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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ateneo Women's Volleyball Match 11 Digging a Ditch

Ateneo vs. De La Salle
17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 19-25
by rick olivares

Match 11
January 30, 2008
Blue Eagle Gym
Ateneo De Manila University

The giddiness brought by early wins in the women’s volleyball tournament seems like a long time ago. With several injuries to key players that have prevented them from running at full tilt and a couple of huge meltdowns it has become perilously close in the words of one veteran watcher, “to becoming a jinxed year.”

And with the team falling to fifth place after losing to La Salle in their eleventh match of the season, the days are slipping by real fast with so few games left to spare. Time may be running out on their best bet to compete for a championship. And these are the last days before the team rebuilds after it will be losing more than their three super seniors who came in together in 2004.

So the De La Salle Lady Spikers met their counterparts from Ateneo. The league’s best blocking team versus the league’s most perplexing team. Yes, sadly it is so for you’ll never know which Ateneo team will show up. Will it be the team that shocked powerful UST by taking the first set before faltering? Will it be the team that put the fear of the Almighty in the giant-killing FEU team before succumbing to a heartbreaking fifth set loss? But does anyone remember those games? The season that was dubbed early on as a farewell party for those loveable favorites BST (Bello, Soriano & Taganas) & Company will also be partly remembered for Bea Pascual’s unfortunate injury and the other injuries that have hobbled the team and had an affect on their performance.

But if it isn’t that gritty team of Ateneo Lady Spikers who gives it that old one big fight, will it be the one that didn’t show up twice against Adamson?

The two teams are heading in separate directions. While DLSU coach Ramil De Jesus’ team is gathering momentum, Ronald Dulay’s squad is heading… well, it’s anyone’s guess and it depends on what happens. Unfortunately matters aren’t exactly in their own hands.

Ateneo on the other hand still has to face UP, NU, and FEU. In case you’ve just emerged from a remote Pacific island, none of them – even the game against the Lady Bulldogs – is a sure winner. There’s the saying after all, bilog ang bola. Go ask the Ateneo men’s team. They know it all too well.

They also have to closely monitor the fate of DLSU which will go through the eye of the needle with FEU and UST waiting in the wings.
Even if Ateneo makes it to the final four, the established goal all season long, why stop there? The team has to play better lest it become a sparring partner for the powerhouse teams.

Against La Salle, the defense wasn’t that good. The receiving was terrible (it added to the 23 points won by DLSU on errors). For a while there the only points were coming from two players: Charo Soriano and Crystal Ballentyne. Cara Acevedo and Patty Taganas later picked up with their points to help the team battle back, but the game was a complete reversal of their first round match against La Salle.

After the game, we waited for a few of the players to come out of the dugout (we weren’t going in lest we be finagled as peeping tom wannabes) to offer some encouragement. Kaya pa. Laban lang. They nodded and managed painful smiles (understandably so since they were coming off another loss).

But you wonder if they believe in it.

NU’s on deck this weekend and it’s now or never.

Wanna make an impact in this year's SLAM Dunk Contest?

Another erring football referee

While getting the report from Ateneo security about the peeping tom, I also found out that last school year, another football referee (from RIFA) was caught breaking and entering one of the rooms in Blue Eagle Gym stealing energy drinks and other equipment. He had stuffed a lot of them in a heavy rucksack and was caught by gym officials. He managed to reach the outside before security officials apprehended him.

Geez, these guys are giving the game a black eye.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ana Begins

A Brief Chat with Ana Ivanovic
by rick olivares
(this appears in today's edition, January 30, of the Business Mirror)

“My friend assures me that it’s all or nothing. I am not worried. I am not overly concerned. My friend implores me for one time only. Make an exception. I am not worried.”
- from Counting Crows’ “Anna Begins

During Maria Sharapova’s march to the 2008 Australian Open crown, she disposed of Elena Vesnina who the media dubs as a clone of the Siberian Siren. In truth, Vesnina’s ethnicity and blonde hair are the only similarities the two have. If there is any player who is coming close to approximating Sharapova, then it’s none other than Ana Ivanovic who is also of 20 years of age and plays a power baseline game complete with atomic groundstrokes that can penetrate Kevlar without trying.

Yet Ivanovic is her own person and is making a definitive statement in women’s tennis with strong performances in three of the last four grand slam events that there’s certainly room for her at the top along with Justin Henin, Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Daniela Hantuchova, and Venus and Serena Williams. And outside the realm of tennis, the vivacious Ivanovic was in September 8, 2007, named UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia and is beginning to enjoy some corporate sponsorship from adidas, Yonex, Verano Motors, and Juice Plus.

The 20-year old Ivanovic was two points away from dealing Sharapova her first set loss in seven matches in the Australian Open but Ivanovic faltered and was eventually broken twice in the second set for a 7-5 6-3 loss to hand the Russian her third grand slam title. “I was disappointed that I couldn’t find my game,” said the emotional Serbian who shed a few tears after the finals. “I served well but I had a shocker with my forehand. But on the other hand, Maria played very well and I have to give her a lot of credit. This experience will give me extra motivation to train even harder to make sure that next time I can go one step further.”

It was a tough loss for Ivanovic. But she was rewarded for her recent strong play by being ranked just behind world number one Henin after the Melbourne tournament. And a day after the women’s singles final, Ivanovic immediately planed for Hungary to join Team Serbia for training along with Jankovic, Ana Timotic, Vojislava Lukic for the 2008 Fed Cup. Serbia advanced to the World Group stage before falling to Slovak Republic. Serbia is bracketed in the Europe/Africa Zone I.

Ivanovic, who once trained in a drained Olympic-sized swimming pool back in her homeland during the Kosovo Conflict, graciously granted a short interview with BUSINESS MIRROR when she arrived at Budapest.

Rick: 2007 was a banner year for you. Are there more personal expectations since you’ve had strong showings in three of the last four Grand Slams?

Ana: I try not to have too many expectations, just goals. If I expect too much then I put too much pressure on myself, and I don’t achieve my best results because it becomes difficult to relax. But at the same time, I am now No.2 in the world so I know that I am capable of achieving a lot. I will have to learn to deal with this expectation.

Rick: It seems that Justin Henin has been a huge obstacle for anyone harboring Grand Slam dreams. Just how do you hope to play the female version of Roger Federer?

Ana: I’m really looking forward to our next match. In Sydney at the start of the year I came my closest yet to beating her – I lost 6-4 in the third. She’s a great player and in order to beat her I have to play my best tennis and be aggressive from the very first point.

Rick: I heard that you're a fitness buff. I'm sure it helps with your stamina and range on the court. Are you looking to expand your game as opposed to being a solid baseline performer? I know you prepare for each and every one of your opponents. Is there anyone who you really get up for with a certain game plan in mind?

Ana: I am always looking to improve all areas of my game, especially my net game. I like to play with some variety: slice, volleys, drop shots – not just baseline play. I devise a game plan for each opponent. I’ve played most of the top players before, so I know how they play. For others my coach does some research.

Over the last 18 months my work Australian trainer Scott Byrnes has paid off. I did a lot of stair sprints, sprints up the hills, in a gym, and also a lot of footwork on the court, specific footwork. My fitness coach is now trying to focus more on specific work for tennis, and that's obviously getting good results.

Rick: What's it like playing in what seems a golden age for women's tennis?

Ana: For sure women’s tennis is very strong at the moment. I’m enjoying my time. I am lucky to be doing something that I love, especially during a time that is very exciting in women’s tennis. I hope that more and more people start to watch and enjoy.

Rick: Was being a tennis player something you always wanted to be? If you weren't playing tennis what would you be doing?

Ana: I fell in love with the game when I was five and always wanted to be a professional. But it wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that my family and I realized that I had a good chance. It’s hard to say what I would be doing if it weren’t for tennis. I like languages a lot, so maybe it would have something to do with that, or maybe something to do with business.

Rick: Good luck with the Fed Cup, Ana. And best wishes.

The referee was offside

by rick olivares

Dennis Balore has called his last football game. The Universities Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Capital Region Football Association (NCRFA) banned him for life from working any football games.

After working the University of Santo Tomas-Far Eastern University football game at the Ateneo De Manila pitch last Sunday, January 27, the longtime referee made his way to the locker rooms beneath the gym where the showers and dressing rooms for athletes are located.

The designs of the rooms are such that the walls between rooms do not fully extend all the way to the ceiling making any loud conversations or noises easily discernible to anyone in the next room. In the adjacent changing room were players from the women’s volleyball team of UST who also just concluded a match against FEU. While changing, UST player Hannah Mance saw a hand holding up a mobile phone from the other side of the room. For weeks there have been rumors among players of the different schools taking part in the tournament of someone taking shots of players but none have come forth with any formal complaint or proof. Mance immediately went out of the locker room and reported the malefactor to FEU coach Ernesto Pamilar who was leaving his team’s dugout.

Balore sensing that he may have been discovered quickly made his way out of the referee’s locker room but Pamilar and other coaches and players caught up to him outside the gym. They accosted the football referee and asked him if he was taking videos of the players. Balore denied any wrong doing but he was brought to the Ateneo Security office located outside the playing venue.

His Nokia N91 phone was confiscated and a player from the University of the East was asked to inspect the phone’s contents. After checking the folders, the player broke down in tears when she saw several pictures and videos of different players including her teammates. At this point, some of the team coaches began to take swings at Balore forcing the school security men to shield him from the wrath of the school officials, players, and concerned parents. Said one Ateneo security man who refused to be identified, “Galit na galit yung mga tao at malamang kung hindi namin siya pinasok sa loob ng isang office baka napaano na siya. Pero hindi naman kasi tama yung ginawa niya.”

I spoke to Ateneo’s Charo Soriano who was able to see some of the phone’s contents. She said she felt disgusted by what she saw because the pictures were rather distasteful.

During the melee, Ateneo security officials said that players and coaches from other schools took the opportunity to erase some of the files. It is believed that the phone contained videos of players from De La Salle, Ateneo, UST, FEU, and UE.

When I visited Balore at a common jail cell at the Criminal Investigation Unit at Camp Karingal in Quezon City, the 30-year old former player from Tondo High who also played with several club teams was apologetic. "Hindi ko alam kung ano yung pumasok sa isipan ko. May naririnig akong mga babaeng nagtatawanan and naguusap at tinaas ko na lang yung cellphone ko."

Balore also denied that he’s been taking videos and pictures of the volleyball players for sometime now something that the complainants dispute. If the videos that were left were of UE players, it is worth noting that their match was played in the morning. Balore was caught taking videos of UST players and their match ended at past 4pm. Several coaches believe that Balore had accomplices because for someone to actually take videos from outside would entail great risk of being discovered. A member of the Ateneo coaching staff said he “would need a lookout.”

He is grouped with 21 other detainees at the Criminal Investigation Unit at Camp Karingal. His fellow detainees who are jailed for various offenses such as snatching, thievery, and other similar crimes are wondering why he's in the same cell as he is. "Hindi naman ganun ka grabe yung ginawa niya," said one who refused to be identified.

After consultation with Ricky Palou and Rick Du from the Ateneo Athletics Department and Edwin Barber, UAAP Volleyball Event Coordinator from host school UP, complainants from UE were accompanied to Camp Karingal, in Cubao, Quezon City for the filing of charges. Two of the UE complainants are reported to be under age. The UAAP is also said to be deliberating on whether to file separate charges as well.

Palou clarified that only two security guards were requested by the host school and they were deployed inside the arena for crowd control. In light of the recent developments, another guard will be assigned to man the entrance leading to the dugouts where players, coaches, and school officials will only be allowed inside.

Balore who played football for Tondo High and various club teams is pleading for clemency. "Humihingi ako ng tawad sa pagkakamali na ginawa ko. Wala akong intensyon na ibigay yung kinuha ko kung kanino man. Sana mapatawad niyo ako para makalaya ako. Ako lang kasi ang inaasahan ng pamilya ko. Balore has four children with the eldest being 12 years old. He asked his son who loves football as well to concentrate on his studies since the sport doesn't pay well here in the Philippines.

It is sad, but Balore should have thought of the FIFA dictum of "Fair Play" before his moment of madness seized him.

In other Ateneo-related news...

while excavating the area in the site of the new dorms, a World War II-era bomb was discovered. School authorities now deny that the construction workers have shifted to looking for the fabled Yamashita treasure.


Coach John Flores rejected overtures to return to Ateneo. Look for him to join... ah, but that would be telling Too early. Abangan na lang dito sa Brew...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ateneo Men's Football Match 5: Cold pizza, the penitent player, and a vault to the top

Ateneo 1 vs. University of the East 0
by rick olivares

Match 5
January 27, 2008
Erenchun Field
Ateneo De Manila University

After every game so far this year, the Ateneo Blue Booters have been served several boxes of pizza by its boosters. After last Wednesday’s surprise shutout by the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, the pizza never seemed more unpalatable and cold. The team sat at the east end of the Ocampo Field; the small pitch that has always given them trouble what with their need for space and to move the ball around. Some former players passed the boxes around for the current team to grab a slice, but none seemed interested as the shock loss weighed heavy on their minds. With the teams all bunched up close to one another in the standings, another loss could be perilous to any title ambitions.

Four days later. To be precise, one hour and thirty minutes prior the start of Ateneo’s final match of the first round against the surging UE Red Warriors (who chalked up consecutive wins against UP and DLSU), James Arco, Alvin Perez, and Doods Lansang were in Ocampo Field to watch the Ateneo women’s team take on DLSU (the match ended in a scoreless draw). “We’re ready to go,” volunteered Arco. “We’re never going to come out and play flat again.”

“You never walk alone, bro,” quoted Lansang of that Rodgers and Hammerstein song that has become a popular football song most notably by Liverpool FC. Lansang then flashed his taped left wrist; a tribute to the Mersey side team’s left midfielder John Arne Riise. Arco who is a Manchester United fan began singing, “United! United!”

It was a good sign. The team was loose right before the game despite the pressure and possible implications of the match whatever its outcome.

Five minutes into the game, Ateneo seized control and began a relentless attack that had the Red Booters on their heels. Red goalkeeper Robert Marto harangued his defensive backs no end to repel the sorties and to keep pace with Ateneo’s Gerard Cancio who was beating them not only to the ball but was getting good looks and shots at the goal.

In the 28th minute, Arco picked off UE sweeper Roland Alcejera’s weak clearance and immediately darted ahead. He crossed over to Cancio who split the middle and drew the defense to him. Gino Tongson flashed right and was rewarded with another cross that sailed over Alcejera’s outstretched leg. Marto never saw Tongson coming that all the Atenean had to do was push the ball in for the goal.

In times past, after Tongson would score a goal, he run around the pitch in rapturous celebration. If it was a ferocious match and when ticked off by the roughhousing, Tongson would run towards the opponent’s bench and point to his jersey. But after being chastened for his banishment in the season opener and subsequent suspension in following match, Tongson has been a model citizen sticking to the team’s system and coach Ompong Merida’s strict adherence to fair play. And after scoring his second goal of the tournament, he merely raised his fist ala Michael Jordan. Then walked back to the midfield to high fives with his teammates.

When he missed another pair of point blank stabs that would have buried UE, Tongson apologized to his teammates and coach. “I’m sorry,” he sheepishly pleaded as teammate Perez kidded him after the match of playful taunts of “Ikaw ang may kasalanan” – (Arco got the same treatment for missing another one). "I was following the system." Perez laughed and gave him a high five.

UE could have tied in several minutes after Ateneo’s first strike but a couple of players were called offside. And despite Ateneo dominance of ball possession, they never added to Tongson’s goal and the game ended 1-0.

Jolo Peralta was magnificent in the midfield as he time and again set up Cancio and the others for great shots that just missed. Merida threw his baseball cap on the ground on several occasions after those misses that could have put the game beyond reach. “Nanggigil mga bata,” he shook his head after the match. “Pero I was happy of the way they came out after natalo kami sa FEU (the Tamaraws drew 2-2 with UST earlier to fall to second place).”

In the post-game huddle of the University of the East, coach Lloyd James Lim was quick to offer encouraging words to his young wards. His team despite parading mostly freshmen and sophomores have given a better account of themselves than the previous years when they finished the competition without a win. Lim, ever gracious in defeat, told them to learn from their opponents and how and why they win. The UE booters finished the first round at fifth in the standings ahead by five points over surprise cellar-dweller DLSU. If they will give a good account of themselves in the second round, said Lim, then they could figure for a title run.

Over at the Ateneo side of the field, Merida was concerned. The team had 13 shots on goal and converted only one. “We can’t pass up to many of these opportunities kasi kung one goal lang ang lamang, a mistake later they (the opponent) will have the equalizer or the game winner,” pointed out the coach. “But good results tayo today.”

Last Wednesday, the post-match huddle had the atmosphere of a wake. Today, after a confidence boosting win they were bathed in smiles. And when the pizza boxes were passed around by their former teammates there was no hesitation in the players’ digging in.

“I’m hungry,” declared Arco as he picked up his belongings.

What about a championship, I asked.

“That’s what we all want,” laughed the second year-player as he made his way towards the locker room.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #92 Love in the Fourth Wave

(this appears in today's edition January 28, 2008 of the Business Mirror)

Siot Tanquincen paused for a moment when asked why such the talent-laden line-up of Magnolia seemed to be underachieving. The youthful coach was gracious to grant time for a post-practice interview despite falling to the tough and dangerous Red Bull Barako team of Yeng Guiao.

He wiped the sweat off his furrowed brow and sucked in some air. “That’s a tough question isn’t it,” he replied with a guarded smile. “I’ll be brutally frank… we’re a work in progress.”

Progress. The word itself seems to be a hallmark of the San Miguel franchise, the sole remaining original member of the Philippine Basketball Association. They were the first team after all to break the Toyota-Crispa stranglehold on PBA titles in 1979 as Royal Tru-Orange under the great Ed Ocampo and later again in 1982 with another coaching genius in Tommy Manotoc.

When they re-joined the league in late 1986 after a brief sabbatical, the team rechristened as Magnolia (which featured the core of the fabled Northern Consolidated squad that as an amateur entry won a PBA title the year before also on the strength of its three naturalized players in Chip Engelland, Dennis Still, and Jeff Moore) suffered a trying and winless third conference. As talented as they were, they had to adjust to a power shortage due to the ouster of their naturalized players. It also seemed that the team needed acclimatize to their line-up (now beefed up by Abet Guidaben, Ricky Brown, and playing coach Norman Black) before they flexed their muscles the following year by winning the Reinforced Conference but this time as San Miguel.

After a period of sustained success wherein they won nine conferences and finished first runner-up three times and second runner-up six times, the team went through an overhaul where they laid the foundations for another run of greatness.

In the team’s third wave (under Ron Jacobs and later Jong Uichico), they brought in players like Olsen Racela, Danny Seigle, Danny Ildefonso, Dondon Hontiveros, and Dorian Peña who helped win six more crowns in addition to three second-place and three third-place finishes.

Now the team is undergoing another transfusion – its fourth wave -- to complement the core that gave them that second bunch of titles. They brought in Lordy Tugade, LA Tenorio, Rico Villanueva, Larry Fonacier, Jonas Villanueva, Samigue Eman, and Willy Wilson. For a conference they had Chot Reyes and now Siot Tanquincen who masterminded the revival at sister team Ginebra San Miguel.

And hoop fans everywhere are wondering about such a pedigreed team could lose so badly.

“It’s as if people expect us to walk into any arena and beat anyone on any given night,” Tanquincen. “Only it doesn’t work that way.” In spite of expansion, there is more parity in the league right now. On any given night, anyone can pull the rug from another.

“If anyone is keeping scorecards,” said a concerned Danny Seigle. “We just went through three coaches in the last two years who have similarities and differences in their philosophies. We have a bunch of new players and people have been in and out of sickbay. It’s not an excuse, but people haven’t really gotten our full measure.”

Observers who argue that “all-star” rosters don’t win because they cannot subdue their individual selves for the good of the team point to the New York Yankees or the Real Madrid teams of recent vintage as proof. There are even the American basketball national teams that have faltered in the Olympics and other international competitions.

Er, so what are the current World Series champions Boston Red Sox – the low-rent Oakland A’s? their payroll is only second to the Yankees. The Real Madrid team that won the last Spanish La Liga is said to be the last of the Los Galacticos despite the absence of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldo. They still had David Beckham and Roberto Carlos, the last of Fiorentino Perez’ era as the Merengues’ President. But for sure, they brought in newer galacticos in Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro and Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

And what of the Argentine basketball national team – a line-up teeming with NBA and Euro league talent? If you don’t know the team outside Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni then that’s maybe because people are too predisposed to the American media.

“I don’t think anyone should expect us to win overnight,” added team consultant Hector Calma who was the point guard during the second wave of titles back in the 80’s and early 90’s. “The chemistry will come and when it does…”

One of the values that the club prides itself about is loyalty. Calma has been with the club since 1986 and works in its sports division along with former teammates and colleagues like Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, and Chito Loyzaga among others. He along with former teammate Alfredo Jarencio who likewise has been with San Miguel for more than 15 years of his basketball life in one capacity or another provide a link to their storied past. And team management is hoping that they could also help channel their knowledge to the new team and breed the next generation of champions.

A couple of years ago, Tanquincen had a sit-down with Ron Jacobs who discussed with the youthful point guard about his pro career options. Jacobs told him that he probably will never get the opportunity to show his wares in the pro league what with there being bigger, faster, and even deadlier guards. The former UST stalwart’s heart fell for all his life he loved the game and he badly wanted to succeed in it. Only the coaching guru wasn’t done. The American mentor said that Tanquincen had the brain and smarts for coaching. And if he wanted in, his future lay there and he could do it within the SMC’s structure.

Tanquincen thought about it for a moment then said yes. And soon later, he steered Barangay Ginebra to back-to-back crowns. That all seems a long time ago especially after a disappointing quarterfinals sweep at the hands of Red Bull. But the young mentor looked ahead to the Fiesta Conference with its import-spiced games yet made sure to note at the lessons of history.

In its second go-around with in the PBA, the team fell short (disregard the amateur tag the team had played as a unit for several years then) as Magnolia. But the following year, they embarked on one of the greatest basketball runs in league annals.

“Hey, coach,” said a down but optimistic Dorian Peña. “Maybe we can switch back to ‘San Miguel’ next conference.”

Hmm. Someone’s been brushing up on history.

A Red Card for An Offside Football Referee

Dennis Balore was offside. This peeping tom of a referee was finally caught after sveeral weeks of taking videos of the women's locker rooms at Blue Eagle Gym. It seems that Balore would perch himself atop the walls that divide the men's and women's locker rooms and use his mobile phone to take videos.

Yesterday, an assistant coach of FEU caught him in the act and he was nearly lynched (are you listening Kelly Tilghman) by irate players of several UAAP schools. It seems that this perv perp has been taking vids of the girls for sometime now and his mobile phone is said to contain several folders of shots of the teams participating in the tournament. League officials and police authorities have not yet determined if Balore has made copies of the videos and distributed them.

Hey ref, maybe you should get used to those stripes in your uniform, okay? Bastard.

The photo above was taken by Allen Aligam. Thanks, bud. If you want to see more of the pics he took of the incident, check out his multiply site:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Fan Part 1 (from my New York Diaries)

In the summer of 2000, New York City was gripped with Subway Series fever with the Queens-based Mets and the Bronx-fixtures Yankees making the first intra-city championship since Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers were still encamped in the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

I am a huge baseball fan and was weaned on the exploits of players I never saw but got to know through a well-thumbed almanac. Now since the Yankees dominated baseball, they were mostly what I read of and their mystique tugged at my heart. And so my allegiances are to the pinstriped dynasty of Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson, and Jeter. But in a city with perhaps the most famous basketball playgrounds on the face of the earth I too am a basketball fan of the first order.

And I at first was a fan of a team not cut from the same championship cloth that the Yankees periodically, in fact up to that point they only won one NBA title and that was in 1967. But the Philadelphia 76ers of the Wild Wild West nevertheless snared my imagination. Only the played in the Eastern Conference where they faced up against Boston Celtics of Hondo and Dave, the Knicks of the Pearl and the Captain, and the Pistons of Dave Bing and Bob Lanier.

They were equal parts Barnum and Bailey and a quarter each of Evel Knievel and the Harlem Globetrotters. They were Doc, Doug, World, and Chocolate Thunder, and they enthralled me no end with magic and razzle dazzle in the Spectrum. They were my team until a skinny player who wore Tar Heel blue underneath his Chicago trunks held sway my imagination like no one did before or after. The Doctor included.

And that brings me back to New York in the summer of 2000. I was at Modell’s on 42nd and Broadway and the #23 red jersey with a Jordan neatly stenciled in the back had me looking like that kid in Come Fly With Me as His Airness was signing John Hancocks.

“You’re a traitor.”

Now that snapped me out of my reverie. It was one of the clerks. Military crew cut with an earring in tow, he leered at me and spewed venom towards the most identifiable Knick killer outside Reggie Miller, “I hate that guy. You’re lucky we serve your kind here.”

The red and black jersey set me back by 60 bucks (it was still the off season so it was relatively cheap), but I had bought the basketball equivalent of the Shroud of Turin. I have since purchased replicas of his North Carolina, Chicago Bulls, USA Basketball, and Washington Wizards jerseys and consider them as prized possessions. One would think that wearing the colors of another team while walking the streets of New York would be tantamount to an invasion of turf. But that’s farthest from the truth.

If people can wear baseball caps of the hated Boston Red Sox (just be extra careful about calling attention to yourself when you're at Yankee Stadium) then surely you can wear anything.

I was never a Knicks fan but when they did make it to the NBA Finals, I’d root for them as I’ve always been an Eastern Conference guy. I did like John Starks and Latrell Sprewell, but that was with a lot of reservations. Honest. And so I wore that red Bulls jersey with a #23 Jordan in the back and posed by the mural of Starks dunking on MJ and Ho Grant in the lobby of the Garden. One man swathed in Knicks blue passed by a yelled, "Hey, your man was posterized there."

"Ah, I think my team won the series... and the NBA championship."

Talk about a snappy retort. The guy flipped me the bird as I laughed and walked away.

Next: rebounding for Manu Ginobili and my US Marine guards at Rucker Park

Poll: The best local sportscaster today:

Sev Sarmenta 39 votes
Mico Halili 36 votes
Quinito Henson 14 votes
Boom Gonzalez 12 votes
TJ Manotoc 10 votes
Chino Trinidad 10 votes
Richard Del Rosario 10 votes
Ed Picson 9 votes
Al Mendoza 3 votes
some other dudes 8 votes

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I've got sunshine...

Masha won Wimbledon in '04, the US Open in '06, and now the Australian Open in the '08. Let's hope it isn't 2010 by the time she wins in Roland Garros.

The designs for Liverpool's new stadium

NBA January Sked on BTV

Friday, January 25, 2008

Interviewing Danny Seigle

Ateneo Men's Football Match #4 The sons of Iloilo, a tricky field, and a humbling defeat

Ateneo 0 vs. Far Eastern University 2
by rick olivares

Match 4
January 23, 2008
Ocampo Field
Ateneo De Manila University

Adolfo Alicante was hoping that the game against undefeated Ateneo would turn Far Eastern University’s fortunes around. Last campaign they were heavy favorites entering the UAAP football tournament and heading into the finals. Once there, they were bushwhacked by UST and the team tumbled in disarray. But Alicante is a patient man. When he was playing for Letran back in the NCAA, it took years to unseat Mapua before they got a chance to savor a title. He knows he has a talented team that just needs to jell. After all, they represent some of the best from Barotac Nuevo and Santa Barbara in Iloilo, the football capital of the Philippines where the game is taught to them around the same time they learn the alphabet.

FEU started the season poorly losing 1-0 to UP. Their performances have been inconsistent and maddening to the coaching staff but they knew that playing in the smaller Ocampo field would play into their hands. In previous years, Ateneo barely beat them in this field and the last time was former forward Zaldy Marañon score din the dying minutes of regulation to preserve an undefeated streak.

There would be no repeating history in this game.

It’s no excuse but the Blue Booters dislike playing in the field named for perhaps Ateneo’s greatest student-athlete ever, the late Ed Ocampo. The team was built for a big field where the larger spaces allow its midfield wizards Jolo Peralta and Gab Siojo to weave their magic for goal scorers like Gerard Cancio, Gino Tongson, and James Arco. “We will just have t take the attack to them,” said team coach Ompong Merida prior to the start of the match.

FEU on the other hand practices three times a week at the FEU-FERN campus in Fairview and twice a week in the Morayta school. When they get to Manila, they usually practice on cement and sometimes play street football in the city streets; an unusual combination of futsal and parkour.

With the loss of three veteran players from last season, this year has been a virtuoso one for striker Jovanie Simpron, he of the wiry frame and fan of Brazilian Ronaldinho. “Kailangan atake lang kami,” he says in his distinct Illongo accent. “Wala si (Pat) Ozaeta so sana advantage yun.”

Save for the last few minutes when a furious Ateneo rally led by Cancio and Tongson fell short as their strikes went wide, the game was a showcase of total dominance by the Tamaraws. The first half was played almost entirely in Ateneo’s side of the field as they couldn’t mount any form of organized attack. If the top striker found himself bearing down the goal he was immediately surrounded or boxed by two or three defenders. With almost no support for any of Ateneo’s attacking side, they would often lose possession.

There was an eerie feeling on the sidelines as FEU was coming dangerously close to scoring as the shorter pitch also hampered their attack. Just when Ateneo seemed like they were going to score they lost the ball on a miscue that led to a swift counter and an almost unbelievable score by Simpron in the 42nd minute. With Pat Ozaeta out, freshman Migs Tuason slipped into the center back slot while veteran Doods Lansang too the left. With the team unable to get into the flow, FEU literally swarmed all over Ateneo’s defenders.

Merida shook his head as he made his way to the statue of St. Ignatius for the halftime talk. This was the first time this year that the team would be down by a goal at the half and he thought that if his players wouldn’t fight for the ball then the game was all but over. “Parang yung first half ng UST game,” said Merida of the sobering goal by Simpron. “Except that we scored in the last few minutes hindi yung kalaban.”

Instead of coming out like gangbusters in the second half, it was FEU that shifted once more to a higher gear and Simpron scored the insurance goal in the 56th minute.

Cancio kicked the dirt at the demoralizing second goal and looked to Peralta. “Let’s go,” he said. Peralta nodded and the Blue Booters, in the words of one FEU defender, played harder from there on. “Ginalit muna ang Ateneo, said their center back Cordova.

But it was too little too late as the Tams held on for the upset win and a tie for first place.

“Nag-respond yung mga bata,” humbly offered Alicante after the game. “Malalaman natin pagkatapos nito kung kaya mag-move on. Pero yang Ateneo will learn from this. Babawi yan.”

As the Blue Booters made their customary way to the sidelines to applaud the supporters whose throaty cheers and yells tried to will the team back, Merida had a wry smile on his face. “We got humbled,” he said trying to hide his disappointment. “Walang shame in losing to a good team. Now we plan for UE (which beat DLSU 1-0 good for fourth place in the six-team field). Sometimes kahit ayaw natin, a loss is good for the team. It means marami pang trabaho ang kailangan natin.”

Coach John Flores takes flight.

Thanks, John Flores for your great work with Ateneo's women's basketball program.

Two UAAP titles in 8 years. Could have been four had a shot been made and an injury here not happen. No one can take that away from you. No one. Good luck to wherever you move.

One Big Fight, amigo!

Extra Points

When I learned of Masha's victory over Jelena Jankovic, the first thing that came to my mind was Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light." Don't ask me why.
But she was...
Blinded by the light,
revved up like a deuce,
runner in the night
Blinded by the light,
revved up like a deuce,
another runner in the night

Taking names and kicking butt with Monsour del Rosario and Tsomlee Go at Moro Lorenzo.
At a shoot for the San Miguel Titans project.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

UAAP Women's Volleyball Standings

A chat with Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski

Rick: Hi, Mikee. What made you decide to get into your sport -- riding?

Mikee: Some of my older cousins were taking riding lessons. Since I wanted to be “in”, I thought I should do the same. I was eight then, and my parents refused. But I was persistent, and two years later, I finally got my way!

Rick: Did your parents influence you in any way?

Mikee: I guess so, because my Dad had racehorses. He would take us to the races or have us meet him at the training stables on our way back to Tarlac. You could say I was exposed to them, though I didn’t have much interest at all. Maybe that made me very comfortable with them.

Rick: Why riding and not another sport?

Mikee: I still ask myself the same thing almost everyday!

Rick: What is your most memorable game/match, tournament, and win?

Mikee: I have a few. But the most memorable, of course, is the Showjumping event at the Busan Asian Games in 2002. Others would be the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games and the 1996 Chiang-Mai SEA Games (because of the stress…just ask Toni Leviste!!), the 1996 Pacific League World Cup Qualifier Finals (because I tied for third with my coach who ended up winning the whole series after that third place finish), the 1997 Brisbane Royal Grand Prix (because it was my first clear round in a top level Grand Prix) and the 1999 Sydney Royal Grand Prix and Olympic Qualifier where I finished equal third, jumping Olympic height, earning a Certificate of Qualification for the Sydney Games (unfortunately, I needed two to actually qualify, but didn’t get the second one).

Rick: What made your triumphs most satisfying?

Mikee: The feeling of triumph in victory as well as loss because of the lessons I learned through them, the result of working and giving so much of myself to attain that specific goal (whether or not I got it), how much I challenged myself and overcame physical, mental, psychological and spiritual issues, appreciation from my countrymen, and more than anything, if I was able to come out of those experiences as a better athlete and person and sharing this with my family and loved ones.

Rick: What is it like to represent your country in international competition?

Mikee: I have always been a proud Filipino. Wearing the Philippine flag on my chest has always been an honor, and a source of encouragement and inspiration.

Rick: How much preparation do you put into riding?

Mikee: Always in duplicate. Whatever it is we need to do as riders to keep ourselves in optimum shape for competition, we must do for and with our horses. Especially when we are competing overseas with our horses, we monitor them 24-7. And even now that I would consider myself semi-retired (well, compared to how much time and attention I spent on my sport before), I ride about 5 times a week. Any pre-game or pre-match rituals as well? I pray. I also like to be dressed early for my event so I don’t have to think about it later on. My warm-up for each horse is also pretty routine on competition days.

Rick: So how would you like to be remembered in Philippine sports history?

Mikee: What I would like is not necessarily to be remembered in a certain way, but rather, if people would remember me at all and suddenly think of me, that they would feel a sense of national pride, a certain closeness to God and have the desire and confidence to continue to aspire to better themselves, their lives, and to share this with those around them so that they may do the same. It doesn’t even matter to me if they don’t realize that the feeling and idea started because they remembered or thought of me. As long as it helps, even in a little way, to make someone’s day better and hopefully, eventually, make this world a better place to live in. Pay it forward.

Rick: Any athletes you look up to? Any particular reason why?

Mikee: Many. Where do I begin? Some are: Michael Jordan (he was effective, shone without trying and was a team player in spite of his fame), Tiger Woods (he has always been an amazing athlete who I’m glad to see is human and has had his own share of defeat but was able to pull himself out of his losing streak), Annika Sorenstam (so consistent!), Vicki Roycroft (my coach – it’s amazing to see such a tough competitor who is so committed to the sport have to deal with every single detail related to it as well as day to day life, yet be so focused in the ring)

Rick: Do you have any sports idols?

Mikee: Well…not exactly idols. Lydia de Vega, Elma Muros, Bea Lucero, Rocky (well, hehe, the idea of him anyway!), Greg Louganis, Kathy Kusner, Joe Fargis (both equestrian), etc.

Rick: Ayt! Thanks, Mikee.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heaven is a Playground

(I wrote this for several years ago so it might be a little dated.)

The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Jesuit Hoops

by rick olivares

He’s a millionaire many times over. He’s an 11-time NBA All-Star. Not to mention one of the League’s 50 greatest players. Ever.

Yet the highlight of his career isn’t the 1984 NCAA Championship. Neither is it the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal nor the one won he won again nine years later as a member of the legendary Dream Team in Barcelona.

The highlight of his career, he says, falls on a bright and sunny May Day (two months removed from March Madness). One month from any appearance in the NBA Finals (which is always played in June). His personal highlight is Graduation Day. When Patrick Aloysius Ewing graduated from Georgetown University. And right on time just as he promised his mother.

Rev. Fr. Timothy Healy, S.J., President of Georgetown hails Ewing’s graduation as a great day in the school’s history for not only did the Big Fella put the Hoyas in prime time and the school on the map, but he proved to detractors that a poor and skinny immigrant kid from Jamaica could earn a place in a seemingly snobbish Jesuit school.

Ewing’s impact on G-town was huge because it brought back a resurgence of Jesuit basketball unheard of since the days of the Cooz in Holy Cross and Bill & KC at the University of San Francisco. His accomplishments prompted a skinny kid from Chesapeake, Virginia (who used to pin Ewing posters beside his bed) to matriculate in G-town. His name? Alonzo Mourning. He was soon followed by Dikembe Mutombo, Othella Harrington, and later on, Allen Iverson and Michael Sweetney.

Other Jesuit schools, though not as successful, provided some noise if not necessarily footnotes. Tiny Gonzaga University up in Spokane, Washington begat one of basketball’s greatest point guards ever in John Stockton. Loyola Marymount made the headlines with its near-miraculous run to the 1990 NCAA title after the on-court death of its star player Hank Gathers.

But after a dearth of play-off runs and championships in the dark ages of the 90s (doesn’t this sound familiar), Jesuits schools all across the United States have made another run, albeit this time more widespread, towards respectability and long-term athletic supremacy. Gonzaga, Xavier and St. Joseph’s have all nearly made the Final Four in Division 1 competition in the last few seasons, losing only by a whisker.

The resurgence of Jesuit hoops success isn’t limited only to continental USA. Even here in the Philippines, Jesuit-run schools have become once more a hotbed of some of the best ball played aside from making some of the most inspiring stories in the highly volatile and controversial world of sports.

Ateneo De Manila, after having its dreams of a basketball dynasty in the late 1980s curtailed by injuries, academics, and poor recruiting, is once more a basketball power. The Blue Eagles are once more one of college basketball’s elite teams. They made the UAAP Finals three straight years, winning its first title in 2002 after 14 years of frustration. Fr. Carmelo A. Caluag, S.J., the Blue Eagles’ former Chaplain says that with all the groundwork laid by the school and its boosters, the school will be competitive all the way until the end of the new millennium’s first decade.

What is it about Jesuits and basketball? James Naismith may have invented the game, but many a Jesuit priest or institution has staked their claim as some of the best minds or hotbeds in the game. Why is it that their institutions have once more made mainstream consciousness? Is there a secret to the success of Jesuit sports?

Textbook Triangle Offense
When Ignatius of Loyola offered his sword as a sign of fealty to the King of Heaven centuries ago, little did he know that the modern-day Jesuit would go about conquering the world with a Bible and textbook in one hand and a basketball in the other.

The Jesuit dictum of Ratio Studiorum advocates a three-pronged triangle offense of learning the right thing, the right way, at the right time. That has been amended over the years to include mens sana in corpore sano or a sound mind in a sound body for the Jesuits believe that one has to be excellent not just in the classroom but also in the gymnasium.

In the Ateneo De Manila, it is insisted that a liberal arts training for the mind be integrated with the development of the body. Something that is still vigorously enforced today. The esteemed late columnist Art Borjal once wrote in the Aegis that this can be distilled into the Greek word, arête. The Society’s theologians and educators believed that arête meant to simply exemplify versatility: the complete education of a whole man – “eloquent in the forum, sensitive to the poem, clear and sharp with the pen, courageous in the battlefield, and superior in athletics.”

Stateside, our brother Jesuit schools have created courses that are specifically sports-centered. Fr. Patrick Kelly, S.J. of the University of Detroit Mercy, teaches a course called “Sport and the Spiritual Life” and has been involved (since 1995) in a national conference for school administrators, athletic directors, coaches, and parents on “Sport, Spirituality, and Character Formation.” Fr. Kelly’s endeavors have greatly helped athletes earn their degrees as well as understanding their place in the world. Regis High School (New York) Theology Professor Fr. James DiGiacomo, S.J., himself a sports fan, has adapted Fr. Kelly’s teachings and believes that engaging in sports is essential to man’s human and spiritual development.

Lay workers like Mary Helen Walker, Women’s Basketball Coach at Loyola University in Chicago who won an MVP Award in basketball during her undergraduate years at Holy Cross, wholeheartedly embraces the development of the person as a whole. She actively preaches the motto of being men (and women) for others through coaching for the life experiences it offers through relationships.

The Jesuits have long preached that through athletic competition, virtues like justice, courage, and honesty are developed. Competition teaches them to focus on the goal at hand, to make sacrifices in the quest of that goal, and to overcome adversity through perseverance. Sports demands team play, discipline, and loyalty.

Glory Days
In 1924, the Ateneo De Manila’s Fr. John F. Hurley, S.J. and Fr. Henry B. McCullough, S.J. help found and organize the National Collegiate Athletic Association, patterned after the US NCAAs. But it wasn’t until 1928 that the Blue Eagles (the Eagle was chosen in fidelity to the noble and honored tradition of medieval chivalry) won its first collegiate crown by going undefeated.

Fr. James A. Martin, S.J., the Ateneo coach, utilized a revolutionary system called “shock troops” wherein he utilized his bench to the hilt. He would then guide Ateneo to two more runner-up finishes. Fr. Martin was later offered the head coaching job of the Philippine team in the 1930 Olympics, but he declined the honor. Fr. Matthew V. Kane, S.J. and Fr. Joseph M. Geib, S.J. took over from Fr. Martin and led Ateneo to three straight titles (something the school has never achieved since). The school would go on to win 10 more titles afterwards behind a virtual who’s who in local cagedom: Ambrosio Padilla, Luis “Moro” Lorenzo, Primitivo Martinez, Ed Ocampo, Francis Arnaiz, and Steve Watson to name a few.

Across the ocean, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, is still best known in trivia games as Boston Celtics’ great Bob Cousy’s alma mater. That the school won the 1947 NCAA Basketball title seems an after thought. Never mind that fellow Celtics star Tom Heinsohn also graduated from there years later. The school was so small (student population then: 2,400) that they didn’t even have a gym to call their own. Practices in fact, were held in an old barn.

But in 1947, all things came together. Under Coach Alvin “Doggie” Julian, the Crusaders, with the cheers of “Choo Choo Rah Rah Fight Holy Cross” booming from the bleachers, beat the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners 58-47 behind the dazzling duo of George Kaftan and Bob Cousy who ran their patented give-and-go game.

In 1955, the University of San Francisco, behind a gazelle with a mean streak named Bill Russell and granite of a guard named KC Jones defeated heavily-favored La Salle (Hmm. These guys seem to be everywhere. Go USF) 77-63. Tournament prognosticators pegged the Explorers to romp away with their second straight title on the strength of its awesome line-up led by All-American Tom Gola. Jones recalled that “the Dons were said to have a better chance of being struck by lightning on a sunny day than winning it all.” As it turned out, not only did the Dons wallop the defending champs but they won back-to-back titles (a 83-71 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in 1956) and 55-straight games to become the first team to go undefeated in NCAA play.

In 1963, the Loyola University Ramblers of Illinois upset the two-time defending champs the Cincinnati Bearcats with a stunning come-from-behind overtime 60-58 upset win to wrest the title.

The Marquette Warriors, behind Butch Lee and Bo Ellis, beat a strong North Carolina team 67-59 that featured Walter Davis, Mike O’Koren and Phil Ford to wrap up Al Maguire’s tenure as coach for this Milwaukee-based Jesuit school.

Georgetown made three trips to the NCAA finals during the Patrick Ewing-era bringing Jesuit basketball to unprecedented heights in terms of exposure.

The Road to Calvary
The bonanza ratings of prestigious tournaments like the local UAAP and American NCAA and the infusion of millions and millions of Benjamin Franklins, has made college basketball vulnerable to the excess of big time sports. “Somewhere along the way, the purity of basketball, of competition, just faded away,” laments Fr. Raymond Holscher S.J., former Athletic Director of Ateneo.

The Jesuits stood pat on their refusal to match up with the bigger colleges and universities and their basketball programs soon paid the price by tumbling into hoops mediocrity. Schools across the globe named after Jesuit saints refused to buy into the ultra-competitive atmosphere that extolled winning at all costs. Many, including the Ateneo, asked if it was worth diluting the student body with mercenaries who were brought in to simply win and to whom studies seemed like an anathema. Any reference to Jesuit hoops dominance would come in the form of grainy black and white photographs or film of misty yester years with Billy Joel’s “A Time to Remember” as the soundtrack.

Whatever basketball glory soon faded. Past championships seemed nothing more than relics to be brought out during homecomings. Colleges and universities named after cities and philanthropists soon began running roughshod over the game as it degenerated into what Reverend William B. Neenan, S.J, Vice President of Boston College calls a modern-day Roman circus of beer and tailgate parties with athletes who believed that they were bigger than the game.

Crossing the Rubicon

At the end of the late 1990s, Gonzaga began a stirring run towards the US NCAAs by making the Elite 8 several times. The excitement generated by this tiny school’s success in spite of having a paltry athletic budget (for the few varsity teams the school fields) got the campus of 4,500 really excited. The excitement was fever pitch that students decked the statue of famed Gonzaga alumnus Bing Crosby in a Bulldogs jersey with a sign that said, “Go Zags!” Some even joked about divine intervention. “It’s time we showed them how real basketball is played. It’s that Jesuit magic,” gushed one student during that memorable run. “It’s almost like God’s on our side.”

Gonzaga has none of the players that Sportscenter salivates over. Dan Dickau, currently of the Charlotte Bobcats, wouldn’t look out of place jamming with current garage rockers the Strokes. If you call a put back slam by the Bulldogs’ French import, Ronny Turiaf, worthy of a highlight shot, then you wonder maybe he’s getting airtime because he’s one of two French players on the team or because he plays with his hair braided into dreadlocks.

This small school (named after 16th century priest St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Patron Saint of the Youth) located some 275 miles from Seattle and established in 1887, had for years been financially strapped. But the success of the basketball program has done wonders for the school in general.

During the 2003-04 school year, a whopping total of 3,713 freshmen enrolled in Gonzaga. That’s more than double the 1997-98 (the year of the Bulldogs’ resurgence) numbers. The dorms have been full to bursting that the school had to rent out a nearby inn for the whole year just to house their students. And just to be sure that they could accommodate everyone, the school even purchased the local bowling alley if only to have the option of refurbishing it into a dorm should the need arise.

The basketball team’s success prompted university President Rev. Robert Spitzer and Coach Mark Few to seek athletic endowment by building a new arena that has been packed to the rafters. Matt Scheelar, a Gonzaga alum says that it’s rather ironic that it wasn’t too long ago that you could easily buy a ticket on game day and still have enough room to stretch your arms and legs. Nowadays, he adds, tickets are scarce and classrooms resemble a can of sardines.

The last couple of US National Players of the Year, Xavier’s (in Cincinnati) David West and St. Joseph’s (in Philadelphia and current Ateneo Blue Eagles Coach Norman Black’s alma mater) Jameer Nelson are throwbacks to an older time when athletes earned their diplomas first before earning a slot on a pro basketball team’s 12-man roster.

Coincidentally around the same time of Gonzaga’s inspiring turnaround, Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres called for a meeting to give the Ateneo De Manila’s performance in UAAP competition a badly needed boost. After a lengthy planning session, an integrated sports program was put in place along with qualified coaches to spur the athletes on. The result has been nothing short of spectacular as the school has risen to 4th place in the general standings. “The inspired play of our basketball team and the championship in 2002 has done much to create excitement about the school and its various programs,” says current University Athletics Director Jose Capistrano. “And we’ve also had significant success in other sports like football, judo, fencing, and golf to name a few.”

Breaking Down the Game: X & Os
Boston College’s Rev. William B. Neenan, S.J. in his report on the current success of Jesuit schools, outlines four factors on why Jesuit schools have gone on the offensive in the college game:

To stimulate school spirit. Fr. Neenan writes that inter-collegiate sports help students cope with anxieties about college life when he feels the community bond as one during games. He cites an example of how a freshman felt that Boston College was finally “home” after experiencing the emotional highs of the Eagles crushing arch-rival Syracuse at the Conte Forum. This enables the student focus on the academic and extra-curricular activities that constitute a huge part of his college life.

To serve enrollment purposes. While attending a school can be a matter of family tradition, the presence of a high profile and winning sports program does attract many. Students and alumni take pride in being a part of a school that is recognized by their peers and this shows when they wear athletic apparel even outside the games even well into their post-college lives.

To promote alumni attachment. A successful sports program brings in alumni support that helps build the academic and athletic programs aside from the school’s physical structures. Gonzaga’s Fr. Spitzer and Coach Few were able to successfully lobby from alumni Phil and Tom McCarthey with some badly needed funds to put up a 6,000-seat arena (that is today known as the McCarthey Center). If the school was concerned that athletic fundraising would have a negative effect on the school’s relations with its alumni were unfounded. With a positive cash flow for the university and an unprecedented air of excitement among the student body and faculty, Fr. Spitzer could only wonder afterwards, “Why were we so hesitant?”

The improvement of a school’s systems and facilities can only add to its growth. “We have to do more than give them lip service to a sound mind and a sound body and the education of the whole person,” explains Fordham’s President Rev. Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J.

To develop mens sana in corpore sano. In the athletic office of Georgetown there are reminders of the rich athletic past everywhere. Inside the main office, there is an unusual display case that contains a deflated basketball along with a picture of the first Coach Thompson (the son is now the coach) to remind his players to think about life after basketball. The inscription inside the case reads, "Don't let the sum of your existence be nine pounds of air." So all athletes in Jesuit universities all across the globe must balance a rigorous athletic regimen with a demanding academic workload.

At Fairfield University, the Men’s Basketball team goes out every Friday before the start of the basketball season. No, it’s not some Thank-God-It’s-Friday all-nighter at the local watering hole. The team goes to nearby inner city schools to read and talk to kids about the importance of a good education and how basketball fits in. “Without good grades, you can’t play basketball,” intones Mike Van Schaick, the Stags shooting guard, to fifth graders. “Just because you’re an athlete, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do good in school,” explains the team’s Coach Tim O’Toole.

The late 1970s Ateneo team that was foiled by the San Beda Red Lions in their quest for a third straight title, sent five players to the pros (Steve Watson, Fritz Gaston, Padim Israel, Joy Carpio, and Bambi Kabigting) as opposed to their rivals who sent more. The reason is not because there were less talented players on the Blue Eagle team. Ogie Narvasa, who was a back-up guard on that team, pursued a career in law. Says Narvasa, “I think we had more opportunities available to us because of our Jesuit education. Basketball during that time wasn’t a lucrative career (it took Alvin Patrimonio’s monster contract to change pro and college basketball forever) so you had to broaden your horizons.”

Today, the Society of Jesus runs 28 colleges and universities across the United States and five in the Philippines. They’ve made huge strides in recent years to reclaim their mantle of athletic glory and supremacy. Enrollment is booming. Classrooms are full. Parking spaces are scarce. Alumni are opening their checkbooks. And tickets to the basketball games are even harder to come by. When comparing their student population and athletic achievements with those of schools run by other Catholic orders or the state, the disparity is wide and at times, seemingly one-sided (e.g. Marquette with 7242 students and an athletic revenue of $15.2 million compares to the nearby University of Wisconsin with a student body of 28,583 and athletic revenue of $58.1 million). But don’t tell that to the Jesuits or their fiercely loyal alumni.

Said Vince Lombardi, Fordham 1937 and legendary Green Bay Packers Coach, “Winning isn’t everything, but the effort to win is.”

“One thing I can safely say about the Jesuits is they like competition,” laughs St. Joseph’s Women’s Coach Cindy Griffin. “And they like to win.”

American Jesuit colleges and universities
Boston College

Detroit Mercy

Holy Cross
Loyola (Illinois)
Loyola (Maryland)
Loyola Marymount

Saint Joseph’s
Saint Louis
Saint Peter’s

San Francisco
Santa Clara

Philippine Jesuit colleges and universities
Ateneo De Davao
Ateneo De Manila
Ateneo De Naga
Ateneo De Zamboanga
Xavier University

With help from:
Sports and Jesuit Universities: A Winning Tradition by Rev. Fr. William B. Neenan, S.J. Boston College
Jesuits Weigh Hoop Dreams by Malcolm Moran, USA Today
The Sports Word and the Jesuit World by Fr. James DiGiacomo, S.J. Regis High School, NYC
Aegis 1958 courtesy of University Athletics Office and Jun Jun Capistrano
University Archives with help from Mr. Rudy Allayban and his staff
Fr. Nemy Que, Admission & Aid Office
Jun Dalandan, Alumni Affairs Office