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, April 29, 2008

Old School Ben Tumblings

Time to bring back the Prodigal Son

Kenny Smith confirmed Sunday that he will interview for the general manager job of the New York Knicks this week. Smith, who attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, is scheduled to meet with the new Knicks president Donnie Walsh.

Smith was evasive about his interest in the Knicks when fellow TNT broadcast analyst Ernie Johnson asked him about the report that he would be meeting with Walsh. Smith merely smiled and said, "There is a possibility."

Smith is one of several candidates including former Knicks Herb Williams, Patrick Ewing, and Mark Jackson being considered for the GM job currently held by Glen Grunwald, who will also have a chance to hold on to the position. Former Sixers GM Billy King, whose stock has soared in recent weeks, is expected to be interviewed, as will Rick Sund.

What the Knicks need now is a veteran but respected coach to get them over the hump. With all due respect to the former Knicks applying for the job, this is not a time to go with a rookie coach who will earn his stripes during the season.

Like I said before, go with the best one, bring back PhilJax to New York.

Get the late Red Holzman to communicate to him via a dream just to make this happen.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda Part I

The Dallas Mavericks' trade for Jason Kidd backfired.

The Phoenix Suns should have kept Shawn Marion.

Mike D'Antoni repeat after me... I must not leave anyone open for a three-point shot with the game on the line. I must not leave anyone...

Did Byron Scott get a measure of revenge when it looks like he struck paydirt with New Orleans while Jason Kidd gets sent off and his spineless Dallas Mavericks will follow suit?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #105 More Than A Game

(This appears in my Monday April 28, 2008 column in the Business Mirror.)

More Than A Game
by rick olivares

In a pub, one man said to another, "My wife thinks I put football before marriage. That’s rubbish. Why we just celebrated our third season together."

When the late Bill Shankly made his bold proclamation about football being more important than life and death, many thought that it was mere hyperbole. After the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters, some ventured that the famous quote bordered on the extreme. Yet one thing is for sure, the game does permeate itself into one’s consciousness the torpedoes be damned.

Between reports that men prefer to go to a sporting event to having sex -- Deportivo La Coruna's midfielder Julian de Guzman* promised that if he scored against Real Madrid earlier this year, he would give up sex for a whole year. "I don't have a girlfriend and I'm willing to make sacrifices to help the team beat the leaders," he said. "I know what it's like to score against [Madrid keeper Iker] Casillas and it was like an orgasm” -- and how divorces can be even more acrimonious when it comes to those season tickets, football is now seeking to unite in many ways rather than be divisive like a hooligan.

A full Heathcotes wedding awaits those who live and breathe Liverpool FC at their home field of Anfield. It isn’t solely “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that you can sing together, but songs of Holy Matrimony! And now no wedding has to be interrupted with occasional updates on scores, yellow cards, and substitutions. You’re right there above the Kop where the bride and the groom can tell whoever is marrying them to “get on with it” so they can get on with the game.

Liverpool literally rolls out the red carpet for the bride and groom’s arrival at the stadium. The club does all the running around whether the ceremony is for a small intimate number (where the party can be situated in one of the executive boxes) or for a bigger party (they’re booked in one of the tastefully decorated lounges). And to make the wedding even more memorable, the club “can source speakers, entertainment or one of our famous ex-players to add to your event.”

Isn’t that cool? Now when a couple goes to watch a home game, it’s more than just telling their children to come that, “I sat here when the lads tallied eight goals against Besiktas.” It now includes, “this is where yer mam and yer da got hitched now.”

But where the rest of one’s so-called life begins there’s also the opposite – death.

Argentina’s Boca Juniors football club – which is second only to AC Milan for the total number of international championships it has won – has one of the world’s most rabid followings. It is here where even the fans follow their heroes to their graves.

In the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, it is popular for the club’s supporters to have their ashes scattered on the pitch at the club's stadium of Estadio Alberto J. Armando or as it is more popularly known as La Bombonera (“the Chocolate Box” in English for the stadium’s uncanny resemblance to one). But this ritual has had its problems. "Many Boca fans leave instructions to their families to scatter their ashes on the playing field," said Orlando Salvestrini, a team official. "They would arrive on weekdays with their urns and scatter the ashes on the playing field." Boca's press officer, Laura Acosta, added: "You could see little mounds of ashes left afterwards and this would cause problems with the conditions of the pitch.”

Not wanting to displease their massive fan base, team management established a cemetery just south of Buenos Aires. Now with turf transplanted from La Bombonera and graves of former Boca players transplanted from elsewhere in the cemetery, die-hard (pun intended) fans can be buried alongside their heroes. The cemetery features a fountain designed with the club’s blue-and-yellow crest and blue-and-yellow walls with the names of the deceased inscribed on them. "Boca fans are very passionate," pronounced Salvestrini. "It is an eternal love where we can all together cheer our club from heaven."

That’s great. Take the fans money while their alive and take it still when they’re pushing up daisies.

Taking a cue from Argentina, German club Hamburg put up Europe’s first football cemetery. One of the graveyard’s masons explained why it was necessary for such a patch of land that is just a stone’s throw away from the club’s home field of HSH Nordbank Arena: "If you think about people supporting a club for 30, 40, 50 years, it's part of their life. So why shouldn't it be part of their death?" The cemetery’s designs included an archway entrance made to look like goal posts, while the graves would be arranged on three levels in a football stadium kind of look.

Since the Hamburg graveyard is in a highly urban area where real estate is limited and expensive to come by, Bestattung Wien, a local metal works company has been producing urns for those opting for cremation. The urns cost around £280 (that’s Php 23,254.87 for the forex conscious). "We are doing this as it is European Championship year," said Wittigo Keller, curator of the funeral company's museum referring to Euro 2008 which is in its semifinals stage. “In the last year, there have been plenty of reports of football clubs helping their fans prepare for their own personal final whistles by reserving plots for themselves at official club graveyards.”

One Hamburg fan, Ernst Schmidt, declared that it was a wonderful idea to build a cemetery next to the stadium. " I'm considering reserving myself a space. But it's difficult, because my wife has already been buried in a different cemetery."

Even in death, something comes between sports and one’s marriage.

In between Shankly’s statement is that age old adage that singer Dave Matthews so cheerily warbled about: “eat and be merry for tomorrow you may die.”

And at North Holloway, London, supporters of Arsenal can take their wives or girlfriends to enjoy a hearty pre-match meal whilst being entertained by an ex-player in the fans’ restaurant, Highbury House. The restaurant overlooks the magnificent Emirates Stadium, providing supporters with a relaxed setting and the perfect build up to the game.

During the Gunners’ recent quarterfinals clash with Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League, the restaurant offered fans a discounted treat:

  • Three-course buffet £29.95 (normal price £39.95)
  • Three-course Buffet with drinks - £45.00 (normal price £55.00)
  • And a children’s menu (13 years or younger) - £14.95 (normal price £19.95)

Real Madrid’s famous stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu, located in the financial district of Madrid boasts of three first-class restaurants – the Asador de la Esquina, Puerta 57, and the Real Café Bernabeu -- that serve Grade-A beef from the Guadarrama Mountains, traditional Spanish cuisine, and a spectacular T-bone steak. The Real Cafe terrace is open every summer from 10 am and is one of the most attractive places in Madrid to have a drink. And get this… valet parking is offered.

So for all of football’s current concerns such as South Africa not being ready for the World Cup in 2010, the rich clubs getting richer, and the endless poaching of players for the more popular leagues, the game is indeed embedded in our daily lives. Where a win makes for a euphoric week and a loss, a bout with depression. And the experience… a season of joy.

* Luckily for Deportivo’s de Guzman, he missed out on an orgasmic experience against Madrid (with Depor winning 1-0 thanks to a Pepe own goal), at least he won't have to wait for a whole 12 months before having another one.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Playoff Change is in the Air

If coaches and team officials truly want to change the current NBA playoff format, they are going to get their opportunity this summer after the season's done. "Though I think it is unlikely anything will happen, we will explore it fully," said commissioner David Stern.

There have been several different proposals have been discussed the last couple of years. One is to re-seed teams in each conference after each round - one that is gaining popularity among the top tier teams. Another is for the playoffs to include the 16 top teams in the league, regardless of conference affiliation and simply seed them one through 16. The latter sounds like a joke because that renders the conference barriers irrelevant.

I'm actually not crazy about these changes because it gives the better teams a chance to play the lower seeded teams and move on. All this re-seeding will be done for television ratings and money.

Keep the current format. It's too bad that teams like Phoenix might be given the boot after the first round, but them's the breaks.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

This is what happens when you lose your hops

Man, this is plain hilarious. Those guys -- Ernie, Kenny, and Chuck sure know how to make an NBA game broadcast truly enjoyable.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A great watch. A great find.

Lads, they've got this on sale locally. Php 150. Just gotta look for this in DVD shops. Great narration by Pierce Brosnan, it eschews traditional Limey broadcast emotion for tempered grace in the eye of a football storm. Brosnan doesn't get in the way of the action and when he delivers his lines, they're sumptuous nuggets of information that add to the drama. The music and scoring is so spot on that you'll be moved.

My only complaint is that they didn't show how Zinedine Zidane dismantled Brazil in the quarterfinals.


Jeff Jarrett did good with TNA. It's a better and improved WCW and has way better action than WWE.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Phil Thompson's Reaction to John Arne Riise's Own Goal

Former Liverpool player, team captain, and assistant coach Phil Thompson was with the broadcast panel for the match and this was his reaction.

Me? I kicked the nearest chair into the next room.

I'm still shocked and stunned. Damn.

Boston Public Enemy #30*

Leave it up to Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Bibby to light the fire with the Boston fans. Bibby stuck it to Boston Celtics' fans before practice Tuesday. "They were kind of loud at the beginning," he said. "But a lot of these fans are bandwagon jumpers trying to get on this now. I played here last year, too. And I didn't see three-fourths of them. They're for the team now and they might get a little rowdy but that's about it."

When asked if he thought they were fair-weather fans, joining the party only after Boston's offseason trades that brought the Kid and Jesus Shuttlesworth to Beantown, Bibby didn't hesitate to pour more gasoline on the fire. "You could say that," he said. "I remember them having bags on their heads last year. It's a different look. I guess that's what happens when you win."

To be fair, he's right. The Banknorth TD Garden has had spotty attendance in recent years. But can you blame the fans? It's hard to watch when your team keeps losing.

If you're wondering why Public Enemy #30, then you have to consider the Yankees and their owners first before you can count anyone else. Bwahahaha!

Euro soap

Cristiano Ronaldo is saddened by his spot kick miss. Gianluca Zambrotta can't believe it while his Barcelona teammate Rafael Marquez celebrates their dodge of a bullet. But I'd be worried because now everyone's headed back for Old Trafford after scoreless draw.

Two draws in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semis. More drama.

April 24 NBA Playoff notes

It sure is nice to hear Quinn Buckner calling an NBA game. As a kid, I read how Bobby Knight praised his basketball mind as he helped Indiana University to a national championship and the United States to an Olympic gold medal. While never a spectacular scorer, he was an outstanding defensive guard who knew how to help his teammates get into the flow of the game. After a short but solid spell with the Milwaukee Bucks, he was traded to the Boston Celtics where he won a title in green in 1984.

That ring made him one of three players in American basketball history to win a high school state title (in Chicago), a college championship (with Indiana), an Olympic gold, and an NBA crown. The other two are the New York Knicks' Jerry Lucas and Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson.

The Philadelphia 76ers are a solid scorer and a supersub away from being a good team.

Detroit is a solid team but I wonder if they still have that fire that they displayed several years ago. They can match up with the best of the West but can they do it consistently? As their history shows, they've always had problems with strong-willed opponents who can do a little bit of everything -- shoot, drive, pass, rebound, and take over the game. Of course there's that bald-headed guy from Chicago who is retired right now, there's Manu Ginobili, and LeBron James.

A championship-contending team is put together over the course of a couple of years. They rise from dark horse team to contender where they add a few pieces to the puzzle that should be their cast for a lengthy play-off run.

Remember how Boston added Bill Walton to a team that faltered in 1985? Everyone thought Walton to be washed up but he was the Sixth Man of the Year in 1986 who was a huge factor in the Celtics' title drive that season. The Los Angeles Lakers countered by bringing in another former Portland Trailblazer in Mychal Thompson in 1987 and he was a huge factor in their back-to-back reign of 1987 & 88.

The Detroit Pistons traded away Adrian Dantley for former Mavericks star Mark Aguirre in 1989 and his firepower (though comparable to Dantley's but AD was less willing to give the ball to Isiah Thomas) helped the original Bad Boys to two straight crowns.

The 1990's Chicago Bulls would add a role player almost every year during their six championship years -- Cliff Levingston, Bobby Hansen, Trent Tucker, Dennis Rodman, Brian Williams, and Scott Burrell.

San Antonio got Robert Horry and Steve Kerr, Los Angeles went with Glen Rice, Detroit got Rasheed Wallace...

But teams have to make headway soon for that championship-berth window is open for only a couple of years before it closes. Sacramento and Portland know that all too well. Can we say the same about the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks?

Basketball critics like to say that it's a watered-down league right now and it's unlike the 1980's when Boston and LA ruled. There's something wrong with that. Back then, the Sixers and the Rockets (and later the Pistons) occasionally crashed the party but outside of them, that was it. Now how much fun is that? That meant that most of the league were patsies since they could never beat Boston and LA.

It's more fun seeing more teams compete now even if the Eastern Conference isn't what it used to be.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bobby KOs the Southside

With Alex Rodriguez out of the line-up, opposing pitchers go harder at the Yankees. That's one less dangerous bat to worry about. While this New York team may not be known yet for championship greatness, they are however an offensive juggernaut capable of lighting up the scoreboard with hits and runs. Last year, they scored almost a thousand runs. Not many teams can do that.

So pitching has been their bane since 2003. Except for a guy named Chien-Ming Wang (4-0 for the year) who has been the clear ace of the staff three years running. He tied Ron Guidry for the fastest to reach 50-wins by notching it in his 82nd start.

No A-Rod, but there's still Bobby Abreu who's been good for this team since coming over from the Philadelphia Phillies three years ago. He's better suited than Gary Sheffield ever was. And there's Johnny Damon as well. And the Giambino.

Bobby hit a grand slam -- the seventh of his career to propel the now 11-10 Yanks to a win -- in the seventh inning on Octavio Dotel.

The three of them hit a homer each for their third round-tripper of the year. Three for three and a 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox.

Sheed in the huddle

Stone cold stunner

Liverpool 1 vs. Chelsea 1

I'm shocked and am stunned.

Dirk Kuyt's goal before the half gave Liverpool the edge and turned the spirited Chelsea attack into one of desperation. You could feel the Blues throwing themselves in the way Portugal attacked in the dying moments of the World Cup semis in 2006.

And for the Reds to give up an own goal in injury time, Chelsea has scored a crucial away goal as they head for Stamford Bridge while dreaming of Moscow.

John Arne Riise replaced Fabio Aurelio in the 62nd minute and I wondered if this was going to be like Ole Gunnar Solskaejr when his late entrance and goal helped Manchester United beat Bayern Munich all those years ago. That too, was like Italy's late goals to send Germany home in the last World Cup.

Riise in his eighth year in Liverpool has been a hero at the Kop with his goal-scoring prowess and play in the midfield. But pressure from Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka off a cross forced the Norwegian to head an own goal that was so shocking. I feel like I'm Kirk Hinrich still dazed after a sucky season.

Liverpool was lucky still that Chelsea's top striker, Didier Drogba wasn't awarded a penalty for all the tackling against him by Jamie Carragher. I've always thought that you needed someone like Drogba to guard him. The Ivorian is not only fast but he is powerfully built. Using American football terms, think of Drogba having a linebacker's strength but having the speed of a wide receiver. That's how difficult a match up he is for many a defensive back.

And they've given Avram Grant's side a massive wake up call and they'll be hard to stop at their home field.

I'm stunned and this is not a great way to start the day.

Poll Results: Who will win the NBA championship?

Boston: 26 votes
Los Angeles: 14 votes
San Antonio: 8 votes
New Orleans: 5 votes
Detroit: 3 votes
Cleveland: 2 vote
another team: 9 votes

total 67 votes

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A lot of bull

I pegged the Chicago Bulls to win the East this year. No bull.

I remember even telling an officemate of mine at Solar Sports and he replied, "They'll compete but Boston just might win it all."

The latter is a possibility while the former... well, it leaves everyone shaking their heads. Even their opponents on the court.

They won 49 games last year. This year, that figure is in the "loss" column.

I thought that the downfall started almost immediately. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon not accepting Chicago's new contract offers. The Kobe trade rumors didn't help any. Then they got off once more to a slow start. I even remember telling my former boss at Solar that this looks bad to which he replied, "But they always start slow."

I said, "This is different."

And it sure was. Of course I wish that I was wrong.

Rookie Joakim Noah clashed with teammates and Ben Wallace. Players were injured. Players sulked over getting benched. Players skipped practices. Scott Skiles was fired. They were constantly blown off the court and could never get into a rhythm.

But for all the sour taste in the mouth of a season gone awry, some look forward to staying. “I didn’t get any indication from Pax that I wasn’t in the plans,” Ben Gordon said Friday after his exit interview with General Manager John Paxson. “It’s still very early. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the organization knows what I’m capable of. If they feel that I’m a piece that they need, they’ll make the necessary moves.”

Gordon led the team in scoring but his numbers were down. And furthermore, there's a logjam at the guard position with Kirk Hinrich and Larry Hughes.

“I accept the fact that we won 33 games this year, but we’re better than that,” Paxson said. “We have talent that’s better than that. At the beginning of the year, everybody thought that talent might be conference-finals caliber. Obviously, it isn’t. It seemed like this year when things got going poorly, they just kept going bad and kind of spiraled. You can’t overturn your whole roster. Guys are going to be back here competing and playing, and hopefully, they all take some pride.”

I'm not going to harp on the dynasty that Krause broke up. But there are lessons to be learned. That team had not run its course. And that might not have been the most talented line up but they got the job done. If only because they bent towards the will of one player.

None of which the Bulls have now. If I had to pick teams all over again at the start of this season, would I say the Bulls have what it takes to win? I'd still say yes. I'm still shaking my head. And so are their Eastern foes.

The time is for rebuilding.

Once more. It seems that has been the story since 1999. But as the saying goes, "there's always next year."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #104 Liga Pilipinas: Pride and Passion

(This appears in my column in the Monday, April 21, 2008 edition of Business Mirror.)

The Flights of Infancy
As a young boy, Noli Eala was left to fend for himself. Many of his ideas are products of his childhood when he’d create his own games. A shopping bag was a makeshift hoop with a monopoly board as the backboard. Rulers and pencils served as ramps for motorcycles where his matchboxes were micro versions of Evel Knievel.

And when he wasn’t good enough to make the varsity basketball teams he made sure that he wasn’t on the outside looking in. He’d daydream sure; after all sports does give one visions of glory. He always wanted to be a part of the game yet he never let his frustrations get the better of him. So he always found a way to be a part of the game.

He looks better now. Aside from his sports promotions company, he’s found the time to work out. He talks about a newfound adherence to health and staying fit. His tenure as commissioner of the Philippine basketball Association didn’t end the way he wanted it to but he’s shrugged it off and is back on his feet.

Why not? He’s still in the game.

The Starbucks along Emerald Avenue in Ortigas Center is bustling with a late afternoon crowd seeking relief from the oppressive summer heat. And frappuccinos are the order of the day. We’re seated outside in the smoking area but incredibly no one is smoking. Some are wiping the beads of sweat trickling down their face and necks. It’s the heat, you know. Eala has some tea and is wearing a black golf shirt while exuding calmness that curbs his excitement about his baby.

But after a few minutes, he’s worked himself up talking about Liga Pilipinas – his baby – and it’s like the dam broke. “Passion and pride,” is his cheerful explanation and he takes a sip from his drink. Then he waxes long and eloquent about basketball and life. Yet his sunny disposition belies his concern for the once more chaotic national basketball leadership that never seemed to get a firm grip on the ball a the dispossessed constantly seek a return to power.

The Rebirth of Cool
Liga Pilipinas is a bold new-jack version of the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association. In its brief heyday, the MBA gave the PBA a run for its money. It discovered many a player who eventually became stars in the country’s premier hoops league. And the people felt a part of the league as they had a team to call their own.

“From a basketball perspective, the MBA carried with it a localized style of basketball,” marvels Eala. “It wasn’t scientific. It wasn’t textbook. Maybe it wasn’t polished but the rawness of it was very Filipino. The alahoy shot and the pektus lived and breathed there.” Like the National Basketball Association, there was a feeling of community ownership to the region-based teams.

Liga Pilipinas is an improved version with a lot of modifications and innovations. Eala and Head of Business Development Joey Bautista feel that there is still room in an already crowded basketball republic. “There’s always room for growth,” says Bautista. “Liga Pilipinas is a community-based basketball league.”

Mother of Invention
To date there are 16 teams that will comprise the league – eight in the south and eight in the north with some of the teams already having been named. There are the Zamboanga Latinos (because it is said to be the only Asian Latin city), the Iloilo Warriors, the Cebu Ninos, the Baguio Centennials, and tentatively, the Negros Muscovados. The remaining teams are in the process of having their monikers approved in time for the May 2008 launch.

The tournament will tap into the existing officiating structure while at once develop its own stable of umpires. And once in awhile, there will be foreign officials working side-by-side with the local zebras who will be strictly following FIBA rules rather than hybrid ones. “The league is all about opportunities and inviting foreign referees will greatly help in the transfer of technology,” said the Commissioner who also divulged that the PBA’s former head of officiating, Perry Mariano, was now on board as well.

They’ll be playing in a home and away format that will be economical and incentive-based for all the teams. Teams will be accruing points similar to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) that will greatly tell on the national championship picture as well as other incentives. “It has to be a win-win situation for the teams, the fans, the owners, and our partners – the sponsors,” says a pleased commissioner who admits that the idea for the league was something he was supposed to present to the PBA Board of Governors but never got to do. “It’s a fresh start for all and at once a vibrant opportunity.”

Even the way the league is managed is done in such a way to veer away from the bureaucracy that binds many organizations. There are two bodies that govern the league – one for policy making and one for operations that implements what the think-tank comes up with. “The game is traditional, but the thinking behind it is new for the times,” chimes in Bautista who likes the excitement and initial reception the league has been getting.

All the games will be shown over the internet on as well as a television partner that the league is still working out.

Jump Ball
“The MBA, the National Basketball Conference, and the Mindanao-Visayas Basketball Association, and to a certain degree, the PBA, have proven that there is a market in the provinces. It is doable and financially and economically viable. Part of the task there is finding the right and skilled people to make it all happen,” added Eala.

It’s an ambitious undertaking where as many as four games will be played in one day in 350 different venues in 16 communities. Unlike the MBA which immediately pried away some of the PBA’s stars and emerging collegiate players, Liga Pilipinas hopes to tap into a rich hotbed of undiscovered talent. “It’s an alternative opportunity for players and localities – and there are so much more out there -- to shine,” emphasizes Rico Meneses, the league’s Head of Marketing. “I guess you’ve noticed that’s what we constantly talk about – opportunities.”

Noli Eala nods his head in agreement. He knows it’s a tough job in a market oversaturated with basketball. Yet it’s his unwavering belief that regional basketball is largely untapped that’s why he’s into this. “With a league as big as this, there will always be issues of control and security which we assure are top of the list for us. That will always be a primordial policy for us that our games are clean and fair. It’s important to keep the integrity of the game intact. But like all other leagues we will always be vulnerable to external forces. So what we can do is to be very vigilant. And we’re confident about the outcome because it’s all about playing for pride and passion."

Liga Pilipinas format

Liga Pilipinas in its efforts to bring a fresh and vibrant concept in regional basketball is continuing its refinement of the format. It is in the final stages of developing a format that will ensure both excitement in the games and efficiency in its operations. The format will be a first in basketball — anywhere in the world. It will be a hybrid format inspired by the successful aspects of the formats of such leagues as the Euroleague, UEFA, and the European and PGA Golf Tours.

Exciting and yet operationally efficient. Providing a platform that will push a team to perform at its best all the time since all games will have an impact on the team's chances to acheive further success in the tournament.

The format will feature a series of weekly concentrated tournament legs to be held in each of the homecourts of the participating teams at its onset. Each of the weekly legs will see a leg winner at the end of each week. The leg champion shall not only get the distinction of being declared leg
champion, the team shall also get points that will later account for positional advantage during the Liga Pilipinas National championship.

Leg winners will also get cash prizes as an additional reward.

The format will lessen the expenses incurred for travelling and accommodations since each home team will host one tournament leg rather then travel constantly during the initial stages of the tournament. A home and away format shall then be used during the National championship phase.

The format shall also provide a more concentrated platform for building community and fan affinity for the teams and league sponsors as a series of immersion activities are set to be done during the week-long tournament.

The format is conceptualized in line with Liga objectives of providing fresh, dynamic and efficient ideas.

Format itself is simple - easy for the public to understand --, economical -- cuts costs for the league, teams, sponsors and television partners -- and dynamic -- gives incentives and discourages mediocrity. It also satisfies the appetite of Pinoys for "championships" and quick winners thus, reducing no-bearing games.

Defensive Lapse Redux

This is why you never leave anyone outside the arc free when they're trailing by three come crunchtime. Let Manu Ginobili have the two off the glass if that's what he wants but not the three. The Ateneo Blue Eaglets would know.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

NBA last second shots

Kobe Bryant for MVP… Tim Duncan’s open trey to send the game into overtime in Game One between the revenge series between the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs is the latest in a long line of rotation blunders… Agent Zero, now’s the time to make your case as a big time player who likes to run his mouth unless you’re content being this generation’s Chuck Person… Donnie Walsh is a wus. Why keep Isiah around? What for? Is it the mental torture for him as he will see the turnaround for this woeful franchise… John Paxson, you blew your chance last season. Now’s the time to blow up the damn herd... Houston looks like they're off to another first round exit... Boston versus Los Angeles (there's only one team worth talking about in the City of Angels) in the NBA Finals? I like the sound of that!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I could listen to her talk all day

But what does Melissa Theuriau have to do with a sports blog when she's a news anchor? I'm imagining she's talking about Les Bleus that's what.

Born to Run: One minute with the new track queen Allyson Felix

Sometimes it all starts with a taunt. You know, the kind of teasing that motivates you. Allyson Felix heard it all. "Chicken legs," they laughed at her scrawny 5'6" frame.

But her lithe 125-pound body can dead-lift 360 pounds and power clean another 150. Tiny dynamite Allyson is because she has won four golds and a silver in track competition.

Why do you run?
Allyson: I run to challenge myself and to push my body to do things I didn't think I could do. I also run to stay active and be healthy.

How often do you run?
Alyson: I run for five days a week. I do sprints and long runs.

Where do you usually run or train?
Allyson: If I'm running for fun then I run along the beach in Santa Monica.

What do you usually have in mind when you go running?
Allyson: While training, I already set my goals including what I want to accomplish. I think about all the work I have to put in and how to go about them. It's all about focus. And when I get through all that hard work that once seemed impossible to accomplish it leaves me with such a great feeling.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More reasons to file for undertime or leaves -- the 2008 NBA Playoff Sked on BTV / C&S

Sunday April 20
Washington vs Cleveland Game 1 12:30am BTV
Phoenix vs San Antonio Game 1 3:00am BTV
Utah vs Houston 9:30am Game 1 Crime & Suspense

Monday April 21
Atlanta vs Boston Game 1 8:30am BTV
Denver vs Los Angeles Lakers Game 1 9:30am Crime & Suspense

Tuesday April 22
Utah vs Houston Game 2 9:30am BTV

Wednesday April 23
Dallas vs New Orleans game 2 7:00am BTV

Thursday April 24
Philadelphia vs Detroit Game 2 7:30am BTV
Denver vs Los Angeles Lakers Game 2 10:30am Crime & Suspense

Friday April 25
Orlando vs Toronto Game 3 7:30am BTV

Saturday April 26
Detroit vs Philadelphia Game 3 7:00am BTV
San Antonio vs Phoenix Game 3 10:30am Crime & Suspense

For complete skeds with replays, send me email.

Where's Rick?

I have every single issue of one of the world's most annually anticipated issues since Paulina Porizkova graced their covers. And this was before she met Ric Ocasek! Bwahahaha!

And this begs the same question when people are asked when they buy Playboy (the American edition not the local, dummy), do they read it all or do they just look at the pictures?

Sure I do. Every since about a decade ago when Sports Illustrated began to shoot in multiple locations, they have written travelogues that arguably are the granddaddy of today's travel magazines. For real.

But what changed for readers and pervs this year? No rick Reilly. Where's he at? Is he done sipping pinacolladas with super models?

The last page was by former ESPN Sportscenter Anchor Dan Patrick who moved to SI recently. And it was Dan Patrick on Danica Patrick who posed for this issue.

But what were the cool spreads? Heidi Klum with Will Ferrell for a special tie-in with Semi-Pro, Jessica Gomes, Jarah Mariano, Marisa Miller, and Irina Shayk. They featured some NFL Cheerleaders here but am not much of a fan since Aja left the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2004 season.

But where's Rick Reilly?

By June 1, 2008, he'll be in the pages of ESPN the Magazine (moving after 22 years with SI). That's where.

A Twin Killing

Twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, who will both turn 30 this month, made their debut for the U.S. Davis Cup team in late 2003 when captain Patrick McEnroe overcame his reluctance to select them and thereby leave himself without a true singles replacement.

They've more than vindicated his decision since then, giving the team its first solid pairing since John McEnroe and Peter Fleming's run in the late 1970s and early '80s, and have made the doubles point in the best-of-five competitions almost automatic.

They're currently 14-1 and figure they can keep it going. You gotta see these guys cause they're plenty fun to watch.

Fly Like An Eagle

Enjoying a Michael Jordan revival of sorts at home. Thought it would be cool to post these. I got my "Wings" poster for $1. Yup, a dollar. At a flea market in San Diego.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Able to leap capital T's in a single bound

Anyone remember Letterman from the Electric company? You know, faster than a rolling "O." Stronger than a silent "E." Able to leap capital "Ts" in a single bound.

Now what does that have to do with Kobe? Nothing. So maybe I should have talked about Sean Connery's James Bond who used to drive Aston Martins, eh? Whatever. Kobe does a cool stunt with a cool car.

Don't try this at home, kids.

Thanks to Ogilvy & Mather's Miles Montecillo for reminding me about this. This pretty girl once played for DLSU's Lady Archers basketball team in both high school and in college. She was a former teammate of Erika Dy while at Zobel.

Falling down

A man who attended a New York Mets game yesterday night lost his balance while on the escalator and fell to his death. This Brooklynite was the second fan to fall to his death.

I've only been to Shea Stadium like four times and that was when they were playing the New York Yankees. Those escalators always gave me the creeps more so since I have acrophobia.

Unlike in Yankee Stadium where you just walk up a winding ramp (there are escaltors I figure but does anyone take them) to go to the Upper Tier seats. But once I got to the high up sections I always made it a point that I had the right footing and went up slowly. It is pretty steep up there and I've always wondered if anyone had fallen off. One time though I did see someone lose his balance and fall a couple of rows down but not over the edge. Quite a few people got hurt cause he barreled into people who had their backs turned.

In the middle of a game in the Stadium, the walk way to the upper tier seats gets soaked with beer making it sticky. And I hate that feeling when my kicks become noisy and pick up all sorts of detritus on the streets because of it. But that is something I'd never do -- drink beer during a game. You lose control there's no telling what could happen up there. Especially when it gets windy or when the rain pours down.

But back to the Mets fan, I hope that ballparks look into better safety for the fans. When you see that escalator you'd know what I'd be talking about.

Closing Time

This morning (it's evening in Indianapolis) it ends where it all began for Isiah Thomas. The woebegone New York Knicks play their last regular season game at the Conseco Fieldhouse where Thomas began his coaching career.

Basketball has been extremely good to me. You can't be on top all the time, although I want to be. You've got to overcome the bad times and hold onto your dignity.

-- Isiah Thomas

I thought that Isiah did a good job early on with the Pacers but I'm amazed at how badly it spiraled out of control for him.

Find your peace, Isiah. We should have remembered you for your game.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


A preview of the UEFA Champions League semifinals

(This appears in the Wednesday April 16 and Thursday April 17 editions of Business Mirror.)

The UEFA Champions League is in its semi-final stage and the big clubs are still in the thick of things. At first glance, there are three English teams left and at least one will make it to the finals in Moscow this coming May.

Three of them are in the hunt for a domestic title. Three of them have seen their season’s marred by front office and player discontent. And three of them have been previously crowned as European champions.

And that’s not even the interesting part.

Chelsea vs. Liverpool
This will be the third meeting between the two teams in the last four years. And every one of them have been in the Champions League semis. Liverpool will be going for the hat trick while Chelsea for all their recent domestic success, will once more try their luck for European glory and salvage what has become a nightmarish season.

Chelsea won six pieces of silverware during Jose Mourinho’s three-year tenure as team gaffer. However, all that is a thing of the past when team owner Roman Abramovich fired the Portuguese coach early in the season following a heated row over a poor start and a lack of flair for the beautiful game at Stamford Bridge. Surely, current England boss Fabio Capello can sympathize with “the Special One.”

Avram Grant was appointed in his place and while the Blues stayed with striking distance of the FA Cup, English Premiere League, and Carling Cup at some point in time during the season, injuries and infighting have brought the team on the verge of anarchy. This Champions League semis with Liverpool win or lose could be the last time we’re seeing this side in its current incarnation as some key players have signified their intention of moving out of West London.

Mourinho’s sacking was said to be the unshackling of the miscast Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack, prized acquisitions from last year who both saw more time on the bench than at any other time of their career. Ballack has been resuscitated but the same can’t be said of the Ukrainian Shevchenko who has chafed at a reserve role and has only scored eight goals since his arrival more than a year ago. In sharp contrast, Sheva scored a Serie A record by tallying 24 markers in his maiden season with the Rossoneri. But hope is on the horizon for this goal machine as Milan is once more in talks with Chelsea about reacquiring Sheva to form a frightening 1-2 punch with Ronaldinho (who they also snagged on principle) for next year.

Chelsea has not cornered the market share on boardroom turmoil. They’ll be up against Liverpool that has troubles of its own aside from the usual player disenchantment. Uncannily, the reds have played well as of late despite the distractions of the warring owners. But even with the wins, England striker Peter Crouch who has lost playing time to the acquisition of Dirk Kuyt has signified his intentions of leaving. Australian midfielder Harry Kewell has lost favor with Rafa Benitez and though he’d love to stay at Anfield, his days in the Carlsberg red kits are almost over.

For all their domestic failures since the inception of the English Premiere League, Liverpool seems to come alive during European competition. To say that they’re built for Euro competition is a blot on Rafael Benitez’ reputation as a tactical genius. Why can’t he get his side to play as consistently in the Premiership?

Last year the Reds beat the Blues 4-1 on penalty kicks after drawing 1-1 n aggregate. In 2005, Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 to make it back to the pinnacle of European club competition where they felled AC Milan in one of the most incredible sports comebacks of all time.

If the intense matches between the two in recent history are any indication, this year’s clashes on April 22 and 29 will be a call to arms. But squabbles aside, this will be a different Chelsea side that Liverpool will be facing. Thus far this year, they’ve faced off thrice for two draws in the Premiership and a 2-0 spanking by the Blues in the Carling Cup. The three-pronged attack of Avram Grant has created more scoring opportunities for the Blues when they’re on but with everyone off the scoring pace (particularly Drogba who has only scored eight goals this year as opposed to his 33 of last season) they’ll have their hands full against a Liverpool side that is armed to the teeth.

Liverpool, which has been playing well of late, is also healthy. The 3-1 win versus Blackburn solidified their fourth place position in the Premiership and in next year’s Champions League competition. Another European title will greatly salvage what has been a rollercoaster ride of a year. When they face Chelsea they’ll have their full complement of players including the recently suspended Javier Mescherano.

No penalty kicks here. Liverpool thanks to their corps of scorers in Fernando Torres, Kuyt, Andriy Voronin, Ryan Babel, and the inspired play of their captain Steven Gerrard will move on to their third finals in four years.

Manchester United vs. Barcelona
The Red Devils of Alex Ferguson are almost a cinch to win the Premiership and are one game away from a finals berth in Moscow that would give them a chance for a treble of sorts (they did win the Community Shield in a match versus Chelsea at the start of this campaign). Early this year, they faced some stiff competition from intra rivals Manchester City that greatly reloaded with the arrival of owner and former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson. But the Citizens after pacing the league in its early stages, faltered and surrendered the lead to rivals Manchester United and Arsenal. And Arsenal beset by erratic play and injuries to key players soon found itself struggling to keep up with the Red Devils.

Dipping into the rich free agent transfer market, Fergie’s purchases of Nani, Carlos Tevez, and Anderson have given Man U more attacking flexibility. And Owen Hargreaves’ midfield savvy (he did score the winner that forced Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to concede this year’s title to Man United) will make it easier for Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to find the back of the net.

Manchester United’s strong defensive backline and their renewed attacking spirit make them a strong favorite to move past Barcelona which has been an implosion in the making for the last two years.

On the other hand, the Catalan club’s fortunes eerily mimic those of Chelsea’s. For two years they ruled the Spanish La Liga. Then last season, they surrendered the title in the final game of the season to age-old rivals Real Madrid. Had they won last year would this team be experiencing its current troubles now?

For the answer, one will have to rely on that sports truism where winning hides the bad but the losing brings to a head the warts and all. And at Barca, sometimes they’re off-field troubles are tabloid page fodder.

In his early years at the Catalan team, manager Frank Rijkaard took over a dysfunctional club and with a modest budget and turned them into winners in the domestic league and in Europe. He took a chance to on Ronaldinho who clashed once too often with Luis Fernandez, the manager of his previous club Paris Saint-Germain. Rijkaard’s victories gave him the clout and rein to build a galactico project that didn’t seem to work with their Madrid rivals. And in many ways, it’s not working for his side.

Over time, he brought in Lionel Messi, Sam Eto’o, and Juventus refugees Lillian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta, and Bojan Krkic. In fact, the squad played better without Ronaldinho as the Argentine Messi looked better to take over the scoring mantle from the disgraced Brazilian.

With Real Madrid looking good to defend their crown, Barcelona’s last hopes lie in a Champions League title they last won several years ago against Arsenal which then featured their current striker Thierry Henry.

Barcelona is coming in having drawn most of their last few matches in the La Liga. If they keep their head in the game and play with a renewed sense of purpose they just might possibly even turn the tables on Madrid in Spain and land a berth in the Champions League Finals.

Manchester United by a hairline where they’ll face the pre-Premiership face of English football, Liverpool.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Campaign to Conquer

Throw in some Yankees season tickets and a skybox. And how about a one-day contract in a pre-season game? After all, they did allow Billy Crystal his moment of pinstripe glory.

This early, there are a pair of websites that have been put up to entice and influence LeBron James to move from Cleveland to New York when his contract with the Cavaliers expires in 2010.

Now that it's somewhat impossible for Kobe Bryant to move to Chicago, maybe the Bulls and John Paxson will pull some megatrade deal. Heck, I'm starting a Manu Ginobili to the Bulls campaign.

Superman is back in the (school) building

Corporate social responsibility or CSR seems to be the rage for companies nowadays as it helps both employees and the communities they live in. And for sports clubs, they were at the crest of the wave beginning with the tenure of its current chairman David Stern who did much to clean up the drug-addled image of the NBA in the 1970's and early 80's. The Orlando Magic since they joined the league in 1989 has been very active in its community. They give away some $2 million to the local community by way of grants, event sponsorship, donated tickets, autographed merchandise, scholarships, and grants.

The team's resident star, Dwight Howard visited the Orange Center Elementary the other day to distribute 398 pairs of shoes, provided by adidas, to every child in the school. The event was a reward for the students’ hard work towards improving their Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT). Howard spoke to the students about never giving up, setting goals and working hard.

Cool, ain't it?


Last few games before the playoffs, amigos! Watch out for the playoff sked here at the Bleachers.

April 15
Golden State @ Phoenix 10am

April 16
Orlando @ Atlanta 7am

April 17
Detroit @ Cleveland 7am

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #103 Breakfast, the Beijing Olympics, and Losing

(This appears in the Monday April 14, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror)

“Dad, is the Dalai Lama an animal?”

Thus asked my son over a late breakfast the other day that gave me pause from alternating reading the newspaper and watching the US NCAA Championship game. I have to chuckle at the innocence of a child who even in his young years decided to win it back for Arsenal in his video game not long after his cherished Gunners were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by daddy’s favorite, Liverpool FC.

But how do you answer a question like that? Human rights activists might argue that China has treated Tibet’s spiritual leader as such and believe that Beijing has no qualms about reprising Tiananmen Square in Lhasa, but it isn’t as simple as black and white.

When you talk of “empires” or “dynasties”, it seems more appropriate to describe centuries-long Chinese empires rather than sports teams who will win two or three straight and land on the list of some critic’s all-time best. Chinese history has shown how every emperor has tried to expand the nation’s borders so recovering lost territories like Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and even the Spratlys is a big thing. They need look no further than the break-up and dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia to see what awaits them. You think that the United States will cede California and the other southwest states back to Mexico?

This year – 2008 – is a long-awaited year. It’s the formal coming out party of China. The success of twenty-ninth Olympiad means a lot to the world’s most populous country. Already in 2007, it has supplanted the US as the world’s largest consumer and contributed more to global growth for the first time. But there have been trade-offs for the quickest economic turn-around in human history, China too is the leader is greenhouse gas emissions.

“What are greenhouse gasses, daddy? Are they really green?”

Oy vey. I forget I am in the midst of explaining things to my son. It takes me a minute how to explain it. “These are the gasses that keep the Earth – the world we live in – warm enough for us to live in,” I declare in my best Einstein impression as I sip some hot java. “And no, they are colorless.”

“So the summer is hot because there are lots of greenhouse gasses?”

I smile a befuddled smile as I’m suddenly unsure of what to say. “Well the summer Olympics will be hot.”

Literally in more ways than one. With worldwide protests about the continuous and violent crackdown of demonstrators in Tibet, it puts a wrinkle on the face that China has put on. In a culture that values “face” – a sharp contrast from the society we live in when thieves, terrorists, and so-called nationalists refuse to step down despite being embroiled in scandal after scandal – there are more than gold medals at stake. Any boycott will tarnish the games.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge (who is a former Olympian with the Belgian yachting team in the 1968, 1972, and 1976 games) said that they would not press China to enter into talks or conferences regarding human rights violations or political issues. “This is a line we do not have to cross,” declared Rogge after a relatively quiet Olympic torch relay in Buenos Aires despite threats of mass protests. “This is a sovereign matter for China to decide. I have no crystal ball but I'm optimistic the games will be a great success.''

So much gray matter. You’d think the National Basketball Association would have learned from the flack that Nike got over its factories and workers’ conditions. Hey, they’ve got billions to protect. It’s not just about sport. It’s a business.

At that point, I couldn’t help let out an anguished cry over the Memphis Tigers loss in overtime to the Kansas Jayhawks in the US NCAA Finals.

Martina Navratilova pegged it right, “Whoever said, ‘It's not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.” Sports has a dichotomous nature that I both love and hate. It can be an uplifting experience that some say can be better than sex. Yet at times, it reminds me of a bad break up. You move on. You get over it or you think you do, but every now and then you stop and say, “Damn.” And your mind wanders through myriad roads of “what if?”

It even plays with your heart rate like it was a pinball game.

Not every one feels like Jo-Wilfreid Tsonga who made it to the Men’s Finals of the Australian Open where even in defeat he was glad to be there. Or even like Barnsley which eliminated Liverpool and Chelsea in succession the FA Cup Finals be damned. It was quite a ride, eh, lads?

The Beatles put it so well in Golden Slumbers, “Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight a long time (you know it's a Paul McCartney penned song when it starts out so peacefully then ends up in a deranged rocker)."

Ask Rudy Tomjanovich about 1977 when his Houston Rockets were one foul call away on sending their series with Julius Erving’s Philadelphia 76ers to a seventh and final game. With Philadelphia up by two 111-109, Rockets guard John Lucas drove inside the lane but was met by Sixers guard Doug Collins underneath the basket. Lucas made the shot but a charge was called on him by vet referee Jake O’Donnell. Collins made one more free throw to ice the game and send Philly to the Finals where the Portland Trailblazers and Bill Walton awaited them. Tomjanovich may have won as the Rockets coach later in 1994 and ‘95 but he can never exorcise 1977 (a few months later that year would become even more infamous, forgettable or unforgettable when Los Angeles Lakers forward Kermit Washington nearly killed him with what has since become known as “the Punch.”

I saw it up close in 2003 as my beloved New York Yankees took it on the chin from the Florida Marlins. I watched in silence as the Bronx Bombers watched the victorious National Leaguers whoop it up on that hallowed patch of earth that in many ways was the godfather of Boston Garden’s leprechauns. I felt that sickening knot in my stomach as I was the last one to leave Araneta Coliseum when the UST Tigers snatched what was a sure victory for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Someone asked the transplanted New Yorker in me if I root for the New York Knicks. I responded with, “Now why would I want to flagellate myself? No one can be such a masochist.” Then again I realize that Isiah Thomas is nothing more than a prophet of doom so woe to the Knicks faithful.

Times like this, I wish I wasn’t a sports writer. Everything remains in vivid high-def color in my mind and my keyboard. I reside in the church of the poisoned mind.

But life goes on and move on I, we, must.

Until I encountered the Memphis Tigers who went down in defeat to the Kansas Jayhawks in the ultimate game of US college basketball.

"Boy, you're gonna carry that weight a long time."

“Dad, if it’s the ultimate game, then why is it going to be played again next year?”

Kids. Now you know why hope spring eternal. I ruffled his hair and we finished off the last of our breakfast.


Things I’d like to see happen in sports as soon as possible:

  1. Scrap the offside rule in football. Not only does it not make sense, but it will open up the game completely.
  2. Place some sensor along the goal line or a chip inside the football. That way we will know if it crosses the goal line and will eliminate controversial goals or non-goals.
  3. The number one pick of the NBA Draft be awarded to any team at random. This way we avoid tanking by the bottom feeders. Why should the lousy teams be rewarded for their mediocrity?
  4. The revival of the Northern Consolidated concept when it comes to the Philippine National Team. That way, they stop poaching the PBA and PBL for players and the unit is kept together for at the most four years before they’re allowed to move to the pros.

Concrete Evidence on the Attempt to Jinx the Yankees

(photos from the New York Post)

It was thought to be a hoax but sometimes, you just have to be sure.

After the New York Post broke the story about the hex placed by a Beantown fan living in the Bronx, some hardhats working on the new Yankee Stadium remembered the hired hand, one Gino Castignoli who worked near the third base area. They called the foreman and Yankee brass and after some jackhammering, they finally unearthed the #34 of David "Big Papi" Ortiz. Boston's slugger who seemed annoyed and unamused by the stunt growled, "Shit. I don't care about that business."

Yankee lawyers are exploring the possibility of filing charges against Gino Castignoli. In response to Hank Steinbrenner's remark about him getting the crap kicked out of him, Castignoli who was once busted by the cops for mob activity, dared the heir to the Boss to come on over and try it himself and to bring Jorge Posada along with him.

It's hilarious. But I hate the Red Sox.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First steps.

Game observations by Rick. Nico Salva photo by Miggy.

What can you say about Sam Ekwe? He's come a long way from that gangly center who reminded me of a young Akeem Olajuwon to a player who's almost a compleat one. His jump shot and hook shot from medium range is so much better now and that clearly begs the question... how much better can he get? Ekwe clearly is San Beda's x-factor.

The back-to-back NCAA champs got off to a rousing start as they dealt Ateneo a 70-61 loss. After an early deficit, the Red Lions took the lead and never looked back.

Someone asked me what this game says about Ateneo.

I said, "Not much. It's only the first game." However, it does expose some flaws early on.

1) The lack of a post-up player who can get the ball in deep and draw the double team. Basketball has changed where the back-to-the basket player has been replaced by those who face up and can stick the j. But conventional ball will never go away. Come crunchtime, that piece of real estate by the shaded lane will command top price -- the closer you are to the basket, the higher the percentage.

Losing Ford Arao and Jobe Nkemakolam -- two pound it inside operators -- took away the physical presence. And Zion Laterre's rebounding and shot blocking was sorely missed. After the early lead that was built by outside shooting, it evaporated when they weren't finding the bottom. The team was forced to scramble and improvise.

The team however is at its best when Eric Salamat, Jai Reyes, Chris Tiu, and Bacon Austria flash inside for a lay-up or a drop. With all the new faces on the team, it's obvious that there would be chemistry problems. There was none of the joy that was on display during the last UAAP season and the Champions League where their fluidity was a marvel to watch.

2) I thought that the coaching staff should have played the rookies longer. They should have come back sometime in the third but when it got more competitive it was too late to put them back in until Nico Salva returned to chip in the Blue Eagles' final four points. And when all else fails, why not play Chris Sumalinog? You'll need that extra man who can hit the outside shot.

3) Notice what the Red Lions were doing? Same thing UST does (didja notice that Ed Cordero is on the San Beda bench as an assistant). Bump our players on the dribble to subtlety to throw them off their pace and wait for the outlet for the pick-off.

It's the first game. It doesn't say much because this is definitely not a true barometer of the team. And there are five new guys so that creates an interesting situation. The coaching staff I figure was trying out some things. At the same time, it does say a few things about the team. It's good to take their lumps now because they'll get better in the UAAP.

But chin up, Ateneo! Bawi na lang.

Now to the assholes on the opposite side of the gallery who were rude during the singing of the alma mater... you'll get yours in time.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Michael Jordan's Top 10 Shots

Remember when MJ started out his NBA career by throwing up a lot of crazy shots like these? He would dunk like crazy on everyone more so when there was a seven-footer in the lane, but not everyone could throwdown a slam like he could so these alahoy shots were the closest thing to heaven for ballers.

Interestingly enough, by his second coming, his best shots were a variety of fades and trick shots. I have all the Jordan and Bulls DVDs (Region 1) and pulling out that old Come Fly With Me just reminded me of how nasty His Airness was back in the day. In hindsight, people can say that he might have not been the ideal teammate (Scottie Pippen was they claim), but that's what the team needed to win -- someone with that iron-clad will to demand the ball and tell everyone to get the F out of the way. Look at the current team -- they might be more athletically gifted than those previous Bulls teams but they're not as mentally strong.

Enjoy this for old times' sake.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Aye, there's the rub, lads.

Last week while at the office, one of the Australian bosses arrived for work and saw a number of people in the lobby waiting for a meeting or presentation with someone at the company. She slipped over a number of magazines to the waiting folks while announcing that they were football magazines. The Filipinos grinned and browsed through the magazine for a minute or two before placing them on top of the table. "Football," one shook his head and said to no one in particular. "Hindi ko naintindihan 'tong laro."

It's fine really. To each his own.

A friend of mine received an invitation to a tryout for a French Ligue 1 team this summer (ours not theirs). I saw the letter, "football is played here as a recreational sport not anything else." I have to admit that one hurt a bit.

During my recent trip to Bangkok on work, one of our British partners was astonished that I knew so much about football and was infinitely passionate about the game. "But don't Filipinos like basketball and the NBA," he quizzed as he was unable to disguise his wonderment. I explained myself rather eloquently but I also received the shock of my life when he admitted to loving the NBA in return. I then remarked to everyone that it reminded me of a Charles Barkley quote, "You know the world has gone crazy when the best rapper is white and the best golfer is black."

Now does that remind you of Hillary Clinton coming under sniper fire when she visited Serbia? No? Bwahahaha.

On the SBP-BAP matter

Someone asked me the other day why I stopped writing about stuff like the PCU problem and the SBP-BAP row and my answer was simple, "I don't enjoy writing about bad news." The scoop is fine -- the good Lord knows I have been blessed with a number of them -- but that isn't all there is.

I'd rather look into humorous ones, historical tomes, and feel-good stories. We have enough columnists and writers who write about Pacquiao ad infinitum.

But I did ask around regarding the SBP-BAP row and here it is:

On Pato Gregorio's resignation, here's the general consensus of three people (in the know) I spoke with:
"We wondered if he was the right person for the job. I guess Noli Eala knew who he was that's why he recommended him. Unfortunately, Pato liked to talk more than actually really do something. Parang minsan he was playing both sides. Puro name dropping left and right. Many of the structures that are in place there have existed before. Nadagdagan lang. There was nothing novel in what he did. He says he resigned because of the politics? Why get into it in the first place? Even before he came on board, it was already rife with politicking and infighting. How different is that from the government on a macro level and even a dysfunctional family on a micro level? He could have done more with less talk and more actions. "

On the coming SBP-BAP elections"
"At this point the BAP submitted a list of 66 leagues or associations. However, they have not complied with various requirements that were in place when this whole thing started. They lack the pre-requisite three-year tournament operational status and registration with SEC among others. So what numbers they are talking about we don't know. But we don't know what other cards they have up their sleeve."

One BAP official said that they will capitalize on "Gregorio's weaknesses and (Manny) Pangilinan's lack of a stomach for grind-it-out-politics" to seize the NSA once more."

I have not spoken with Pato Gregorio regarding this matter (I texted and got no reply yet) and BAP Proxy Butch Pichay promised an interview but hasn't fixed a time and day for it. Of course, you'll see it in the pages of the paper I write and here in the blog when I am able to do so.