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

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 atenista.net. “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 ateneo.edu. 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!

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