Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Running

Every year, at least 20,000 pairs of running shoes are sold locally. Industry types estimate that tallies up to Php 80,000,000 in gross sales. And that’s not counting numbers for the fake footwear that can be found in almost every tiangge or commercial area in the country today.

While seemingly not as appealing or popular as the more mainstream sports like basketball, boxing, football, or volleyball, millions of millions of Filipinos engage in some form of running whether for competitive, recreational, or health reasons. Marathons, fun runs, jogging, and run-for-causes have become a staple of our lives. Why we even have a running priest!

And every couple of years more and more people get into running. They’ve learned that unless you’re tall and uncommonly good with a basketball or can land haymakers like a certain pugilist from General Santos City; running is perhaps the most viable vehicle to success, power, prestige, women, opportunity and heaven forbid – money. In fact, some of these people who run our sports agencies don’t even have an athletic bone in their body!

Welcome to the great equalizer in Philippine society – running. For public office that is. In our country, the obscene amount of money spent alone for campaigns and elections is more than enough to make a significant upgrade on our educational system – and that’s not even counting the pork. It’s enough to provide to provide huge repairs on our sucky and oft controversial sports scene. In fact, Php 3 million alone can run a professional football league for one season and that includes airtime!

Like sports, public office is something anyone can get into. Hey, it’s a free country!

Aside from the trapos who are consistently best friends with the Ombudsman; there are the usual gaggle of celebrities who aren’t exactly paragons of virtue and leadership. There are the actors who must think that offing x number of baddies in their movies makes them fit for the job. If so, they should go to the Spratlys and to send back the Chinese Navy back to the mainland. And when they’re done maybe we should give them a gun that seemingly never runs out of ammo to deal with the Abu Sayyaf.

And there are athletes who cannot even run their own affairs more so string a coherent sentence or two. Some who we had high hopes for have become a part of the system. Can I shake my head in dismay now?

As I stated earlier, there’s nothing wrong with celebrities, athletes, or media-types running for public office. Not all those with backgrounds in law, business or public service have done a great job as it is. And who knows, maybe it’s these people who can actually make real and meaningful change. Unfortunately the track record – yes, there’s that running jargon again – of celebrities, athletes, and media-types leaves much to be desired.

It’s hard to pre-judge a person’s performance in public office regardless of their background. Maybe that’s the jaded side of me. Back in the mid-to-late 80’s when I first got a chance to vote, I thought that I had a chance to make a difference. And I guess it did. The removal of a dictatorship helped usher in era of progress where we saw the rise of the middle class and a climate more conducive to business (The martial law climate didn’t do much to stimulate economic growth. Think about it, the call center industry alone pumps in millions of dollars into the country; now you can’t have that if there was curfew, right?).

But now, welcome to the suck that is our political climate where we’re going through another exercise in the banal and profane. It’s election time again and everyone wants to run for public office. In my barangay in Marikina, an SK rep several years ago was accused of embezzling public funds! SK, ha? And this person was a she in her teens. Dude, I didn’t know that there was that much money into SK. Even if there isn’t, it must have been enough for her to even think of misappropriating it.

Show me a real honest-to-goodness public servant and I’ll show you renewed interest in my flagging sense of nationalism. In the meantime, I’m going to do my routine of walking and real running on weekends in the grounds of my alma mater.


Other notes: The race-for charity between Charles Barkley and Dick Bavetta was not only hilarious but one of the best moments of the recent NBA All-Star Weekend... Tiger Woods’ run of six consecutive victories ended in the Accenture Match Play Championship... Looks like that New York Yankee outfielder Bernie Williams’ run of 16 years with the only ball club he’s ever known is over. We’re missing ya, Bern!

Monday, February 19, 2007

My favorite NBA All-Star Weekend Moments

Pro basketball’s biggest party is something I really look forward to every year. When I was a kid, I’d associate the All-Star Weekend more with February more than Valentine’s Day – well, that is until girls became a little more of a priority (but now I don’t celebrate V-Day on the 14th but either the day before or after to avoid so many inconveniences).

For me, it’s the best “all-star” event of the major sports. I sure do enjoy Major League’s Baseball’s Home Run Derby but that’s about it. The All-Star Weekend – no defense and all – is still king. Now if pro football (not soccer, dummy) only would have something similar not just UEFA.

Here are some of my fave All-Star Weekend moments:

1988 Three-point Shooting Contest. The immortal Larry Bird put on a performance that I will never forget. Bird began by talking some subtle trash in the locker room when he asked, “Who’s finishing second?” Bird had won the first two installments of the contest despite a verbal disdain for the three-ball – if you ask me, it was just Bird bustin’ folks as he likes to say. Seattle Supersonics sharpshooter Dale Ellis finished with 15 in his final round and Bird calmly took to the right side of the court. After he rifled in a shot to tie the score, he held in his hand the money ball which he fired with time running down. Bird raised his crooked index finger as if to say that he was number one even before the ball settled into the net for the victory! Celtic teammate Danny Ainge who likewise took part in the competition raised both his hands in celebration as for one magical evening; the crowd in Chicago was firmly on the Birdman’s side.

1988 Slam Dunk Contest. The Human Highlight Film versus Air in the best slam dunk contest ever – sorry, Vince. I said contest not soliloquy. Pretty much every dunk you’ve ever seen that rocked the rim was on full display this night by two of basketball’s best dunk artists. Michael Jordan would end it with an awesome length-of-the-floor take off from the 15-foot line leaving Dominique Wilkins feeling both starry-eyed and robbed at the same time.

1991 All-Star Weekend. I was at my grandparent’s house watching the games on FEN. It was at Charlotte that year in 1991. A day before, Dee Brown won the Slam Dunk Contest with “the blind dunk.” Before the start of the All-Star Game, celebrated jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and Top 40 artist and pianist Bruce Hornsby trotted out to center court to perform what I believe was the game’s most stirring version of Star Spangled Banner. Now this was right before the start of the first Gulf War and it was a most anxious time for the world. San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson who was in the Navy reserves was playing badly as he was worried he would be called up for military service at that time. Charlotte is near the military’s Fort Bragg where many of its soldiers were deployed to the gulf and there were many military families in the stands and players on the floor who had tears in their eyes after Marsalis’s and Hornsby’ emotional performance. Their rendition proved to be so popular that the duo went on to record it and was later used in Ken Burns’s epic Baseball documentary.

A Magical Cameo. There was still some Magic in the air on February 9, 1992 at the O-rena in Florida. Several months after announcing that he was retiring after contracting the HIV virus, Magic Johnson was voted by fans despite not having played a single NBA-minute. The Golden State Warriors’ Tim Hardaway graciously gave up his starting slot to Johnson who didn’t disappoint with a 25-point and nine assist performance. He took Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan on-one-one and drilled a pair of treys that just rocked the stadium. And for Magic who came into the NBA with a boyish and winsome smile, he flashed the biggest grin of the night as he claimed the MVP trophy.

The 2000 Slam Dunk Contest in the Arena in Oakland. Vince Carter single-handedly pumped life back into what was becoming a sterile contest. He unveiled new dunks that no one saw before and firmly established himself as probably the best dunker of all time.

The Slam Dunk Contest in Las Vegas also has an added attraction with former dunk champs Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Vince Carter as serving judges. Now here’s hoping that Nate Robinson loses.

On a side note: Pat Riley is a sham. First of all, when his Miami Heat started to lose, he steps down and says he’s had enough while handing the reins over to Stan Van Gundy. When the team is on the cusp of a title, he returns and dumps Van Gundy and goes on to win his fifth title as a coach. Then early this season, his team sucks and he bails out because he says he needs surgery. Just when the team begins to get healthy and “interim” coach Ron Rothstein does a masterful job, he’s back on the sidelines. What a faker! Here’s hoping his Heat crash and burn. Phil Jax is still way better than you, Riles! Let’s Go Bulls!

Monday, February 12, 2007

More Sideline Slants

In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t such a wise move after all
After Devin Hester ran 92 yards for a touchdown to open Super Bowl XLI, I thought that I was going to see a shuffle redux. Instead, I saw Adam Vinatieri claim another championship. Guess Tony Dungy figured that if they couldn’t beat the New England Patriots, then they needed to get Vinatieri who broke their hearts on one too many occasions. And now Vinatieri’s probably laughing all the way to the bank for he has one more ring than Tom Brady.

An officemate accosted me the day after the Bears lost and said that I didn’t know how to choose my sports teams. I stood perplexed and was like, “Am I supposed to bet on another team even if I’m not rooting for them?" Hurm.

I felt bad but maybe not as bad as Scott Wiese who also may not be as wise as we might think. This die-hard Bears fan said that he’d legally change his name to Peyton Manning if the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl. The former Wiese guy said that his sacrifice is indicative of his passion for Bears’ football. But think of the headlines: Peyton Manning roots for the Bears.

This is Anfield or is this England?
Not since John Goodman made a mockery of the Royals in King Ralph have we seen an invasion of England by “those bloody Yanks.” There are currently 10 Americans plying their trade in the Premiership including quite a few for Newcastle United which has finally risen from mediocrity. And now American tycoons George Gillet and Tom Hicks have purchased ownership for Liverpool FC hoping to restore the Reds to respectability after an impatient fan base drove away Gerard Houllier who helped steer the Mersey side to some stirring victories and championships and is now doing the same to Lyonnaise Olympique in the French Ligue 1. Word is they’re looking to re-brand Anfield for some corporate advertiser. Tradition is definitely out of the building. Now let’s see how they do on the pitch.

With Liverpool’s purchase, that makes the top three English clubs in the hands of foreigners (Chelsea was purchased by eccentric Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2003 while American businessman Malcolm Glazer completed a hostile takeover of Manchester United in 2005).

Ironic isn’t it? After Britannia colonized about half the world, their football clubs are now getting a 21st century version of that --- the corporate takeover. But really, it should be good for Liverpool.

Another reason why athletes should not be role models
Chicago Bulls’ rookie forward-center Tyrus Thomas said that he was only joining the Slam Dunk Contest during the upcoming NBA All-Star Weekend to claim his appearance fee. The ungrateful lout was fined by Bulls’ GM John Paxson for $10,000 for his comments that clearly embarrassed the organization. Well, at least Thomas can use his earnings from the contest to offset his fine.

Rust never sleeps
Iron Mike Tyson is a joke. The former heavyweight is a shell of his former self when he was the meanest sonafabitch inside the square ring some 15 years ago. With a rap sheet longer than Yao Ming’s wingspan, Tyson once more made the news (but why, I ask?) after checking himself into a rehab center for a cocaine addiction. Tyson told arresting officers that he uses cocaine every chance he gets.

Some boxing observers hypothesize that the passing away of Cus D’Amato before Tyson won the heavyweight title contributed to his downward spiral. That may be partially true but Tyson prior to that was like a force of nature that took a lot of effort to control. I believe that his dismissal of trainer Kevin Rooney was the turning point for his boxing dynamics began to sharply decline after that.

Does Mike Tyson deserve pity? If this were his first offense then there could be some form of clemency, but Mike Tyson is a ticking time bomb. I’m not even sure that prison time – which is something of a possibility because of his new offense – will do any good.

A white hanky for Capello
The Bernabeau faithful are looking for the heads of Ramon Calderon and Fabio Capello to roll. Things looked bright despite the retirement of Zizou after the World Cup, but instead, the season is close to being another disaster. I’ve written before saying that the Beckham situation was deviously manipulated by Calderon and Capello to suit their plans. Instead the whole thing has backfired on them and the white hankies have begun to appear after games. It rose to a fever pitch after that recent loss to Levante.

Yet in an incredible twist of fate, Capello let Becks play against Real Sociedad just the other night (after saying that the former England captain was done in a Madrid kit) and he scored the equalizer in the 37th minute. Ruud Van Nistelrooy finished off the home team with a header for his 11th La Liga goal for Madrid.

Said Capello, “I picked him because he has been good in training for three weeks. I’m pleased he scored with a free kick because he hasn’t scored many this season.”
What a schmuck. Of course, he hasn’t scored many. Some confidence you’ve given him and the rest of the team.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Go Bears!

My introduction to American Football and the NFL was interestingly enough through the pages of Hugh Hefner’s Plaboy magazine. It was that (I think) cover featured Farrah Fawcett-Majors when she was still hot and appeared in the sizzling first generation of Charlie’s Angels. Inside the mag, they had a pictorial on the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders that left a lasting imprint on my mind. Inside the NFL indeed.

Years later, I purchased my first issue of Sports Illustrated (and I still have it and every issue I’ve bought since) at the Rastro magazine store in Shoppesville, Greenhills. The cover story was John Elway’s magnificent drive to win the AFC against the Cleveland Browns in 1986.

Years later, my first ever live NFL game was the Dallas Cowboys at the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. The Tuna was in his coaching debut and he beat his former team, the Big Blue from NYC.

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders aside, the one team that I became a fan of was the Chicago Bears. I first became a fan not simply through their on-field success but their off field stories. When I first saw that true-to-life drama on television Brian’s Song about Bears’ running backs Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers (starring the ultra cool James Caan and Billy Dee Williams), I remember crying an ocean just like everybody else. Piccolo died of cancer at the young age of 26, but it was his friendship with Sayers that said something about the future of American sports – the integration and ascent of other ethnic groups in mainstream American. Culture and consciousness.

But it wasn’t solely because of a tearjerker that turned me intio a Bears fan. It was the 1984-85 team that nearly made it to Super Bowl XIX. They lost in the NFC championship to Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park where Bears QB Steve Fuller was intercepted several times. I do remember Bears safety Gary Fencik played the game of his life intercepting Montana twice although the Bears were eventually shut out 23-0 in an embarrassing loss.

The following year, the modern version of the Monsters of the Midway came into popular lore when they acquired loud-mouth quarterback Jim McMahon, an appliance in William “the Refrigerator” Perry, and kicker Kevin Butler out of Georgia State. They had Mike Ditka as coach and Buddy Ryan (later Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles) as Defensive Coordinator.

They went 15-1 that season; their only loss was to Dan Marino’s Miami Dolphins. But after that, they just steam rolled into the play-offs allowing only 10 points in three post-season matches.


Today’s Bears nearly had a chance to duplicate their predecessors’ feat last season – the 20th anniversary of their Super Bowl XX victory. But they fell short.

But largely behind an unheralded bunch of players such as Rex Grossman, Rashied Davis, Mushin Muhammad, and Desmond Clark (the names aren’t of the household variety that inspires fear in opponent’s eyes) and from their only name player in linebacker Brian Urlacher, they’re back in the Big Game 21 years after their last hurrah. They don’t have that fearsome linebacking corps led by the fearsome Dick Butkus and Bill George or the one captained by Mike Singletary to win the Super Bowl. They don’t have that name quarterback such as Sid Luckman, Jim McMahon, or even George Blanda. And their coach is someone named Lovie Smith for chrissake!

But that’s all right. Let the Indianapolis Colts have all the attention. They may have the better numbers owing to that laser canon for an arm that is Peyton Manning. They may have gotten those monkeys off their backs that are the collective New England Patriots. But now they’ve got Bears hot in pursuit.

It’s a toss-up as to who is going to win. But me? I’m saying that the Bears will wallop Manning and company in Super Bowl XLI to claim their second title in the modern era. Go Bears!

When I talk about the NFL nowadays, I ramble on about the Bears and the Broncos who also have a soft place in my heart. I talk of rebuilding the Patriots, of the rapid ascent of Eli Manning in New York, and the mystical pull of the Oakland Raiders in their silver and black.

I have forgotten those leggy and sexy Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders now. And haven’t looked at that Farrah Fawcett-Majors issue of Playboy (I got another copy at midtown Manhattan for $39 a couple of years ago) in quite awhile.

There’s more to discuss fan-wise, and but hey, there are those Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders now and all I can say is, “Woooooooo!”