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.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Old venues. Old school.

Wherever there are ballparks or arenas there are memories.

I paraphrased that from Tom Stanton’s book The Final Season where the author attended every single home game of the Detroit Tigers in their swansong campaign at the old and venerable Tiger Stadium in 1999 in an attempt to explore what the venue and the sport meant to him and four earlier generations of his family. In 2000, the Tigers made the new and ritzy Comerica Park their home effectively saying goodbye to one of the two oldest ballparks in America (the other being Fenway Park as they simultaneously opened on April 20, 1912). And by September this year, that grand old barn at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Boulevard in south Detroit that was also home to the NFL Lions will be demolished. So much for the old ball park being declared a historical site.

Americans have a saying, “If you love baseball, chances are you learned and picked up the game from your father.” I actually picked up basketball from my dad, but baseball… I learned the game from my grandfather and an almanac. So the latter is officially adopted into my family.

And that brings to mind that memorable Mastercard commercial:

Two tickets $46

Two hotdogs, two popcorns, two sodas $27

One autographed baseball $50

Real conversation with eleven-year old son: priceless!


My father and I used to go to a lot of events together. There were of course the UAAP basketball games and concerts including the odd Club Dredd (when it was situated in EDSA) gig now and then. We even went to Gapo back in the day to watch bar bands way back when the Americans were still in Subic and Dick Gordon was city mayor.

And now that I’m older, I try to watch my kids play when I can. Even watching my eldest son in the Ateneo Football Center is a blast.

During the Holy Week vacation, we all watched a World Cup 2006 Primer DVD that engrossed us for more than two hours. My eldest is an AC Milan fan while my youngest loves Arsenal. Me on the other hand… I root for that team sponsored by probably the best beer in the world. So you can imagine what it’s like when we all play the FIFA game on PS3. We’ve all got our own allegiances.

But ballparks and arenas. Yes, they do hold memories. Powerful ones.

So you can imagine what it is like for the Canseco Fieldhouse faithful.

For the 2007-08 season, the Indiana Pacers have not sold out one home date at all. We all know how basketball is a religion in Indiana. And as it is aptly written in the Canseco Fieldhouse website, “If you have a religion, you must build the appropriate cathedral. In Indiana, basketball is religion. Conseco Fieldhouse is the cathedral.”

The upper tier seats have been mostly empty. And that translates into a little over 1/3 of the 18,000-plus seats that have been gathering dust.

Ever since the team imploded in the wake of the 2004 Malice at the Palace, the team has spiraled from the upper echelon of NBA teams to one of the worst. Not New York Knicks bad. But definitely close. And the empty seats is a sign that the fans are unhappy.

Bad draft picks. Poor trades. Malcontents in tank tops. Whatever happened to their upstanding ballplayers who nearly led them to the top of the NBA?

The word is that the Indiana Pacers may soon lose long time GM Donnie Walsh and team President Larry Bird who lost whatever magic they displayed early on. But whether the two stay or are replaced, this team clearly cannot field this roster for the next season. Professional sports has clearly corrupted the old school values that many hold dear and that doesn’t make it an less easy to land players of solid character.

But in a land that describes the sport as its official religion, a heaping helping of purity won’t hurt.

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Read Marty Blake's short piece on Joakim Noah's rookie season with the downtrodden Chicago Bulls here...

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/marty_burns/03/21/noah.bulls/index.html


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