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, April 30, 2007

The Write Stuff

As my fascination for baseball and the New York Yankees grew and intensified during my younger years, a couple of books that I sought out was the much-acclaimed Summer of ’49 and October 1964 both written by David Halberstam. The former chronicled the year when the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox were engaged in a heated pennant race highlighted by the incredible year that Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams had. There were anecdotes about Jackie Robinson, Italian immigrants who used baseball as a way to integrate themselves into mainstream America, how radio was such a big part of turning men into gods, and how television’s infancy told of a high-tech future to come. The latter was about the last hurrah of Mickey Mantle’s Yankees and an era of sustained greatness as they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series and into the abyss of losing and mediocrity.

I knew I had a good book in my hands as I stayed riveted to my seat and paused only to eat and heed nature’s call. What also fascinated me about David Halberstam’s writing was the meticulous recreation of the bygone eras that came alive for me. It was as if I had traveled back in time and had a front row seat to all the insider action. Halberstam’s prose was a unique mix of first-rate journalism and history.

His writing whetted my appetite for history as a school subject and as choice of reading material. Just when I thought that I knew and heard of every Michael Jordan tidbit out there, Halberstam came back with the even more well-researched tour de force Playing For Keeps that tracked the parallel growth of ESPN, the spread of American pop culture, and the globalization of the game that turned His Airness into the world’s first universal superstar. A truly amazing read.

David Halberstam’s style became a huge influence on my writing and my mania for research, historical facts, and empirical proof. His death the other day in a car accident in Menlo Park, California might have merited a small column or maybe nary a blip on most local sports fans’ radar screen, but it resonates deep inside the fan in me.

Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Halberstam. You’ll be writing the good book up there.

o O o

As I got older, those Hardy Boys mystery books (I still have the original and complete hardbound set) gave way to Sports Illustrated. I used to buy them at the Rastro in Greenhills that was just about the only store that sold them. If I missed an issue, I’d save up on my allowance and go to Dau to buy at the PX Shops.

If Sportscenter popularized the highlight, Sports Illustrated brought us the “bonus” as its late and famed editor Andre Laguerre coined the magazine’s raison d’etre. It became all about context. It meant going beyond the stats and about using sports as a metaphor for life; a prism for the rush of excitement on the playing field and the solitude between those moments of winning and losing. And that style changed sports writing forever.

Well, for the most part, it’s no longer “FEU Tamaraws gore NU Bulldogs.” It’s – “The FEU Tamaraws proved that they were far from being extinct in Season 69 of the UAAP as they reached in deep inside for that end game poise and game swagger that saw them through consecutive Finals appearances. Yadda yadda yadda.” That gore stuff is for the pedestrian.

I’ll say that David Halberstam is one of the three best baseball writers in my honest opinion; the others being Roger Kahn and Tom Verducci. Jack McCallum, Michael Lewis, and Rick Reilly are also huge influences. There were other non-sports writers I followed: Marc Spitz (the music writer not the swimmer), Nick Hornby, Cameron Crowe, Stephen Ambrose, Timothy Zahn, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, and Peter David to name a few.

As for local papers, I read everybody… Joaquin Henson, Henry Liao, Al Mendoza, Recah Trinidad, Ding Marcelo, (my editor) Jun Lumibao, and Rhea Navarro to name a few. And man, I loved collecting those old Atlas Sports Weekly Magazines.

o O o

Here are some other sports books I’d like to recommend:
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
Pele by Pele
The Life of Reilly by Rick Reilly
A Season On the Brink by John Feinstein
Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum
The Jordan Rules & The Second Coming by Sam Smith
The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

o O o

Random thoughts:
- Funny how instead of getting to the bottom of the problem, some officials are conducting a witch-hunt to determine who spilled the beans. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. I’m feeling you, PhilJax. A Ninoy Aquino gets you that the official stays put.

- It’s not quite Remember the Titans, but We Are Marshall is good.

- Alex Rodriguez may be off to one of the greatest individual starts in Major League Baseball history but if you ask me, whether the Yanks recover from their early season woes to win the World Series, this will be his last year in pinstripes.

- If you missed the racism in football special feature in ESPN before the start of the last World Cup, go to youtube and look up European Racism in Football. Having experienced racism first-hand, it just makes my blood boil.

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