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, October 2, 2006

If You Build Them, They Will Come

When it comes to the development of other sports in the country, many point their fingers towards too much emphasis on basketball. Why not football when it might be more suited to the Filipino physique (an erroneous theory if there was ever one)? Why not give emphasis on the other “Bs” like boxing, billiards, bowling, and baseball? Why not tennis after Felix Barrientos and company showed the way all those years ago?

There are too many reasons for us to dissect, but in the space of this column let’s talk about one… the lack of a sporting scene that you could actually feel and see.

Unless you live near a court, a field, or a country club, then you would not know that there’s a thriving sporting scene locally (unless you think of the endless bickering and politicking of local officials as high profile sports). The most obvious one is the Ateneo-La Salle rivalry but that only blooms during the UAAP season. And most recently, if you’d take the MRT coming from the south, you would have noticed the billboard near the corner of EDSA and Ortigas with a note of good luck to the San Beda Red Lions, but other than that nada.

If you plane into JFK and you’re right above Long Island, if you’re by the window, then look out below and you’ll see baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and football fields both of the American pigskin and of the roundball kind. If you take the 99S bus from Port Authority, after you leave Weehawken and go into Hoboken, you’d see a sign that says “Hoboken. The Birthplace of Frank Sinatra and baseball.” Here, once you enter the city limits of somewheresville, it the face of the local trapo who announced his/her latest project (when it is only their job and the taxpayers’ money).

If you were at Hong Kong during the recent World Cup then you will have noticed that the moment your plane touched down at Chek Lak Kop International Airport that World Cup fever has infected Britain’s former crown colony.

If you’ve been to Canada then you’ll immediately know you’re in hockey country.

Here… there’s nothing unless you go to the schools or the barangays. Even then, it’s mostly basketball. Okay, there’s nothing wrong with being a basketball country. Heck, in Canada and Finland, its hockey. In the Latin American countries, next to drugs and rubber, their biggest exports are baseball players. In Oz, its rugby. Not every country on God’s green earth plays the beautiful game. In India, it’s cricket. Let’s face it, we’re a basketball country first and everything else second, third and take a number and get in line. The sooner we accept that it’s a fact, jack -- then the better it is for all. But that doesn’t mean that other sports don’t have the right to be just as big or even bigger. Or that we can dream about performing well even sports that don’t seem natural to a tropical country like ours.

Remember the Jamaican Bobsled team that was turned into a feel-good movie by Disney? Well, that wasn’t just eye Candy for all you feel-good movie folks out there. Sure, Jamaica is reggae, dredds, voodoo, track and field, and bobsledding. But after their initial novel debut yet stirring run in Calgary in 1988, they placed much better than the USA, Russia, France, and Italy the following Winter Olympiad where their two-man team also beat the Swiss. And though they missed the Turin Olympics, they’re still very much a competitive force.

Other countries don’t all have the facilities for other sports but that doesn’t stop them from developing their sports programs. Ever see the beach football scene in Copacabana, Brasil? In Kreuzberg, Germany, you will find football played in cement courts that seem better suited to basketball games. In San Jose, Costa Rica, pitches are vast tracks of open land where sticks and stones are used to mark goal posts.

Our government, our local officials, our NSAs, and our neighborhood communities should all get in the act. I know… one thing at a time. The playing field is what matters. The equipment… that will come. In post-Depression America, many poor people played baseball by using balled-up socks for balls and sticks for bats. It’s not much, but it sure breeds a love for the game. Ditto with football. All-Universe great Pele used to play with the same balled-up socks and whatnot just to play. The other day, while on my way home, I saw some street kids playing football along Katipunan Extension corner Santolan (heading into Libis). Now of course, while I like their interest, maybe they should choose a more appropriate venue.

Sports is more than a physical exercise for people. It’s a great rallying point for national pride. It’s a way out of poverty for many. It’s an entry point into the middle class for some. It’s a great alternative to drugs. And it’s a great way to announce ourselves on the world stage.

With all due respect to all those who affected by typhoon Milenyo, the only good thing that came out of it was it cleared our thoroughfares of advertising eyesores. I’d much rather see a billboard that gives a send-off to our athletes in the upcoming Asian Games or even announcing that the collegiate football season is on nigh than more even generic clothing ads.

We’ve stirred the sports scene some with our countrymen’s exploits in ice hockey, equestrienne sports, mountain climbing, and car racing among others. I think it’s great, but it’s nowhere near enough. To those who could do something about the lack of a lively sporting scene, it’s more than about making noise (not of the showbiz kind that one channel likes to attach to its sporting events). To paraphrase that immortal line from the movie Fields of Dreams, if you build these playing fields, they will come.

We’re waiting.

No comments:

Post a Comment