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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Two minutes with the Ultimate Harbour Master

I had a short conversation with Harbour Centre's wunderkind Jason Castro yesterday, Friday, at Robinson's Galleria.

Rick: Jason, congrats sa MVP Award at sa championship.
Jason: Ah. (smiles). Salamat. Salamat talaga.

Rick: Nung down kayo after yung game one na talo, ano pinagusapan niyo as a team? Alam niyo ba na kaya naman habulin yung Hapee?
Jason: Hindi pa tapos yung laban. Yan ang pinagusapan namin ng team. Nangyari na 'to dati last conference kaya hindi kami kinabahan. Swerte rin kami na marami nag-step up. Yung pressure din kasi nasa Hapee kasi kami alam na namin kung ano ang kaya namin gawin.

Rick: Lahat na yata sa amateur napanalunan mo na. So Singapore Slingers na?
Jason: Ibang challenge yun. Sana naman maganda ipakita ko. Kasi hindi lang para sa akin 'to pati na sa lahat ng Pilipinong basketbolista.

Rick: Kelan ba alis mo?
Jason: July. Kaya relax muna ako.

Rick: Thanks, Jason and good luck.
Jason: Salamat. O... blowout naman dyan.

We both laugh.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Since we're on the topic of flopping

Now that the NBA is studying how to penalize floppers (boy, Vlade Divac sure is glad he isn't around today), here's something I want to see:

- A technical foul on NBA refs for terrible officiating. Not that I'm dissing the San Antonio Spurs, dudes. But in Game 5 against the Lakers, there was one sequence where Fabricio Oberto literally joins GK as he sets up house inside the paint for 10 seconds! Yes, I counted (that was in the fourth quarter). Those who whine that D-Fish should have been whistled for a foul then know that your point sucks because the refs should have reset the shot clock in the previous play before the ball went off Robert Horry's leg.

Who said that NBA refs are the best in the world? That's a myth.

- Instant replay in football and baseball. The refs muck up too many plays. Haven't you wondered why everyone in the house can see differently while the ref sees it another way? Some people have been toying around with the idea of placing a microchip inside a football so that when it crosses the goal line it will sound off. Does it take away from the refs? Nope. If they did their job better -- like Graham Poll who as referee should know how to count and not embarrass himself in front of the whole world -- then we wouldn't be talking abut this. And in case you want to talk about point shaving, review the tape between FEU and NU in the second round of last year's UAAP season.

- Penalize footballers who take a dive. Football's equivalent of NBA floppers. The Italian team are experts that teams wondered aloud during the last World Cup if they were up against a bunch of swimmers. The Azzurri can give the Chinese divers a dive for their money. And they say that pro wrestling is an act.

Manu: "Hey, ref! It was all ball."

Joey Crawford: "Right. Boozer's balls."

Crowning a King of the Alps Part 2

(Part 2 of my Euro 2008 Preview. This will come out next week in the sports pages of the Business Mirror.)

Is there a Trojan Horse in this year’s Euro 2008?
Bookies pegged Greece to win Euro 2004 with 150-1 odds. It certainly didn’t help that the Greeks never won a European match before. Even as they stunned Portugal with a 2-1 win in the tournament opener, teams only began to take the German coach’s wards seriously by the quarterfinals. And on their way to the title, they subdued many favorites with incredulous 1-nil wins. They not only beat the host nation twice (also during the finals no less) but also the defending champions who they sent home packing in the quarters.

This Greek side is almost an entirely different one that hoisted the cup in 2004. More than half the team is new but it should be noted that on their way to the Euro Finals they compiled an 11-1 record while scoring 25 goals to their foes’ 10 while displaying that stingy defense that saw them shoot up FIFA’s rankings. And with a line-up far superior to the one that failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, they’ll be a handful in the Group D bracket (Russia, Sweden, and Spain).

So who could spring a surprise here?

If Eduardo was playing for Croatia I’d give the nod towards Slaven Bilic’s side. But this time, I’d give a snowball’s chance to Poland.

After luring away Leo Beenhakker from Trinidad and Tobago which he led to the 2006 World Cup Finals, the veteran German coach gave some bite and pride to the much maligned Polish national team. He promoted previously unheralded players while recast others in different roles. The once porous midfield was strengthened and in doing so found a dangerous twin attack with Maciej Zurawski and Ebi Smolarek. Dariusz Dudka is the central midfielder who is the glue here. He’s quick on the counter and a leech on defense.

During the qualifiers, Poland won their bracket that included Portugal (whom they drew and beat), Finland, Belgium, Armenia, Serbia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. Their only losses were to Finland and Armenia but their reward was their first ever trip to the Euro Finals.

The Poles are lumped together with traditional foe Germany, Austria, and dangerous Croatia. But don’t figure them to be intimidated. This is one team with a huge chip on its shoulder and they intend to make their first trip to Euro a most memorable one.

Can France win without Zinedine Zidane?
Like Spain, before France can hurdle its challenges on the pitch they have to take care of internal ones. Les Bleus ended their 2006 Word Cup campaign on a painful and bitter note and they head to Austria and Switzerland with questions surrounding the fitness and mental frame of mind by some its veterans as well as the non-inclusion of David Trezeguet. And like Spanish coach Luis Aragones, France’s Raymond Domenech is constantly second guessed for his personnel decisions. That Les Bleus made it to the World Cup Finals is accorded to the return of Zidane, Lilian Thuram, and Claude Makalele from retirement. In fact, France’s poor showing in 2002 was partially attributed to Zizou’s nagging injuries that prevented him from directing his side’s offense.

Domenech has rectified some of his mistakes (aside from his tactics) from France’s last major international competition by announcing that Lyon stud net minder Gregory Coupet will take the place of the now-retired Fabian Barthez who made some horrendous misplays in Germany. But Coupet has been far from form as he recently recovered from a knee injury and he isn’t listed anywhere near all-world keepers Gigi Buffon, Edwin Van Der Sar, or Iker Casillas.

Also conspicuously absent from the line up are Barcelona’s Ludovic Guily, Villareal’s Robert Pires, and AS Roma’s Philippe Mexes. All three are solid players and would certainly boost France’s campaign. While the French have a great midfield corps, the back four, as led by Arsenal’s William Gallas and Thuram will have to play airtight defense as the team in this ‘group of death” are parading new attack formations.

Of the current quad, it is only Frank Ribery (who had a superb first season with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich), exciting newcomer Karim Benzema, and Nicolas Anelka who’ve had great seasons.

Unlike in Germany where they were seen as an aging squad, the French have nevertheless assembled a talented yet somewhat flawed team for Euro 2008. Although they only lost twice -- to Scotland – in the qualifiers, they barely qualified as they only spotted their tormentors a two-point advantage in the standings. Italy, their newfound nemesis topped their bracket, but lost to the French 3-1 on aggregate. Each team would dearly love to knock the other out of Euro 2008 and having both teams in Group C makes every game a must win situation.

Can Joachim Low duplicate if not better Jurgen Klinsmann’s feat?
Lukas Podolski certainly would wish that Joachim Low, like his predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann, would start him. Instead after a distinguished tenure with FC Koln and scoring goals at an astonishing rate for Germany, he has found himself coming off the bench for Mario Gomez.

It isn’t solely “Prinz Poldi,” as Podolski is called, who is in need of game time. Defender Christoph Metzelder and midfielder Torsten Frings just got back from extended time from sick bay. Team captain Michael Ballack after nearly on ice for two seasons at Chelsea has rounded out into form. Starting keeper Jens Lehmann spent a season in hell as a backup in Arsenal after a nightmarish start that saw him fall out of favor with the Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger.

Low has continued the attack-oriented football that Klinsmann got the national side playing during the 2006 World Cup. While they derive their strength from the chances offered by the diamond formation of a 4-4-2 alignment, they conceded only seven goals in 12 matches en route to the Euro 2008 Finals. The catch there is they scored 35 goals including a 13-0 shellacking of San Marino at the Stadia Olimpico in this tiny country bordering Italy.

They have the 2006 World Cup Golden Boot awardee Miroslav Klose up front partnering with Gomez with Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger behind them. It was Schweinsteiger’s two goals that allowed Germany to take third place from a disheartened Portugal side in the World Cup semis which in turn gave him a massive dose of confidence heading into football’s second biggest event.

The Germans likewise have a favorable draw as they’re lumped in Group B with Poland, undermanned Croatia, and the unheralded Austria. Expectations are high over some great football the last two years and that means the pressure is on. And Low’s boys might find overconfidence and lack of conditioning to be their strongest foes come June. anything less than a semis berth, no, a finals slot, will be considered a failure.

But for Podolski, all he wants is another chance to prove to one and all that there was a reason why he won the Best Young Player two years ago in the World Cup.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Guga Heartland

He wore his blue and yellow tennis shirt -- the same one when he won his first clay court title at Roland Garros in 1997 (he later changed to a white tee). But on May 25, Gustavo Kuerten needed more than luck. He gave an A effort but clearly the strength and speed wasn't there anymore. Guga fell in three sets to Paul Henri Mathieu.

But before the match got underway, he drew a heart on the clay to signify his love for playing in Paris and to say that he played with his heart on his short blue and yellow sleeves. There were 15,000 people on hand to watch this emotional game that lasted a little over an hour. But that's worth a lifetime of memories.

Thanks, Guga!

The problem with NSAs

Our billiards players are asking for a review of the local NSA for irregularities. Actually, it should be every one of the NSA's. I'm surprised what not one billiards player has mentioned how they pay NSA officials a percentage of their winnings to compete in tournaments. In every competition, they appropriate a small percentage but when you add up everything since there are lots of cue artists then that's a lot.

Look at football and tennis. They continue to rely on Fil-foreigners to lead us, but that kills the grassroots program. A veteran on the Azkals (after the failed Iloilo campaign) who refused to be named said that as good as the Fil-foreigners are, it's tough on the locals because they train hard and spend a lot of time on the national team but are cut within days of the foreigners arrival. In the 2006 Qualifiers in Panaad, quite a few pointed out the boorish behavior by Matthew Hartmann and one of the Younghusband brothers by putting down the country and talking down to the homegrowns. Officials are aware of this but do nothing.

How about volleyball. Every wonder why we never had a national side in the last SEA Games? According to some long-time volleyball coaches, we're close to getting suspended by the international body for irregularities. With the PAVA at odds with many of the various leagues, schools, and people (the V-League is not sanctioned yet some of the people in PAVA coach or even let their teams play), are you surprised that our national team players mostly come from one school?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Euro 2008 Preview Part 1

(My Euro 2008 preview will appear in the sports section of the Business Mirror in installments beginning May 29, 2008. Here's Part 1.)

Who are the odds on favorites to win Euro 2008?
There’s the reigning World Cup champion Italy and the three other semi-finalists Germany, Portugal, and France. And all four teams find themselves in form and re-loaded for football’s second most prestigious competition.

You cannot discount Greece but they won’t be ambushing anyone this time around. Some quarters have said that Croatia was lucky after they gave England the boot, but the sad truth is that they were the Greek team of the qualifiers. They’ve got a good side, but I’d say that they will surely feel the loss of Eduardo to that horrific injury. What did Eduardo bring to the table? See here, he scored 11 goals in the qualifiers and that kind of scoring prowess isn’t easily replaceable.

Has success dampened Italy’s hunger?
Not one bit. The Azzurri as led by new gaffer Roberto Donadoni (who replaced Marcelo Lippi who managed their World Cup side) find themselves with a back-to-form (and newly recalled) Alessandro Del Pierro (who led Juventus in scoring this season) and striker Luca Toni who led the Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and was the Golden Boot Awardee. Central back Fabio Cannavaro helped Real Madrid win back-to-back La Liga titles. Midfielder Marco Materazzi was a factor in Inter Milan’s third straight Scudetto. Fabio Grosso helped Lyon win its seventh straight in the French Ligue 1 while Danielle De Rossi and Simone Perrotta of AS Roma beat Inter for the Italian Super Cup.

You think they got complacent with all their silverware? Not one bit. After France beat them in Euro 2000, Italy, the masters of the late game ambush, got their revenge in Germany but they’d like to duplicate Les Blues feat by supplanting the Greeks as champions of Europe. They remember their failure to advance beyond the first round despite not losing a game as they were dependent on the Denmark beating Sweden (they battled to a 2-2 draw). In Germany 2006, with the game dangerously close to penalty kicks (they have not won a penalty shoot out in a long while Germany has not missed a shot in over two decades), the Azzurri struck late with goals by Grosso and Del Pierro to break the host nation’s hearts.

While this Italian side may be lacking star power as Francesco Totti and Alessandro Nest have retired from national duty, Mauro Camoranesi and Antonio Di Natale have proven to be the perfect complement to Toni in their 4-3-3 attack. With new faces and a new attack philosophy in mind, the team all the way to their solid back four attack in droves. Andrea Pirlo is solid in the holding midfield position and is ready to snuff out any counters while their stingy defense led by Cannavaro race back to protect their All-World keeper Gigi Buffon.

Definitely a solid favorite to win Euro 2008.

Will Cristiano Ronaldo shed tears of joy this time around?
For all intents and purposes, he can now claim the name “Ronaldo” all to himself as the Brazilian version has eaten himself away to obscurity and shame.

Euro 2004 was Portugal’s moment in the sunshine as they hosted football’s second most prestigious tournament. After committing a foul in the box that led to Greece’s Angelos Basinas scoring on a spot kick and the marginal goal, Ronaldo went on to become one of the tournament’s stars (along with the Netherlands’ Ruud Van Nistelrooy who led the tourney in scoring, the Czech Republic’s Milan Baros, Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and England’s Wayne Rooney).

He wept openly after Nuremberg FC striker Angelos Charisteas headed in the winner and Greece became the first side to beat the host twice and the defending champion (France) in Euro competition. Portugal’s became bystanders in the post-match celebrations but the results offered much hope after a dour showing in recent years. True enough they once more made it to the semifinals of Germany 2006 only to lose to a Zinedine Zidane penalty shot in the 33rd minute.

But the losses only served to steel the Manchester United striker’s resolve as he led the Red Devils to back-to-back English Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League trophy.

And a Euro championship would cement Ronaldo’s place as the world’s best footballer (supplanting AC Milan’s Kaka).

Despite Ronaldo’s awesome talent on the pitch, Portugal’s strength lies in the strategic genius of gaffer Luis Felipe Scolari who would love nothing more than to deliver Portugal’s first international title. They came close to duplicating the feat of the great Eusebio who led the national squad to a third place finish in 1966.

The Portuguese side that will take the field in Euro 2008 is a wholly different one. Luis Figo, Costinha, and Pedro Pauleta have retired. Andrade is off the squad because of lingering knee injuries. Deco, Postiga, and Simao are on the bench.

The defense has been shored with Pepe coming off a solid season in Real Madrid’s back four partnering with Ricardo Carvalho to protect their solid keeper Ricardo. Jose Bosingwa and Marco Caneira flank the two defensive studs.

Maniche and Petit provide much relief from the midfield because of their goal scoring prowess and open up the field for Ronaldo, Nani, and Hugo Almeida who is due for a break out of sorts.

You can sense that the time is now for this young and hungry Portuguese side which will be led by Ronaldo who is in top form. They’re bracketed in Group A with the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Turkey. And barring any upsets, the world's best player today should lead his side at the very least to the semis.

The La Liga this certainly isn’t.
Spanish coach Luis Aragones believes that Spain’s chances of moving out of Group D in the opening round of Euro 2008 is manageable. His thoughts may be guarded owing to the Iberian country’s litany of underachievement in major international competitions despite fielding a line up of some of the world’s best footballers.

They’re bracketed in Group D along with defending champion Greece, unpredictable Russia, and dark horse Sweden.

If there’s anything going for Aragones’ side, it’s the confidence gained by striker Fernando Torres who showed flashes of brilliance at the last World Cup and had a breakout season with Liverpool where he no longer had to answer questions about his consistency.

The rub about this team isn’t the lack of talent available because he has young studs like Cesc Fabregas and David Villa up front. Their defense though is still suspect with Carlos Merchena and Joan Capdevilla on the left of Sergio Ramos and Carlos Puyol.

Although Aragones has been an enigma rubbing off people the wrong way with his wayward quotes and views, he has this Spanish side playing solid yet stylish football where they move the ball around a lot and exploiting weaknesses in the opposing team’s defense.

It’s a young team that has its flaws especially with a largely untested back four combo. Aragones has been scored for excluding former team captain Raul off the squad. But if they fall by the wayside as they are wont to do, expect Aragones to be given the boot.

Spain’s bracket isn’t exactly a cakewalk even if Sweden will be missing the retired Henrik Larsson, the former Celtic and Barcelona great who wreaked havoc up front last time around with the impressive Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They’ll have to play more than stylish football of they want to fulfill all that promise and potential.

Prediction: They’ll fail to advance.


For the football mad, if you're looking for kits of Germany, Spain, and France, you might want to check out the adidas stores especially in Trinoma and Rockwell. For Netherlands and Croatia, they have in Nike Greenbelt.

For cable details, I was informed by Solar Sports people that it's going to be available ala All Access meaning it's a special pay-per-view buy. It's either that or you go to the bars.

Fire of known origin

Venus Williams may have knocked Ashley Harkleroad out of Roland Garros but she will live in the hearts of many. She's got next in Playboy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kobe vs. the Snakes

Thanks to my favorite former DLSU Lady Archer Miles for this. Thanks, girl! You rock. Hey, Mamba. First an Aston Martin then a pool of snakes. You're a modern day Indiana Jones hoopster, Kobe!

Now of course Kobe's jump is fake coz this was done on Jackass. Bwahahaha!

Why Rafa Benitez should put up or shut up

Everyone knows about Liverpool's front office troubles that it has become an embarrassment. It should also serve notice about choosing one's business partners well.

As much as I am eternally grateful for Rafa Benitez piloting the Reds to a Champions League title and another finals appearance, I on the other hand am royally ticked off about his incessant blaming his side's lack of bite because he doesn't have the funds to get the right players.

As I've said time and again, this side is his team. There are only few holdovers from Gerrard Houllier's tenure as Anfield boss. There's Carra, Stevie G, Sami, and John. The rest he's signed and bought. If he says that his side cannot compete with Manchester United and Chelsea then if I were the players I'd be pissed. It's an indictment of their talent. At the start of the season, he said he was happy with their off season purchases and that there's no reason why Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch, and Andriy Voronin shouldn't get 20 goals apiece. But did he ever give Crouchy the playing time?

His side won and lost running his system -- whatever the hell it is.

I simply cannot believe that scarcely has a week gone by since the Premiership ended when he's already saying that there's no way Liverpool will compete for the title next season. This early? He should be fired for such insolence and cynicism. If you're not going to compete, then don't play.

He keeps harping about the lack of funds and how in Spain they spend freely. Well, Real Madrid and Barcelona spend millions and millions of Euros every year but it doesn't guarantee a title. Granted that they won the last four La Liga titles doesn't guarantee anything. The galactico project by either side shows what people already know across the northern pond (read: the New York Yankees) -- all star line ups don't guarantee success.

At the start of last season he was saying he was happy with his new purchases. By mid-season, he was saying they weren't good enough and that they should take advantage of the January transfer window. Stop blaming the owners for your troubles, Rafa. You put that team on the field.

Everyone thought that Arsenal was going to collapse when Thierry Henry left. Instead they played great football for 3/4 of the season before injuries got the better of the squad. Obviously he's sending a not so subtle message to the owners that he wants more money to get better players. Particularly to backstop his aging backfour. Carra and Hyypia were repeatedly beaten by the much stronger and faster Didier Drogba and the slick passing game of Manchester United. If you ask me, Manchester was even better because of the heady and steady play by Owen Hargreaves in the midfield. He made life easier for Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Carlos Tevez.

If I were Benitez, I'd study what the other teams are doing right rather than make a broad assumption that their opponents have the best players.

Shut your hole and be a man, dude. You put together that side.

This entry was linked to (a site all Rafa Benitez check it out).

Monday, May 26, 2008

60 yard strike by Becks

Bleachers' Brew #109 The Show Must Go On

(from my Monday May 26, 2008 column in the Business Mirror)

Scene: The Boardroom of a Pro Basketball League

Commissioner: There are several networks bidding for the rights to air our league. There’s the incumbent Alphabet Channel and new bids from the Showbiz Network, the Sun Sports network, and the Great Movies Airing network.

Governor 1: Okay so which one looks best for us?

Governor 2: We should choose the one that will pay us the most money.

The Board (collectively): Yeah!

Commissioner: First things first, gentlemen. (Signaling for order) The incumbent Alphabet Channel…

Governor 3: Well, it looks like we’re the only show worth watching on their channel and we’re only on thrice a week! Is that a plus?

Governor 2: Maybe. Since they heavily promote us.

Governor 4: But if no one watches on the other days how does that help us? I think they portrayed us as too “masa” so we lost our upscale viewers.

Governor 1: Good point. They were good for us but maybe its good to look elsewhere.

Commissioner: How about the Showbiz Network?

Governor 1: They’ve got the highest rating channel nationwide and the biggest cable network. We could reach a wider audience.

Governor 6: Wider reach means more viewers and more viewers means more advertising opportunities. And more advertising opportunities means more money for us.

Governor 3: That’s great. That way I’ll have the money to pay my players. I can’t keep losing them to other teams since I can’t keep up with rising player salaries.

(Snickers from some Governors)

Governor 2: Partner, I like them because they’re the number one network but isn’t their forte more on showbiz? They’ve done a good job with college ball but how does that translate to professional basketball?

Governor 7: I saw Semi-Pro with Will Ferrell. The more gimmicks you do the more fans you bring to the games.

Governor 3: Yes, with their resources and stable of actors and actresses they can do anything. They can even dramatize the life stories of our players. People will empathize with them and become fans of the teams.

Governor 4: But won’t that take away from our own stable of superstars? Fans might become confused. Where does basketball begin and acting end?

Governor 1: Well, we already have ballers who are good actors when it comes to flopping inside the paint.

Governor 7: That’s right. And I’m not so sure I want their reporters shadowing our players and reporting to the world what our players had for lunch and what they do in their spare time.

Commissioner: Yeah, all that ahem – chismax -- might backfire on the league. Baka ma-over yung pagka-madrama. So up next we have the bid of the Sun Sports.

Governor 8: But they’re cable. Not everyone has cable?

Governor 9: I beg to disagree. Everyone has cable. Remember that commercial years ago about “bawal kumabit?” They said that a lot of households have illegal connections which is why they don’t register.

Governor 5: “Kabit.” I’m not sure I like that word. Wasn’t it the cable arm of the Showbiz Network that came up with that ad?

Governor 9: All the more I’m not sure about this showbiz angle. Maybe we can consider Sun Sports. They have an exclusive basketball channel.

Governor 8: But isn’t showbiz what Filipinos want?

Governor 3: Maybe before but judging by the last elections, even guys like Money Pakyawan didn’t win.

Governor 9: Let’s not forget that Sun Sports has the NBA.

Governor 1: How does that help us? Isn’t the NBA where amazing happens?

Governor 10: Pero aren’t we a clone of the NBA? After all we copy a lot of their innovations – we can come up with something similar… like, “PBA. Hanep!”

Governor 8: Astig!

Governor 10: No. Hanep.

Governor 8: Yeah. Astig.

Governor 10: No. Hanep.

Governor: Ah, I meant astig yung “hanep.”

Governor 10: That’s what I said.

Commissioner: Ah, gentlemen, how about the bid by the Great Movies Airing network?

Governor 2: Parang ayoko. People might associate the network’s initials with our head of state. With our chief executive’s popularity rating at an all-time low, I’m not sure it’s an association we want.

Governor 4: Oo nga. We might be co-terminus with the administration.

Commissioner: So whom are we going with? Have we reached a consensus?

Governor 1: Yes, we have. We recommend that we go with Sun Sports. After all, they got the World Cup and the Beijing Olympics. Maybe we can tie up with the NBA and they can send a team overseas to play our teams. Like what they do in Europe.

Governor 8: But won’t we lose?

Governor 1: Not at all. We’ll be seen in the USA and Europe and that increases our profile and awareness. Besides, we already opened our doors to more Fil-foreigners. With Mexican and Middle Eastern imports already playing, we’re going to become more global.

Governor 10: Hanep!

Barging In

photo by Business Mirror's Nonoy Lacza

The Ateneo Women's Volleyball Team came back from the brink of elimination to make it to the finals of the V-League's 5th Season. They bucked an injury to Patty Taganas with Cara Acevedo chipping in some huge points down the stretch to back up Em-orn Phanusit and Charo Soriano.

One Big Fight!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Learning from Red Auerbach 101

Are you ready for a little 101?

Right before tip off in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, the arena lights went out for a split second. But since this is Hollywood, they know a thing or two about lights and backups. The Los Angeles Lakers then proceeded to knock the living daylights out of the San Antonio Spurs with a 101-71 demolition.

Shades of the fire delay in New Orleans when arena staff had trouble putting out a ring of fire used in a mascot stunt that caused a 19-minute delay between the first and second quarters. The delay didn't derail the Spurs as they led 49-45 at the half over the Hornets. But a 13-0 run to start the third quarter saw the Hornets take the lead; one they would not relinquish until the buzzer sounded on a 101-82 win.

In their Game 7 match-up with the Hornets, ice cubes on the court caused a short delay, but the Spurs had enough of that nonsense to win going away.

If that were Boston, the Garden faithful would make a case for the ghosts of Celtics/Gardens past. But this is the West where it's Hollywood meets the new millennium's version of Last Stands means visitors are on their last legs against the NBA's latest dynasty.

Now we'll see if are anymore arena tricks on either team's sleeves.

The Stanley Cup Finals at Hockeytown!

Rick Reilly is going to hate me for this (hey, I root for the New York Islanders). Yeah, the Detroit Red Wings are in their 23rd Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chris Chelios is back. In case ya'll ain't familiar with Chris Chelios, he played great for his hometown Chicago Blackhawks until he got traded to the Red Wings at the turn of the millennium. Chelios led Team USA to a silver medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics and is still super despite his age. No more Mario Lemieux for the Penguins but they have their new wunderkind in Sidney Crosby.

Will Hockeytown rock again? With the Pistons hosting the suddenly vulnerable Celtics, it's a hot time in the city.

The Detroit Red Wings beat Pittsburgh 4-1 in Game 1 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A day of goodbyes! Thanks, King Kahn!

It was swell of Solar Sports to air the game between Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin which was Oliver Kahn's final game after 21 years of great football. At the end, Bayern won another title -- Kahn's eighth Bundesliga title to go with six German Cups. It was an emotional match from start to end, Bayern's manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld also bade goodbye and couldn't hold back the tears when he was introduced. The cheers from the Fussball Arena Munchen were deafening. Luca Toni's hat trick (24 goals for the year that gets him the Golden Boot award) along with magnificent play from the midfield by Frank Ribery (watch out for him in the Euro 2008 with Les Bleus) saw the German giants romp with a 4-1 win.

After the match, it was also the turn of head referee Markus Merk to say goodbye after his own distinguished service. The dentist from Kaiserslautern who is a three-time FIFA Referee of the Year traded jerseys with Kahn, himself a three-time winner of World Keeper of the Year, after the game.

Despite his on-field success, I'll always remember "the Tragedy of Camp Nou" when Manchester United stole the game from Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League (also David Beckham's last win the Red Devils) after injury time goals by Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That was a won game for Bayern. The same thing would happen to Germany when they played Italy in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup except that it was Kahn's longtime nemesis Jens Lehmann of Arsenal minding the net.

If there was a penalty in the game awarded to Bayern, Hitzfeld would have asked Kahn to take the spot kick. Nevertheless, Kahn has had a great career. Great way to end a career as the whole of Germany and the footballing world bid goodbye to an all-time great.

MJ assaults and breaks a backboard

This was during a promotional trip in Italy right before he got injured in his second season. Jordan, dudes! Michael "freaking" Jordan.

Why the Spurs suck

1. Bruce "the Loose Cannon" Bowen - After sucking for so long by becoming a journeyman player, Bowen reinvented himself into a defensive player and worked on his three point shot in the corners (ala Sean Elliot). Gotta respect that. But he's also become a dirty player.

2. Cheap Shot Rob - He's hit some big shots for sure. But he's probably the best cameo artist in the history of the NBA. He scores only in spurts albeit making big shots, but to compensate for his loss of athletic ability he's reinvented himself into Bill Laimbeer. And for the most part, he's been always at the right place at the right time. Next to the WWE's Edge, Horry is the Ultimate Opportunist.

3. Tim Duncan - The Big Fundamental also has the fundamentals down pat on offensive fouls that refs call his way. And he whines just like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Like he's never committed a foul in his life. Hiss. Boo!

4. They win all the time -- Boring basketball? Not really. Maybe winning basketball. The same was said of the Larry Bird's Boston Celtics. And that team was perhaps the most boring if people define the lack of death-defying slam dunks and playground moves as boring. And Manu Ginobili certainly makes things interesting for everyone. I do not dislike the Spurs. I think they're a great team. Last year, in my opinion, they got an unexpected boost when Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended. That just changed the series. The league should have exercised more prudence and better judgement on that. The Spurs got their win. It's time to go down.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The PBA goes to Solar Sports

Years ago, Solar Sports bid for the rights to air the PBA. In spite of having the best bid, Solar mysteriously lost out. But it's a small world and there's no room for hard feelings. When I was working at Solar Sports, there was a move to release classic PBA games on DVD-video through Solar Entertainment but as we found out then, reels and tapes of many of those old games weren't archived properly resulting in many of them being worn out.

Just imagine... a box set of those classic Crispa-Toyota matches or even Ginebra-Tanduay. Even the Grand Slam Years. Early imports. Man, this would be a treat for the local hoops fan. Alas, I think it wasn't until the later years that tapes were stored properly.

Anyways, word is that Solar is gOT dibs on the PBA (according to PBA and Solar sources). So is it safe to say that the games will be on both C/S and BTV? And will Solar retain the current broadcasting corps of Mico Halili, Jason Webb, Richard Del Rosario, Dominic Uy, Barry Pascua et al? I asked Dominic Uy at the Team Nitro launch the other week at Gilly's and he said, "Your guess is as good as mine."

Will we see a mixture of old Solar/BTV hands (and my good buddies) Mark Zambrano, Vitto Lazatin, and Chiqui Reyes? Save for Vitto, the two dudes were my teammates at Team Solar before in the Ateneo Basketball League.

It's actually good for the PBA because of Solar/BTV's great relationship with the NBA. It's a great association if you ask me. Now where this leaves the PBL is anyone's guess.

No to showbiz in hoops! Keep it real.


Are you ready?

American Gladiators fan here! Am real glad they revived this great show for the new millennium. And they've got Hulk Hogan and Laila Ali as the perfect hosts. In case you don't know what time this is, it's on Mondays 8pm on Jack TV.

My fave events are as follows:
1. Assault
2. The Eliminator
3. Earthquake
4. Joust
5. Gauntlet

And here are my two fave femme Gladiators:



Thursday, May 22, 2008

Team Ateneo -- the Launch

Running a varsity sports program needs money. And while the Ateneo Men's Basketball Team has been the beneficiary of MVP's generous support, the team still needs help. There's the need to address scholarships, dorm fees, and other operating expenses.

In fact, the Lady Eagles and Blue Eaglets teams have also asked for financial assistance! Man, it's a tough world out there.

This June 21, 2008, every Atenean out is is invited to attend and participate in Team Ateneo: the Launch. It will be held at the NBC Tent at the Fort and the program will be hosted by Gabe Mercado and SPIT. The band 8 Track will provide the music.

Tickets are priced at Php 3,500 (this is a fund-raiser and buyers are entitled to dinner, giveaways, and raffle stubs) and this event will serve as the kick-off to the ADMU Cheer Rally that will precede the opening of Season 71.

The new Ateneo team wear will also be unveiled that evening! So if you want to meet the players and see what's going on, circle June 21 in blue!

One Big Fight!

A blast from the past

Nike's "Diablo" TVC is one of my all-time favorite commercials. It also made me an even bigger fan. In case ya'll don't know who the dudes are:

There's Jorge Campos that great goal keeper from Mexico who was also a great goal scorer. During games when he wasn't the net minder, he'd play striker. Even as goalie, he'd take free kicks and penalties for his team Pumas and Atlante (his club at the time of this commercial) in the Mexican league and with the national team. He never wanted to play outside Mexico despite overtures from English and Italian clubs. This dude inspired Jose Luis Chilavert (voted World Keeper of the Year three times), that Paraguayan great who played in France with Strasbourg.

Also in the commercial was another early favorite, Patrick Kluivert who was then with Ajax Amsterdam, Arsenal's Ian Wright (the dude head butted in the commercial), Fiorentina's Portuguese midfielder Rui Costa, AC Milan's central defender Paolo Maldini (who says, "Maybe they're family") and his teammate Edgar Davids, Barcelona's Luis Figo (the guy who gets shoved onto the pitch), Ronaldo was with PSV Eindhoven, and Leeds United's Tomas Brolin. Wait, am forgetting someone... King Eric. Eric Cantona ("Au revoir") of Manchester United. The first real French superstar in the English Premier League.

Enjoy this as I did when I first saw it ages ago.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Campione d'Italia

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns with a vengeance to score two goals and clinch Internazionale's 16th Scudetto. Listen to the commentary. The dude had an orgasm when the Swedish international drove in his second strike.

Now that knee injury may have sidelined Ibra some, but that leaves him somewhat fresh for Euro 2008. The Nerazzurri sure were lucky to have gotten him away from Juventus.

Rooftop conversations with Parkour Generations' Dan Edwardes

Parkour has always fascinated me. If it weren't for my bad knee I'd see if I could turn the city into my own playground. What follows is a short interview with one of the world's foremost practicioners and authorities on parkour. Thanks for the interview, Dan!

Rick: How difficult is parkour? Does one have to be fit and in superb shape to engage in this? It seems that it takes more than stretching muscles to get involved. Does one have to put on any braces, pads, or even wear specific types of footwear to get into parkour?
Dan: Parkour is very difficult to do well! One does not have to START fit and strong, but the training will result in one becoming extremely fit and functionally strong, as well as confident, spatially aware, and generally much healthier than normal. No protective gear is worn, and basic running shoes will do, which make it a very accessible discipline - hence us being able to reach a lot of inner city children who have limited resources but a great deal of energy.

Rick: Is part of the thrill of parkour not knowing what obstacles lie ahead?
Dan: We do not consider that we train only for the 'thrill', but rather for self-mastery and consistent improvement in all areas. Parkour training can be hours spent in one area, mastering one set of obstacles/terrain, or it can be free movement over a larger area, just moving, getting from one place to the next using only your body and the environment.

Rick: Is parkour technically a sport? I've heard from some who express dismay when it is lumped along with other extreme sports. In this world of trying to pigeonhole things, where does parkour fit in? How does parkour technically work -- is there a time limit to it? A route with observers? Is there a competition aspect to it?
Dan: Parkour is, as of a couple of months ago, officially a sport in the UK due to the work we have done with the government and with Sport England. The title is irrelevant though: some call it a discipline, some and art, others a sport or even a transformative practice. In truth it has elements of all of these, and serious practitioners do not much care what you call it..! For us it is just about movement and self-perfection. Names and labels are for those who spend all day worrying about definitions and arguing online rather than training! How does it work? Training. No audience is required! Parkour is not done for show or to impress others, but solely to find one's limits and push them back a little further each day, and to improve one's physical control and ability as much as possible. There is no competition aspect to it no, though in the future there may well be a competition established and hopefully for the betterment of the discipline. As of now there are no recognised competitions, and within the training itself there is no competition other than with oneself and the friendly rivalry training partners may indulge in to push themselves to go further every day.

Rick: Is parkour a full time undertaking for both of you? Is Parkour Generations akin to a football school? Dan: Yes, we are a professional group and between the teaching for schools, local authorities, parkour communities, corporate groups etc and the media performances and live shows, consulting, and our own training it pretty much takes up most of our time! Parkour Generations is the largest collective of experienced practitioners in the world, and includes the world's foremost parkour film-maker and photographer in Julie Angel and Andy Day (aka Kiell).

Rick: Are there any big competitions for parkour? If so, are they organized similar to triathlon competitions? The sheer difficulty of parkour makes for something equally as demanding as triathlon.
Dan: As I said earlier, there are no recognised competitions in parkour and will not be for some time. Some wayward groups have attempted to establish 'freerunning' tournaments, but they have been reviled by the community at large and fairly farcical in their approach. The 'winner' of one of these tournaments in Austria, for example, broke his leg and yet still was proclaimed the winner... For a traceur, to be injured in that way is to fail completely - parkour is about health, endurance, being whole and complete as an individual: NOT destroying one's body through reckless jumps and performances for cameras.

Rick: Is there a term for getting done with parkour? Like 'reaching a goal' or 'reaching the endzone?' Aside from the boost in confidence, personally, how do you feel when you're done? Is parkour an ultimate workout?

Dan: One is never done' with parkour. The training IS the means AND the end. It is the one goal. There is no end, nor conclusion or perfection - only daily improvement, hardship in training and the pleasure of pushing oneself further than one thought possible.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Traveling eastward

Could Carmelo Anthony be coming home? Well, it's New Jersey and the Izod Center is 40-minute drive from across the river. The Brooklyn-born Anthony is said to be heading to the Nets along with Marcus Camby and these two might very well complement Vince Carter and Devin Harris. Camby could back up Nenad Kristic or vice versa and the Nets will have a potent starting unit.

Melo will have to switch numbers though since Vinsanity wears #15 already. But consider this a real new era in Nets hoops.

Eastern Conference Finals
Boston vs Detroit May 21 830am live on BTV!

Another goodbye at center-court

Before Pete Sampras, I was a fan of McNasty. Yeah, him of the fire and brimstone. I remember that infamous "You are the pits of the world. Vultures! Trash!" or "You cannot be serious!" tirade at the umpires and linesmen.

People didn't like him because he was boorish and foul-mouthed even if he was a very good tennis player. I, on the other hand wanted him to beat Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, and Boris Becker every time.

Aside from Sampras and McNasty (who were on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of character), I liked players like Goran Ivanisevic and Gustavo Kuerten who were colorful in their own way.

Now after this year, Guga will join McEnroe, Sampras, and Ivanisevic in retirement. Chronic injuries have robbed him of his speed as he struggled to find his form. The Brazilian who won three French Open titles will make his final appearance in Roland Garros when it gets going this Monday (Philippine time).

Guga enters the tournament as a wild card. Now if he can't repeat Ivanisevic's feat when he won Wimbledon in 2001 as a wild card entry beating Patrick Rafter that would be a cool way to go out. But current clay court king Rafael Nadal will obviously be the tournament fave. Still you'll never know.

But thanks, Guga! That was some game. Man, what I'd give to chant "Guga! Guga!" at Roland Garros.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #108 The Perils of Home & Away

(This appears in my Monday, May 19 column in the sports section of the Business Mirror)

by rick olivares

When those 1970’s Boston Celtics ran onto the court of their opponent’s arena, Paul Silas would routinely ask the sports writers how many people they thought were in attendance.

When informed of the number of paying patrons, Silas would harrumph and exclaim loudly enough for all to hear, “Good. We’re going to shut everyone up.” And for the most part, Silas’ Celtics teams (Jojo White, Dave Cowens, John Havlicek, Charlie Scott, Glenn McDonald, and Don Nelson) resurrected the ghost of then then-retired Red Auerbach (who moved up to the team’s front office) into the league.

The Celtics, alongside the New York Yankees, were the first real professional sports team to actually affix their photo next to the word “dynasty” (11 titles in 13 years is an incredible feat) where the word was previously associated only with centuries-old Chinese empires. They carved out a mystique for themselves by winning plenty some at the old Boston Garden and in a number of Game 7’s. With their titles and Hall of Fame line-ups, there were no illusions of home court invincibility by their foes when the Celtics marched into town. They were in for a royal butt kicking.

It would be decades later when another team would display that kind of mentality or arrogance as some would have it. “Walking onto the court for warm-ups, you could already tell that they (the opponents) were already beaten,” succinctly pointed out the observant Steve Kerr, a mainstay on the Chicago Bulls’ second wave of trifecta champions. The Bulls would turn the game into a personal jam session, hush the crowd, and have the home team singing their praises.

When Chicago lost Game 5 of the 1998 NBA Finals at home thereby spoiling the planned parade and celebration that would close out the Last Dance, Michael Jordan conferred with Coach Phil Jackson. The two opined that the post-game hullabaloo distracted them from the task of sending the Utah Jazz home a loser for the second straight summer. “Maybe it’s better that way,” His Airness said of the daunting task of closing out a series in Salt Lake City. And the Bulls showed why they are one of the league’s all-time best heartbreakers and lifetakers as they won 12 games apiece at home and on the road in their six year reign at the top. In fact, they celebrated three of their six titles on the road (Los Angeles in ’91, Phoenix in ’93, and Utah in ’98).

People have criticized this year’s playoffs as predictable as the sun rising from the east. Thus far, the home team – heading into Saturday’s game – has won 43 out of 67 possible games. But isn’t that the whole point – to defend your turf? If a team is swept away can we postulate that they were definitely not worthy of playing in the league’s second season.

The original incarnation of Detroit’s Bad Boys used to enforce no-fly zones. Charles Barkley when he was with the Philadelphia 76ers, was so angry when Kevin Johnson would routinely drive to the rack at the Spectrum that he nearly took the head off the Suns’ point guard with a nasty clothesline. Message sent. No Suns player dared venture into the paint at that point and the Sixers won. As the Jazzman, the Energy Solutions Center (formerly the Delta Center) fixture, once vociferously proclaimed, “Not in our house.”

Conversely, the 1993 Finals between Chicago and Phoenix saw the Suns lose all three of their games at home – a first for a finals team. And to think they had home court advantage throughout the playoffs. But they nearly repaid the favor by handing the Bulls two losses at the United Center.

I honestly don’t see what the fuss is all about not being able to win on the road. Of course the defense is ratcheted up. It’s all about taking care of business at home. No one is giving anything away unless you’re talking about the spineless Dallas Mavericks.

However, inquiring minds are asking, “Where have players of Silas’ and Jordan’s stature gone with their veni, vidi, vici attitude?” Where have all the Reggie Millers gone – he who lived for slaying the New York Knicks in front of their home crowd?

Much is being said this year about NBA home teams taking their lumps on the road before heading back home for that good ole home cooking. There’s that distinct advantage of a rabid home crowd cheering the team aside from the familiarity of the court and all its nuances.

Some like to believe that the home team is the beneficiary of referees’ calls. To wit, Scottie Pippen’s phantom foul on Hubert Davis (as called by Hue Hollins who had the gall to say on television at the height of the Tim Donaghy scandal that the referees were underpaid) in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Semifinals between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks that changed the outcome of that series. There’s Game 6 in the Western Conference Finals between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers where Dick Bavetta, Ted Bernhardt, and Bob Delaney did a number on the Kings bigs (Vlade Divac, Scott Pollard, and Chris Webber) that forced a Game 7 at the Arco Arena. And let’s not even talk about last year’s Phoenix Suns-San Antonio Spurs series.

More games mean more money where an additional match easily fetches several cool millions. Yet as poorly officiated as those games were, the NBA dislikes conspiracy theories about playoff basketball such as the current dream match-up of a Boston-LA title series that has network executives salivating. There are already enough to go around and have made roundball lore.

When the Celtics played at the old Boston Garden, they parlayed that advantage into unlike anything seen in the game of basketball. There were stories of leprechauns, the lack of heating or air-conditioning in the opposing team’s locker room, dead spots on the fabled parquet, delayed timers, and Game 7 end-game magic to pull out another heart-stopping win. And there was Auerbach’s victory cigar. Many wanted to prevent Red from lighting it but that was easier said than done.

Unfortunately, the new TD Banknorth Garden holds no such reputation after years of mediocrity. This year’s Celtics will have to wring out a win against LeBron James and the James Gang (oh, they’re actually called the Cleveland Cavaliers) and beat battle-tested Detroit if they want that dream match up with the Lakers (who have to survive either the New Orleans or the Sterns who got another lift from an unsuspecting hit by Cheap Shot Rob on the Hornets’ David West).

Maybe then, the talk won’t be about winning games on the road but rather how this was a match made in 5th Avenue.

(Incidentally, the author would love to see Boston play Los Angeles in the NBA Finals.)

Smoke signals of a raging bushfire.

It was a scene repeated in other poor suburbs around Johannesburg. Angry residents accused foreigners of taking scarce jobs and housing, many of them Zimbabweans who had fled their own country's economic collapse. Twelve foreigners were killed in last weekend’s violence with 200 arrested for rape, robbery, and violence. Three thousand people were left destitute.

The weekend attacks come as the government tries to change South Africa's violent image ahead of the 2010 World Cup. South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, recording an average of 50 murders each day.

FIFA had better have a plan B to host the 2010 World Cup because as the days go by it looks even more untenable in South Africa.

Hey, Sepp Blatter! You've received two high profile reports saying that SA isn't ready. Pay attention.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ateneo Team B

It's been awhile since I watched a Team B game. Even a practice one and yesterday, I got an invite from Jobe Nkemakolam to watch one at Moro Lorenzo where they faced the Ateneo De Naga Golden Knights.

I took some pictures of the bench of both teams and it would interesting to take a look at the backs of the jerseys our our brother school from the south.

The picture with Frank Golla shows him and his teammates discussing their play sets. I thought it was pretty interesting to see how the players were so int the game that they were discussing their roles, options, and opportunities available to them. When Ron Jacobs was coach of San Miguel, instead of running practice, he had his players study the rule book. Before they worked on their game, it was important for all of them to understand the rules of the game. He would even hold classroom sessions where he would ask his players to draw on a blackboard their set plays.

I've always been told by my teachers in school that it was a sign of intelligence to ask questions because there was a desire to know more if not challenge what was established.

I enjoyed watching Team B because they reminded me of the boys back in 2004-05 playing unselfish, high-octane, and angas basketball. The latter may be owing to the fact that these boys have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.

Who's playing well? Eman Monfort, Paolo Dizon (this guy is amazing), Vince Fran, Jobe, Frank Golla, Gian Lucas... damn pretty much the whole team. If you're all looking for Clark Bautista, well, he's flown the coop.