allow Dario, Desiderio, Manuel, and Moralde to run. And Kone can finish the break as well. Boy, is that frightening? A big man who can run and finish the break! Between the two, Kone has the bigger upside.

They found a style that they are comfortable with and it will win over fans.
A coach from another school who saw the UP game against La Salle remarked that they don’t have too much talent so they compensate with a highly physical game and a pressing defense.

I agree to up to a certain point because I believe they have the talent to compete. But I like the physicality that is no way dirty. They just hound you and keep going at you.

These lads are hungry.
The naysayers might say, “Nothing has changed. They may compete but they are still losing and they had the same summer record as last year at this juncture.”

True up to a certain point. But the difference this year is they know they have the material to compete. However, whether in this tournament or not, they need to pick up some more wins to keep that confidence high.

They’ve got superb support from management
You know what I like about them this year? Team manager Dan Palami is very visible from the stands and in the dugout. Having watched Dan with the Azkals since 2010, I know him to be a very vocal voice on the bench (because he cares about winning). But of late, with competent coaches at the helm, he has sat back and enjoyed the game. I didn’t see him too often last season but this year, he has made a conscious effort to be there. He sees the heartbreak and this is a man who know a thing or two about building champions. He’s done that for the Philippine Men’s National Team and for Global FC in the UFL. It stands to reason that he can do the same for UP. The modest goal is the Final Four of the upcoming UAAP season and I’d say they are ready to make that significant push.

I hear good things coming out of the UP camp about management support and when you know that it makes it easier to compete.

And you know the saying, “When you’re down the only way to go is UP.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Still shaking my head after that Pacquiao loss

This appears on

Still SMH after that Pacquiao loss
by rick olivares

Three days after the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, talk has not abated one bit about the outcome. In fact, the headlines are still screaming it.

Manila broadsheets initially espoused conspiracy theories backstopped by two other subplots about how Floyd received painkiller injections before the bout and how his pop admitted he thought fight was much closer.

If you go on social media, Filipinos and other fight fans are lambasting the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Max Kellerman, boxing in general, and to no surprise, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

It leaves me shaking my head in sadness and dismay.

While I feel bad that Manny Pacquiao lost, I think generally, the people are in denial. The country’s brightest star (even if his luster has somewhat faded) lost on the biggest stage and not only has national pride been pricked but people are also coping by lashing out at anyone and anything.

It’s the Nevada State Athletic Commission! Floyd kept hugging, clinching, and running away (while conveniently forgetting that Money landed more shots than Manny). Floyd is the poster boy for everything wrong in sports today. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

We have Manny frozen in a time capsule. The scintillating boxer who after winning his trilogy with Erik Morales rolled over a who’s who of challengers. On the way to international stardom, he had his own version of a “No Mas” moment when he forced Oscar dela Hoya into quitting the fight; it is a victory that propelled him to epic heights. Yet people conveniently forget that dela Hoya was getting in on the years and was clearly not the fighter he once was. Nevertheless, from one Golden Boy to another. The result was the Philippines had its first true global icon.

He proceeded to feast on David Diaz and Ricky Hatton (who was felled by a an incredible knockout), bloodied Miguel Cotto, and bludgeoned Antonio Margarito to the point where he was not the same after.

It seemed as if the train ride was unstoppable. While fight cognoscenti noticed signs of slippage, they were still largely ignored even if he “lost” to Tim Bradley. But when you think about it, he lost significant power as he failed to bludgeon the American into submission. Had he place a beating on Bradley, he would have been undoubtedly the winner. It should be noted, however, that it was also around this time when talks of a Money-Pacman match were first floated with the former accusing the latter of taking performance enhancing drugs.

After the loss to Marquez (that I saw coming after the Mexican felt robbed in his two defeats to Pacquiao including the controversial third fight), I felt he was fed stiffs who couldn’t hold his jockstrap. The same accusation levied at Mayweather for fighting nobodies… well, I thought that he needed some confidence building fights en route to the mother of all fights (against Mayweather).

Only this was like the Joshua Clottey fight redux. Prior to that match, all the two fighters did was exchange pleasantries. While Pacquiao never gets into a war of words or taunts, his opponents sometimes do. Against Clottey it was as if they were a tag team entering a WWE match.

And right before the Mayweather match, both boxers continued to exchange pleasantries. It was Pacquiao’s camp that did the trash talking. Freddie Roach was in his element. Bob Arum threw verbal jabs as well. The media lapped it up. Pacquiao fanned the flames by saying he’d win and put on the fight of a lifetime.

It wasn’t a Clottey fight where the opponent merely put up a wall behind an endless barrage. Mayweather, who some believed he would dispense with his stick and jab then dance away routine to slug it out, stayed with his forever game plan as he boxed and outpointed Manny.

While many decry this tactic, it has been as old as the sport. If you want to look at recent champions, Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed “Greatest” even gave the tactic a name – “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Sugar Ray Leonard also had the same style. When he opted to slug it out with Roberto Duran in their first bout, he lost. In the rematch, he went back to his style and won. “Can’t hit what you can’t catch,” he said.

If you put it in basketball terms, if a team’s strength is running the fastbreak, then you want to jam that outlet pass and slow down their offense to a crawl where they are probably not as adept at a half court game.

In Mixed Martial Arts terms, if you are a wrestler, you don’t want to face a striker in the center of the ring, you want to take it to the canvass where you can force him to submit.

The shoe is on the other foot and I thought it was well played. Floyd opted for a more humble approach despite the tactics about questioning the gloves etc. on fight day. In the post-match, whether he was being truthful or not, he was praising God and saying all the right things.

I thought that Pacquiao looked not only befuddled (something I have not seen since he fought Marquez the second time) but he also look dazed. He thought he won the fight. Look at the scene immediately after the final bell. Mayweather immediately raised his arms in victory. Manny? It took him a moment before he remembered to raise his arms. And he didn’t look convinced. Listen to the MGM Grand crowd that has always been pro-Manny. They didn’t think he won either.

Personally, I don’t have anything against what Max Kellerman asked. I think he was just as stunned as everyone was but that was a question that begged to be asked as Manny said he thought he won the fight (you don’t get points for being the aggressor; you get points for shots you land and winning rounds).

Now there’s talk about Manny hurting his shoulder three weeks prior to fight day and facing possible sanctions after not revealing that he suffered that injury. Some feel deceived by that because they felt it handicapped him. But if you look at all the newspaper headlines leading up to fight night, the Pacman camp was very confident and that victory was assured. Furthermore, fighters are always fighting hurt. It is the same with athletes from all over as they suck up niggling injuries. So there it is.

I thought Floyd won it. Just like Juan Manuel Marquez did in his third meeting against Manny (that was a controversial decision that has come back to snakebite Pacman twice).

I thought that after the Clottey fight, Manny should have hung it up. But like most great athletes, they never know when to call it a career. There’s always one more fight. And usually, it is one fight more too much.

He could have been the greatest. Now after three losses in his last six matches, Manny Pacquiao is now merely among the all-time greats.