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, July 24, 2006

Round 2

He had that cred coming out of the amateurs: 2 UAAP titles with La Salle, a celebrated National Team stint, and one of the last pure Pinoy players before the 90’s Fil-foreigner explosion to be designated a franchise player.

He won Rookie of the Year with Sta. Lucia and posted great stats. And that’s where it began to go downhill for him. It was said that he only cared for his stats and his money. It was said that for a man of his height and power, he played soft. It didn’t help that when he was eventually traded away from Sta. Lucia, his team finally bagged the elusive crown. It was the same story at Ginebra – they only won after he was traded away to Purefoods (and not after an embarrassing drug suspension that tarnished his rep all the more). No way is a team going to win a title with Jun Limpot in the line-up, many cruelly joked.

Friday night, with the seconds ticking oh-so close to Purefoods’ 7th PBA title, Ryan Gregorio accorded the ultimate respect to the old warhorse by putting him in the game’s last moments. Limpot’s freethrow was the series’ last basket and when the buzzer sounded, as the confetti and balloons fell so did his tears. His teammates even hoisted him for the victory ride before their coach!

He didn’t have that cred coming out of the amateurs. Sure he helped Ateneo to a title in ’02. Sure he played on a title-winning PBL team. But he wasn’t even the main man (it was Rico Villanueva, Rich Alvarez or Jun Simon). After being anointed King Eagle, an unfortunate ACL injury cruelly ended his college playing days. Nowadays it is not uncommon for players to comeback from ACLs. What is uncommon is coming back and playing at a high level. Maybe even better than he was before.

He was drafted #14 and in the second round. That he was drafted at all was a surprise to many who thought he wasn’t good enough or needed more seasoning in the PBL. But he turned into one of Yeng Giao’s prized super-subs. Displaying deadly all-around form and with the poise-f a grizzled vet, Larry Fonacier has helped Red Bull to its 3rd title in the Fiesta Conference and a runner-up finish to Limpot’s Chunkee Giants in the just-concluded All Filipino Cup. With the odds stacked against his team, Fonacier conspired with college teammate Villanueva to send the series to a sixth game with some clutch plays. Something he has done all-year long playing simple, no-nonsense fundamental basketball. For that he was accorded this year’s Rookie of the Year -- the lowest drafted player to turn the trick since Gerry Esplana did it with Presto in 1990.

Two players with divergent roads to the pros. But both seeking redemption. Life’s Round One may knock you around for a loop. Throw you a curve ball when you’re expecting a fastball down the middle. But the point is, you get right back up swinging and plugging away.

Round Two? Ah, you just read two of the best feel good pro basketball stories of the year.

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