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.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bleachers Brew #450: An assist for Scottie Pippen

On the occasion of my 450th column for Business Mirror, I throw an assist to one of my fave basketball players. This appears on the Monday, August 3, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

An assist for Scottie Pippen
by rick olivares

That Instagram debate between Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen started out as hilarious but ended with the former taking it very personally.

He can dish it but can’t take it.

Since Pip wasn’t known to talk trash he sort of backed down after attracting such vitriol from the Big Fella.

Okay, here’s how it all started, Shaq posted a pic with five Los Angeles Lakers – Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and himself say beating their Chicago Bulls counterparts of Derrick Rose, Michael Jordan, Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Horace Grant. By 50 points!

Yes, the Lakers could beat the Bulls but not always and certainly not by 50 points.

The first thing one has to note is the Hall of Famers on either side. The Lakers have more and Kobe will no doubt make it as soon as he becomes eligible.

The Bulls have three. The jury’s out on Rose with all his injuries. Grant will not make it.

Offensively, the Lakers have three of the ten greatest NBA scorers of all-time. And to think that Wilt Chamberlain was left out…. Oh my, Lord! Nevertheless, offensively, LA looks overpowering. However, there is only one basketball and that will have to be shared by all the players on either squad. Someone’s stats will surely go down.

Here is where Pippen can make a case for himself (since he really wasn’t known for his trash talking).

Scottie knows a thing of two about carrying a team.
When Pippen carried the Chicago Bulls from 1993 to a portion of 1995 (without Michael Jordan), his Bulls went 3-3 against O’Neal’s Orlando Magic.

Scottie averaged 25.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in those six matches in that span. He came close to winning the league MVP Award in 1994 but received the All-Star Game MVP honors that same season (he tallied 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists in the match held at the Target Center in Minnesota).

So no, Scottie can carry a team.

Shaq showed that video clip of Kobe’s crossover on Pippen that led to his dunk. Sure… but he conveniently left this out (check on this YouTube video). You might make a case that Kobe was still a young player then. But I thought that hypotheticals were out of the window. Check out “pippen 1on1 kobe” on YouTube.

Hey, defense wins games. And championships too.
Furthermore, Shaq conveniently forgets that defense wins championships. Between those five Laker are a combined 26 first and second team All-Defense citations. Magic Johnson wasn’t known for his defense and it is unfortunate that All-Defensive team honors were not given until the 1968-69 season which around that time, Baylor’s career was winding down.

The Bulls have 31 citations between themselves with Rose not making it to any of the first or second teams.

While the Lakers’ frontline looks overpowering not to mention much taller, it isn’t solely about height. Check out how Dennis Rodman successfully defended Shaq in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals and later on while the Big Diesel was with LA.

Furthermore, Shaq’ defensive rep/dominance was made by beating up on teams with centers like Rik Smits (Indiana in 2000), 34-year old Dikembe Mutombo (Philadelphia in 2001), and the great Todd McCulloch (New Jersey in 2002).

Against top centers near or in their prime like Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston in the 1995 NBA Finals), Tim Duncan/David Robinson (San Antonio in the 1999 Western Conference Semifinals) and Ben Wallace (Detroit in the 2004 NBA Finals), his teams went a combined 1-12. Now, Olajuwon and Robinson are Hall of Famers and Duncan will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial one day. Ben Wallace? He was darn good for a few years. He didn’t have the offense of Horace Grant and Rodman was more gifted offensively but he was a solid slotman for Detroit that won it with defense.

During the 1997-98 seasons, they went 1-8 against the Utah Jazz that had Greg Ostertag and Greg Foster at center.

So, yes, sir. Defense wins championships and oh, check out “Dennis Rodman schools and Destroys Shaq” on YouTube.

And oh, Shaq’s Lakers chalked up a huge assist from the Chicago Bulls.
And lastly, Pip might want to make a case that Shaq’s Lakers didn’t win anything until they brought over former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson. Didn’t win one after Pat Riley. Haven’t won since the Zen Master skipped town.

Furthermore, aside from the coaching staff of Jackson, Tex Winter, and Frank Hamblen, they also imported a bunch of Bulls who won titles in Chi-town to help them – Ron Harper, John Salley, and Horace Grant. So who’s your daddy now, Shaq?

For the record, I believe Shaq is one of the top players ever to grace the NBA’s hardcourt. So this isn’t a diatribe against the Diesel who I admire as well.

Yes, the Lakers will be heavy favorites to beat that Bulls five. They probably will. Certainly not by 50 and not all the time. Besides, do you want to bet against a man named Michael Jordan?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The National University Bulldogs' championship book

This is the new book I worked on. Wrote several chapters about the National University Bulldog's historic and triumphant UAAP season (also chipped in the title). This should be out in a few short weeks. Other writers include Jasmine Payo and Tricia Robredo.

What else am I working on? The book on Baby Dalupan where I am writing parts of the Ateneo chapter, Crispa, Great Taste, and Purefoods.

And there's a biography of a Philippine senator!

Breaking down EAC’s win over San Sebastian

Breaking down EAC’s win over San Sebastian
by rick olivares

For the second consecutive match, I tracked the offensive output of the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals with regards to their offense and their pass count before shooting. Check out the previous tracking article here

Previously, I theorized that it was in their best interests to push the ball up and score within the first three passes as opposed to setting up their halfcourt game that gave them all sorts of trouble as they didn’t have anyone to break down defenses.

This time, against the San Sebastian Stags, they took a higher volume of shots within the first three passes, scored more, and well, they won the game, 77-71. Of course, we will track them some more because two matches that we tracked doesn’t mean the theory is golden.

Attempts where they scored (includes free throws)
Attempts missed (includes blocks)
Fouls / broken up plays
One-three passes
Four or more passes

·      This tally does not include 24-second shot clock violations, put backs, or free throws off where a pass did not occur.

Aside from the quicker offense, the Generals play better when forward Sidney Onwubere and center Laminou Hamadou are on the floor. They were lucky they had a lead when Onwubere fouled out (with three of those fouls phantom fouls in my opinion).

Hamadou’s presence negated the inside game of the Stags’ Bradwyn Guinto who had his way when the Cameroonian went to the bench in the second quarter.

The EAC center scored some big points when SSCR was threatening and Jose Morada hit a big triple to ease the pressure.

As for San Sebastian, with Hamadou inside, the Stags had to settle for shooting from the perimeter. They jacked up a large number of triples with a lot coming during crunch time. Stags’ gunner Jon Ortuoste, who could be the second coming of Roi Sumang, got going for a brief moment in the second half but he kind of scattered his points. 

My earlier observation about Guinto having a tough time against the taller Hamadou, of course, he will have a tougher time. The height disparity is going to hurt. Guinto is one of the better bigs in the game despite being undersized. He has a good passing touch with deft moves inside the paint. But he scored most of his points in the second period and didn’t have much of an impact in the payoff period.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Got myself some Manny Pacquiao stamps

Picked up these Manny Pacquiao commemorative stamps at the post office yesterday. There are two versions -- the smaller one that costs P10 each but sells by a whole sheet for P400 and this larger one that fetches for P40. 

I haven't collected stamps since I was a kid because of my grandfather who got me got me into that hobby. I cannot remember when I stopped collecting or even what happened to that collection. But when I got this pair of stamps, I thought of him. And I smiled. Signposts. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

NCAA Season 91: A great game but even better sportsmanship (Red Lions vs Altas)

The San Beda Red Lions survived a scare from the Perpetual Help Altas who missed a bunch of free throws (seven to be exact) in the endgame. SBC took the match, 83-81, to go to 5-1 while UPHSD fell to 4-2. It was a game that had all the feel of a playoff match. But through it all, both squads displayed great sportsmanship.

Earl Scottie Thompson, the reigning NCAA MVP, played the entire match (although it says officially he played 39 minutes) but I believe that fatigue caught up with him as he missed five of those seven free throws that nearly flipped the script for them.

As he flubbed a chance to cut the lead to two and hope for a put back off an offensive rebound, the Red Lions and their coach, Jamike Jarin, all tropped to the far end of the court to cheer up a disconsolate Thompson. Terrific display of sportsmanship between the two squads. Of the Bedans, I'll give massive props to Dan Sara, Art dela Cruz and Ola Adeogun who epitomized sportsmanship. As Thompson agonized over a botched FT, Adeogun came over to tap his hand; a gesture reserved only for teammates. That was a cool moment.

I was a proud spectator to this.

NCAA Season 91: Breaking down JRU's win over CSB

Growing confidence: The JRU Heavy Bombers after a slow start are finding their groove. With the wins come the smiles.
Breaking down JRU’s 67-49 win over CSB
by rick olivares

The first quarter saw both squads change leads several times. It took JRU a while to get execute their plays as they were missing points, some of them point blank stabs. CSB meanwhile was playing solid defense. But that will only get you so far when you can’t put points on the board. With Raphael Nayve and Jonathan Grey unable to get going because of some terrific defense on them and poor play between themselves, the Blazers crumbled. Fons Saavedra and JR Ongteco did their best to keep their side in the game but the rest of the team hardly did anything.

That’s going to be difficult when you go up against a squad like JRU that runs precise sets and keeps to their system.

If JRU can run they will. If there is no opportunity to run they either pound it inside to Abdel Poutouchi or look for Teytey Teodoro or Paolo Pontejos to score or create. They run different sets depending on whether it is Poutouchi or Abdul Abdulwahab inside.

How did they get this win to give them a 4-2 record?

They ran their sets to near perfection
Option 1: Give the ball to Poutouchi who posts up with his back to the basket. He spins to his right for a pull up shot, a hook or a drop pass to Darius Estrella (or John Grospe or Jordan dela Paz) who cuts from the baseline.

Option 2: If the defense on Poutouchi is resolute, he will wait for Estrella to cut to the opposite side for either a hand off and an open shot or Teodoro will quickly cut from where he is stationed outside the arc for a bounce pass and a layup.

Option 3: Mark Cruz throws the ball in from the top of the free throw line to either Poutouchi or Abdulwahab. Sometimes, if it is Gio Lasquety or even Marco Balagtas in the position, they will throw a floater or attempt a jumper.

Their 1-2-2 press badly hurt CSB’s execution
JRU head coach Vergel Meneses sprung his trap around the eight-minute mark of the second period. The score was 18-15, JRU at that point. From the time that Saavedra turned the ball over at the onset of the press, the Heavy Bombers fed off the turnovers and uncorked a crippling 21-7 run that all but ended the game.

Surprisingly, JRU gave up the press at the start of the third and that sort of surprised CSB as the Heavy Bombers opened with an 8-2 spurt. When CSB tried one last rally in the fourth, JRU sprung their press again and that ended the Blazers’ threat.

JRU doesn’t have the best rim protectors but they do play stifling defense.

The Heavy Bombers’ post up threat
Abdel Poutouchi didn’t have the best game as he finished with seven points and five rebounds because of the double and triple teaming that he saw. He did manage four assists though. Even Abdulwahab dropped a nifty dime to a baseline cutter.

Almost every Heavy Bomber scored
Only Gio Lasquety and Darius Estrella failed to score a point. But they chipped in through some other stats. While Paolo Pontejos is oft in Meneses’ doghouse (I feel the former is underappreciated but gets chewed out for drifting into a me-first mode).

I like how Meneses has shown faith in power forward Mark Cruz who he starts and in the last two matches – both of them wins – sends his player in with six minutes to play. And Cruz finishes the game. He can play good defense. He can pass and can score too. He just has to make better decisions inside on whether to tap the ball to himself or to a teammate and not picking up his dribble when he crosses halfcourt.

Teytey Teodoro exploded again
Twenty-one points! Eight rebounds with two assists and three steals (minus two turnovers) in 26 minutes. Talk about efficiency and effectiveness. AS JRU struggled to put points on the board at the start of the game, he was there. Come the third period, he scored the first three baskets for JRU. When CSB tried to rally, he doused their fire.

The lad just gets better and better.

What must CSB do to get back on the winning track?
Ongteco must be more consistent inside. He has to realize that throwing jumpers from the outside isn’t going to help. The rebound disparity was terrible – 42-26, JRU. How are you going to win when you’re getting beaten on the boards? The result? Only two second chance points. Christian Fajarito could help. He just needs to be more discriminating in his shots and start off my playing defense.
Saavedra must cease giving up silly fouls because he is too an important player to be sitting on the bench.
While it Grey needs to score, he along with Nayve must create for their teammates. That should make life a little easier for them.
They do not have any interior defense so they should deny that entry pass.
Rather than settle for outside shots, they should attack that basket.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

When Nothing Else Matters. On Hulk Hogan and fallen heroes

This appears in the Monday, July 27, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

When Nothing Else Matters
by rick olivares

In 2004, publishing house Simon & Schuster released Washington Post writer Michael Leahy’s myth-shattering book, “When Nothing Else Matters” that chronicled the third and last comeback attempt by Michael Jordan only this time not with the Chicago Bulls but with the Washington Wizards. The title was taken from a relentless personal pursuit by Jordan to reclaim the top of the basketball firmament no matter who gets stepped on. 

While I agree with Simon Barnes of The Times of London that the author was committed to depicting Jordan as shameful, Leahy nevertheless expounded on that narcissistic and difficult side of Jordan that was first revealed in Sam Smith’s ground-breaking “The Jordan Rules.” The GOAT’s Hall of Fame speech did nothing to rebut that and that left me shaking my head in disgust. My remark then was, “If the shoe fits…."

I guess people will always disappoint someone (as I am sure I do with others).

A couple of days ago, I saw this Tweet that sort of summed a collective shock over people who were at least a part of our childhood. Tweeted Jon Richard from London, “Cosby allegations. Hulk Hogan getting scrubbed for racism. What else could ruin my childhood?"

Perhaps you can even throw in ESPN radio personality Colin Cowherd (although I cannot say that he is an influence on me or a staple of my sports-diet). Make that ex-radio personality after he was axed for comments about people from the Dominican Republic. 

Am I disappointed over the circumstances surrounding Bill Cosby and Hulk Hogan? 

Of course. Do I dislike them now? Not at all. I’ll give myself a minute or two to lament or even mourn a fallen hero but that’s it. I have long come to terms with the fact that the public face may not necessarily be that real person. It’s like those Philippine celebrities who get voted to public office but are jailed for corruption or plunder yet deny everything even if they’ve been caught. Just because you play a wholesome person or a superhero on screen that doesn’t mean he or she is one. The problem is many people cannot separate fiction from reality.

But Hogan is a fake athlete, you say. That is besides the point. He is a sports entertainer and millions and millions of people have hung on to his every word, taken their vitamins, and adopted his iconic poses and catch phrases.

And that brings to mind that old Charles Barkley commercial about sports heroes NOT being role models. That certainly applies to entertainers or artists as well. Reality is a sick and jarring thud waiting to happen. Jordan was presented as the All-American superhero. Come on, he starred in a film with Bugs Bunny! Instead, he wasn’t the best teammate, he gambled, cheated on his wife, and well, cannot seem to get rid of that chip on his shoulder that he carried ever since he began playing.

On the local front, there was this player I used to worship for quite some time, even if practically all of my family and friends rooted for opposing teams. When I found out years later the reason for his falling out with his teammates, I was crushed. And it isn’t anything like hearsay. I heard it straight from people involved. It left me shaking my head not only in dismay but in disbelief. How could you?

Years ago, I attended a graphic novel signing by this famous writer at Fullybooked at the Power Plant. I was the 20th in line and as soon as it began moving, I was right in front of this favorite author of mine. Since I was alone, I asked the person next to me if he could take our picture. Unfortunately, the photo he took was poor and I asked the author if we could get a re-take. He snarled at me about how there were thousands in line and I was holding it up. I was stunned yet I still found my voice in an even testier retort, “I asked you nicely, you don’t have to be an ass.”
There was silence and everyone around us heard it. A chill ran up my spine. If he stood up and left then everyone would be pissed at me. Mercifully, he didn’t (but he did hear what I said). I stepped down the dais and threw all three of my graphic novels in the trash bin. To this day, I do not read anything he writes.  

The excuse that we are only human is true but doesn’t let them off the hook. They are held to a higher standard. If they receive the admiration of many then scorn is no different. In this day and age of social media, it’s like the wrath of God has gone digital. 

This politically correct world has its pros and cons but what I do not like is how people are out to bury folks who committed wrong. People make mistakes. They should pay for them without a doubt but we shouldn’t excommunicate them where they cannot get back on their feet. Sometimes, people are crucified in public without the benefit of knowing the circumstances surrounding an incident. Case in point, that MRT commuter who was video taped arguing with a security guard. We only saw her outburst but not what preceded it. Who knows what the guard said or did to warrant that outburst for which the lady was bludgeoned? 

So are heroes or role models dead for me?

Not at all. I have learned to confine my admiration to simply what they do in their field of excellence. Nothing more, nothing less. Color me jaded and I will somewhat disagree. Let’s just say that I learned to compartmentalize things better. Jordan remains a favorite athlete of mine. Hogan will always be one of my cherished wrestlers. 

I remain a fan of many people, bands, athletes, teams, but always keep my admiration at an arm’s length, sometimes even farther. There are far more urgent things that I should worry about such as work, family, and paying the bills rather get upset about someone whose 15 minutes of fame are up but had one mad minute for which they are now paying for their mistakes.