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, September 25, 2006

Solar Sports

In the early hours after December 25, 2005, a fire swept the squatter colony underneath the Katipunan flyover area that bridges Escopa in Quezon City and Monte Vista in Marikina. Hours after firemen put out the blaze, I was over there helping distribute relief goods when a surreal scene floored me. On one side people were crying and salvaging what was left of what little they had in this world. On the other side were people unmindful of the carnage mere meters away and tuned to their televisions. They were watching the Christmas Day NBA game.

Two American expatriates who manage a call center down here in the Philippines attended the Super Bowl XL tail gate party at the Adidas Sportskamp last February. The brothers were also present for the World Cup games at Gweilos in Eastwood in Libis. And most recently they were at the FIBA World Basketball Championships viewing parties at the National Sports Grill in Makati.

One of the Philippine Basketball Association’s greatest point guards ever and is currently an assistant coach for a pro team makes it a point to watch Sports Desk every night before he sleeps. According to him, it’s a great time to catch on up on all the day’s sports action.

Solar Sports, that maverick of a local sports cable channel is now on its 5th year of programming and continues to be a huge part of everyday Pinoy viewing fare. The cable channel giant cut its eye teeth by showing NBA games every single day of the week and by telecasting boxing matches by almost every fighter worth his salt today. It has shown and is showing many a program such as the Ryder Cup, Major League Baseball, and NASCAR among many others that wouldn’t be shown here as easily.

Just as Solar has pissed off people who have thought that it was jumping on the football bandwagon by acquiring the FIFA World Cup and by putting the games on pay per view (if so, then the World Cup and the recently acquired Spanish La Liga must be pretty darn expensive fads). It has even caused some a columnist to take the cable company to task for not airing the 1st World Cup of Pool (when in fact, the company that produced the events had no live feed capability to send it over). For showing old UFC fights (well, Solar admits this but it will soon catch up to the latest editions of the ever-growing mixed martial arts program) In fact, a rival station that is setting up its own sports channel recently gifted the representatives of its teams laptop computers to stay with them rather than jump over to Solar.

It helps that its company is staffed with ex-varsity football, basketball, and baseball players. Frisbee players and budding golfers. Sportscasters and sports nuts. It’s a must that you like sports here, says one of its top honchos, otherwise how will you do a good job. Another quips, it’s certainly a perk that you get to watch sports during working hours and talk about them during yosi breaks.

It’s a sports fan’s dream when you play pick-up hoops with NBA players and shoot pool with our cue internationalists. What’s that? Someone wants to add that it’s a hot-blooded boy’s dream to work with Reema Chanco.

For all the jock talk, its people take immense pride in bringing to local television the best of the world’s sporting events. The recent Southeast Asian Games showed that there is life outside basketball. Although it’s a task and a half to develop sports outside hoops, its people relish the opportunity to be a part of the development and growth of football, mixed martials arts, and boxing.

Today, Monday, September 25, Solar Sports will be launching to its friends in the media, advertising and corporate world the new directions of its sports channels at the ballroom of the New World Marriot Hotel in Greenbelt, Makati. By the first week of October, Solar Sports and Sports Plus will merge to form a super sports channel. A host of new programs like La Liga, Extreme Championship Wrestling, and K1 (mixed martials arts that features practitioners of taekwondo, karate, aikido, and ju-jitsu among others do battle for a title) will be added to the mixed of NFL, grand slam tennis action, boxing, volleyball, billiards, and poker action to name a few. The channel will also be featuring a lot of local productions such as Undisputed (a boxing show hosted by Ronnie Ricketts), Hoop Nation, the channel’s sole remaining basketball link hosted by Alex Compton), and In the Zone (featuring Patricia Hizon, Robbie Puno, and Jude Turcuato). They will also be gearing up for the last of the Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales fights this coming November and for the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar this December.

Hold on! Back it up. Sole remaining basketball link? Yup. All the basketball content be it the NBA or FIBA will move over to its new sister channel, Basketball TV. It is basketball 24/7 and it also features the Euroleagues, PAC-10 (Pacific 10 featuring UCLA, Arizona, USC etc.), ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference featuring the University of North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State etc.) and NCAA action. Also making its television debut is the upcoming local Collegiate Champions League featuring the best of the local UAAP, NCAA, and other collegiate leagues from around the country.

When we told Solar Sports indefatigable COO Peter Chanliong that it seems a whole lot, he laughed out loud and said, “That’s just until the end of the year. We’re just getting started.”

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