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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bleachers Fixtures: A chat with Jude Turcuato

(Jude was boss for two years at Solar Sports. You could spend a whole day talking sports with this guy who can steer you clear of the mainstream line of thinking to consider the alternative. Good opinions from someone who knows his stuff. And he's got a mean game of hoops too.

Jude moved to Chicago around the same time that Michael Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and he did get to see the Great One play.)

Rick: You went to Northwestern University. Any particular storied teams you were able to watch during your time in the US?
Jude: NU was in the big ten so I was lucky enough to watch a lot of the players in the league. Of course we lost most of those games but my time encompassed the Fab Five so I got to see Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard. I thought the best player I watched during my time was Jimmy Jackson who played for Ohio State at that time. But players like Calbert Cheaney (Indiana), Kendall Gill (Illinois), Michael Finley (Wisconsin), Voshon Leonard (Minnesota) and others played at least a game on campus against our team.

Our best player my freshman year was Rex Walters who led the Big Ten in scoring but he eventually transferred to Kansas and had a solid NBA career.

One guy I did get to watch some was Todd Martin who became a consistent top 10 tennis player. The tennis courts were near my dorm so got to watch him a lot.

DePaul was also a favorite team growing up evenbefore going to NU. Terry Cummings, Rod Strickland were players I got to watch a few times at the Rosemont Horizon in the suburbs. And there was QRich who played when I was already living in the Philippines.

Rick: Any big time US college athlete that you saw but never made a splash in the pros?
Jude: The guy who I got to watch as a HS player and was the #1 recruit into college was Marcus Liberty. He played for the Chicago public league and we all tried to catch a glimpse cuz we all thought he would be the next star into the NBA. He never really made an impact even at Illinois and even became a PBA import once. Otherwise, I thought Jimmy Jackson was gonna be
a bigger star than he was as he was totally awesome in college.


Rick: You were on Ateneo Blue Eagles' Team B. Who were some of your teammates and what was the highlight of your Team B career? What tourneys did you play in?
Jude: I didn't really last as I quit after about a month into it because of the Silverstar opportunity. My coach was Mark Molina and the veterans of the team were Red Camua, John Verayo, and Junie Rentosa. Mon Tioseco, the Sison twins, Tonichi Pinzon, Ryan Acosta, and Vince Santos were all part of that team. I think Baroy Morga and Mark Cristi were also on the training team. I was part of a Fr. Martin lineup once but never really made any kind of impact or any playing time. One highlight might be that I was the training partner of Ma Ming, the player from China. I actually became good friends with him since we worked out together for a few months.

Rick: You consider Solar Sports a dream job. What makes it so and do you get to ball with any NBA-types?
Jude: I think it's a dream job because it satisfies three simple criteria: 1) I love and enjoy the elements involved with the job... running a sports TV network. 2) I'm pretty good at doing it... I think I have a pretty good grasp of the local sports industry and how to sell and market it, and 3) it's financially sustainable to do... it's a sustainable business and it pays the bills. As far as balling with NBA types, I was able to play with former players like Spud Webb, BJ Armstrong, and Tim Hardaway during our media scrimmages for the All Star weekends. Boris Diaw and Roni Turiaf also joined in those sessions. It's definitely an awesome experience to be on the same court with talent like that. Otherwise I just get to meet some of the NBA All-Stars .

Rick: Being in such a high-profile job, you get to meet a lot of dignitaries. Has anyone impressed you in anyway in terms of achievements and maybe their involvement in a sport or a cause?
Jude: I don't really meet as many dignitaries and people think but I do get to meet and work with the top sports personalities locally and sometimes internationally like Bob Arum and Gary Shaw. It is a great learning for me to see how most of the influential sports people work . The PBA board, the PBL board, all the boxing promoters, NSAs, the media and others like MVP who are passionate about sports and does a lot in its advances its cause.

Rick: Why the split between Solar and BTV when there could have been a super-channel? Wasn't Solar weakened by such a move?
Jude: I'm not sure if "split" would be the description because when I came in to Solar, there were already two sports channels. I think it was because there were too many properties to fit into one channel. We just thought that segregating basketball out of all other sports was justifiable because of the interest and love of Filipinos for the sport. It seems it has worked ratings, revenues and awareness for the two sports channels have gone up. Our other channel "Sports Plus" wasn't getting the awareness and revenues we wanted. So Solar and BTV turned out to be much much better than Solar and SportsPlus.


Rick: People have an idea of how big a Manny Pacquiao fight is. Tell us what is it like in scope. I understand that when a fight is on, the world literally stops for Solar and maybe the Philippines.
Jude: It is HUGE! The main component of course in the television broadcast. We have to juggle the airings between GMA7, Crime and Suspense, and Solar Sports. The last few fights have been the highest rated programs of all time in the Philippines. There are also closed circuit airings in theaters and many other areas like bars, restaurants and large public venues. All those locations need servicing to make sure the satellite feed is in order. Then there's pay per view in all the cable affiliates. Then the local coverage in Vegas has to be taken cared of. Even to the extent as to who sings the national anthem is coursed through us which makes this whole undertaking very expensive. Then the DVD/VCD goes out. Then the post fight celebration. That is outside of all the marketing involved, new media such as web and wireless, etc.

Rick: Has Solar been affected by the move from Sky Cable to Global Destiny? What about the new properties like Euro 2008 and the Olympics? How can a viewer best watch these great events?
Jude: There was an initial effect on ratings and reach. During the switch in January 1, the ratings and reach dropped about 30%. But because of the new sign-ups to destiny, Feb numbers posted a growth of almost 15%. March looks good once again so we are expecting that by April our ratings and reach will be back to our numbers from 2007 since the NBA playoffs start and many more will continue to sign up to Destiny. Subscribing to any cable provider outside of Sky would give you access to Olympics and Eurocup.

Rick: What's the best basketball game you've ever called?
Jude: The 2002 final four game between ADMU and UE. Gec Chia hit the game winning shot. (That was his famous... "Gec Chia... for the wiiiiiiinnn!")

Thanks, Jude!

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