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, February 29, 2008

Take me out to the cathedral one more time

March 31, 2008 will be the last Opening Day in the old Yankee Stadium. I've been to only one Opening Day game and its a different atmosphere. One akin to a school homecoming because people probably haven't seen each other at the games since the last play-offs. Tailgate parties were never my idea of fun because you get baked under the sun. But I did like walking up to the Upper Tier seats because you get a chance to catch a foul ball or even a home run ball.

I took this picture with the Yankees playing the Baltimore Orioles. I normally purchase tickets a few degrees to the left of home plate. It allows me to see the Yankee dugout. I always try to make sure I stay far in the back because I get a chance to see everyone. Sometimes there are jerk fans up in the stands so its best you know where they are. And in case of rain there's some protection. But it does awfully cold up there. My favorite Stadium food? Hotdogs (with Italian stuffings) of course and a soda.

Q&A with Rick Olivares

(Someone wanted to interview me and in my best Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson impression, I raised an eyebrow and asked, "What and why?" He said, "wala lang because... wala lang." And before he could finish, I cut him short with a, "It doesn't matter!" Truthfully, I thought that was a crap answer but I reluctantly agreed. But when it got going I was in a chatty mood. Here's the transcript of the interview.)

C: Why is your column and blog titled “Bleachers’ Brew?”
Rick: Well, once upon a time I went around using Bleachers King alternick as a moderator for “Bleachers” because that’s where everyone sat before. At least up to the early 90’s before people decided they’d rather be close to the action and not cheer. “Brew” because it’s a homage to one of my favorite albums, Miles Davis’ “
Bitches' Brew."

C: You write professionally?
Rick: Yes and no. I cut my eyeteeth in advertising and marketing. I had some ads nominated for awards but I did win the Golden Dove Award for Best Anti-Drug commercial which was all about a classmate of mine. While in school I was already a contributor to the Philippine Daily Inquirer where I wrote about music, young entrepreneurs, and the comic book industry. I later wrote for a Filipino expat newspaper to the Middle East where I covered the PABL (the forerunner of today’s PBL). I wrote research papers for former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani and did PR work for Greggy Araneta and Lucio Tan. I did work on the campaigns of Mar Roxas and Ralph Recto. I had an expose on some corruption case that was killed several years ago (wouldn't you like to know what this is). But it was only after coming back from the United States that I considered writing professionally. Now I work for a multi-national org that still leaves me time to write.

C: Why did you get into it?
Rick: Some people pushed me to consider it. When I was in the US, I was writing a lot of letters to people back home chronicling my life there. They were informative, funny, and sad. Not necessarily in that order. My aunt who is a columnist for the Inquirer and another aunt who publishes the Tribune pushed me also to go for it. Fr. Tito Caluag was also a strong influence behind the decision to write. It was he who pointed me towards Sonia Araneta of Ateneo who at that time was putting up She didn’t know me from Adam but she gave me a try and the rest is history. She’s been a strong influence and a dear friend since. Others huge supporters have been Fr. Ben Nebres, Fr. Bert Ampil (bless this man), Jun Jun Capistrano, Robin Tong, Arben Santos, Dr. Sio Marquez, my dad, and Mai.

From there, while working as Marketing Manager of Solar Sports, I wrangled an ex-deal with Business Mirror which was brand new. They proposed the deal that I signed off on. A column was one such stipulation. Hahaha. I had to try and balance it with Solar stuff early on but I guess it was good to deviate and digress. But I have to admit I was worried that I was writing too much non-Solar stuff.

From there I’ve contributed to Men’s Health, Tower Sports NBA, Homestyle, Blueblood, Transit, and some Ateneo publications like The Hill and Loyola School Bulletin. I’ve just agreed to do work for Celebrity Sports Club.

C: Who are your writing influences?
Rick: David Halberstam, Rick Reilly, Rick Telander, (my old classmate) Vanni De Sequera, Mark Millar, Peter David, Mark Spitz, Nick Hornby, Mike Wise, CS Lewis, Frank Deford, and Bob Guccione Jr.’s Gear magazine which is probably the best pop culture ever mag.
Radical, dude. Oh, my creative directors in advertising too.

C: Wow. What accounts did you work on?
Rick: I worked on PLDT, Magnolia, BPI, Rustan's, the Philippine Basketball Association, DPC Yellow Pages, DZRH, Uniwide, Philippine Airlines, Mazda, and Suzuki.

C: What’s your dream writing job?
Rick: The New York Times! Time magazine. Sports Illustrated. Rogue magazine. Those guys are tops. I wish I was as good as them. But I also hope to break into television and film. I did some broadcast work for Solar and that was a blast. I wrote a two-hour history of boxing special titled Glory Road, a couple of sports year in review specials, and some segments on the late lamented Sports Desk. There have been a couple of books in recent years that have shaped my writing and desire to go in this path: David Halbertsam’s Playing for Keeps:
Michael Jordan and the World He Made, Bill Carter’s Fools Rush In, Kevin Sites’ In the Hot Zone, and personalities like Time’s Melinda Liu, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, and former ESPN sportscaster Keith Olbermann. Getting a compliment too from George Vescey was a blast!

I’m currently working with Stephen Lu (former Xavier and UP footballer and lead singer of Rizal Underground) on a football project that’s a real high. I also have a number of unpublished stuff including a bunch of kids’ stories.

C: It seems that football is your favorite sport?
Rick: Well, in the Ateneo Grade school, it’s the first sport you get into. So it was like a first love when it comes to sports. Then it was baseball. New York Yankees, baby! My love for basketball was brought about by one of the guys who started Halikinu Radio, Gary Villanueva who was my high school classmate. That guy is a huge basketball junkie. We’d hang out in his house and he had all these tapes on Larry Nance, Julius Erving, and other NBA guys. Before that I was a Philly fan coz of Dr. J and Doug Collins! Doug "freaking" Collins, man! But Gary turned me into a real fan of the game. Him and Michael Jordan.

But... football is king.

C: So what are your favorite clubs?
Rick: I started out as a New York Cosmos fan. That’s Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia. They were the original los galacticos. Then after that it was Liverpool FC. There’s a funny story there because I am a huge Beatles fan and since they were from Merseyside I began to root for Liverpool. It turned out that the Fab Four were Everton fans! Hahahaha. Everton sucks, man. Liverpool... (sings) "You never walk alone!" There are dreams of playing the midfield with guys like Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish as forwards. Those guys were monster scorers. I was devastated when Kevin Keegan left but we got Dalglish in return which is okay. Then Robbie Fowler arrived! I wish I had a Fowler jersey. When he went back to Anfield to pair with Stevie G -- that was way cool! Am I too talkative?

Then I like Real Madrid. But I have to admit I became a Madrid fan when Zidane joined the club. Zidane is one of the best. I have his Real Madrid and French national team jerseys. When a fire hit my place late last year, I saved my laptop, my video camera, passport, discs of my work, and all my Zidane jerseys! Hahaha.

C: Any other prized sports memorabilia?
Rick: I have a boxing glove signed by Manny Pacquiao, Ray “Boom Boom” Bautista, and Brian Viloria. I have signed baseball cards by Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams that I got them to sign while working at New York's Upper East side. I also have a Yankees pennant signed by Alfonso Soriano who was the neighbor of a friend of mine in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I have a signed Mizuno football by the Philippine national football team that played in Panaad, Bacolod. But the prize here is a Chicago Bulls poster signed by the entire 1998 team. How I got this signed is a story unto itself.

I also have some 40 different football jerseys, 60 different basketball jerseys (I have every Michael Jordan jersey from Laney to Washington and every Kobe Bryant jersey including his rookie year Champions jersey that I still have and wear), the three different Yankees jerseys, and a couple of hockey ones.

C: Any great moments with sports personalities?

Rick: Chatting with Dennis Rodman courtside before their game here in the Philippines. Meeting Dwyane Wade in his rookie year at the NBA Store I got to chat with him too. Watching Paul Pierce and Gary Payton at Rucker Park. Helping manage Ateneo Team B. That is something I will never forget. Oh yeah, there’s playing pick up ball with Jojo Lastimosa, Steve Watson, Tito Panlilio, Nonoy Chuatico, Fritz Gaston, Ogie Narvasa, Gabby Cui, Eric Reyes, Joy Carpio, Chito Afable, Jay Gayoso, and other Blue Eagle greats one Sunday morning in Green Meadows. I was the only guy on the floor who never suited up for the Blue Eagles. And that was a huge blast! I scored 8 points! Hahaha.

Does going to Cooperstown count? There’s also going to the Rocky statue in Philadelphia, San Siro, and Yankee Stadium. Good Lord, Yankee Stadium. Baseball's most hallowed cathedral. But if there’s another place I’d like to go it’s Anfield. I can then die in peace.

And there’s chatting with Norman Black in his home last Christmas. Robert Jaworski sending me a Christmas card and a Ginebra San Miguel jersey for Christmas.

C: How did that happen?
Rick: They were playing Manila Beer for the title and this was when Ginebra had Billy Ray Bates and Michael Hackett. They lost one game – I think it was game two and I wrote the Big J a letter of encouragement. A classmate of mine Philip Coronel was his neighbor at Corinthian Gardens and I had him drop it off at the Big J’s house. I never thought that I’d get a reply more so a jacket but I did. And that made my Christmas ever!

C: How about your best live sports experience/s?
Rick: The 1987 & 88 and ’02 Blue Eagle championships, the Blue Booters’ three-peat, watching the New York Giants play Dallas in Giants Stadium in the Tuna's first game as Cowboys head coach. Watching Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS when Aaron Boone hit that home run against Boston. Watching the Chicago Bulls in 1997.
The 2003 US Open where Pete Sampras gave his farewell speech. And playing ball at West 4th. Dude, that’s West 4th New York City!

C: You’ve got quite an interesting sports history. Anything you’d like to do that’s sports related?
Rick: Yup. Quite a few. Throw an octopus on the ice at the Joe Louis Arena. Watch the World Cup finals. Work as an assistant to Norman Black with the Blue Eagles. That’s Norman Black! Mr. 100%! Work as an assistant to Ompong Merida with the Blue Booters. Ompong’s a freaking genius and a nice guy. He should be coaching the national team. Watch a Liverpool game at the Kop. I've sat in Yankee Stadium's bleachers with their Bleachers Creatures and that was way fun! So I imagine the Kop must be even crazier.

C: Who are your Top 10 athletes of all time regardless of sport?
Rick: Hmm. That’s tough. Let me put it this way, those I saw play and not in order, but ten, ha?
Paul O’Niell, New York Yankees
Ian Rush, Liverpool FC
Danny Francisco, Ateneo Blue Eagles
Louie Espinosa (I dedicated Glory Road to him)
Pele, Santos and New York Cosmos
Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
Pete Sampras
Tiger Woods
Muhammad Ali
Julius Erving, Philadelphia 76ers. He was for years the game's ambassador.

C: What can we look forward to -- any new stuff?
Rick: Well. More travel stuff. My cousin Christine Cunanan has a travel magazine and I'd really want to contribute to that. I'll be going to Shanghai and Beijing supposedly in May and back to Singapore in October. There's probably a trip to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong in between. I actually want to do less sports writing and move into the film-oriented ones I previously mentioned. I'm also finishing an AVP for the Ateneo dorm and of course that long-delayed Ateneo Lady Eagles book. Sorry, John Flores leaving depressed me a bit coz the story starts with him and unfortunately, a championship season has a sucky ending.

C: Less sports writing? What do you mean?
Rick: Well, I'll keep my column in Business Mirror, but I'm going on record (AGAIN! hahaha) to say after Season 71 of the UAAP, it's time to hear a different voice. Zion (Laterre) is gone. Ditto with Ford Arao. Pat Ozaeta is done as is Charo Soriano. And so is Noj Baltao. Hey, Noj! Hahaha. But my nephew is still with the baseball team. And I think another of them will join soon. But I'd really want to write about other stuff. Maybe go to Afghanistan. Or write about our soldiers in Mindanao. Mark Bowden wrote such a great war book in
Blackhawk Down. That's an inspiration.

I have material about a Filipino-American in Iraq. He served two tours in Iraq. But I wonder how to treat the story. I have to speak with him again. But it's something that's easier to write if I'm Stateside.

So there!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mo meet Kobe

Okay. It may sound a little too early, but let me say it… Black Mamba for NBA MVP.

In 57 games thus far, Kobe Bryant is averaging 27.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.95 steals per game. His team – which he slandered in a most tempestuous summer – has the third best record in the NBA and is tops once more in the frightening Western Conference.

I’m a rarity. A Michael Jordan fan who actually roots for Kobe. MJ still is the greatest player ever to lace on a pair of high tops but Bryant is more talented and skilled. Yes, it’s heresy. More so since I’ve always gone on record to say that I don’t like the west. So I’m still holding on that fleeting dream that the son of Jellybean Bryant will eventually don the Sixers’ red and white. But this isn’t about the east. It’s about Bryant being the best not only in the west but in the entire Association.

He’s been an NBA champ, scoring champ, slam dunk champ, all-star game MVP, defensive team stalwart, and so on and so forth. He’s going to be in Springfield for sure and the only thing missing is an NBA MVP.

No one else comes close this year. Hand the man the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

Kobe Bryant for NBA MVP.


Ya go, girl!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Is a composite number.

Is the number of commandments handed down by Moses from the Lord God.

Is the title of Pearl Jam’s seminal first album.

Is the address of the British Prime Minster in Downing Street, London.

Is a perfect score in gymnastics that Nadia Comaneci garnered four times during the Montreal Olympics.

Is the total number of Star Trek movies shown in theaters thus far.

Is supposed to describe the perfect female form the way Bo Derek did once upon a time.

Is the interstate freeway that runs all the way from California to Florida.

Is the number of 10 different aliens with powers that a boy can transform to in that new kids' show on Cartoon Network.

Is the number worn by Zinedine Zidane , Michael Owen, John Barnes, Alessandro del Piero, Roberto Baggio, Juan Roman Riquelme, Wayne Rooney, Rich Alvarez, Dennis Rodman, and Gerard Cancio.

And now it belongs to the next big thing in French football... Karim Benzema.

Sacre bleu! What ees theez?

Some things seem to be eternally entrenched. Like French football and adidas. They've been partnered for 37 long years. It's a relationship that lasted longer than most marriages. In fact, they've been around for so long that they're more than old enough to vote.

Funny though I mentioned marriages... after yesterday, the three stripes lost out to the Swoosh which will be taking over after the 2010 World Cup. I understand it's a business, but that's like the German national team wearing Umbros. Or the Brazilian team wearing three stripes.

Hmm. Come to think of it. Zut alors! That's not such a bad idea.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What's the story (faded glory)?

(This appears in the Tuesday, February 26, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror)

the title was inspired by Oasis' great second album

by rick olivares

Another year. Another failure on the international stage. Their Golden Generation will be watching Euro 2008 from the telly unless they can’t stomach the sight of their international teammates and foes moving to the second most prestigious football tournament on the planet.

The English gifted the world with football but it took a Brazilian to not only lay claim to the title as its greatest player ever but to also give the sport its poetic nickname… the beautiful game.

Yes, Brazil. It counts among its greatest exports rubber, samba, bossa nova, supermodels, and football players.

But when you talk about England, if it isn’t the Royals, it’s the weather, London Bridge, and how foreigners overrun the English Premiere League. After sacking the lousy and divisive Steve McClaren, the English Football Association courted Brazilian Felipe Scolari, saw Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho cast his lot in the hat, before eventually settling on Italian Fabio Capello who last led Real Madrid to the La Liga title in 2006-07 to manage the Three Lions.

This makes for bad comedy, lads. The Bard may sugarcoat it, but I will not mince my words. English pride has been supplanted by money.

The best player on EPL-leading Arsenal, which has a distinctly French flavor owing to its manager Arsene Wegner, is none other than Spaniard Francesc Fabregas. If you think that Manchester United is winning because of Wayne Rooney then you’ve got another thing coming – it’s actually Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine Carlos Tevez. Chelsea may have the dynamic duo of Frank Lampard and John Terry but this team won in large part to Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba. Liverpool may have its talismanic midfielder Steven Gerrard but it has been the presence of former Atletico Madrid and Spanish national player Fernando Torres who has carried this underachieving team.

The Hillsborough incident and being banned for five years from European competition cleaned up football in England of hooliganism, but it also cleaned up the domestic league of homegrown players. And will November 21, 2007 go down in English history as a day of infamy as the national squad composed of millionaires were ousted from Euro 2008 by Croatia when they needed only a draw to move on to the next stage? For the first time in 24 years where there will be no British presence in the tournament.

And former England gaffer Sven Goran-Eriksson has rubbed salt on the wounds of critics after he conspired with former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to mastermind a revival in Manchester City.

Being a Liverpool fan, I’ve always been a fan of Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, and Steven Gerrard, but some of the team’s most prolific scorers have been Welshman Ian Rush and Scotsmen Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness. And now Torres is scoring like crazy.

Australia, which has less than half of England’s total population, has been doing far better in international sports than its mother country. The Socceroos, as the Australian national team is fondly known, beat England convincingly in the last time they faced off in the World Cup despite being way behind in FIFA’s standings. Makes you wonder if the point system FIFA follows is outdated, huh?

What’s wrong with British football? Does the team need stewardship by proven international winners like Capello or is a team composed of millionaires the football equivalent of American Dream Team wannabes who have been taking a beating by teams from Europe and the Americas? And what should be done to improve the state of their game?

1) To say that they’re composed of nothing but millionaires is a fallacy. The Italians, Germans, French, Dutch, even the African teams are comprised of the equally rich and famous. Save for the African, Middle Eastern, and Asian teams, the best teams in the world are all coached by their own countrymen.

How does an Italian effectively communicate “for Queen and for country” when he learned to speak the language from watching the BBC and English Premiere League games! Fabio Capello may be a winner but he is better off coaching a club team or Italy when Roberto Donadoni steps down.

And then again, they must choose a manager who is smart enough to field the right team. If Steve McClaren understood his team, he played Shaun Wright-Phillips on a muddy Wembley Stadium when the midfielder relies on pace to be effective. And equally stupefying is his move of benching Paul Robinson (of Tottenham) in favor of a relatively inexperienced Scott Carson (of Aston Villa) whose blunder led to Croatia’s first goal. While Robinson has been out of form for some time, he should have benched him much earlier instead of in a crucial match of which the result will resonate for some time to come.

2) There should be a limit to the number of foreigners plying their trade in the English Premiere League. Take for example Liverpool. After Gerrard, there’s Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant, and Jamie Carragher who are locals. There are four other lads on the team but they hardly get off the bench. So the English contingent is only 1/5 of the squad. And it’s not all the time that the four are on the pitch together.

This doesn’t guarantee success since you have to go win it on the pitch but you will develop more experienced and better footballers.

Whenever a player goes off to play for flag and country, the clubs usually frown on that because it could mean an injury to their “properties” and less chances to advance which leads to less people in the seats and revenue. It’s a money thing. Case in point, Ashley Cole and John Terry played a full match (in spite of reports of their being less than 100%) for Chelsea in the game immediately before the qualifier.

Maybe if the money is the language these players understand then maybe the FA should start paying them to play for England.

3) The top clubs’ grassroots development has begun to see the inclusion of young boys from other countries. These are the kids they hope to grow up through the system are expected to one day more up to the top flight division. Wow, not only are they disenfranchising the English in the top levels but they’re also nipping them in the bud before they even have a chance to grow.

4) Prior to the England-Croatia match in the Euro 2008 Qualifiers, the English media and some its players (Michael Owen in particular) made light of the team from the Balkans by saying that none of their players were good enough to start for England. “I read in your papers that no Croatian player would start on your team," said Vatreni (“the Blazers”) coach Slaven Bilic to English reporters. "I mean, seriously, wake up." Bilic’s team has three players currently seeing action in the EPL that helped pace Group E that counted Russia and Andorra in its ranks.

It’s been 44 years since the late Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst’s England won the World Cup. That’s like saying that the world has caught up to the Americans in basketball. It’s time that England woke up to smell the coffee that the world too has passed them by.

Oh yeah, they don’t drink coffee in the Sceptered Isle, right? No wonder.

They said it....

Jim Finks, New Orleans Saints G.M., when asked after a loss what he thought of the refs: "I'm not allowed to comment on lousy officiating."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #96 Filipino Hoosiers

(This appears in my column in the Monday, February 25, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror)

This is a story about nationalism and the love of the game. And sometimes it’s about putting one’s name and reputation on the line.

Chito Narvasa a former collegiate and professional basketball coach and an investment banker was walking the streets of Zamboanga with fellow Basketball Coach Association of the Philippines (BCAP) official Tanny Gonzalez, an athletic director of a Manila-based school, when an excitable and sweaty man approached them carrying a white board.

It turned out that the man’s local team often lost against its archrival because they could never beat their press. And in a fit of desperation, he contacted Narvasa and Gonzalez like someone asking the Dalai Lama about the meaning of life.

An amused Narvasa quickly drew up some formations on the white board with various options depending on what the defense gave them. The young coach soaked in every bit of information then vociferously pumped the two men’s hands with heartfelt thanks.

The following day, the two BCAP officials were in the city square when the same coach found them once more. He thanked them for their instructions because his team finally beat their foes as they broke their dreaded press.

“Patay tayo diyan,” laughed Narvasa as he and Gonzalez recounted the incident over a late lunch at UCC in Temple Drive. “Imagine if it didn’t work then our credibility would be shot.”

The local basketball scene is still a mess and let no one tell you any different. Everyone is still pretty much doing their own thing yet BCAP for the longest time has done more with its nationwide infrastructure in helping the sport prosper and grow than anyone else.

“We’re not out to tell people who should coach the national team or how basketball should be run,” explained Gonzalez who is the Athletic Director of Lyceum. “We don’t even put up tournaments. We are for coach’s education because we believe that if we produce good coaches we will produce better players.”

“We’re peacemakers in the basketball scene,” chimed in Narvasa who once served as an assistant to Chot Reyes in Purefoods and was later head coach of Shell following Rino Salazar’s stint. “We have no vested interest except in sharing knowledge with one another and protecting the livelihood of the Filipino coach.”

Of late, BCAP has been looking outside North America for basketball education – towards Korea to be exact. For the last 20 years or so, coaches have followed a more scientific technology by the American style of play. And through that we’ve seen a more man-to-man type of game that predicates double-teaming and role-playing. Such as system gave birth to superstar complex. That means you now have players who are the first option, the second option, the defensive specialist, and so on. What that does is categorize players such as the elite, second, and third levels.

In Korean basketball or even in European basketball, every player on the floor is a weapon where emphasis is placed on shooting and fundamentals. “We’re not saying the American model is wrong because it does work,” added Narvasa who is the third head of BCAP following Turo Valenzona and Yeng Guiao. “What BCAP is doing is providing another option.”

Narvasa’s philosophy is basically an extension of that of his former college coach, the Maestro Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan. Narvasa played for an Ateneo team that won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976 under Dalupan himself a former Ateneo dribbler who shared the court with the late great Luis “Moro” Lorenzo. Under Dalupan (who was simultaneously handling the Blue Eagles and the Crispa Redmanizers in the Philippine Basketball Association), there was no fixed starting unit. Players were inserted into the first five on the basis of the team they were facing and how well they practiced in the previous day. “You are how you practice,” said Dalupan who is now living comfortably in retirement.

“Anyone could shoot under that system,” recalled Narvasa who played the point guard position. “As long as you were free and had the shot then you could take it. Walang sisihan. There aren’t many coaches who espouse that kind of play now but Yeng Guiao is a prime example of that style. And you can see how he gets results from his team. Kahit sino bunutin gagawa.”

It is through Narvasa’s AYN Sports that they have brought in famed coaches like Louisiana State University’s Dale Brown, former Los Angeles Lakers guard and Women’s National Basketball Association Coach Michael Cooper, former Seattle Supersonics forward Detlef Schrempf, and Korean coach Pang Yul. And this week, they’ll be bringing in former Korean hotshot, the legendary Shin Dong Pa to impart his knowledge of the game to coaches from all over the archipelago in a session at the old Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Surprised to hear about what BCAP has done? “We’re not in the business of hogging the limelight,” noted Gonzalez. “We just want to do our part in helping the country grow through sports. Some other people can run the show.”

Fr. Nong Realuyo, a parish priest from Bicol is one of two members of the clergy who are BCAP accredited coaches. The good father used to coach high school boys and his attendance in a BCAP clinic solidified his belief that the game will not only instill discipline in the youth but will keep them away from vices. “Sports is the best way to teach the value of teamwork, discipline, camaraderie, and focus of vision,” said Fr. Realuyo who organizes tournaments in Legazpi City. “And it expands your network of friends.”

One other member of BCAP is current Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez who used to manage the Davao chapter. BCAP has become an accredited consulting body for the PSC in the provinces as it taps its nationwide network of coaches. It is also through this that the BCA conducts its coach’s clinics. “It’s all about spreading the love and knowledge of the game at the provincial and grassroots level,” added Fr. Realuyo. “And we try to go a little farther by introducing values formation, sports medicine, and ethics.”

One time, Narvasa, Guiao, and Gonzalez were conducting a clinic in Davao when they noticed that the local coaches would go to the games unkempt, wearing short pants and slippers. “”Guys,” pointed out Narvasa. “Suggestion lang… kung gusto niyong maging respetado ng mga player siguro magbihis naman tayo ng medyo maayos. Hindi naman kailangan na para tayong pupunta ng kasal pero magbihis naman tayo. Para tayong mga pulis sa kanto.”

The following day, the attendees turned up wearing more respectable attire when one of them approached Narvasa to apologize. “Walang problema,” smiled the BCAP head. “Coach ka nang anong team?”

“Yung team ng PNP. Pulis po ako.”

Basketball. Gotta love it for its unifying abilities.

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From Larry Fonacier:
Love this article, sir. I really believe in my heart that the Koreans and Europeans play the game the most effective way. In that kind of system everyone feels important and needed, no one is boxed. I'm proud to have been part of that system under coach Yeng (Guiao), because I had a lot of fun and I felt like my talents were maximized in his team. Also under coach Joe's (Lipa) Korean style, lahat masaya.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Three fights for the girls in blue and white

Some five years ago, Karla Bello, Charo Soriano, and Patty Taganas along with three other former teammates (including Apol Del Puerto, Steph Veluz, and Alexa Pijuan) made a pact to elevate Ateneo women's volleyball to a higher level. They all went to Loyola Heights for various reasons with sports the least of their priorities. Volleyball in high school after all was plain fun. Oh they competed, but they enjoyed the game as a teen only could.

College volleyball was altogether another animal. It was highly competitive they all soon found out and their coach sensed he had a god squad that he rode them hard. Their team clearly wasn't the best, but they were a team of great potential. They beat a much fancied FEU team in five sets in a game that foretold of their promise.

Yet over the years, the team always fell short.

Prior to the start of the season, Bello, Soriano, and Taganas once more decided to come back. It was clearly not the stronger line-up of before, but if everyone elevated their game to a higher level they'd go farther than what most pres-season prognosticators pegged them for. They knew that the team was young and without veteran support they'd make easy pickings for the opposition. And so they played and bucked injuries and inconsistent play to book a seat in the final four.

In the days leading up to their match versus Adamson who positively pulverized them every time out, the three sat of the officials' table prior to one practice to talk about what lay ahead.

The three of them all believed that they could win, but when it came to the others, they weren't sure. it's understandable as they are a college team not a professional one so they all have different priorities. But isn't this why they came back to lead the blue and white to its first every women's volleyball championship?

Somehow someway Ateneo teams are the Peter Parkers of sports -- hounded by bad luck and all. Sadly once more, the women's volleyball team fell and it was over.

Sometimes it seems like it wasn't too long ago when Bello, Soriano, and Taganas were caught up in the hoopla of their male basketball counterparts making the basketball finals for a third straight year while the men's football team was about to embark on their own era of greatness. They were excited and likewise wanted to bring glory to the school.

They may have not won a championship, but they kept their promise to elevate women's volleyball in Ateneo and forever we are grateful.

Thanks Karla, Charo, and Patty! And to Bianca Sison, Steph Gabriel, and Trisha Limgenco as well.

One Big Fight!

All Aboard the Siberian Express

photo by Abdul Basit

Maria Sharapova found her serve and her baseline game at the right time to beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 6-3 yesterday Saturday in the Qatar Open. The three-time Grand Slam winner will face Vera Zvonareva in an all-Russian final.

Zvonareva reached her second final of the year with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over China's Li Na in the first semifinal.

Go Masha!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ateneo Men's Football Match 12 Life, death, and Ateneo football

Ateneo 0 vs. Far Eastern University 1
text by rick olivares photos by aly yap

Match 12
February 21, 2008
Erenchun Field
Ateneo De Manila University

There is no consolation for a losing side.

It’s something that may ease with the passing of time, but you never forget.

Ironically there’s none as well for a winning team (if you’ve got blue blood in your veins).

Vince Santos knows what it’s like. He was Ateneo’s top striker during it’s first ever UAAP football title when they beat La Salle in 1996. The following year the Green Booters of Hans Smit gained a measure of revenge as they beat the same blue side in the finals. Santos is now the Program Head for FEU’s side after an acrimonious departure from handling Ateneo a few years ago. And moments after his Tamaraws beat Ateneo 1-0 in game two of the UAAP 2008 Men’s Footballs Finals, Santos had trouble keeping his resolve. “It’s bittersweet,” he softly said twice.

The Morayta elevens’ coach Adolfo Alicante raised his fists in triumph when head zebra Gerry San Andres drew to a close an exciting and excruciating game. Then as if in respect to the Ateneans who fell to the pitch and wept, he simply shook the hands of his players and said no more. As I congratulated him, the champion coach nodded and managed a humble, “thanks.” Almost throughout the tournament he wore his trademark sunglasses refusing to let the game’s fortunes betray his emotions. What was one more day?

Yes, the blue and white lived to fight one more day last Sunday, September 17, as they beat FEU 2-0 to set up the ultimate match. If you say that it’s just a game then obviously you don’t subscribe to what the late great Liverpool manager Bill Shankly said about the sport, “Some people think that football is a matter of life and death. I assure you it’s much more than that.”

Ask assistant coach Bob Manlulo and current program head Jong Castaneda both of whom played on the Ateneo side that lost the 1989 football finals to a UP team that prominently featured several Ateneans from their powerful high school batch. They’ve never lived down that day (it was an upset) and continue to get ribbed by their marooned cohorts.

If you’re an Atenean then you should know that more than any other sport in the last 12 years, it’s the beautiful game that has given us pride and a measure of bragging rights. Eight finals appearances in the collegiate level and five titles. And that’s not counting the multitude of championships reaped in the grade and high school levels.

The Blue Booters provided the school’s first three-peat from 2004-06, the first since the track team booked the trick way back in the 1960’s. And unfortunately, the loss also marked the end of an era.

There’s a theory that when you surround fresh blood with champion players then it provides a sound environment for the young to learn and soak in. Ateneo coach Arnulfo Merida knows this and he’s infused the team with remnants of its last three-peat squad. For team captain Pat Ozaeta, the moment he stepped into Ateneo’s back four, he helped turn the team’s fortunes around with his stellar defense. A model of consistency and dedication, he has been a rock and has received accolades from teammates, alumni, and foes alike. And he has been an inspiration to his teammates and even his younger brother Fred who turned the sport from a mere pastime into a passion. The Ozaeta brothers along with Alvin Perez, Doods Lansang, Jolo Peralta, Gino Tongson, and Gerard Cancio have strapped the team onto their backs and gave the school something great to cheer for in the new year.

And in a sparkling turnaround from a dismal Season 69 they’ve played heads up ball ¾ of the way. They showed what they can do with their backs against the wall when they stole a game from UP in the late second round. And they answered FEU by beating them at their own game in game one of the finals. But the end game magic ran out in match two.

I wondered if it was an omen when the FEU Lady Tamaraws also ended an era for La Salle women’s football as they dealt the green and white’s great sweeper Stephanie Pheasant her first finals loss. I mentioned it to my batchmate and fellow sports shooter Philip Sison (who also once played for Ateneo) who optimistically told me that it might be nothing. But when the Tamaraws midfielder Glester Sobremisana flicked in a goal from close range after he was unmarked by the Ateneo defense (he even had time to control the ball), I felt my hair stand up. In all our finals’ appearances in UAAP football, when the opposition scored first they went on to win the game and the series. In 1997, La Salle’s Norman Azarcon scored the match’s first goal before Vince Santos equalized. But within minutes, the greenies’ Christian Lozano smashed in the game winner. In 1998, the rubber match of the three-title series between the two arch-rivals, La Salle scored first before Monch Espejo equalized. But by the second half, La Salle found its range as they peppered the Ateneo goal for four more goals.

Last season, Ateneo scored a measly four goals in eight matches. This year, they had 19 but were held scoreless for the second time in the tournament by a very good FEU team that sought redemption for their lackluster finish last year.

As Gino Tongson crumpled to the ground, James Arco ran over to placate the fallen winger who cried unabashedly. Pat Ozaeta quickly made the rounds picking up teammates urging them to stand up and be proud of their accomplishments. Ozaeta fought back his own as for one final time he led the team to bid their supporters a heartfelt “thank you.” Merida lurked outside the pitch unsure of what to feel or say but his face couldn’t mask the pain. He was kicking himself too for not being on the bench. His game one gambit of getting sent off backfired. For one final moment he wasn’t there to prop the team up during halftime and it was obvious the team missed their head coach in spite of the able job done by Manlulo.

Ozaeta was named the tournament’s best defender for a third time in his college career. Rufino Mantos was adjudged the best goalkeeper while defender Miguel Tuason the Rookie of the Year. It was small consolation for them but when you put things in perspective, for all the team’s belief that it could challenge for a title, they were never seeded to compete for it. FEU, UST, and even UP were considered the favorites. Instead, the blue and white almost snatched another improbable victory.

There’s no consolation for a losing side.

But for what it’s worth… thanks for a great season, team.

One big fight!

Author’s dedication:
For Pat Ozaeta and Alvin Perez. For always being forthright and open with their thoughts and ideas. And those long chats online and offline about the game and life.
For James Arco, Gino Tongson, and Gerard Cancio who are always great interviews.
For Ompong Merida… simply the best coach in the country bar none.
For Bob Manlulo and Jong Castaneda for always providing the inside word.
For the University Athletics Office for their support.
For Atty. Eric Ingles an inspiration on and off the field.
For former Ateneo keeper Jerry Ngo who is always a model of restraint.

Mizuno sale!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Talking football in Bangkok

It was a little intimidating hobnobbing with the top brass of Thailand's KPMG, AIG, SIFE, and HSBC not to mention some American and regional partners during cocktails at KPMG's corporate HQ but there we were. Some 30 of us at the 48th floor of the Empire Tower in Sathorn, Bangkok easily one of the tallest buildings in the area (the building goes up to the 50s) in a beautiful night with good weather. The view from the boardroom offers a spectacular view of Bangkok's lights and sights and traffic. It was great! Maybe not as great from the view of AIG Tower or the New World Hotel in Hong Kong, but great nonetheless.

I got to chat with Mr. Bellamy, a British expat who has been based in Asia and Thailand like forever. It was all about work before we drifted off to football. He was pleasantly surprised to meet a Filipino football fan and one so passionate at it. "I always thought that whenever I'd meet a Filipino we'd always have to talk about basketball," he said. Not that he didn't like hoops. Far from it, he was an NBA fanatic as well. But of course, the world game was dear to his heart.

One of the regional managers who hired me, Dennis Lee is from Singapore. We share two similarities... we both root for Liverpool FC and share the same birthdays. Of course that isn't the reason why I'm working for them.

I was down with the flu since Saturday night (Feb 17) and the evening three-hour flight from Manila to Suvarnabhumi Airport didn't help. In case you all didn't know, I suffer from travel sickness. It causes nausea and triggers massive headaches. In spite of that, it doesn't damper my enthusiasm for travel. There are days when I deal with it better and there are days when I don't. This is one of the latter.

But we were all up at 3:30am to watch Inter Milan pay a visit to Anfield for the first time since 1965 when Bill Shankly was still managing the Merseyside team. It seemed destined to go into a scoreless draw and an advantage to Inter since the next leg would be at the San Siro not a friendly place for opposing teams to play just like Anfield. But the Reds got two goals in the final five minutes from Dirk Kuyt and a fantastic strike from Steven Gerrard that skirted right through Inter Milan defenders.

Personally, I thought that the two yellow cards offered to Marco Materazzi were a shame as Fernando Torres either tripped by himself or did a good bit of acting, but I guess it was equal since the referee didn't call two obvious handballs inside the Italian team's box. Whether those were make up calls (of which the commentators thought they were), we'll never know. But what's it with these refs? I thought that in yesterday's finals game between FEU and Ateneo, he should have called a foul on the Tams' Jason Cordova would dropped Gerard Cancio inside the penalty area.

But anyways, my conversation drifted off to our best elevens:
keeper: Peter Schmeichel
defenders: Paolo Maldini, Roberto Carlos, John Terry, Alessandro Nesta
midfielders: Zinedine Zidane, John Barnes, Marcel Desailly, Steven Gerrard
forwards/strikers: Ian Rush, Diego Maradona

Shopping in Bangkok looking for football shops, there's the Arsenal store in Central World (the Francesc Fabregas kit costs like 3,300 baht), Star Soccer in Discovery Center (with a Fernando Torres kit for 3,25 baht and dozens and dozens of dvds on Real Madrid, LFC, ManU, Arsenal, Brasil, and lots of others), Junior's Sports in MBK (with a huge line of Class A name kits from Milan's Maldini, Chelsea's Ballack and Shevchenko, Manchester United's Ronaldo, Rooney, and believe or not, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Barca's Eto'o, Ronaldinho, and Henry, and lots more.

Of course there are the regular stores from adidas that carries at least a dozen kits. The only name kits they have are Beckham's Galaxy and Nakamura's Japanese national team.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Meet the real Sporty Spice

Namwannoi Sakboonwa is one of Thailand's popular singers. But even before she became a pop music idol, Namwannoi more popularly known as Kratae, was a top flight Muay Thai fighter. She figured in 40 fights and narrowly missed being an international champion as she lost to Japan's Isabe Watanabe in 2003. But she did win Thailand's 45 kg class title a year earlier.

While Kratae was good at kicking and kneeing, her weakness was her face which she tried so hard to protect because of her singing career.

Well her fight days are on hiatus as she's concentrating on her musical career. But when she does go back into the ring, she hopes to fight a man. Whoa!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ateneo Men's Football #11 Awakenings, A Gambit, and Grand Theft

Match #11
February 17, 2008
Erenchun Field
Ateneo De Manila University

For all the talk that Ateneo had taken the full measure of the talented and highly vaunted Far Eastern University Tamaraws, the Blue Booters once more came out flat in game one of the Season 70 UAAP football finals. Outhustled and outmuscled in almost every play, it seemed that the Tamaraws were going to score first.

Ateneo coach Arnulfo “Ompong” Merida stamped, cajoled, and cussed. He abandoned his cherished strategy of pairing his two playmakers at the same time in Jolo Peralta and Gab Siojo by inserting James Arco early in the game.

With the offense sputtering, Merida rode the referee for not calling a handball by an FEU defender inside the box that would have given Ateneo a penalty shot and possibly a jump in the scoring department. Incensed about the continuous verbal barrage, the referee sent Merida packing not just for the game but for the season (since the next game is officially the final match of the tournament). As the players on the pitch looked to the bench in confusion and in search for guidance, assistant coach and former Blue Booter Bob Manlulo pushed his hands down as a sign to the Ateneo team to settle down. He then pointed his finger to Peralta. “Fight for that ball,” he yelled.

“Sana mag-work,” Manlulo muttered under his breath referring to Merida’s gambit. It worked for Ateneo as they soon took over the discombobulated Tamaraws, who were no longer free to roam and attack and dictate the pace of the game.

The Blue Booters loaded up the midfield by sending up Fred Ozaeta and Migs Tuason to help Peralta gain possession of the ball and to attack. With the Tamaraws’ star striker Jovanie Simpron marked well by the defense, FEU’s offense bogged down. And for the second time in four days (dating back to Match 10 played on Valentine’s Day), the FEU XI exhibited signs of fear.

“We took away their shots and now it was our turn,” said a visibly elated Gino Tongson who once more scored another crucial goal versus FEU. “There was fear in their eyes. Alam na namin we had them.”

After a scoreless draw in the first half, Tongson made good on a brilliant cross by Gerard Cancio in the 52nd minute. As the ball perfectly made its way into the middle of the box, Tongson remembered his training. “Most guys would hit it from one touch. But if I wanted to get a good shot, I knew I had to control the ball first (or yari ako kay Coach Ompong),” he told himself as he used his chest and foot to corral the ball. And in one motion, he pirouetted and smashed a shot from almost point blank range. 1-0 Ateneo as the predominant blue and white crowd let out a collective roar of relief and celebration. Tongson cartwheeled once and pointed to the crowd.

Twenty minutes later off a perfect bending free kick by skipper Pat Ozaeta, Alvin Perez broke away from his defender and headed home the insurance policy past FEU keeper Brick Caballero. 2-0 Ateneo. Said Perez, “Last night (before the game), coach told me that I wasn’t getting possession of the ball during corners or freekicks. Importante na hindi lang makipagsabayan but maunahan ko sila. Sweet!”

FEU Tamaraws coach Adolfo Alicante held out his hands and yelled to his team, “Ayaw niyo na ba lumaban?” In the last three years, his team made its living off pinpoint passing, placing multiple attackers in scoring position, and playing stingy defense. And the much-maligned Ateneo team, reeling from the loss of multiple key personnel from the three-peat years, stole a page from FEU’s playbook and looked ready to upend the Tamaraws in championship play for the second year in a row (they were upset by UST last season).

Despite the presence of its strong back four, Ateneo has paraded talented scorers including Cancio, Tongson, Peralta, and James Arco. With Arco a nuisance particularly to FEU’s central back Jason Cordova (that led to two free kicks by Pat Ozaeta one which Perez headed home) and Peralta providing steady playmaking, FEU was in trouble. And now the Blue Booters picked up their first win versus the Tamaraw squad in two years and were brimming with confidence.

“One more game,” smiled Pat Ozaeta referring to the title match and his last as an Ateneo player. “I missed this.”

So did we all.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Superman is back in the building!

Bleachers' Brew #95 The Dishonest Season

by rick olivares

(This appears in the Monday, February 18, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror. I'll be in Thailand from Sunday to Thursday for work but I'll try to post stuff.)

In the dystopian Kingdom Come, the graphic novel masterpiece of Mark Waid and Alex Ross told of a world of super-heroes gone wrong. With more and more people finding themselves with powers beyond belief, the concept of human achievement in venues such as the Olympics and the Nobel Prizes were condemned to the dustbins of history. Who could tell if athletes, scientists, or ordinary people had the advantage of the meta-gene that set them apart from ordinary people?

The story has since become one of the milestones in the comic book medium and a runaway best-seller. Now if you take away the fantastical setting and premise, the world in which we live in is no different.

Time was I‘d skip the front page for the sports section for I could have sworn that the nation’s leaders were actually a rogues’ gallery of glory hounds, thieves, and even bigger thieves. Now the sports page features among others a rogues’ gallery of thieves, cheats, and even bigger cheats. It’s the fall season for professional and amateur (is there any difference) sports.

Sports is said to be a metaphor for life. It’s become a cliché to say that it’s a test of character that brings out the best and the worst in people. Sports’ achievers have been feted as royalty as they’ve become icons and millionaires. Yet in their quest for immortality, some have become denial kings aghast, angry, and even belligerent in their protests of any wrong doing. And following a fall from grace after they’ve been outted as cheats they whimper and ask for forgiveness. Even if their awards and medals are returned, their records taken down, and their time in jail eventually served, where does that leave everyone? I personally feel cheated because I rooted for some of them. Paid good money to watch them live when I could have stayed home tuned to Comcast. And what’s worse is the recognition that should have been rightfully another’s has long since passed. If there was an opportunity for their own 15 minutes of fame, it’s all yesterday.

I followed the great home run chase of the late 1990’s by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and a couple of years later by Barry Bonds. It was just one of those feats in sport that seemed so unreachable and unattainable. When Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle embarked on their own journey to break Babe Ruth’s record of 60 slams in 1961, Maris was called out as a nuisance and a malingerer; an unworthy heir as opposed to Mantle who despite his Oklahoma roots was the All-American poster boy for power and grace. Such was the pressure on Maris that his hair was falling out in clumps. Of the 26 names and numbers of various pinstriped personnel honored in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, perhaps aside from Billy Martin, Maris’ tenure in pinstripes is actually a sad story. I believe that he seemed more relaxed and appreciated when he played his final season with the St. Louis Cardinals where he won his last World Series.

McGwire and Sosa and to an extent Bonds weren’t treated this way. People came out to watch them. An increase in home runs in just about every major league ballpark saw a huge influx of fans into the game so baseball looked the other way in spite of the whispers of doped up players. And now people like Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, and Paul Lo Duca -- sluggers all -- have all been called out for using performance enhancing drugs. I watched Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Troy Glaus, Miguel Tejada, and Lo Duca among many others. Now, rather than “Let’s go, Yankees” I feel like chanting, “Clean up, baseball. Clean up, baseball.” These rascals have created a league of their own and with apologies to Tom Hanks, there should be crying for baseball.

Unfortunately, the diamond isn’t the only one afflicted by controversy. Even the links haven’t exactly been safe. Golf legend Gary Player sometime last year admitted to knowing of one player who admitted to steroid use. He even hinted of even others making use of these performance enhancing drugs. In the wake of the Mitchell Report and the new US Congressional hearings on baseball (a real joke in my opinion when they should be putting an end to that stupid war in Iraq instead), it has been rather too quiet in the fairways.

And there’s tennis where Martina Hingis career is broken for a second time (the first was when she took her sabbatical after being mercilessly booed for being a boor) after testing positive for cocaine use. To compound matters, Nikolay Davydenko is being investigated for game fixing and some fans were thrown out the other week from a tournament in Belgium for on-site betting.

The Indiana Hoosiers’ coach Kelvin Sampson is ironically under investigation for recruiting violations by an ethics committee he put together a few years ago to address the ills of US college basketball. This is definitely one case of not practicing what you preach.

There’s Marion Jones and Dwain Chambers the latest in a long line of speedsters who have left a track of tears for athletics. In Europe, UEFA is investigating allegations of game fixing in football. There’s the Tour De France and the Olympics… the dopesters paradise. And there’s the home front with its myriad of problems that are of front page material.

And now I’m thinking of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower and the lines that go… “There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief. There’s so much confusion here, I can’t get no relief.”

So the sports page that used to be my source of good news (even if my teams lost) is no longer a refuge for its become the front page with its rogues in sneakers.

The Extra Point:
I’m not a fan of the New England Patriots. While it might have been cool for them to go 19-0 and once and for all lash those boorish 1972 Miami Dolphins to an anchor and drop them off at sea, the fact that Spygate won’t go away is largely upsetting. The widening of the probe, the alleged collusion of former Patriots employees in the videotaping of opponent’s training, and the $100 million class action suit casts the Patriots’ three Super Bowl wins in bad light. Makes me relieved that 19-0 did not enter the lexicon of champions.

But no worries, there are some 580 people in Managua, Nicaragua who are happy to be the unlikely beneficiaries of discarded t-shirts and hats that proclaim the Patriots as Super Bowl XLII champions.

Where's the party?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Date with an Angel

Angel Aquino will never strike you as an athletic person. If ever, she'll oft be associated as one of the country's prettiest faces and a showbiz personality. The fact that she endorses the three stripes is a wonder to her because when she was in school, she was asked to try out for both the women's basketball and volleyball teams. "But I don't have an athletic bone in my body," she cheerfully admits. "Once upon a time I rooted for the Ginebra San Miguel team of Sonny Jaworski. I followed and watched that team. Who didn't?"

Incredibly, she's a former Tulong Dunong scholar from Barangka, Marikina. Angel says that TD and meeting and learning under Fr. James O'Brien and Onofre Pagsanghan changed her life. "Education steered me clear the direction of my family's life. It gave me a sense of purpose. And learning from Jesuit-trained students fascinated me. Even hearing the students speak in English fascinated me. It was like 'English could be spoken well enough by Filipinos.'"

We chatted for an hour and a half and towards the end of it, one of the buntings in Kopi Roti -- a heart since it was Valentine's Day -- fell beside us. We both looked at it and laughed hard. Then I said, "I'm sorry. I'm taken." And we laughed even harder.

The moment we stepped out of Kopi Roti, a cab --without us flagging it down -- immediately pulled over. Iba na, I guess, ang magandang babae. Without any pretensions, she went back to Barangka (she resides in Cainta) where she and her sister operate a business. I went to Ateneo to watch football.

I'll work on the story when I get back from Thailand.


My favorite New York Yankee is none other than Paul O'Neill. I always thought that he was one of the better players in baseball when he was traded by the Cincinnati Reds to New York in November of 1992 so Ithought that was a steal. And I was ecstatic! Whenever I watch his game 5 send-off at Yankee Stadium I get goosebumps. I've never seen that kind of love and buzz for an athlete before. Maybe Michael Jordan's final game in Atlanta in 1998. That was freaking awesome too.

Since he retired following the 2001 season (a little over a month after 9-11), the #21 has not been seen on the backs of any Yankee player. Until now. I heard it's going to some newbie.

Hey, Hank Steinbrenner. Paulie was the heart and soul of those great Yankee teams of the 90's. The moment he stepped out into the diamond in pinstripes, he gave his everything to the team and helped New York to play-offs every year with four World Series titles to boot.

Do the right thing for this great right fielder. Put his number in Monument Park.