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, June 18, 2007

A Sports Conundrum

“I hope that the RP Men’s team loses.”

“Don’t get me the wrong way,” the Cigarette Smoking Man said as he took one last and long puff on his cancer stick then stubbed it out in the ashtray in front of him. “I’m nationalistic as they come. But all this continued emphasis on basketball means that there will be less corporate sponsorship of other sports.”

The man has been a part of (non-basketball) national teams as a player, a coach, and now managing it from the sidelines. He acknowledges the stifling and paralyzing politics that has robbed our national sports scene of its vibrancy as well as the corporate world’s predisposition towards basketball, boxing, and billiards (let’s call them the “B” sports henceforth) for sponsorship.

Just the other day, I sat down with a local football official who asked me why the Spanish La Liga and German Bundesliga were being dropped from Solar Sports’ roster of shows. I had to explain that not only weren’t the ratings there, but it was difficult getting advertisers for the telecasts. Save for the die-hards, the games are said to be too early in the morning to watch and outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid no one knows the other teams and players. Clearly the numbers weren’t there after jump-in-the-bandwagon event of the 2006 FIFA World Cup spectacle and it didn’t justify the costs of paying for expensive properties.

We were asked what was being done to help the growth of football to which I replied that as much as I believe in that, it is not my job neither my company’s to propagate the sport. That is the job of its national sports agency. What we can do is show footage of local leagues aside from news and scores. If it’s something similar to the ASEAN Football Qualifiers where the national team – the Azkals -- are competing in then a few companies might be willing to shell out the big bucks to televise their matches. But was it the presence of Fil-foreigners that sparked the interest? While their controversial inclusion doesn’t help team chemistry or inspire our local players it does generate interest. So there are complicated chicken and egg questions to be asked where you factor in business, politics, and the spirit of the game.

In an effort to bring football news to our programming, I’ve diverted our news crews to cover UAAP football and Ang Liga tournaments. I even motored all the way to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport to interview a stranded Ghanaian who was trying to play football in Singapore (he’s now with UP and will be suiting up for them in Season 71) but ended up living in the airport for several months in a real life version of Tom Hanks’ movie The Terminal. When I try to insert football into our news telecasts, it’s yanked off in favor of other more compelling sports or other newsmakers. It’s what the people want I’m told. All you have to do is look at the UAAP where it’s mandatory for all schools to field basketball and volleyball teams the others be damned.

One of our recent climbers of Mt. Everest said that when they were seeking sponsors to fund their expedition to the famed mountain’s summit, many turned them away. Of course it was understandable, the climber acknowledged. What’s mountain climbing anyway to the corporate world and the masses? But after their accomplishment, there were numerable photo ops and promises by various politicians (now if you believe in them then you surely believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny).

When we asked one media buyer why mixed martial arts doesn’t get sponsors locally she said that it’s too violent unlike boxing. Hmm. I don’t know of MMA deaths but boxing… So what does she know about boxing? “Manny Pacquiao.” What weight division does he compete in? “Ah… I’m not sure.”

Outside the B-sports, most have no professional league for athletes to move up. I asked Atty. Ogie Narvasa a few months ago why he didn’t pursue a pro hoops career after a sterling stint with Ateneo and the nationals in the late 1970’s. “To be very honest,” said Narvasa. “Back then, the sport wasn’t a lucrative profession. Very few made any serious money unlike now when a draft pick can mean you’re set for life. Maybe if I were coming out of college now I’d consider it, but only maybe.”

The late football official and Ateneo coach Chris Monfort once said that the one-year salary of a pro basketball player is enough to run a pro football league and pay allowances for all its players. The late coach’s long-time friend PBA Red Bull Barako coach Yeng Guiao concurred, “Chris is right. Definitely right. As much as basketball is popular, we should also give other sports a chance to fly. There are many more sports where we can be the best or among the best.”

The Cigarette Smoking Man lit up his fifth cancer stick during our meeting the other week. “It’s hard to explain. I want the men’s national basketball team to win but you know what I mean…”

You mean it’s like I’m a Roger Federer fan yet I didn’t root for him in the last US Open and the just concluded French Open,” I offered suddenly wondering if I had made an apt analogy and if the Cigarette Smoking Man might think that I’m an idiot.

“What do you mean by that,” he harrumphed eyeing me peculiarly.

You see as much as I am a Federer fan, I am a bigger Pete Sampras fan and I don’t want him to break the Pistol’s modern era record of 14 tennis Grand Slams.

He laughed out loud and patted me on the back. “We understand each other quite well. I, too, am a fan of Pete Sampras.”

The author has a non-sports blog at:

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