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.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thanks for the Seasons

I came home -- when I shouldn't have -- from New York one day and one the drive back home, I asked my dad why EDSA seemed so dark at night. Whether the city government was scrimping on electricity I'll never know, but before we got home to Industrial Valley, I asked if we could drop by the old school a 12:30 am (my flight landed at NAIA at 11pm).

The campus of course was in the dark too. But just to see the old school was a sight for my sore eyes. Even in the Big Apple, I wore my Ateneo jersey with pride to Ateneo East Coast Alumni reunions. I even wore it during warm-ups at the New Jersey Fil-Am summer leagues where quite a few would offer to buy it off my back or trade for authentic NBA jerseys -- I said no. Hahahaha.

We crashed out of the final four that year and I was upset because I thought some of our players failed to stand up to the pressure. A good friend of mine, photographer Joseph Nocos (who I shared many a game dating back to the Mike Facundo-Rey Rances days of the Blue Eagles) invited me to go with him and Fr. Nemy Que, S.J. to watch an Ateneo Team B game. The last time I saw one was when Magnum Membrere and Larry Fonacier were leading Team B.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the game and began to tell friends that I saw a team that was truly a team in every sense of the word. We began helping out the team and soon some of its players were elevated to Team A (Zion Laterre and Eman Nazareno). Jobe Nkemakolam who I share the same birthday became a good buddy and we'd sometimes drive these guys to class/batch parties just to make sure they'd stay in good company and out of trouble. Well it wasn't like we were chaperones, we only did it like three times and it was only in the immediate area of Libis, White Plains, and La Vista.

Then we saw Yuri Escueta and Mike Baldos make it to the senior line-up and it was vindication for the program and the efforts we were trying to infuse to help these kids. We didn't have the resources that MVP has but we managed with what we had. As Joseph put it, "this hardship -- it builds character."

I stayed when I should have gone back to NYC. Staying meant once more getting a job because I just couldn't live on my dollar savings. And in many ways, I'm glad I did.

It's incredible that my bosses allowed me to play hookey from work when the blue and white was playing. I guess it helped that I worked for a couple of sports groups where my bosses were of the blue and white variety -- the LEAD Institute for Sport and Solar Sports. While at Solar, I would bring a TV crew to cover the UAAP football games. We got station ID tags from the Ateneo, La Salle, San Beda, and UP teams. I got great interviews with Ompong Merida, Pat Ozaeta, Mickey Ingles, Hans Smit, and some Bedistas like Japeth Sablon and Louie Casas.

In fact, our efforts even forced ABS-CBN to send crews to cover the games - the bastards, they'd only send crews during the title games while we covered them rain or shine.

I never missed a game by the Blue Booters for three straight years. Even non-UAAP games. At times, in covering the team, I felt like a groupie. Even during lonely quiet Sundays in San Beda's pitch, I'd be there along with one or two girlfriends of the players. But it was just us to cheer the team on. One time, there was a Ateneo Lady Spikers game going on inside Blue Eagle gym (on a Sunday afternoon) and I was the only one in Erenchun Field to watch a magnificent game between Ateneo and UP where each side scored five goals apiece.

I also became active with the Ateneo Men's baseball team and covered them through a most turbulent Season 69. I've got a nephew who plays right field for the Blue Batters and have another joining the team next year. So covering them wasn't just for the love of the game but personal. Plus I've got another nephew with the grade school football team.

The Lady Eagles I always enjoyed watching although I never did get to write much about them since someone else did. But I should rectify that with the school-sanctioned book I'm finishing as of this day. These girls should be supported too because they put in just as much work as any athlete. They've allowed me access to stories and information that others might not normally know of and it makes for fascinating reading and writing.

But like many, I guess the pride and joy are the Blue Eagles. I distinctly remember Steve Watson ruffling my hair at the entrance of the Loyola Center on his way to a game. I couldn't buy a ticket since my school allowance only covered lunch and recess. I didn't know much about the Blue Eagles then save that our grade school teachers would talk about their matches. It's not like you wouldn't notice as we could always hear the drums reverberate inside the gym.

I've written a lot of material about the team and there are quite a lot of stories that I never put out anywhere. I know I should, but its hard to put all these things together since I need help in doing so. But since I'm on my last legs here in the Philippines -- barring something huge that allows me to stay -- hopefully, we'll see something out there soon.

I only became close to the 2002 team later on: Chris Quimpo, Sonny Tadeo, Bajjie Del Rosario, Paolo Bugia, LA Tenorio, Magnum Membrere, and to an extent, Rich Alvarez. Gene Afable and I were in school at the same time and played on one ABL team together. And since I had helped out with Team B and got to know a fine coach in Gabby Severino (who I saw play in high school and college), it made knowing and following Team A a lot easier.

Sonia Araneta (my unsung cheerleader) and Tito Jimmy, Jun Jun Capistrano, Ricky Palou, Fr. Ben Nebres S.J., Jun Dalandan, Joe Santos, Paolo Trillo and Norman Black (a damn fine coach!) are of course huge reasons for being able to cover the team. There's Fr. Tito Caluag, Joe Lipa, Robin Tong and Jimmy Alabanza. The staff at Moro Lorenzo, the University Athletics Office, and the Office of Alumni Relations were most helpful. Mico Halili. My old classmate Gary Villanueva who is one of the guys behind Halikinu Radio. Chuck Araneta. The Ateneo Sports Shooters. Muchos gracias, muy amigos. Hahaha. The bouncers at Araneta Coliseum for watching my back (and thanks for rooting for Ateneo). The staff at Bellini's Restaurant in Cubao also for rooting for the Blue Eagles. John Flores, Ricky Dandan, Joey Mendoza, and Ramil Cruz.

Players like Martin Quimson, Johan Uichico, Rain Sison, Paul Tanchi, Vince Hizon, Richie Ticzon, Vince Santos, Gabby Cui (a lot of help from this dude!), and even coach Joel Banal gave valuable time, input, and camaraderie. I've become good friends with many of the players even those dating back to a bygone age: Ding Camua, Tito Panlilio, Jojo Gamboa, Ogie & Chito Narvasa, Chito Mistades, Chito Afable, Steve Watson, Fritz Gaston, Arben Santos, and Jimmy Pestano (his son was my classmate in college and we started an American football craze in Ateneo then) to name a few. And there are the cheerleaders like Jesse Paredes, my dad's old classmate Gary Lising, Noel Canivel, and Senator Dick Gordon who has been a family friend for years (I'll never forget when he was still Mayor of Olongapo and he took me and my dad on board an aircraft carrier!). And there's Mhel Garrido, my old ASSOC buddy.

Much thanks to the parents of Jai Reyes -- yo, Mr. Len! There's also Mrs Belle Fonacier (Larry's mom). The Tenorios of course! The Team B boys and their parents -- Mr. Escueta, Mr. & Mrs. Baldos. Mr. De Guzman. Man, those were some games we watched. Sorry but I stopped drinking already. Can't chase those tennis balls if I'm heavy, can I?

I'll be seeing ya, Zion! And of course, there's Mai.

It's been quite a ride, guys. Thanks!

Animo Ateneo!

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