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.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Breaking News...

De La Salle forward Rico Maierhofer reportedly has a stress fracture in his foot. But it is said that he will be playing tomorrow but with limited movement. I think people noticed that last time around. Parang may ini-indang na injury.

Now if he plays on it, he could end up like BJ Manalo -- losing much of his speed, lateral movement, and even power.

Remember Batricevic was warned about the makings of an ACL injury early on but they insisted on playing him, so look where it landed him.

More news as it develops. Or perhaps we 'll find out come game time.

Recruiting News

Even if Season 70 isn't over yet the recruiting wars for next season and even beyond are already ongoing.

Now it looks like everyone's trying to get Ryan Buenafe of San Sebastian.

DLSU has been tailing him like he's some spy. They've even been going through the Pasay City Mayor's office to get to the mother. Word from team sources is that the coach of the RP Youth Team told three of our possible recruits Buenafe, Nicolas Salva, and Justin Chua that if they want to play for the National Team then they must go to La Salle. Nagtatanong pa sila kung ano yung gusto nila just to play for them. ONE OF DLSU'S RECRUITERS -- THE GUY WITH FACIAL HAIR -- EVEN TOLD BUENAFE THAT WHEN HE GOES TO DLSU HE DOESN'T HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL. IT'S THE SAME LINE FED TO THEIR PLAYERS. IN CASE YOU ALL DON'T KNOW, ONE OF THEIR PRO PLAYERS SAID A MOUTHFUL TO PLDT'S ATENEO BOSSES. THEY NEVER WENT TO CLASS.



I think it's time that SBP adopt recruiting rules similar to the US NCAA. It is just getting so out of hand. I'm not saying that the American style is fool-proof, but it's a start.

What will Team A need? I'd say one more lowpost presence and shot blocker/rebounder to replace Zion and Ford. But look out for Jobe and Rabah. They'll get better. If Chua does go to us then that's one problem addressed. If Buenafe and Salva suit up then that should help with the scoring. And if our Team B player Gian Lucas (who plays the three-spot) finds his form after an injury, whoo! We're rooting for ya, Gian!

Personally, I figure Ken Barracoso will breakout next year. Should have been this year, but given the track record of our seniors, I'll still take my chances with him.

One last on our, Ford Arao. Galeng talaga! Imagine if he played like that last year -- the ACL injury set him back confidence-wise -- and if we still had Japeth.

Regarding our Blue Eaglets, I think it's only Frank Golla who is graduating but if ever he's trying out for the team, he'll need to toughen and bulk up. Any prospects on that team? Well, unfortunately they're all guards and underclassmen -- Jay Dumrique, Juami Tiongson, and Kiefer Ravena. All three have excellent instincts.

Ael Banal can be good if he becomes more consistent with his shooting and expands his game. I figure he needs to learn how to take it to the hoop and develop a pull up jumper. Michael Jordan taught that to Rip Hamilton and he's been pretty much more dangerous since then.

Al Bugarin? Great nose for the ball and excellent moves inside the paint. Too small lang for the college game. But if he has some medium range shooting in him, who knows?

But the great news for the Eaglets is they're still underclassmen. They'll even be better next year!


Friday, September 28, 2007

UAAP news

No truth to Pido Jarencio leaving the UST Tigers. According to Fr. De Sagon, OP, it was more of an outburst intended for the team and not anyone else. According to the good Padre, the team along with Jarencio are in Iloilo right now for some R&R.

Brian Ilad's appeal for reinstatement was denied yesterday by the board. Sayang, dude. Well, there's always the PBL to look forward to. But I doubt if they'll let him play sa CCL since it's also sanctioned by UAAP.

The Ateneo alumnus who cussed out the refs and the commissioner during the ADMU-UST game has received a ban all the way up to Season 72.

Nike's My Game hoops movie will be shown either the 2nd or 3rd week of October. Stay tuned for more details.

Game 17 Cliffhanger

Game 17 Cliffhanger
Ateneo 65 vs. La Salle 64
by rick olivares

September 26, 2007
Araneta Coliseum

There were some conversations that were the game and the rivalry in a nutshell.

Green side
With two minutes and twenty seconds left in the fourth meeting between the two teams in Season 70, Blue Eagle rookie Nonoy Baclao missed on a lob pass inside the shaded area by Yuri Escueta. But Baclao, bench-ridden once more due to foul trouble, was awarded two free throws to salvage the possession courtesy of a foul by La Salle’s Rico Maierhofer who seemed somewhat reticent on defense all game long.

Green Archer point guard Tyrone Tang who scored five of DLSU’s last seven points immediately went up to his teammate and slapped him on the cheek. “Just play good defense. Wag mo na i-foul,” he chided Maierhofer as his foul gave Ateneo an opportunity to chip away at the 63-58 lead while the game clock stayed put.

At crunch time, a five-point lead against Ateneo is not a luxury. In case you've watched the Blue Eagles over the last two years, you would know that they are the masters of the comeback. They are the Houdinis of the hardwood who have redefined the Hail Mary play for the new millennium. They are practitioners of Black magic so potent that it even has made Believers out of the naysayers.

And now both teams were in penalty. Maierhofer shook his head and cussed then nodded in agreement. Although Baclao made his two previous charities last time down the floor, he would miss these two as a collective groan carried from the blue side of the Araneta Coliseum.

But as he made his way back on defense, there was a grim determination on Baclao’s face to stop La Salle. And he did just that as he hauled down two crucial defensive rebounds and challenged two shots – one an ill-advised three-pointer by PJ Walsham and another drive by Jayvee Casio when he should have milked the clock – that were big stops.

The Green Archers scored a solitary point after that.

Blue side
In the battle for the second seed where Ateneo lost to La Salle last September 18, DLSU supporters hung a banner from the coliseum’s northside that read, “Bawal Tiu-mamba.”

If they were making light of the Ateneo captain’s second round game winner against them, their coach Franz Pumaren wasn’t. The only ones he didn’t send to guard him were his power forwards and centers.

He sent Bader Malabes, PJ Barua, Cholo Villanueva, OJ Cua, Tang, and Casio to guard Tiu at one time or another. The physical defense worked for by halftime, the Atenean already one of the league leaders in floorburns, scored only one point off a free throw with zero attempts from the field in 11 minutes of action.

With Ateneo down 31-30 at the half, coach Norman Black made his adjustments to free Chris Tiu and to deal with the blanket defense that silenced Ateneo’s outside artillery. All 30 points were scored inside the paint with 10 of them coming from Ford Arao who at times single-handedly kept the Eagles in the game.

The adjustments worked for the Eagle captain would be shackled no more. He scored 13 points in the game’s final 20 minutes. While the final numbers weren’t huge (14 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block) he was Jordanesque when it mattered. He hit Ateneo’s one trey (out of the team's nine attempts) to cut the Archers’ lead to 64-61. After Arao hit a miraculous shot with a split-second left to inch Ateneo closer 64-63, a quick conversation between the team’s two leaders took place during the Blue Eagles’ final play of the game.

After a three-man weave above the left side of the three-point arc, Arao set a pick that freed Tiu from Malabes who was shadowing him on the play. He then handed the ball to the gunner with a two-worded instruction, “Tira mo.”

Tiu thought about pulling up for a jumper, but when he saw that Arao’s man – Walsham – was a tad slow in switching to cover for Malabes who was displaced by the screen, he went straight for the basket.

Rico Maierhofer had a split second decision to make – stop Tiu or concede a possible drop pass to Nonoy Baclao who was lurking around the shaded lane. By the time the Green Archer decided to get in Tiu’s way, he was late and flailing away at the air as the ball kissed the window and into the net.

65-64 Ateneo.

Two sides
Jayvee Casio arrived at the Coliseum at 12:30. Instead of going straight to the locker room, he first went to the court which was still dark and quiet as the two schools’ supporters had not yet been let in. “Big game ‘to,” he said.

He then talked about his old teammate, Ford Arao, who was having his finest season, “Maraming nagugulat sa pinapakita niya ngayon. Teammates kami noon sa San Beda at nakita ko doon pa lang kung anong kaya niya. Kaya hindi ako nagugulat.”

At the 5:54 mark of the second quarter, Casio and three of his former high school teammates were on the playing court at the same time – Arao, Yuri Escueta, and Mike Baldos. The last time the four of them were on the court together was when they dusted off PJ Walsham’s Letran Squires for the NCAA Juniors crown.

In their second round meeting, it was Escueta who was the surprise package as he scored 16 big points in an Ateneo win 89-87.

This time it was Mike Baldos who picked up from where he left off during the knockout match with UST last Sunday. Baldos finished the DLSU match with 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 more confidence boosting performance.

“Hardwork lang,” smiled a sheepish Baldos. “Sana tuloy tuloy na ‘to.”

Far side
Four down; one to go. The last time the two teams played a five-game set was in 2002 and we all know how that ended.

After missing out on Season 69, the Green Archers were itching to vent their frustrations on their arch rival who took them to task for their foibles in the media and perhaps in the most damning matter… through humor.

Sometimes you have to be careful for what you wish for. In four meetings thus far, the average margin of victory has been 1.75 points. Every game has been heart stopping and heartbreaking and three of them have gone Ateneo's way.

Now La Salle wants to see the last of its rival this season. In one more game.

Before the start of the match in the Upper A section of the coliseum’s southside, a group in blue and white held up high a sign that drew much derision and catcalls from their opposites in green who were just an arm’s length away.

“We beat you twice and we’ll do it again.”

We’re about to find out. Here we go again and I'll see you on Sunday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hoops Tidbits

1) Last Sunday Ateneo beat DLSZ in the SBP semis (57-51 if I am not mistaken). It was a good game with the moms and the dads getting into the cheering like any old good match between the rivals until the end game.

Apparently, one father of the Zobel players felt "threatened" by the Ateneo lads raising their fists and singing the alma mater that he hit one of the boys. The dad of the Ateneo kid rushed in to hit the erring father (talk about being politically correct here) and in the scuffle accidentally hit one of the La Salle moms trying to protect the culprit.

There are reports of suits to follow.

Win at all costs. Lose with no shame.

2) Last Tuesday, the various UP coaches hosted an inuman session for coach Joe -- no, Callanta, Barbers, and Jorge weren't invited at Backdoor. Sobrang dami nagpunta. Sorry I wasn't able to go. But coming up... a no-holds barred interview with Coach Joe in the Biz Mirror.

3) Adamson students have been trying to get tickets to today's Ateneo-La Salle game (some were even inquiring at ADMU yesterday). I think that's cool that many others are interested in watching this as well. Hopefully Adamson and the others can rebound next season.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

De-mystifying the Mythical Selection

De-mystifying the UAAP Mythical Selection
by rick olivares

With UAAP Season 70’s Men’s Basketball Tournament almost over here are a few things to consider when making the selections for the competition’s individual awards. At the end of the eliminations round, the top ten in the overall statistical points (the basis for the mythical selections) is as follows:
1. Jervy Cruz
2. Patrick Cabahug
3. Edwin Asoro
4. Jayvee Casio
5. Rico Maierhofer
6. Ford Arao
7. Mark Borboran
8. Marnel Baracael
9. Chris Tiu
10. Tyrone Tang

Season MVP
Jervy Cruz (UST)

I’d say that Cruz given his incredible stats is a shoo-in for league MVP. But should statistical points – the cumulated total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks -- be the basis for a player’s selection to the Mythical Five?

The other four selections should also be worthy of the game’s singular highest honor. Say it again… Most Valuable Player. Valuable in the sense that he contributes mightily and heavily to his team’s success. Now if his team is in the bottom tier then tough. What if since he was on a lousy team and he was just trying to pad his stats? If he was so valuable why wasn’t he able to tow his team to the final four?

This season, the Ateneo Blue Eagles were seeded to finish fifth or sixth by pre-season prognosticators; an indication that people thought there would be a power failure in Loyola Heights given the graduation of several vital cogs. The Blue Eagles’ success can be attributed to several factors: good recruiting, a very good system, excellent coaching, and an excellent blend of veterans and new blood. But if you were to compare them on paper the other teams are more talented and have the benefit of just as good if not better coaching.

Now unless a player from the lower or middle tier teams had a truly spectacular season then I’d say anyone who plays for a sucky team shouldn’t be even considered. At least not on the first team. Selections like that in my honest opinion are being politically correct. Consider the term “politically correct” a euphemism for “compromise” or “playing it safe.”

Well the games are decided on the court therefore we deal in absolutes. There are no compromises. If the statistical points are the sole basis for the selections then that leaves UE’s Borboran and Arellano out of the running? And that smacks of total disrespect to the Red Warriors and their 14-0 record. By all rights and purposes, the final four is a charade. Why does UE have to play again when they’ve beaten everyone twice?

Sure being from Ateneo, I’d love for my team to have another crack at the title. But really, it’s nothing more than a ratings and an attendance ploy where more games especially by the “elite schools” means more advertising money.

So maybe the UAAP Board should look into this. They should reward a team that sweeps the eliminations with an outright title. This isn’t the pros.

Back to the Mythical Selection, my criteria for a player making it to the First Five hinges on his:
- overall statistical points
- clutch plays and standing tall during big games
- team’s standing

Based on that, my First Five consists of:
Jervy Cruz (UST)
Ford Arao (ADMU)
Mark Borboran (UE)
Jayvee Casio (DLSU)
Marcy Arellano (UE)

Cruz put up some monster numbers and day in and out. As much as Khasim Mirza gave the Tigers a huge boost with his energy and scoring, he had a tendency to disappear in certain games. Cruz was steady every time. You can only hope to slow him down, but stop him? No one has so far.

Ford Arao has found focus. In his breakout year, he has been almost unstoppable in scoring on a variety of drop-steps, hook shots, turn around bank shots, and put-backs. And it’s not an uncommon sight to find him running the break as well. Arao has become an unlikely go-to player for the Blue Eagles supplanting even Chris Tiu.

Mark Borboran doesn’t need to put up huge numbers to dominate a game. He understands what is needed of him during a game and he goes out and finishes the job. No longer just a flashy dunker, Borboran has become a complete player.

Jayvee Casio can single-handedly alter an opponent’s game plans. His presence and rifle range not only frees La Salle’s bigs to operate but means that no lead is safe with him on the floor.

The UE Red Warriors may get by with Borboran and Elmer Espiritu on the bench owing to the superb development of Hans Thiele and Kelvin Gregorio but without Marcy Arellano, the Big Red Machine is stuck on neutral.

Second Five:
Edwin Asoro (NU)
Rico Maierhofer (DLSU)
Marnel Baracael (FEU)
Chris Tiu (ADMU)
Patrick Cabahug (ADU)

So why did Asoro and Cabahug drop to the second team?

Asoro is a puzzle. Oozing with immense talent, basketball is an easy game for him. Sadly though, for the most part of the year, he looked uninterested, bored, and out of whack. And to think he put up great numbers while seemingly spaced out. I thought that Jonathan Jahnke and Raymond Aguilar helped elevate this team more than Asoro and were particularly there during crunchtime.

As for Cabahug? He’s never met a shot he didn’t like. The Black Hole of Adamson knows there’s no “I” in team, but there sure is in “win.” Unfortunately for Cabahug and his Falcons, he’s no Ken Bono and if it weren’t for the hapless UP Maroons, Adamson would have been winless once more.

Coach of the Year
Dindo Pumaren (UE) You have to love the way he got players like Kelvin Gregorio and Hans Thiele to raise their game to another level. I’d say it’s the bench play of UE that has them where they are. Time was when these guys entered the game, you knew that the second unit was going to take a beating, but now… that’s one deep bench. And I haven’t even touched on the sweep.

Honorable Mention:
Norman Black (ADMU) You don’t lose three primetime players (who all made the pros) and two reserves then head back into the Final Four and give every team fits. Perhaps his best coaching in collegiate sports so far.

Rookie of the Year
Paul Lee (UE). Dindo Pumaren’s Lee-thal Weapon. Just when teams thought that they could sustain a run against UE, Lee comes in and silences the crowd with a dagger trey or the conventional and-one play.

Honorable Mention:
Ric Cawaling (FEU) Cawaling could be ROY, but Lee really provided a bigger spark that pushed the Warriors straight into the finals.

UST’s Khasim Mirza could have been a hands-down selection, but the Tigers’ deadly swingman was a transferee from World Citi Colleges.

Defensive Player of the Year
Edwin Asoro (NU) He’s the only player in the top three in rebounding, steals, and blocks.

Honorable Mention:
Nonoy Baclao (ADMU) Plagued by foul trouble almost all throughout the tournament that limited his effectiveness, he did come on strong in the last games of the eliminations. Watch out next year when he takes it to a higher level.

Ye good old dyaryo drive!

Trina Alejo is a friend of mine and she's helped me out in two of my video projects: one, the Ateneo Men's Football Three-peat video (I am looking for a way to upload that here kasi it's in DVD format eh wala akong converter) and two, Making A World of Difference (an AVP-DVD for foreign students to get them to enroll in ADMU; it's way cool! Wait for it to appear in my other blog the11-25pages). Trina also helps out our good friends Mico Halili and my old classmate Gary Villanueva over at Halikinu Radio. Maybe some of you can help out here.

By the way, this is open also to non-Ateneo students and alumni. Thanks ya'll!

Ad majorem dei Gloriam.


I am Trina Alejo, AB Com 2007. I really need your help.

My fourth year high school adviser, Mr. Ed Abodiles, is in Makati Med. He suffered renal failure last week and was advised to undergo kidney transplant the soonest possible time.

Mr. Abodiles is a bachelor taking care of a mother who herself had just undergone dialysis last week and a handicapped brother. A younger brother is left the task of taking care of the sick mother and brother in LaTrinidad, Benguet.

My fourth year classmates and I decided to help in our own little way. That's why we decided to have a newspaper drive. The money that will come out of it may not be enough but it will help his cause.

If you have old newspapers, handouts, any kind of paper - please please donate it to our cause. I'll personally get it from you. Just text me at 0917-8035785 so I can get them.

Actually, kahit anong pwedeng mabenta - bakal, aluminum, glass, old computer monitors, drum ng tubig, anything, ibigay niyo na sa akin! We really need money as soon as possible. Cash and/or check donations are also welcome.

Please don't hesitate to forward this to your other yahoogroups.

If you don't have anything to donate, there will be a concert for our teacher's benefit on October 5. Please buy tickets for that.

I may sound desperate and I apologize for that...but we really love our teacher and we really want to help him.

Thank you for taking the time to read this message. Please spread the word.

God bless everyone.

Katrina Alejo
AB Com 2007

Migs Escueta

I helped manage Ateneo Team B from 2004-05. That was one heck of a season. I came back from the US and felt crushed Team A faltered in UAAP play. A very good friend of mine Ateneo Sports Shooter Joseph Nocos instead invited me to watch Team B. "They have a good team now," he said. So I went along with Fr. Nemy Que SJ and that one game (versus UST) changed my life. I'll get to that at some other point.

I hadn't seen Team B in years and always thought that they weren't that good. If they featured players who weren't good enough for the A Team, then it was used as a training ground for recuperating Team A players to find their groove. Maybe the one Team B that intrigued me prior to that season was the year they had Ma Ming and Jude Turcuato in the line-up.

But this team was good. I'll probably post here what I wrote about that team soon...maybe after this season. Some of the players on that team included Zion Laterre, Eman Nazareno, Zach Estoesta, and Migs Escueta among many others. Hey, to my Team B boys I ain't forgetting ya'll.

What I didn't know -- Migs is also Yuri's cousin as well as Olsen Racela's -- was this other bloke Escueta could sing.

So here is a shameless plug of his album. You rock, brother!

By the way, our current Team B line-up has Jeff De Guzman, Paolo Dizon, and Tonino Gonzaga among others. They are currently undefeated (if I am not mistaken) in Fr. Martin II play. They are winning even if they don't have good big men. Do yourselves a favor and watch them. Over the weekend, I promise to post what I wrote about that team back then. That should get ya'll in the mood for hardcore basketball.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bleachers' Brew #74 The Write Stuff II

(This came out in my column in Business Mirror Monday September 24, 2007)

The Write Stuff II

I was planning on writing about the resurgent New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs but with a few games left I thought I’d wait before I dig up that mandatory Yogi Berra quote, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

So instead I’m going to write about…writing about sports and answer questions about…writing about sports. What a novel concept!

Dear Rick:
Now that you have your mug and byline in the papers (and some magazines), do you feel like a celebrity?

Dear Jonah:
Ah, no because whenever I write, I feel equal parts geek and equal parts fanboy. Just a mere witness to a sporting event like you and lots of others except that instead of typing on my laptop, “so-so player stole the ball for a breakaway slam dunk” I can say, “so-so player made away with the rock like some cellphone snatcher from Recto and broke away for a flush that turned (insert name of player dunked on here) into a youtube star.”

Okay, now I’ll have to fend off letters from irate snatchers. Even from those along Aurora Boulevard who feel slighted that I didn’t mention them.

But seriously, Jonah. If I was TJ Manotoc I might answer that differently. And know that sports writing in the Philippines doesn’t make you stash loads of moolah unless I’m into payola.

The closest brush to fame I had was while on a trip to China where I wore a golf shirt and cargo shorts with a pair of Air Jordans on my feet. Now if you think there’s nothing wrong with what I wore then you should know that it was in the dead of winter and it was bleeping cold. Yes, I forgot it was that time of the season and since then I never travel wearing shorts. Anyways, as I was collecting my luggage, someone approached me and asked me if I was a basketball player in the PBL (obviously he was a fellow Noypi). I have no clue whatever gave him that idea (maybe it’s because I’m 5’11 and have skinny legs). For the briefest of moments I considered lying and conjuring some story, but I felt embarrassed and said that I wasn’t. But as I made my way to the toilets (to change into something more apt), I remember telling myself, “Basketball player? I like the sound of that.” Only the closest I ever got to serious hoops was playing in the Fil-Am Summer leagues in New Jersey and the ABL.

Most recently, during Kobe Bryant’s second tour of the Philippines, Nike Philippines prepared a shuttle for us media folks for a ride to the events at the Serendra and Philsports Arena. As the shuttle (a huge tour bus) parked in front of the packed Nike store in Fort Bonifacio, a wave of excitement swept the massed people who were in line for hours and baked by the hot afternoon sun, they cried, “Kobe!’

Digital and video cameras whirred into record mode. The door swung open and out stepped us media folks loaded with cameras and note pads with our precious media passes dangling from our necks. “Ngek! Media lang pala,” spat out not a few people. I waved at the crowds nevertheless.

Dear Rick:
Who are the best athletes you have met and if you could meet and interview anyone who would they be?

Dear Mara:
I’ve met and interviewed quite a lot and was tongue tied for some. But two incidents stand out – meeting up and trying to engage the New York Yankees’ Jason Giambi and the San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili in small talk.

But for my money, the best interviews/meets I’ve had (in no particular order):
1. Alex Compton
2. Dwyane Wade
3. Mikee Cojuancgo-Jaworski
4. Monsour Del Rosario and Stephen Fernandez
5. Allan Caidic
6. Brian Viloria
7. Bernie Williams
8. Danny Seigle
9. Christine Jacobs-Sandejas
10. Bill Wennington

If I could meet and interview certain athletes, again in no particular order:
1. Hope Solo (gush!)
2. Tiger Woods (I have to have one of the world’s greatest on this list)
3. Steve Kerr (on being on the receiving end of Michael Jordan’s game winning shots as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and later as His Airness’ teammate with the Chicago Bulls, and winning with Tim Duncan).
4. Rick Fox (on playing for Boston and Los Angeles and how he felt when he wore the #17 with the Lakers in honor of the failed 1991 Celtics’ campaign for a 17th banner – Fox won three titles in LA)
5. Shaquille O’Neal (the world according to the Big Aristotle)
6. Jackie Robinson (on changing the face of sports)
7. Luisito Espinosa (on the being immersed in the school of hard knocks)
8. Zinedine Zidane (on how he deals with his fame and infamy)
9. Fabio Capello (on his being a winner everywhere he goes)
10. Vlade Divac (on learning English while watching the Flintstones, being traded for Kobe Bryant, and running with the uber cool Sacramento Kings of the new millennium)

Dear Rick,
Why did you choose sports writing as a profession?

Well, Ben. While working in an advertising agency, I contributed articles in the Lifestyle section to the Inquirer. But when I was waiting on tables, running pizza delivery in Manhattan, working in a private school in Brooklyn, and stalking Marvel Comics’ Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada in their swank Park Avenue office, I wrote letters to family and friends back home. They were funny and sad letters about struggling to find my piece of the American Dream and my place in the world (I hope to publish that book by the year’s end). My letters found their way around and people egged me to write. When I came home for a vacation (that has since become an extended one until I go back to the US next January), I wrote about the heartaches of winning and losing while rooting for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. That opened the door (while working as Marketing Manager for Solar Sports) for chipping in at Men’s Health, Tower Sports NBA, Business Mirror, and a few stuff that should be out soon. Besides it’s fun and a catharsis of sorts.

Dear Rick:
Any problems you face as a sportswriter?

You mean aside from interviewing stuck up and rude people who a few years ago yearned for small press? Or people who don’t hear your question because they’re looking at some girl’s rack? Or being unable to ask sensible questions during a press conference because the organizer plays favorites? It’s losing control when I root for my fave sports teams and then I pick a fight with opposing fans. Instead of writing about them they’ll write about me.

Visiting Vatican envoy sacks top UST priests

(from Manila Standard Saturday September 9, 2007)

If you're wondering why Pido Jarencio made those statements about being iffy about returning next year, it's because there's going to be a lot of change in UST's hierarchy. Of course, I'd love to see Pido return, but I wonder if the change will extend to their entire sports program. Word is even Mrs. Francisco and Fr. De Sagon will be on their way out because of the changes not by anything else. Whatever happens, this is not a happy report. We hope that UST can reorganize as soon as possible. Viva UST!

At least three priests who were holding sensitive positions at the University of Santo Tomas were sacked last Tuesday (September 4) for alleged mismanagement and irregularities.

Relieved were Edmund Nantes, prior provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province and also UST's vice chancellor.

Rector Ernesto Arceo, OP, and Vice Rector Juan Ponce, OP, were also asked to resign.

Carlos Aspiroz, OP, the Master of the Order of Preachers, accepted the resignation of the three priests.

Aspiroz was in Manila for a canonical visit, but sources in the university said the grand chancellor's visit was mainly to stop the expansion of the UST hospital.

"The Master believes that a new leadership team will be better able to create the consensus necessary for future developments at the university and the hospital especially as UST begins preparations for its 400th anniversary in 2011," said university Secretary General Isidro Abano, OP in a circular that was read during the meeting of deans, regents, and department heads.

The same source told reporters that some priests were among the investors in the hospital and that the investments came to more than Php1 million.

"That bothers the Holy See," the source said. Aside from the irregularities, the hierarchy of the Dominican Order was reportedly unhappy with the way the university was being managed after it failed to secure the global certification recognizing its compliance with the high standards of education.

With the resignation of the three priests, the grand master named Rolando de la Rosa, OP, acting UST rector until Pope Benedict XVI appoints a new rector. De la Rosa was previously chairman of the Commission on Higher Education.

from a report by Arlie Calalo

Monday, September 24, 2007

UM Coach - Someone should slap this loser around

Video and text courtesy of Mhel Garrido. The University of Manila Hawks won the first 5 NAASCU titles (2001-2005). In 2006, they lost in the semis while AMA went on to win the cage crown. The Hawks, the alma mater of former pro Nelson Asaytono, went back to the finals where they were defeated by the STI Olympians.

This was taken during a timeout of the championship game of the 7th NAASCU. Just look at how the Coach of University of Manila (Ato Tolentino) strikes fear in his players by hitting them. Wawa naman.

The NAASCU Champions STI. With my longtime friend Mhel Garrido -- we go back to those ASSOC days in college. Congrats! See you in the Collegiate Champions League this November!

Yup, the CCL will be moved to November and will be jointly handled by Mr. Rey Gamboa and FilOil (as represented by former ADMU & DLSU coach Virgil Villavicencio and former Blue Eagle Dave Dualan). The games will be shown on Basketball TV where one of my good friends, Rely San Agustin is the Marketing Manager.

Pacquiao-Barrera II

Nike Philippines officially unveiled today the Nike-Manny Pacquiao identity mark and crest in support of the national athlete’s fight against Mexico’s Marco Antonio Barrera this coming October.

“Manny Pacquiao is the first Filipino athlete to ever have an official Nike identity mark and crest developed after his iconic stature,” explained Nike Philippines Country Marketing Manager Melissa Crucillo.

“Pacquiao is the embodiment of the Philippine dream. When he steps on the ring, he does not only defend his title as a boxer. He also brings with him the aspirations of the entire nation. Nike understands this and is honored to support Manny with this specially designed identity mark and crest, which every Filipino can use to show their support for our national athlete” Crucillo added.

Go, Manny!

Live and Let Die - UAAP Game 16 Ateneo 69 vs UST 64

Live and Let Die - UAAP Game 16 Ateneo 69 vs UST 64
by Rick Olivares
(Thanks to Nono Felipe for the pictures)

September 23, 2007
Araneta Coliseum

1:00pm UST Locker Room

University of Santo Tomas Coach Alfredo “Pido” Jarencio addressed his players before he sent them out for an early shoot-around. “Simple lang ‘to,” said the man who during his professional ball days was known as the Fireman of the fabled never-say-die Ginebra San Miguel team. “Gusto niyo na magbakasyon o gusto niyo pa maglaro? Ewan ko sa inyo pero gusto ko pa maglaro.” The defending champs let out a resounding whoop to move on.

1:30pm outside the Ateneo Locker Room
“The NU game rudely reminded us that when opportunity knocks you better grab hold of it,” said Ateneo Coach Norman Black before the game. “No doubt it was doubly disappointing because we didn’t get the job done also against La Salle. Now it’s a long hard road, but I figure we have a lot of fight left in us. We’d like nothing more than another crack at moving on.”

1:45pm Patron section Ateneo side

Macky Chan looked resplendent in blue. He’s never missed a game of the Ateneo Blue Eagles even if he only gets to watch on television. You see, the 27-year old has cerebral palsy, but on this day, nothing was going to keep him from watching his first live Ateneo game and cheer for the blue and white. “One more,” he said echoing Black’s and every Atenean’s sentiments. “One more.”

2:00pm courtside
More than three years ago Zion Laterre and Mike Baldos spearheaded Ateneo Team B’s drive for the Fr. Martin II championship. After pacing the league during the eliminations, the team fell to Arellano University in the semifinals. Laterre moved up to Team A the following season while the closest Baldos got to a call up was in Larry Fonacier’s final game in a Blue Eagle uniform in the Collegiate Champions League. It was a short stint for the team was shown the door by UP.

For much of his stay in Ateneo after changing zip codes along with Ford Arao and Yuri Escueta, his teammates in San Beda High, Baldos was always one of the last cuts for Team A. Despite being blessed with a plethora of pretzel-like post moves, he was oft chided for his soft defense. We shook hands at the south gate as the team and the coaching staff arrived. “Get ready, Mike,” I said as we made our way in. “Just think about those days in Team B when you’d score on those guys guarding you.”

Baldos smiled and softly replied, “Sana may pagkakataon mag-contribute.”

“That doesn’t seem too long ago, right,” said Laterre of those Team B days as he stretched out on the sidelines. “Those were good times, but we’re living in better ones. If we have an opportunity to win a championship, then it’ll be the best. But even if we don’t win anything, I’ll always remember this. It could be all over, but we’ll try our best to play for one more day.” Interestingly it was former UST player Long David who brought Laterre to Ateneo thinking that the balance of academics and athletics would serve him well after his playing days.

As the Blue Eagles retreated to their locker room to change into their game uniforms, one of the Araneta Coliseum ushers had this to say, “Mas magaling yung players ng UST pero sa puso, Ateneo talaga.”

Game time
It wasn’t the start Ateneo was looking for. After Ford Arao gave Ateneo its first lead of the game with a nifty jump hook over Jervy Cruz to go up 2-0, the Tigers unleashed nine straight points that sent the UST gallery cheering several decibels louder. With Eric Salamat (who was making his second start) and Jai Reyes unable to orchestrate the offense, Chris Tiu, Yuri Escueta, and Kirk Long entered the fray.

Although UST led after the first quarter 18-10, the Blue Eagles’ offense was finally roused out of its slumber. In this season, Ateneo is 4-2 in games decided by three points or less and 6-1 after leading at the end of the third quarter.

But over the last four campaigns, the Tigers have been an unlikely nemesis. In Seasons 68 & 69, the Espana dribblers dealt Ateneo second round losses that haunted them down the road. Two of the last five matches have been blowout wins by UST. The Loyolans’ two victories were by the skin of the teeth – including the last one that had Thomasians lamenting, “na-Kramer na naman kami.”

If ever, Ateneo needed to win convincingly if only to partially slay last year’s ghosts. And besides, it was win or go home time so there was no holding back.

A hallmark of Norman Black’s coaching has been his ability to get his senior players to reach their full potential. In his first year during Season 68, which coincidentally was LA Tenorio’s last, the Blue Eagle point guard led the team in scoring, three-point shooting, assists, and steals (not to mention being one of the team’s leading rebounders). Last year it was Macky Escalona, Doug Kramer, and JC Intal who took the spotlight. And this campaign, it has been the previously underused Escueta, the underachieving Arao, and the untapped Laterre who have stepped up. Unknown to many, Laterre wasn’t 100% in the first round because of tendonitis. “We don’t make a habit of publicly announcing our injuries,” explained the Ateneo mentor. “But as you can see now that he's healthier, he contributes to the team in so many ways.”

After a slim 32-30 halftime lead, Arao, Laterre, and Nonoy Baclao put on a block party; the Blue Eagles finally established control in spite of the spotty officiating. Although Arao (17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block), Chris Tiu (14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists), and Baclao (11 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks – he has a total of 17 in the past three matches) once more led the team, it was the seldom used Baldos who was the surprise package.

The 6’3” forward once he has his confidence going could probably be the team’s best low post player (you should have seen this guy on Team B). Given an opportunity to play meaningful minutes in such a high-stakes match, Baldos reciprocated in a big way. He spun into the lane for a stretch lay-up, hit 5-of-6 free throws and pulled down an offensive rebound. Not to mention helping play great defense on Jervy Cruz who after scoring 10 points in the first half was limited to 7 markers off a horrendous 1-12 shooting clip.

With Cruz mostly ineffective on the offensive end and the fiery Khasim Mirza misfiring and unable to provide that dose of energy, the Tigers looked for someone to step up. Forward Mark Canlas provided sporadic scoring but on the defensive end, there was no way he was stopping Arao or Baclao. So Jarencio sent in Francis Allera for the first time in the game to see what he could do to awaken UST’s outside artillery.

The Tigers’ three-point shooting is a staple of their offense. Ranked third in the league in the total number of three-pointers served (behind NU and UE respectively), they had hit only one so far in the contest and with time running out in the third. After Francis Allera hit a three-ball to threaten at 47-48, the key to Ateneo winning the game hinged on the very next play. They had to score and make a stop at the opposite end to finish the third canto on a high note.

Rabah Al-Husseini is an enigma. Despite his 6’7” frame, he has more often than not played soft. He has been clueless on defense and unable to provide a presence in the lane when Baclao or Arao are on the bench. It is a fact that opponents have exploited that’s why guards like Marcy Arellano and Japs Cuan love driving on him in the lane. “Ginagawang asintahan” joked one basketball wag. But in the last two games, Al-Husseini has brought his A-game by rediscovering that sweet jumper of his (he has one of the best shooting forms and backspin in the league) and playing tough D. The junior center hit three free throws to provide breathing space at 51-47 and hauled down a pair of rebounds to stymie the Tigers’ rally.

With the Eagles’ frontline doing serious damage, Eric Salamat, who is perhaps better suited off the bench, schooled Japs Cuan and Jun Cortez with several ankle breakers on top of the key. His final free throw ended the scoring at 69-64 to the delirious celebration on the blue side of the coliseum.


“Hindi pa tapos. Hindi pa tapos,” emphasized Arao as teammates hugged him on centercourt.

For Eric Salamat moving to the next stage and eliminating UST was gratifying, but the only way they will be able to leave behind last year’s haunting loss is another crack at the title where they’re up against the pre-season favorites DLSU and UE (should they make it all the way). “We’re sorry we lost the second seed, but we’ve got another chance. We’re going to give that one big fight. Now it’s La Salle.”

Over at the UST side, a tearful Pido Jarencio failed to control his emotions. “Kasalanan ko,” he bemoaned. “Ako nagturo sa mga bata nung sistema. Malungkot ako kasi na-disappoint yung Thomasian community. Pero proud ako sa mga bata ko.”

Last year, I wrote that Jarencio was a very good coach who got a previously underachieving team to raise their game. The Tigers despite losing last year’s finals MVP Jojo Duncil one week prior to the start of the season eventually found their groove and gave everyone fits. And borrowing a line from the Ateneo Blue Eagles circa 1988 -- great champions die hard -- the game was no walk in the park for the Blue Eagles. And ever the classy coach, Jarencio paid tribute to Ateneo after the game. “Never i-underestimate ‘yong pusong Atenista.”

Saturday, September 22, 2007

High & Low

Just got back from Ninoy Aquino Stadium. Before I get into the games, the De La Salle Zobel team lost all their bags, clothes and personal effects inside their locker room. The team found out only after the game, but right before the game's final minutes, some cops entered going to the locker room. No wonder. And I thought it was because it was an Ateneo vs. La Salle game.

There are two ways out of the locker room: one that exits right into the playing court and another in the back -- a gate that is locked at all times. So does this mean that it's an inside job?

Damn. That's just not right.

Sorry but the multiple venues in the last two years smacks of poor preparation by the hosts. The NCAA plays mostly at the San Juan Arena with the really big games reserved for the Araneta Coliseum. So why didn't we get the Arena? Or even Philsports? Doesn't it make more sense to hold the Ateneo vs. UP games in Blue Eagle gym? Bakit kailangang sumawsaw ng UST kapag Ateneo vs. La Salle? Set a different day for your games. That way walang problema sa tickets.

UP...hope you can correct this and get NABRO out.

Women's Basketball Championship
The Lady Eagles outsteadied the Lady Maroons down the stretch to win Game 1 64-60. Great defense and some heady plays by Kat Quimpo (hey, I've always been a fan of hers) and Sarah Mercado saved the day. Hey, Kat. You rock, girl!

It was nice seeing Coach John Flores jump up and down at the final buzzer. Who says he doesn't know how to enjoy a win?

Juniors Championship
Shades of the seniors. The Junior Archers upset the Blue Eaglets 76-74 in Game 1. The Blue Eaglets beat the Junior Archers twice during the elims, then found themselves faltering when it counted the most.

I thought that in the last five minutes the execution, the rotation and substitution by the Blue Eaglets was bad. Why wasn't Al Bugarin fielded in the game's last minute? Why send in a small shooter in Stu Balmaceda to replace Frank Golla when you only need two points and a high percentage shot? Why go with Ael Banal who was having a horrible shooting day when they should have stuck with Kiefer Ravena? DLSZ was in penalty with like five minutes to go, so why was the team settling for mostly jumpshots? With the game on the line and you're behind by two points, ideally you get a shot off as soon as possible. In case the team misses, they have a chance for an offensive rebound and a putback or if the opponent gets the ball, to give a foul to make it a two possession game.

And the fact they they took a number of shots with the clock winding down smacks of poor decision making.

That was a won game, brothers.

Friday, September 21, 2007

UAAP Final Four Doughnuts

Thanks to Erika Dy for this.

Thanks to our friends at and Philip Sison for the shot of Kirk Long trying out these ADMU doughnuts.

One Big Fight!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

End of the Road

Joe Lipa was let go as the coach of the UP Maroons today. The shockingly poor performance of the team -- the Maroons finished at 0-14 with a number of blowouts -- was cited as the reason for the acclaimed coach's dismissal. He was informed by Hercules Callanta, the Dean of Human Kinetics, who will endorse his recommendation to the Chancellor.

The last time a UAAP team didn't win a game was in 2001 when the Adamson Falcons despite the presence of Mark Abadia, Ramil Tagupa, Jojo Hate, and Patrick Tiongco failed to win a game. The Falcons lost a couple of close games to Ateneo (62-61 and 63-61), FEU (73-72), and NU (84-81). Adamson was then coached by Luigi Trillo.

Coach Joe was instrumental in turning around Ateneo's moribund basketball program as well as De La Salle Zobel's -- a fact unbeknownst to many. Zobel coach Boris Aldeguer sought Lipa's help in giving it some direction. Since then, DLSZ has become a power in juniors basketball. According to one team source, the connection with Aldeguer is one reason why Martin Reyes and Migs De Asis went to Diliman.

I was supposed to meet up with the coach after his meeting but he asked if we could re-schedule because of what happened. It's okay, coach. God bless!

Jobe Nkemakolam: Kawawa si coach Joe. Alam ko kulang sila sa players and siya nagrecruit sa kanila. But kung si Luigi Trillo ilang taon walang panalo pinatapos nila. And he (Trillo) had better players.

Ateneo Apparel Launch


This from Toti Wong of adidas.

Soft launch for Ateneo Apparel at adidas Rockwell on Saturday, September 22, 2007 at 3:00PM. This will be attended by former Blue Eagles players mainly: JC Intal, Doug Kramer, Wesley Gonzalez and Larry Fonacier. The players attending will promote the ADMU teamwear products. We will also be inviting some alumni officers to come for some photo shots etc. Solar Sports and ANC will cover.

Kerlon and "the Seal Dribble"

Brazilian soccer fans go crazy when Kerlon bounces the ball off his head to run past defenders. The move is called a "seal dribble" because the 19-year-old midfielder is bobbing the ball like, well, a seal.

Not everyone is thrilled by it, however, and in this soccer-mad country Kerlon's antics are stirring quite a debate.

Kerlon confounds and irritates opponents as he darts by them. With the ball out of reach, they find it hard to stop him without fouling him.

I'll never stop doing the play," Kerlon said. "They'll need to create a new law if they want me to stop."

Some players say the move is disrespectful because it breaks soccer's unwritten code. They contend Kerlon uses the move to show off, not to score goals.

"It is a provocation. He may have to be sidelined for several years if he gets kicked in the face," said Emerson Leao, the former Brazil goalkeeper and current Atletico Mineiro coach. "I hope that never happens."

Kerlon's latest balancing act caused a nationally televised brawl Sunday after Cruzeiro beat rival Atletico Mineiro 4-3 in the Brazilian league.

Shortly after Cruzeiro took the lead for good, Kerlon decided to try the move. He bounced the ball on his head three times before Atletico defender Coelho leveled him with a hard tackle.

Atletico players charged Kerlon, screaming at him and accusing him of provoking them with the dribble. Kerlon's teammates came to his rescue, but the scuffle lasted several minutes. Coelho was ejected because of the foul.

"What Kerlon did was not right," Atletico striker Marinho said. "We know he is a skillful player, but I think it would be wrong even if he was playing for us."

Kerlon, whose full name is Kerlon Moura Souza, is undeterred by the critics.

My Game Trailer

Flying High with the Lady Eagles

by Rick Olivares

Photo by Aly Yap

The Ateneo Lady Eagles have made three trips to the UAAP Women’s Basketball Finals (1987, 2004, and 2005) and have come away with one title. They have been a final four habitué for five years running and when it comes to recruitment the school and the team is a preferred destination by female hoopsters.

For all the gaudy numbers and platitudes in recent years, there is one dubious record that the Lady Eagles‘ seventh-year coach John Flores wears on his sleeve.


It is a record of futility wrought at a time when unbelievably Ateneo sports and women’s basketball hardly mattered. It was a time when the team was the unlikely doormat and a sure win for opponents even before the opening whistle. It was a time when we were even beneath the opponents’ disdain.

But that was before.

Today opponents take every game against the Lady Eagles seriously. They know they’re in for one heck of a match and if anything, they’re lucky to walk away with a win. If our foes didn’t talk smack before, well now they do. Except that as it was before, they’re not getting the satisfaction of a retort.

“We have a rule where we forbid trash talking and taunting of any sort no matter what the situation,” says Flores. “Even now that we have a winning program, I always tell the girls that we don’t have the right to do that. Alamin at tandaan nila kung saan tayo nanggaling.” And the 1-35 didn’t happen on his watch.

In fact a few years ago, when the team was still struggling for wins they beat their forever tormentor UP. Only the team unwittingly committed a violation when two of their foreign-born players – Carol Tanchi and Cassie Tioseco -- were on the floor together during a crucial 30-second stretch in the game. UAAP basketball rules stipulate that only one foreign player can be on the court at any one time. Only no one noticed it; not even the table officials. But the Ateneo coaching staff eventually did and soon after the game they volunteered their error even if it meant that the victory would be overturned.

“Well it’s always about treating the game with respect,” explains Flores. “You respect the game and the game respects you. I’d say that since that incident we’ve been pretty lucky.”

It is also to Flores’ credit that the program has grown under his watch. The team showed marked improvement in the win-loss column every year since 2001.

Treena Limgenco, the team’s starting two-guard out of Maryland, USA, attests to the soundness of the current program: “While trying out for the women’s national team, it was there that I realized how fundamentally sound we were compared to most of the others. It really says a lot about the program.”

“Well when we recruit players, we go for those with brains,” expounds Flores. “Not just girls with an aptitude for basketball but those who can hack the demands on them as students. If they’re not as athletically gifted then their court smarts more than compensates for that.”

The team has three simple rules that govern their game plan: 1) run every chance they get, and 2) they’re free to run what offense they think is best. The third, according to Flores, well that’s his sole call, “I make the decisions on defense.”

The Lady Eagles’ 2005 champion squad is down to its last holdovers in guards Kat Quimpo and Cheryl Ngo, and forward-centers Tioseco and AJ Barracoso. And the experience of having gone to consecutive finals finishes in ’04 and ’05 is golden, something that even University President Fr. Benvienido Nebres S.J. realizes. “Fr. Ben constantly reminds the 2005 veterans to bring that mindset of a champion to the current team at all times,” recounts Tioseco, the league’s reigning MVP. “We have to act like one – not arrogantly – not just to our opponents but also to our teammates.”

Crystal Ballentyne, the Lady Eagles’ prize catch from Faith Academy, has been in the Philippines all her life. “I was born here,” says the soft-spoken freshman who is taking up Humanities. “The Philippines is my home and I’ve been here my whole life. There were no plans of going to the States so it was really special to receive an invitation to go to Ateneo. I was thinking that being a rookie; I wouldn’t get too much playing time. But coach John has been great and my teammates especially Cassie (Tioseco who is one of the co-captains along with Quimpo and Ngo) have helped make the transition easier for me.”

This season the Lady Eagles have flat out demolished the competition with a 12-2 eliminations record. “Last year’s semis loss just fueled our drive this year,” says Limgenco referring to the wrist injury that kept Quimpo out for a crucial stretch. “So even if we lost twice this year – the UE loss in the first round just killed our spirit – we talk about what we did wrong and what we have to do to get back on the winning track. We know what we can do so it’s a matter of executing our game plan better next time.”

Last September 15, the Lady Eagles beat long-time tormentor the Adamson Lady Falcons in the final four to set up a title series with archrival UP. “We match up well with them so it’s going to be a fun series,” smiles rookie Sarah Mercado who has provided much needed scoring sock off the bench for Flores. “But you can throw out the numbers even if we beat them twice in the eliminations. They’re that good.”

It’s the Lady Eagles’ fourth finals and third in the last four years. And in those past four years, the team finished with double digit wins. Not bad for a program that was the league doormat like forever.

Since John Flores took over in 2001, the team’s record is 59-41. If they win their second title this year, then maybe those are the records he and his girls can wear on their sleeves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Through the Fire - UAAP Game 15 Ateneo 69 vs DLSU 70

Through the Fire - UAAP Game 15 Ateneo 69 vs DLSU 70
by Rick Olivares

September 18, 2007
Araneta Coliseum

11:00pm September 18, 2007
I don’t have any clever headlines or even witty repartee for a comeback. All I have is my bruised and battered Atenean pride and disjointed thoughts that I wish I could share with someone, anyone last night. Like Tom Hanks’ character Sam Baldwin in Sleepless in Seattle to a talk show jock. Only the man on the radio is selling me useless information.

When we lost to the NU Bulldogs last weekend, I carried around a knot in my stomach that I thought would give me an ulcer. I had that feeling that we might have lost that one big chance to claim another title and that perhaps it was all over for us this year. I want to win not just for the school but to redeem last year’s finals’ loss. And in many ways for players like Ford Arao, Yuri Escueta, and Christ Tiu to win one at the end of the Blue Eagle career. Only we Ateneans are suckers for pain. And after having lost the precious second seed, I’ll probably be diagnosed also with insomnia and a mild case of depression.

Nono Felipe, one of the Ateneo Sports Shooters told me that in his sleep he was seeing those 13 NU three-pointers all over again. Me? I saw those blown lay-ups and putbacks from point blank range in the DLSU game’s final moments.

It’s not even losing to La Salle. It could have been to Adamson for all I care. I’m way beyond that and wish everyone else would de-emphasize them. If I had to choose between giving it that one big fight as opposed to winning at all costs, then my conscience is clear because I stand with the good old blue and white.

Nevertheless, I wonder how those two heartbreaking back-to-back losses will tell on the team. Now the Blue Eagles have to go through the proverbial eye of the needle. Remember a win against DLSU previously precipitated a three-game slide. And now we’re down to our last hand to break the coincidental and the historical. Only we’re up against UST in a literal win-or-go-home match.

I thought that we were courting disaster by trying to beat the Green Archers a third straight time. We’ve done that before but after a lifetime of dominance in the NCAA has a karmic balance been struck in the UAAP? Nothing has ever been easy for us, but as it is said, the journey is everything.

For a moment there I thought that we had an opportunity to pull another rabbit out of the hat, but a botched number of plays at the end did us in.

7am September 19, 2007
While the victors sang their hymn, team captain Chris Tiu pulled Yuri Escueta, Jai Reyes, and Eric Salamat in a short huddle. “Let’s put this loss quickly behind us because it’s not yet over,” yelled Tiu his voice cracking with emotion. “Let’s prepare for UST.”

They were right in front of me and I could see Reyes battling back the tears. Escueta’s expression showed that he was already calculating the difficult odds of a Herculean task, but he nodded intently. Salamat let out a howl of disgust but was quick to cast his lot in, “Laban tayo. Laban pa. Hindi pa tapos.”

Last night, all I saw were those blown lay-ups and putbacks from point blank range, but somehow that quick post-game huddle by the four Blue Eagles found a way to push the negatives out of my mind.

Hope springs eternal, Ateneo. We’ve got one more fight in us.

Let’s cheer for the Blue and White this Sunday.

Thanks to Nono Felipe for the picture.

Saving Joe Lipa. The UP Maroons take page from their Katipunan neighbors to show their support.
Photo by CK Chua. Thanks, bud.

MLB's one and only Mr. November is showing some September magic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sneak Preview -- Nike's My Game

The Nike film, MY GAME, as directed by Carlo Ledesma, will be in theaters this coming October 2007. Here are sneak previews of some of the basketball stars in the movie.

Ateneo Blue Eagles' Jobe Nkemakolam

San Miguel Beer's Don Don Hontiveros

Air21's Arwind Santos

Talk n Text's Ren Ren Ritualo

I'll upload the James Yap by tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Revisionist History

(from my Monday September 17, 2007 column in Business Mirror)

Revisionist History
by Rick Olivares

In the wake of the shocking and disappointing news of Greg Oden’s unfortunate knee injury before he even played one NBA minute, the rabble-rousers have popped out of the woodwork. “Sam Bowie 2.0” sounds like a clever headline but is nothing more than a malicious distortion of the facts.

During Oden’s medicals or even as far back as the draft, there were already reports that the Portland Trailblazers were concerned about his knees. But whether true or not, the Blazers gambled for it’s common for teams to float unsavory rumors about certain picks so no one else would grab them before they did.

It was a tantalizing conundrum… to select Oden or the possibly otherworldly Kevin Durant who basketball observers have already tagged as the next in a long line of next-Jordans. Watching Oden in last year’s NCAA’s was like the second coming the great Bill Russell (the way I saw him in those vintage NBA games). When you watched matches by the Ohio State Buckeyes it was like you were off to the races. Oden would block errant shots, tip it to himself then zip it to point guard Mike Conley Jr. for the fastbreak. He was so good that he was even considered for the US national team to the FIBA Americas. Last June 28, when the Blazers, giddy with the karmic good fortune it was dealt after years of having to suffer teams of malcontents and oddball millionaires, selected Oden. Overnight, orders for 3,500 new season tickets were placed (that’s huge when you consider that the homecourt Rose Garden has a capacity of only 19,980). Six thousand fans trooped to Garden to celebrate when Oden’s named was called out by David Stern as Portland’s pick.

And now even before Oden has played a single NBA minute and before he could make the ugly #52 on his jersey a household favorite, he’s “Sam Bowie 2.0.”

If you’ve never heard of Bowie, sports cognoscenti only make him out to be the greatest sports blunder ever. They say that instead of taking in Michael Jordan with the second pick, the Blazers, to their eternal folly, chose the University of Kentucky center whose pro career was curtailed by an assortment of knee injuries. And that is why they say – to quote the loquacious Yogi Berra -- is like déjà vu all over again with Oden.

Following the Trailblazers’ failure to defend their NBA crown in 1978 because of an injury to Bill Walton (notice the franchise’s bad luck when it comes to selecting highly-touted centers), Portland brought in Minnesota Gophers center Mychal Thompson and Arkansas Razorback Ron Brewer to help out enforcer Maurice Lucas and Clemon Johnson. But still they were ousted in the first round of the play-offs. From that time on, they drafted well selecting an assortment of guards and forwards who contributed to their success: Jim Paxson, Ronnie Lester, Jeff Lamp, Darnell Valentine, Fat Lever, and Clyde Drexler. Save for 1981-82, Portland made the play-offs every year then and went as far as the second round. But they still needed help upfront.

Although they brought in Wayne Cooper to shore up their frontline they were getting beaten off the boards by their conference mates. Phoenix had inside operators Larry Nance and James Edwards who got plenty of support from their ex-teammate Maurice Lucas who signed with the Suns in the off-season. The San Antonio Spurs had shot-blocking Artis Gilmore. The Seattle Supersonics paraded Jack Sikma and David Thompson. The Utah Jazz clogged the middle with man mountain Mark Eaton. The Los Angeles Lakers had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo, and Houston had their elongated trio of Ralph Sampson, Caldwell Jones, and an aging Elvin Hayes.

Conventional wisdom back then dictated that you won with a dominant center. With the 1984 draft approaching, there were two primo centers available, the University of Houston’s Akeem Olajuwon and Kentucky’s Bowie. Houston had the first pick and Portland the second. Chicago with then General Manager Rod Thorn had the third pick.

The Chicago Tribune in the June 17, 1984 issue contained this hitherto unnoticed bit of info regarding their choice of players:

“Frustrated in their bid to land center Jack Sikma from Seattle, the Bulls again went after ex-De Paul star Terry Cummings last week. A proposed three-way trade involving Cummings' Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Bulls reportedly fell through.

"That left only two established starting centers available: Tree Rollins of the Atlanta Hawks and Joe Barry Carroll, a free agent anxious to leave the Golden State Warriors. Carroll's agent, Howard Shusher, is demanding a long-term contract at $2 million a year. 'Atlanta is willing to trade Rollins to us but the asking price is prohibitive,' Thorn said. 'We might consider giving Carroll an offer sheet.

"The Bulls' decision to select Jordan, a 6-foot-6-inch All-America guard with unlimited potential was dictated by their No. 3 position in the draft order. Lack of a dominating center is the major reason they have lost 111 games in the last two seasons, but there are only two can't miss pivotmen this time - and both will be gone by the time the Bulls make their choice."

It made no sense for Portland to draft Jordan because they had a very good team that was on the rise and an athletic guard in Drexler who could do the same things UN Tar Heel did. And the Blazers also added another high scoring player in Kiki Vandeweghe. Besides the knock on His Airness when he was in college was that he had a suspect jump shot. Mychal Thompson was a good center albeit a rather thinly built one. They needed a bulkier player to deal with the likes of Jabbar. It should be noted that Thompson was the Lakers’ x-factor when he helped them to the 1987 & 88 titles while backing up Jabbar.

Jordan later acknowledged that he might have not developed into the player he was had he gone to Portland. Sure Portland would have probably won a title or two with him in the line-up but back then they ran a certain system under coach Jack Ramsay that would have restricted his development. Jordan pointed out that Bulls’ coach Kevin Loughery turned over the offense to him and that gave him the wherewithal to grow as a player by taking responsibility head on.

The draft was held in June and even though Jordan wowed audiences during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics (held on July 28-August 12), no one knew just how good he would turn out to be.

Bowie averaged 10 points and 8.6 rebounds in 76 contests during his rookie year while helping Portland to a 42-40 record.

Jordan averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 caroms, and 5.9 assists in 82 games on his way to Rookie of the Year honors. Chicago finished with a 38-44 record.

Both players made the All-Rookie Team.

Bowie played for 10 years for three teams and when he was healthy provided solid rebounding and deft passing from the post. He finished with an average of 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.78 blocks per outing. Plus he canned 30.2% of his three-point shots.

Sam Bowie was never a bad pick. He played solid hoops while being an upstanding member of the team; something I don’t think we can say about many of the past Blazers.

So go easy on unfair labels such as “Bowie 2.0” and Greg Oden. After all, the jury’s still out just like his rookie year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reservoir Dogs - UAAP Game 14 Ateneo 88 vs NU 96

Reservoir Dogs - UAAP Game 14 Ateneo 88 vs NU 96
Round Two UAAP Season 70
by Rick Olivares

September 15, 2007
Ninoy Aquino Stadium

Why can’t things be ever easy for us? After spotting UST a 1-nil lead in last year’s finals, we lost two straight and up to today we’re still seeking therapy for that loss.

Faced with an opportunity to claim sole possession of the second seed, we lost to an NU team once more in heartbreaking fashion.

Just as it was then there were several hundred visibly disappointed Ateneo supporters at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium last Saturday. And there were thousands more who shut off their television sets in stunned silence and restrained anger. The evening’s dinner was never more unappetizing while sleep was a little harder to come by. Maybe the good Jesuits should perform general absolution for all the colorful and profound language that was uttered after the game and into the long hours of the morn. I plead guilty to the profane.

But why be sad?

We just made a lot of people very happy.

The network will have another ratings bonanza. The scalpers will make more money in one day than the average Filipino’s salary. The four graduating NU Bulldogs are going out in style. And the De La Salle Green Archers with all the motivation in the world are itching to stick their arrows in us. It was a double black eye for us as the Blue Eaglets also lost to the NU Bullpups last Sunday.

The first round victory over DLSU precipitated a three-game slide that sent the season on the brink. And after another hard fought victory over the Archers, we ended our eliminations with another galling loss.

After our initial fumble to FEU after the first round match against La Salle, I proposed that our next game be a week after so as for the giddiness to dissipate. Looks like I was wrong, perhaps what we need is to go back to boot camp to keep us razor sharp until the season is done.

I spoke with NU’s Jonathan Jahnke and Joseph Lingao-Lingao after the game and asked them what coach Manny Dandan said to them during halftime. Said Lingao-Lingao, the team’s burly forward-center, “Coach was upset. He said if we weren’t going to play might as well tapusin na ng maaga para makauwi na. Then right before yung start ng third quarter, he told us to go out and have fun and make our final game with NU a fun and memorable one.”

Said Jahnke, “Syempre sayang yung twice-to-beat advantage ng Ateneo. Pero hindi naman kami pwede magpatalo. Nakakahiya sa school at sa mga supporters namin. May pride din kami.”

Uncannily, the Bulldogs’ strength in recent years despite the presence of the bull-strong Edwin Asoro is their three-point shooting. After spotting them in the first half with a 31-22 lead via an advantage of 34 to 23 rebounds and 4 to 2 blocks the Bulldogs, without any semblance of an organized play dropped 12 three-pointers in the second half including 25 points in overtime.

The Blue Eagles looked out of synch in the first half but they still managed a lead. Coming out of the locker room after the half, the blue faithful were expecting that maybe the coaching staff would have appealed a greater sense of urgency to the team but instead things only got worse. It was as if we had to wait for the pressure to double up before the team got going. For a while it seemed that the only one taking it to the Bulldogs was Eric Salamat and then later Jai Reyes. However, by the time our game began to match our desire, NU had caught fire with every one of them spewing baskets from every conceivable angle.

The loss was so unexpected that the organizers didn’t even bother to reserve a venue for a rubber match with DLSU should Ateneo lose the game. And we’re now in a position where we have at the very least two more games left in the season including a daunting face off with La Salle this week.

In a dinner with friends that Saturday evening we had to humor ourselves lest it turn into a wake. Being of different generations, we recalled days when losing was almost unthinkable and days when emphasizing “win or lose it’s the school we choose” was a moral victory when we couldn’t claim a win on the hardcourt.

But as it has been for the last several years, we have that one word left to keep us going. And it has the power to wipe that sour taste the loss to NU left us.


I’ll see you all on Tuesday.

One Big Fight!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Give the Man A Little Respect

My good friend Sidney Ventura's column is out in Do yourselves a favor and check it out.

One Big Fight for our friends in Diliman and for Coach Joe Lipa!

Nice one, Sid! You rock!

Denial... sus

SPORTS UPDATE: I've just been informed STI beat UM for the NAASCU Men's Basketball crown. The game was tight until a call in the game's final moments saw a UM Hawk charge and punch the referee. My STI source says that they are now accepting applications for new member schools.

Amazing how they reacted to what I posted below in PEX. It's not even being anti-DLSU. I used to have so much respect for your basketball team, but in the last few years...

And by the way, don't confuse that with the school.

Back in 1991, when the UAAP board chose to replay the finals when you went up against FEU, Ateneo voted against it. Why? Because it was immaterial and had no bearing on the outcome. That three-peat was rightfully La Salle's. I even went to the Araneta Coliseum that day hoping the Green Archers would show up and clobber the Tamaraws, but the team and its supporters didn't. That was a dark day indeed, handing out a trophy that was hollow and meaningless. IMHO, FEU shouldn't even have accepted that trophy. After all, they won it in the boardroom.

When we beat UE in 1987, Jerry Codinera played several more minutes on five fouls and it was close game. You bet we would have protested that. It's uncanny how the table officials allowed Codinera to still play. Luckily, we still won.

But back to your boorish behaviour.

Do you even remember your Friendship Caravan after you won your first UAAP title? When you passed by all the UAAP schools and taunted them? So much for friendship. Well, FEU knocked you around silly for that and rightfully so. See what I mean?

So you all deny the win-at-all-costs mantra of your team officials and boosters? It's a tragic joke that has even divided your community. Tapos meron pang pa-shut up writers like me. Ayos.

They say that the "suspended" or "sus" banners are classless? They are not. They are witty and are far from rude or tasteless. If it isn't funny on your part then it hits home. And how short some people's memories are! In 1988, you had your "Blue-eggless" banners. And more recently, you had "Taeneo" shirts for sale that some "classless" people on your side still wear to games. While we thought it was really uncouth, we didn't call anyone's attention to it. Mas nakakahiya yung may suot noon di ba?

Waittaminute... I've got something in my eye. Oops, here's my middle finger for those hypocrites.

I don't even want to talk about those much hyped-up Ateneo vs. La Salle games anymore. We're actually sick and tired of you guys whether we win or we lose. Time was when the teams played merong asaran, but when the game was done hanggang doon na lang. Your former point guard Mike Huang used to even hang out with the Blue Eagles during the season. Yes, the games meant something but there was a mutual respect between the two.

Even when we lost last year to UST it was an amazing season for all the teams. We didn't even miss a beat without you guys. If ABS-CBN lost some sponsors' money then a little more money spread around to other endeavors never hurt anyone. Sure it would have been fun having La Salle there. Why not? Even if Ateneo weren't in the league life would go on. We are no bigger than the league which has nicely come around what with schools having their own cheering squads and all. That's cool. The asaran and trash talk is part of the game. But we draw the line at cheating and trying to deliberately hurt others.

As I said, instead of being repentant, maangas pa kayo.

Sports lang, dudes.

Damn. I'm not going to say anything anymore about this. I'm just soooo sick and tired of your boorishness. Maybe next time you pull more shit like that, maybe it's time you guys get expelled.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

That was one exciting match, UE vs. DLSU. Congratulations to the Red Warriors for a truly superb season. They have been plenty fun to watch even if my team lost twice to them. Now here's hoping we have a chance to get back at them should Ateneo make it to the finals.

So I got my initial prediction right that we'd make it to the Final Four. Yeah, but it's so easy to say that we will after having made it since its inception. In case people didn't notice, almost all if not all pre-season hoops analysts pegged the Blue Eagles to the finish #5 in the standings. After all, the remnants of the team were largely unproven.

Every team is on a mission, but perhaps like UE and DLSU, the Blue Eagles went into Season 70 with a chip on their shoulder. They still remember Season 69 and its painful end. Having watched this team closely since last year's finals, I knew we'd make it... and hopefully, even beyond that. There was a willingness to step up and play to their true potential. Credit has to be given to Norman Black and his staff (and the players as well) for their desire to achieve and for their fighting heart. I have pre-season tapes where I interviewed the players on their chances. Maybe depending on how the season turns out, I'll run it. But in those interviews, they were optimistic that they'd account well for themselves. The interviews with Eric Salamat, Chris Tiu, Eman Monfort, Yuri Escueta, and Jai Reyes were especially funny.

Now to get something off my chest... I'm currently writing a long NBA Eastern Conference preview (for a sports magazine) that is due today so I haven't had a chance to post anything on the surging New York Yankees and the floundering Chicago Cubs (for the newspaper I write for). Maybe I'll get to that but first... there's the matter of DLSU.

I hate to say it, but their basketball team has given the league nothing but trouble since it entered.

Before the 1988 season got underway, they 'recruited" John Edel Cardel who played high school ball and college hoops for San Sebastian. Incredibly, he soon after donned the green and white without even establishing residency! When I asked a UAAP board member why DLSU was not penalized for that, they said they decided to let it slide for some unexplained reason.

Then they got into not one but two rumbles with Ateneo... both in non-UAAP tournaments in 1988 & 89.

A year or so later, some of their wins were overturned when Noli Locsin was found ineligible to play (although he did make a comeback a year later). George Peralta, their transferee from PATS was also suspected of having bogus papers during that time although nothing conclusive came out of it.

Then there were their players like Zandro Limpot and Don Allado who were enrolled in the College of Saint Benilde. La Salle defended this by saying that it was one and the same college. But the schools aside, most of their players never even finished! Some were even going to class years after their final playing year. How can they play out their entire UAAP eligibility if they never even finish their courses? Remember after the PEP Test scandal they "kicked out" Ryan Arana? As if suddenly they were so conscious of their players studying so they decided to make an example of him. Yes, I heard too that he aswered back to one of the professors. But I don't know whether that's true or not.

Then a few years ago, they claimed that Mike Cortez and Willy Wilson threw the game. Whether true or not, isn't that what they teach their recruits? Yes, I know that Ateneo lost Jay-R Reyes because of some alumnus who in Reyes' mother's own words, "binibili kaming parang karne." Shame on you, dude! At least this alumnus who feuded with team management because of his ways is no longer a part of the program.

But back to the Green Archers, a number of of their players openly feuded with their coach for accusations regarding throwing a game or for not signing with the coach's partner-manager. In fact, some chose to play out their final year of eligibility in schools like CSB and UP. One of your former players who left even went to ADMU to ask if he can go there even if it meant losing some playing years because he hated what was going on in Taft. And no that wasn't BJ Manalo. Well, BJ would have played again for ADMU but that is another story. Thankfully he didn't although it would have been a nice thing to rub their noses in the dirt.

Then there was the PEP Test scandal that hasn't even been resolved and which they aren't even repentant about. Instead like their media minions, they say they were honest enough to admit their fault -- when no one knew about it -- and as a token of their good intentions they returned their trophy so they won't be penalized. I'm not sure now, but didn't they go to court to try and stop this? There were even threats to bolt the league. One school rep even opined during the voting that he thought that DLSU should have been meted out a two-year suspension because instead of being repentant, maangas pa sila.

So following their logic, if I steal from a bank and 'fess up then it's all hunky dory? That I don't have to go to jail since in a moment of clarity I decided to be honest?

And it's hard to believe that even their players can't even describe their own courses in school that they need their coach to explain it for them. Oh yeah, mahirap nga pala yung course nila. Bast mahirap i-explain so let's lay-off. Ayt, if you say so.

And then there was Mac Cardona. The future Captain Hook wasn't taken in by NU because his papers weren't fixed then he shows up all of a sudden in green and white. So what did Manny Dandan miss here?

Months following the inital uproar about the PEP Test scandal, I wrote about the UAAP Report in the Business Mirror (on the same day Dong Puno came out with his take on it in the Philippine Star). I received my copy of the report from a disgruntled La Sallian who was clearly angry about this win-at-all-costs mentality. In the report, there were several items that weren't previously made public and it was shocking to see how a veil of silence surrounded the investigation. Upon reading the report, one can postulate there was an apparent cover up somewhere that no one wanted to follow up on it anymore. I railed against the UAAP Board for not having balls (and I still think that they don't) to nail La Salle for this and they said that "tama na yung one-year suspension." One of those named in the report even called Mr. Puno to ask if he could stop writing about it. Tsk. Tsk.

Then there was that fight with DLSU in 2003 that was nearly the same as the San Beda-Letran fight about a week ago wherein it was started by some boorish Green Archer fans. And there is their hero Rafa Dinglasan, the original suntok-then-takbo. Yes we all know na kinuyog si Billy Del Rosario in 1989, but that was just as much as Billy's fault for taunting and it happened right in front of DLSU's bench. Wasn't it Dinglasan who repeated his feat when he ran from the stands and took a swipe at Ateneo's PT guy in 2003 -- from behind?

Apparently, Ryan Arana studied history as a subject for he pulled the same stunt on Wesley Gonzalez -- from behind -- before he decided it was better to dance.

And how can we even forget Manny Salgado!

Teka minute... someone texted me this.... okay now don't get sensitive here. The whole text reads, "I have decided to become an Iglesia ni CHRISTIU and La Salle is no longer Catholic because they decided to become PROTESTants."

Now back to the diatribe.

I know that trash talking is part of the game, but some of their players like Rico Maierhofer and PJ Walsham do things that can really hurt players. Maierhofer should have been thrown out for that flagrant foul on Mark Borboran (or was it Elmer Espiritu). Will the UAAP Board/Technical Committee review that sequence? May tuhod pa si Maierhofer pagkatapos. In the previous match with Ateneo, he almost tried the same stunt on Ford Arao.

And then there's Brian Ilad who pulled a Salgado of his own. From behind. Sabay tago.

You know, it's not fun playing these guys anymore. I wish they'd move to another league. They have elevated collegiate competition to cutthroat competition. As I like to say, they're a pro basketball team masquerading as a college team.

When Ferdinand fell -- deliberately -- on Ford Arao during the last game, the green gallery cheered. After Ilad's sucker punch, their crowd still cheered: "DLSU. Animo La Salle!" Class. Pure class.

Now if their players only attended them.