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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

They reign in Spain

Ditch that choker and underachiever tag. Spain, much maligned Spain are the Euro 2008 champions and they did it against one of the greatest footballing nations in Germany. Who gave them a chance? Not many thought that they'd even get out of the quarterfinals, but they did. Thanks to inspired play by David Villa to get them going then Iker Casillas all the way to Cesc Fabregas and ultimately Fernando Torres.

And equally deserving of praise is the crusty Luis Aragones. I still may not like him as a human being because I think he is a racist, but he got the job done.

Viva EspaƱa!

And here is my best XI from Euro 2008:

Goal Keeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
Back Four: Philipp Lahm (Germany), Pepe (Portugal), Carles Puyol (Spain), Josip Simunic (Croatia)
Midfield: Michael Ballack (Germany), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Xavi (Spain), Hamit Altintop (Turkey)
Forwards: David Villa (Spain) and Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia)

Manny Superlatives

One can make a case for David Diaz being overmatched. Maybe, but he was a world champion so that has to count. Emphasis on was.

Manny Pacquiao was simply awesome. He is the scourge of Mexican boxing where he has been taking names as a result, he is now and forevermore el terrible, dangerous, and dinamita all rolled into one. Though he can never be called the baby-faced assassin. Pacman is fine, thank you.

Manny Pacquiao is about dreams of glory and in a bleak time of never-ending price increases and disasters. He's exploits may be in the ring but he does more than that. And he has the right amount of compassion for what boxer have you seen tries to help up the fallen?

He may not be perfect but he is awesome.

Man, he met the Boston Celtics. Damn.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Euro Cup Finals Will Be Held In A Prison That Was Used In WWII

Bleachers' Brew #113 The Price of Being Blue

(This appears in my Monday, June 30 column in the sports section of the Business Mirror.)

by rick olivares

Even during a school test, the young girl couldn’t get any relief. She hung her head and let her long black and brownish hair hide her face but from the corner of her eye, she could see and feel her forty-something classmates’ laser-like looks boring holes right into being.

It was a bonus question albeit a loaded one, “Bettina was absent from class yesterday. She was at the Ateneo game yesterday where the Blue Eagles lost. True or false?”

The young elementary student from Assumption bit her lip and thought to herself, “I’m not giving you the satisfaction of seeing me squirm.”

The “bonus question” was in relation to her predictable absences during game days and penned by her teacher who went to a certain school along Taft Avenue and never failed to take the opportunity to rub in the team from Katipunan’s hard luck.

And as surely as the sun rises from the east, Bettina’s teachers would receive a letter from her parents the following day asking her to be excused as she had to urgently attend to a “family matter.”

The “matter” is an Ateneo basketball game which is about as family as any game can get for the alumni base span generations of kith and kin. And for the brood of Raffy and Marichi Jose and their four children, they wouldn’t want it any other way. Of the four, young Bettina is the only one not yet in Ateneo and yet is perhaps the “famous” one of them all. Everyone knows her as “the cheerleader.”

Several years ago, Bettina first asked to tag along to a game much to her mother’s concern. “We were afraid that if the Blue Eagles lost she’d be affected.”

Ateneo did lose the first game Bettina ever watched and she admitted that she bawled herself out. And though she has three older brothers all who are all in Ateneo, she is perhaps the most rabid in terms of devotion.

The young and impressionable lass found herself attracted to the brightly garbed cheerdancers of the school and inspired by their spirit. Her parents cut out pictures of the Ateneo cheer dancers and paid a tailor to copy the uniforms. And dressed in a cheer dancer’s outfit, she was a sight up in the stands where she joined the Blue Babble Battalion’s motions and raised her fist with fervor after every victory.

She was even asked once to join the cheering squad on the floor during halftime which left her grinning from ear to ear. “That was thrilling and memorable except for the fact that we lost in that game,” she smirked.

On one occasion, he parents threw a surprise birthday party celebration for their daughter. They brought her to a darkened village clubhouse where upon cue, the lights were switched on to reveal her classmates, friends and the entire Blue Eagle team which was on hand to greet her and share some cake. “Of course I cried,” smiled Bettina. “It’s a great birthday present.”

Even with the highs there are the lows and not just in the stands of the Araneta Coliseum. During a recent school fair in Assumption, people paid money for her to be thrown into “jail” where bail was set to her cheering the opposing school’s yells and songs into a microphone. “I did it,” she said as a matter-of-factly. “I needed to get out.”

But it isn’t only from fans of other teams where she gets her ribbing. One time during an Ateneo game, one fan in blue and white admonished her to do her job -- to cheer its team on. “I guess he didn’t know that she was only in grade school,” remembered her father who along with his sons take great care to shield her from the slants and ugly side of competition.

“Sometimes people get so affected by what happens on the court that they forget there are minors in the stands as well,” added the elder Jose who admitted to previously being unable to curb his emotions. “It does get frustrating but we really have to watch what we say and do up there because there are so many others watching.”

And so were people watching Bettina. Like supporters of any other team, dinner outside after the match, one’s mood, or the day’s activities largely depended on the result of the games. “If we won and ang sarap ng kain. But if we lost, we’d all go home and no one would be talking,” confided Marichi. “We’d just eat a quiet dinner at home then go to bed. But for Bettina, it’s a little harder.

The majority of her classmates support the rival school and whether the two arch-foes play one another or not is beside the point. Any loss by Ateneo and it was going to be a long day in more ways than one from the constant teasing. “Sometimes they’d place a picture of me in the game on my table,” she said shocked at the great lengths people would take to spite her.

But that has changed just as she shed that cheerleader’s uniform that was a fixture during games. She’s no longer the young girl in ponytails and the teasing has largely stopped now – “Maybe it’s because I’m taller now, “ she snickered.

The television cameras that time and again are trained on her because of the raw emotion on her face has revealed a young girl in bloom. During one of last year’s games, color commentator Sev Sarmenta marveled how Bettina had all grown up and grown up right on our television sets. She smiled at the thought as she’s now taller and her voice huskier. “Yuck,” she cringed in horror at those pictures of her younger self.

“She was in an exchange student program in France last year that’s why she missed half the games,” related her mother. “Her immediate concern was… ‘What about the Blue Eagles?’ I told her that the exchange program wasn’t an everyday thing and she’d be back after a bit. She really is such a die-hard fan that even in another country she would always ask to be updated.”

Incredibly, if and when she does get into the Ateneo, she has no desire to be a cheerdancer. “I’d want to join the band and be a part of the drumline. That would be the coolest.”

What about any potential suitors from the other side?

“He’s going to have to get an application to Ateneo and transfer.”

Put up your dukes, gentlemen!

So where are you watching this Sunday?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yeah, the Bulls have Derrick Rose, but history shows that the team mucks things up

The Chicago Bulls have been lucky in the NBA Draft.

Two years into the league in 1968, the Bulls' lucked out on Tennessee's center Tom Boerwinkle #4 overall) who was an excellent choice for the team. A year later, they brought in St. Francis' Norm Van Lier (#34 in the 3rd round; talk about your basic sleeper pick here) to complement the core of Jerry Sloan and Boerwinkle as they became challengers in the Western Conference. And they would continue their build-up in 1971 as they picked out a pair of centers... Clifford Ray (#40 in the 3rd round) out of Oklahoma and Jacksonville's Artis Gilmore with the #117th pick of the 7th round. And when they obtained Bob Love through a trade, these Bulls were as good as anybody in the league.

But lest you think they were all that successful, there was the infamous "Astronaut Draft" of 1977 when they picked out Tate Armstrong, Bob Glenn, and Steve Sheppard. Not getting it? The famous American astronauts at that point were Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Alan Sheppard. While the real life space explorers went somewhere, the Bulls' variety took up space on the bench and were soon out of the league.

In 1979, with the #9 selection, they obtained flashy scorer Reggie Theus out of UNLV. And a year later, in the coin toss where the Bulls lost Magic Johnson, Chicago instead got David Greenwood. Yeah, exactly.

But Greenwood would be a serviceable part of their pre-MJ team as they also got Orlando Woolridge with the #6th choice in 1981, Quintin Dailey (#7 in 1982), and Rod Higgins #32, Round 2 in 1982). That team went to the play-offs two consecutive years where they were swept out by the Boston Celtics.

In the post-six-peat era, here's how it all went:

1999 Elton Brand #1 overall out of Duke -- traded to the LA Clippers where he became an ALl-Star on a bad team. Ron Artest #16 overall and later traded to Indiana where then-Bulls GM Jerry Krause was building a contender at the Conseco Fieldhouse (he also sent Brad Miller there).

In 2000, they tabbed Marcus Fizer out of Iowa State with the #4 overall selection and three teams later, they also got Texas' Chris Mihm, now with the LA Lakers.

In 2001, they took hometown boy Eddy Curry with the #4 pick. In 2002, once more with good draft position, they got Duke's Jay Williams. Still in 2003, they took Kansas' Frodo Baggins, er Kirk Hinrich at #7 in the first round. And in 2004, they got NCAA champ Ben Gordon out of Connecticut at #3 overall.

And now they have Rose, their second number one overall choice. But think of this, instead of Hinrich in '03, they could have gone up and traded for Dwyane Wade, another hometown Bulls fan and they'd have an all-Chi-town native backcourt. Wade wanted to play for his hometown Bulls.

Ah, the what-ifs of the Bulls. They've had incredible luck in the draft, but have had very little success in making them stay, fitting them into a good system, or even downright winning. Arguably, in the Bulls' history, they've had three teams that were rightful contenders for the league title:
the Dick Motta teams of Sloan, Van Lier, Bob Love, Chet Walker, Clifford Ray, and Tom Boerwinkle, the 1990s team led by that bald-headed dude out of UNC of which so much has been said and written about, and the squad that fell apart last year.

Now they have Derrick Rose and all of a sudden Kirk Hinrich's days in the Windy City are numbered. But honestly, I'd rather trade away Ben Gordon because at least Hinrich passes the ball. And they should keep Andres Nocioni because he gives them a toughness inside an extra three-point shooter.

It would be interesting to see what happens after John Paxson has bungled a lot of moves that have set back this franchise. And they have a lot of cleaning up to do. Here's hoping they do more than come up smelling roses.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Semper Fidelis

A look at the Ateneo Blue Eagles' 2008 UAAP Campaign
by rick olivares

If the Ateneo Blue Eagles are to be likened to a warship, you could say that they were once like an aircraft carrier bristling with enough firepower and a payload to nuke an entire basketball continent. This year’s 16-man line-up is nothing of that elegant sort. They’re more like a marine amphibious landing vehicle ready to discharge a platoon of veterans and newbies who are expected to slog their way inland towards a UAAP championship.

The onus is on Norman Black to win a title. He’s been handed a talented yet at once flawed team that still hasn’t found its rhythm with players coming in and out of the line-up. But he’s got good problems. After all, they won the Nike Summer League without hitting on all cylinders and that should say a lot about the team’s potential. And make no mistake, they’ve got a very high basketball IQ and the staunchest heart of any college team in the land bar none. The start of the UAAP season should augur well for them because the waiting was always the hardest part.

And now… now is the time for action.

Grunt work
Every year since 2004, the team has had to answer questions about who will carry the team and for this campaign; there seem to be more of them. Chief among the inquiries is, “Who’s going to provide that post-presence the team so desperately needs for Black’s system of passing and cutting to work?”

Ford Arao was the surprise package of last year and his strong post presence, the team’s first true lane threat since Enrico Villanueva was the sheriff of these parts. Arao will be severely missed. Case in point, it was his drawing three defenders against UST in last year’s second round that saw him whip the ball out to Kirk Long who ripped the cords over Jervy Cruz who was a milli-second too late in recovering. And Zion Laterre likewise gave the team badly needed interior defense as well as dozens of second servings on the offensive end.

After nearly becoming the breakout star of the team with a stellar first round, Jobe Nkemakolam found himself riding the bench and post-UAAP, relegated once more to Team B. A much slimmer Nkemakolam is now back in harness but he has lost none of the power and desire to play inside the trenches of the shaded area. If he gets going inside the pit, it will give Nonoy Baclao more precious minutes on the bench where he can’t be whistled for phantom fouls. It will also open up the floor for Rabeh Al-Husseini who although has yet to prove that he can guard someone can chip in some huge markers. And Mike Baldos could be a part of the answer to the riddle of the middle if he can break down his man a lot quicker with his drop step and McHale-ish moves.

Ryan Buenafe will be the first rookie to regularly start for the Blue Eagles since Enrico Villanueva in 1998 (Magnum Membrere occasionally started under Joe Lipa in 2000) and that says a lot about this young man who was the subject of an intense recruiting war between five schools. It’s no secret that he’s not quicksilver fast, but he’ll make up for it by beating his man with a cross-over and a lay-in or pull up jumper. The way Buenafe reads the game and Black’s system shows belies a rare headiness in so young a player. The way he demands the ball; well, here’s your future go-to guy.

Nico Salva is another tough rookie who isn’t afraid to take his lumps. He can pass, defend, slash, or hit the fadeaway shot.

The great thing about getting blue chip rookies is the knowledge that they were all previously “The Man” in their respective high school squads. It means they all know what is demanded from them to lead their team and they can put points on the board because right now the team needs steady production from either its vets or froshes.

Following a terrible loss to San Sebastian in a post-UAAP game in 2004, then-coach Sandy Arespacochaga took Chris Tiu aside to demand more leadership from the then-prized recruit. Tiu has come a long way from that game where he passed up one too many open shots including a possible game winner that ended up as a turnover. In truth, it wasn’t that Tiu didn’t want to shoot but he was trying to help his teammates get into the offense. This year’s King Eagle is one heck of a playmaker and he has remarkably grown as a leader in the clutch. Coming back for his final year with the team, he knows that what they have here is a very good team that should soon hit its stride. His ability to hit that last shot and to make his teammates better will see him as the focal point of any opponent’s defense. Fortunately, basketball is a team game and there’s Jai Reyes, that bantam-sized guard who plays a similar game. What Reyes lacks in height he more than makes up for with his heart and three-point daggers. Look for him to come off the bench for either Tiu or for Kirk Long.

And there’s Eric Salamat, the team’s backpack nuke who is ready to strap the team to his back in the charge up the hill. He’s a pest on defense and always likes a challenge from his opposing numbers across the league.

Force recon
Kirk Long is this year’s starting point guard. But after a great rookie year, Long has struggled to find consistency in his quarterbacking and in his scoring in the Champions League, FilOil, and the Nike Summer League. Literally a growing boy, the sophomore out of Faith Academy needs to hit the outside because at this point, foes are daring him to shoot. His height is practically an advantage as it helps him see over smaller guards, but Long should make better decisions with the ball.

Yuri Escueta is on his swan song year. While he will never be a scoring guard, it’s his playmaking and defense that make him valuable to the Blue Eagles’ title aspirations.

Ateneo fans have bemoaned the lack of fluidity of the team’s game that began with an inspired run to the Final Four of the UAAP and culminated with an impressive run to the 2007 Collegiate Champions League crown. The team can get by with Tiu running the point but it takes away too much from his offense. Reyes has his moments but finds it tough when matched up against taller guards. Long and Escueta should establish their leadership early on and direct the game the way Magic Johnson described and defined the point guard position – he should be the creator. Period.

And if they were feared defensively last year as they hosted weekly block parties on weak-ass bricklayers, they’re a little more suspect this year. Sure Nonoy Baclao is a one-man SWAT Team out there but the others have to provide more than matador defense and they have amazing fact here is, they have to be more consistent at it. They play in spurts and stretches which isn’t good because it isn’t everyday that one’s fighting heart can fuel a rally. But collectively, their defense still stingy despite the loss of Arao and Laterre are as good as anyone in the league.

On offense, the Blue Eagles aren’t as fluid as we’re used to seeing them. But of course, there are five newcomers and that’s bound to throw a monkey wrench somewheres.

They’ve got the talent, the heart, and the motivation to win it all. Now it’s all about holding up in this most crucial first round -- a feeling out period with only room for one or two losses lest another complicate things in this year of great parity. If they do so they could figure for a Final Four spot that will be hotly contested by just about every team. There are no guarantees since every other squad out there improved their line-up. The Blue Eagles will be in a dogfight every game.

And now… now is the time for action.

Projected starting line-up:
Center: Rabeh Al-Husseini
Forwards: Nonoy Baclao and Ryan Buenafe
Guards: Kirk Long and Chris Tiu

Sixth man: Eric Salamat

Thursday, June 26, 2008

CCL Metro Manila Power Rankings for week of June 23-29, 2008

Rank This Week




UE Red Warriors (UAAP)

  • 2008 Fil-oil/Flying V Preseason champs
  • Features athletic and savvy players who have embraced a simple yet effective system with lightning-quick pace
  • Platoon of snipers (Martinez, Bandaying, Lee & Acuna) will help team remain potent even without Mark Borboran
  • Not as tall as before but plays with more intelligence and discipline


ADMU Blue Eagles (UAAP)

  • 2008 Nike Summer League champs
  • 2007 Collegiate National Championship champs
  • High basketball IQ, not athletic but can execute well; Outside shooting is suspect
  • Their dedication to defense should be the key to a championship run and a memorable final year for Chris Tiu
  • Rookies will get a chance to shine


San Beda Red Lions (NCAA)

  • Defending back-to-back NCAA champs
  • Early favorites even without Udoka or Pascual thanks to a seasoned roster that includes Sam Ekwe
  • Stellar showing in summer tourneys


DLSU Green Archers (UAAP)

  • Defending UAAP champs
  • 2 of the country’s best, Rico Maierhofer and JV Casio will return for another run
  • Underrated rookies made a lot of noise in the summer and should be more productive
  • Still the best defense in the country


FEU Tamaraws (UAAP)

  • 3rd place – Nike Summer League
  • Team has finally come together led by talented swingman JR Cawaling and forward Mac Baracael
  • Excellent provincial recruiting
  • Will be tough to stop with their ability to find points from just about every player on the roster
  • Tall team that needs to realize that athleticism will only take them so far


JRU Heavy Bombers (NCAA)

  • NCAA Season 83 Final 4
  • Returns with a veteran core of Sena, Hayes, Pradas, Nocom, Wilson and Cagoco.
  • Deep and talented unit but how long can they keep their frenetic and manic pace of basketball?


MIT Cardinals (NCAA)

  • Coach Leo Isaac’s wards made a furious run to the NCAA Final 4 last season fending off the likes of JRU and Adamson
  • High expectations for KC De La Pena


CSJL Knights (NCAA)

  • NCAA Season 83 Runner-up
  • 2008 Fr Martin Runner-up
  • Great defensive team
  • Will go as far as their PBL veterans will take them and star guard RJ Jazul will carry them on his own if he has to


UST Growling Tigers (UAAP)

  • Have gotten better thanks to heavy exposure in the PBL
  • Mystery team that was quiet in the offseason
  • Still a very potent core of UAAP MVP Jervy Cruz, Dylan Ababou, Japs Cuan, Kashim Mirza, Francis Allera and underrated Mark Canlas


Adamson Falcons (UAAP)

  • 2008 summer surprise package beating the likes of DLSU at the Nike Summer League, and FEU and ADMU at the Fil-oil Flying V tourney
  • The return of coach Leo Austria along with star forward Mark Agustin’s comeback makes this squad a deadly opponent
  • Consistency is in question


SSC-R Golden Stags (NCAA)

  • Veteran upset makers
  • Solid core of Najorda, Ballesteros, Viray, Aquino and emerging point guard Pamboy Raymundo
  • Underrated offensive sets and unassuming defensive intensity
  • Coach Jorge Gallent can only tolerate losing for so long


NU Bulldogs (UAAP)

  • A very good team in the last few years, the only question that needs to be asked is, how bad do they want it?
  • With battle-tested veterans like Edwin Asoro and Jonathan Jahnke, it will be all about bringing it on the court every time out and having the will to finish strong


Arellano University Chiefs (NCRAA)

  • Back-to-back NCRAA champs and Fr Martin tournament champs
  • Core of Orlando Daroya, Dondon Rivera, Noy Del Rosario and Len Anquilo have what it takes to surprise some of the bigger teams who may not take them seriously


STI Olympians (NAASCU)

  • Season 7 NAASCU champs
  • Surprise 3rd place finish in last year’s Collegiate National Championship
  • Veteran tough guys Ramon Mabayo and Mike Cabangon set to return for one more season
  • Good recruiting class that will stick together and grow together


Lyceum of the Philippines Pirates (NCRAA)

  • Ransacked two NCAA member-schools in the Nike Summer League and almost upset FEU in the quarters

A moment of reflection

On the eve of the NBA Draft with the NBA Finals still fresh on everyone's minds, there's a lot of speculation and talk about who is picking who. It's about making that one pick to elevate one's team above their piss poor life as an underachiever in a big market team's league. It's about selecting the next Jordan, Duncan, or Garnett and not getting another Len Bias.

Len Bias.

Even 21 years after his untimely passing, he's still primetime in all the wrong ways. The Boston Celtics' downfall began after his cocaine overdose and now that the 17th banner has been won, it's time all that past painful history is buried behind. Including his size 48 jersey with a #30 stitched in front of it. But that's the pull of tragedy.

There's this picture of graves of the Bias brothers -- younger brother Jay would die five years after Len's passing -- with their respective jerseys laid out in front that is plenty powerful. I mean... what do you say about something like that? That's you're inspired? That you're appalled about dieing young and staying pretty?

And I thought of this old issue of Rolling Stone magazine that I once read way back in my schooling days and it featured the famous grave sites of some of rock 'n roll's late demi-gods like Jim Morrison in Pere Lachaise, Paris, Elvis Presley's in Graceland, Memphis, and Jimi Hendrix's in Renton, Washington among many others.

The images of their grave sites -- coated with graffiti and unkempt (saved for Elvis's) which was rightfully so because they were real not some new romantic fag gloss -- seared themselves forever onto my mind's eye yet it was much later before I became highly appreciative of their music. My dad once thought that my rock 'n roll obsession so different from the Twist or the Merseybeat of his day would turn me into a freakish nihilist that he once had me checked out if I was taking drugs. I can chuckle about it now but back then, my only vices were collecting 24-inch vinyl albums and trying to score a goal from free kicks. Talk about true confessions.

I once told myself that if I had quite a lot of money to burn, I'd visit those three tombs (even though Hendrix's is in disarray up to today) along with Kurt Cobain's. I'm not going to crib Don Maclean and say that those were my days "when the music died." Far from it because U2 is still around.

I thought about that while standing beside the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, Ground Zero in New York, the Memorial Cross in Bataan, and on island of Corregidor. In these places, life ended yet ironically life goes on. There's a respectable vacuum of noise save for the occasional muffled and muted sounds of grieving kin or veterans as people hurry along their way. They're grim reminders of different things that elicit different emotions and responses from people.

It's a reminder that life can only be understood backwards yet lived forwards.

Sort of like this past NBA season. And now teams are trying to make sense of who they hope to steal for after Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley, there are no shoo-ins (although Donnie Walsh hopes to land Danilo Gallinaro, the son of Mike D'Antoni's teammate in Italy). That one pick can elevate them yet if unlucky enough to pull in a Bias, drag a franchise down for an untold number of years.

Just look at how long Boston wallowed in it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saved by Zero

Gilbert Arenas comes to the Philippines for the adidas Agent Zero Tour 2008.

Arenas, one of the best players in the National Basketball Association and nicknamed himself “Agent Zero” when pro scouts tabbed him to see zero minutes of action on basketball’s biggest stage. And he is coming to Manila to spread his message of determination, adidas’ message of Brotherhood, and the Gil II Zero collection including the shoes and apparel.

Arenas plays for the Washington Wizards and has been known for his fierce competitiveness and lovers of the sport watch out for his slashing drives to the basket and his long-range jump shots. And adidas showcases the many facets of Agent Zero’s character with eight Gil Zero shoes including Black President, Vote for Gilbert, Channel Zero, NBA Live 2008, Hibachi, Customize, I Love L.A. and Agent Zero. Learn about the story behind each of these shoes at These shoes correspond to the eight core values of basketball namely Confidence, Commitment, Passion, Respect, Inspire, Sacrifice, Trust and Innovative - all these promoting Brotherhood in the

The Agent Zero Tour 2008 will feature community events, exclusive parties, and mall tours.

On July 6, Gilbert Arenas is scheduled to visit adidas concept stores including Mall of Asia store at 11:00 a.m., Rockwell store at 2:00 p.m., and TriNoma store at 5:00 p.m. This will be followed by the Agent Zero Tour 2008 statement show at the TriNoma Activity Center at 6:00 p.m. where fans and sports buffs alike can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet and greet this basketball great. Guests will enjoy the activities surrounding the venue and get the chance to have their Gil Zero shoes autographed. For more details on how to join, please check out Agent Zero Tour 2008 information at adidas stores in Mall of Asia, Rockwell, and TriNoma.

While in Manila, Gilbert Arenas will also officially lead the turnover of a basketball court to a Gawad Kalinga community as part of adidas' mission to help promote sports among the youth.

Truth to tell, I didn't want to get up from bed today.

I had fallen severely ill in the early morning of last Friday and it steadily got worse as the day wore on. I was at San Beda College that day giving a seminar to NCR schools and only lasted the morning before they rushed me to the school clinic. I slept the afternoon away and that was the last bit of sleep I got until last night.

My illness kept me weak and unwilling to eat. A lingering knee injury made things worse as I aggravated it around the same time. When it pours... it sure does pour. I couldn't watch TV nor read. I couldn't even write during that weekend when Typhoon Frank slammed the country in another telling warning about climate change. It forced me to miss a column for the first time.

I began to get better by Monday but it still left me weak and sleepless. I could only eat fruits and soup but that's fine. I have since in fact preferred that and vegetables so I guess it's all good right? Maybe it's really high time I paid more attention to my health.

Unable to grab any shut eye (no exag), I decided to watched my two seasons of Friday Night Lights. I recently purchased the two Region I box sets and tremendously enjoyed both of them. I've written briefly about the TV series, the book, and the film in this blog as it has made a life-long fan out of me. Between the two, I liked the first season more because it had a bigger football slant than the second that was threatening to blow open into something from like the OC or some such just to keep the female audience interested. But I love it for its uniqueness and as Bill Simmons put it, "the best sports-themed show on TV ever."

So it was a marathon 37-episode session that turned my brain into mush and send me into La La Land.

And so I woke up to the news that the Deputy Sheriff's badges given to Shaquille O'Neal are being rescinded owing to his uncalled (and racist) remarks towards Kobe Bryant. Man, fall asleep to a great show. Wake up to great news.

I'm now feeling better.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shaq sucks! Or can this no longer funny guy please retire?

Dominant center of all time? Whoever uses that and Shaquille O'Neal in the same sentence should have their kneecaps blown out. Twice over.

Nowhere close to Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is where the Notorious Motormouth is.

It seems that success has gotten into this Jerkdaddy''s head. He had the temerity to blame Pat Riley for their debacle. This coming from someone who refuses to work out in the off-season because it's his time; not company time. When you retire, Shaq, you'll be parroting Charles Barkley's admission that and regret about not taking care of his body sooner.

And this lunkhead's latest foobar? Shaq did some freestyle rap in a club over the weekend and dissed Kobe Bryant. Sure Kobe didn't generally play well in the finals but the end to the Jordan comparisons would have sufficed -- not another rap attack.

It is in bad taste, Shaq. Kobe had a better series than all your lousy movies put together.

"You know how I be,"the Big Idiot rapped. "Last week Kobe couldn't do without me."

He also implored the crowd to sing along to his oft-repeated chorus: "Kobe [expletive], tell me how my [expletive] tastes."

Smiling and laughing often, O'Neal also sang that Bryant broke up his marriage.

"I'm a horse. Kobe ratted me out," he rapped. "That's why I'm getting divorced. He said Shaq gave a [woman] a mil. I don't do that 'cause my name's Shaquille. I love 'em, I don't leave 'em. I got a vasectomy, now I can't breed 'em."

And O'Neal exclaimed in his battle rap that he's "the difference between first and last place."

You got that right Shaq. That's why Miami stank in your last season with them. And that is why the Phoenix Suns will never get past the San Antonio Spurs with you at center.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bleachers Fixtures: A Chat with Paul Ruzik

Paul Ruzik is from Boston and was my assistant at Solar Sports for almost a year before he moved back to the US. We had many a chat about sports and I have to say that it was a friendly rivalry me rooting for New York teams while he was solid Boston. We had a brief chat not long after the Boston Celtics put the finishing touches on the LA Lakers at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Rick: Describe the atmosphere now in Boston? You have three pro teams that have all won titles since the new millennium. Is there a new jack swagger about?
Paul: The atmosphere is awesome. After the win all we heard throughout Boston was car horns honking, fireworks exploding and lots and lots of cheering and clapping. I wasn't near the garden cause it would have taken forever to try to get home, but all of Boston is basically walking distance.
We have six (COUNT ‘EM SIX) championships in Boston since 2001 (should have been seven). We had this swagger since the Patriots became the most dominate team in football and the Red Sox traded for Yankee Killer Josh Beckett. We now expect all our teams to win the championships. The MLS isn't big here, but we all expected the Revolution to win too, unfortunately they choked in the championship in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007. I would honestly say after the Celtics started out 30-4, the majority of Boston fans knew this was without a doubt another championship year for the C's. Besides, this season was for Red.

Rick: Which was the bigger celebration -- for the Celtics, the Red Sox or the Patriots?
Paul: Red Sox had an estimated 5.5 million at their 2004 Parade. That won't ever be topped in Boston.

Rick: Were you at the Garden for Game 6? What was it like knowing that the 17th banner was practically wrapped up by halftime? Did you get smashed afterwards?
Paul: I wasn't at the Garden, but we actually knew the championship was wrapped up when the Celtics got past the Cavs. The Celtics owned the Western Conference all season and had their way with the Euro-Heavy Lakers both games previously this year.

Rick: I remember when the Red Sox won in 2004, there were girls going around the streets flashing their boobs. Anything of that sort now?
Paul: School’s out for now so many of the college people are out. As for the girls flashing their goods, sadly I didn't see any of that. The Boston Police were a lot more prepared for this celebration. There wasn't too much car flipping or big fires because college classes already ended a couple of weeks ago.

Rick: How about them Bruins? Is there life for them?
Paul: As for the Bruins we now have the great CAM NEELY pushing the buttons in the Bruins Den, but again with their owners being such tight wads it's hard to build a competitive team. Don't forget this is the same team that traded away Joe Thornton for a bunch of no bodies so they can save a buck. The Bruins do have tons of the hardcore fans in Boston, so they'll always have the fan support.

And watch out for the Patriots this year!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Big Fight is just around the corner

How many former Blue Eagles can you spot in the poster?

Impossible is nothing!

What has this past NBA Finals taught us? In recognition of the Truth who was declared Finals MVP, here are some truisms that we can all learn from until the next season.

Kevin Garnett more than earned his hefty salary. He will surely merit a nice bonus from adidas after screaming during the post-game interview that, "Impossible is nothing!" They're gonna love ya, KG.

"Ubuntu," the rallying cry for this Boston Celtics team means in African, "I am who I am because of who we are." And for many other champion wannabes, it's a new jack catch phrase to be uttered in the huddle.

I remember after the movie Hoosiers came out and it became fashionable for quite a few teams to break from the huddle with a thunderous "team!" The NU Bulldogs did that then, remember, Chris Bolado?

After a not so great Finals performance, anyone who compares Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan ever again should be given the death stare and asked, "What the heck are you smoking?"

And after being denied twice in his last two finals appearances, there are larger forces at work who are denying Phil Jackson the opportunity to pass Red Auerbach. At least for the moment. So this was truly a huge victory for Boston.

Boston is on top of the sporting world. They've got champion teams in football, baseball, and now basketball. Now if they can get the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup then they've got a new millennium grand slam. Now I gotta take in all the "We are Boston" talk from Paul Ruzik and Martin Lacdao.

The Los Angeles Lakers could have used Kevin Garnett. They had a chance to pry him away from Minnesota but they didn't. Of course they got Pau Gasol and that's gas in the tank for the long haul. But credit Danny Ainge because he had the guts to pull the trigger on such a massive trade. For the return to service of Andrew Bynum next season will give them more power at the post and should create nightmare problems for opponents. But I guess the biggest sub-plot in Los Angeles after this is, what will Kobe do again? Will he launch into another tirade versus his teammates and demand a trade (thereby pissing off everyone) or will he use this Finals failure as motivation for next year?

The Road To One

Beginning next Wednesday, we will be posting the official Collegiate Champions League Power Rankings. A concerted effort by BTV and various college basketball scribes all over the country. There will be two -- the Metro Manila and the provincial. For the metro, that will include all the leagues from UAAP, NCAA, NAASCU etc. The rankings will be featured in most newspapers as well as online basketball sites leading up to the Collegiate Champions League.

The group working on the rankings includes the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Business Mirror, Manila Standard, Taliba,, Basketbolista,, and among others.

League Commissioner Rey Gamboa says that the SBP will be fixing the basketball calendar soon. That means we will have a cohesive and more organized structure. Huzzah!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tiger is out of the woods!

The Mailbox

Jaz is a regular reader of the blog. He does have a real name but asked me to keep his identity a secret and instead go by the alternick of Jaz (he's not from ADMU). He asked if he could ask me a few questions about sports via chat and here is the transcript of that exchange.

Jaz: Are you enjoying Euro 2008?
Rick: Most definitely. It shaping up to be a great tournament because it’s not playing out to the way football analysts predicted it to be.

France true to form has started out slow and this is the best way to knock them out while it’s early. Of course, I’m rooting for the French. The Dutch and the Spanish are not doing anything out of the ordinary. If they get past the quarters then it’s definitely a step up for both squads.

Has anyone noticed how the crowds have been chanting to the opening bass line of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army?” Now that is so cool.

Jaz: Why France? Why not Brazil? Don’t you also like Argentina?
Rick: I like the Three Lions. Always have. But the French, I kinda liked them when they had Patrick Battison as their sweeper. We played the same position so it was natural that I liked a player of his caliber. But I really started rooting for them when Youri Djorkaeff was playing and of course, Zidane. And their kit is colored blue. Hahahaha.

Argentina’s cool. They have some of the most fantastic players but they seem to self destruct at the worst possible time. And don’t you just love that striped jersey? How many teams wear striped kits – Barca, Juventus, and Argentina.

Jaz: You don’t seem surprised that Greece was sent packing early?
Rick: Yup. I thought that they were extremely lucky in Euro 2004. They snuck up on everyone then, but every team's been gunning for them since. Greece has not really played well. It would be well to point out that it’s a different team that’s on the pitch than the one that won in Portugal.

Jaz: You picked Poland to be a dark horse team. Why not Croatia?
Rick: For one thing, no one is disregarding the Croats. They eliminated England after all. So I figured the Poles could be the ones to play spoiler. But right now, they are on the verge of being eliminated. Hmm. I wonder how Lukas Podolski feels about that.

Jaz: How about the NBA Finals. Who are you really rooting for?
Rick: I’m an Eastern guy so that means the Celtics obviously. But the Lakers have KB24 and PhilJax who I also like. Although I like the Celtics, I cannot stand the Red Sox and the Patriots so I’m not a solid Boston guy. That sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

Jaz: Yes, it sure does. Let me ask about the Spurs. You take shots at them in your column and blog.
Rick: I oft YM my friend, Rely San Agustin, ‘The Spurs suck!” And he’d YM right back, “The Bulls suck!” And I’d say, “Damn right they do!” We both then have a laugh after that. Yeah, I don’t like Spurs. I don’t really like Western teams. There are few exceptions though... the Run-TMC Warriors and the Kings of the early new millennium.

Jaz: How do you see the upcoming UAAP basketball season?
Rick: It’s like this… if I were to rank them, it goes this way:
2. UST
3. UE
4. FEU
6. AU
7. NU
8. UP

Jaz: Not very kind to your Blue Eagles, are you ?
Rick: I’m two-for-three so far. 2002 (when we won), 2006 (I thought we’d win), and 2007 (Final Four). And those predictions were before the season got underway. Im ranking them now at #5, but if they mesh well especially by the first round, Final Four at the very least, baby.

As I said, much of their success can be attributed to how well they mesh. The ball doesn’t whip around the way it used to in the last two years and understandably so. If there’s some great hoops, it’s played in spurts. Plus, I don’t think there’s a set rotation yet, but Coach will get to that. I trust him after all. If they’re able to integrate well enough, they’ll be more than a handful for other teams.

But the team is well-motivated. I hope they realize that they cannot turn their games on and off lest there be another ambush like that telling loss to NU last year. There are no gimmes this year. Not even UP. Seriously.

Jaz: How do you think opponents will try and beat Ateneo?
Rick: Simple. Clamping down on the outside shooters. The other teams are tall enough to play us in the post. The outside shooting will spread the defense and give room for the forwards to do their stuff. But if Ateneo’s guards are shut down… it’s going to be a long game. Yet if Rabeh, Nonoy, Mike, and Jobe attack and defend the post like Enrico, Rich, Wesley, and Paolo used to then it’s lights out for the opponents. As much as Chris gives us a shot to win, I’m still maintaining that Rabeh’s mental fortitude and strong play will elevate the Blue Eagles.

Jaz: Who do you figure to be real contender?
Rick: DLSU is a team that you cannot discount. The coaching staff manages to find the right personnel to run the system. UST I suspect will play well once the tourney begins. Clark Bautista is there now. He didn’t like the idea of being on Ateneo’s Team B so he moved to UST where he’ll do very well. They’ve got a very good back court now along with Cuan and Fortuna.

FEU… they have this factory where year after year they roll out tall and rangy forwards who can snipe at the basket all the way from Lerma. And they are plenty tough.

UE will miss Mark Borboran. Although they gang rebound, if Elmer Espiritu can stay away from foul trouble then they’re hard to beat. Man, that guy should be a great pro player. I actually like the upside of his game better than KG Canaleta. His dunk on Sam Ekwe… man that was awesome. Like JC Intal on Veejay Serios or Paolo Bugia on Ronald Tubid.

Jaz: You don't agree with Nike's Mythical 5 selection?
Rick: Dan right I don't. Yeah it's a brand thing, but then again if that's the case, don't invite the teams that wear a different brand. So here IMHO are the rightful awardees:

Guards: Chris Tiu and Paul Lee
Forwards: Ric Cawaling and Rico Maierhofer
Center: Sam Ekwe

Jaz: Last before I let you go. What sport would you like to cover now?
Rick: I wish I had a chance to follow Maria Sharapova or even Ana Ivanovic for one tournament. And if not that, fishing, hiking, and golf. You’d probably see the former and the latter happen sooner than later.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #112 Green Day

(This appears in my June 16, 2008 column in the sports section of the Business Mirror.)

Green Day
by rick olivares

If Paul Revere were alive today, prior to the start of the NBA Finals, he no doubt would have driven from Boston’s North End all the way to the town of Lexington, shouting, “The Lakers are coming! The Lakers are coming!”

The Boston Celtics, the once and future kings of the National Basketball Association, after more than two decades of unfulfilled dreams, are back in a grand way. And what better match up to reaffirm their birthright than to win at the expense of the one and only team from Los Angeles that has supplanted them as the league’s preeminent franchise.

In truth, Boston’s downfall began in 1985 where despite their Game 1 Memorial Day Massacre of their long-suffering nemesis Los Angeles, the Lakers found their verve and beat the Celtics in six games. “They can no longer mock us,” cried then-LA coach Pat Riley after that historic championship.

Jerry Buss, the real estate magnate who bought the franchise from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979, basked in the knowledge that he was the first Lakers owner to prevent the lighting of Red Auerbach’s victory stoogie as well as the first one to win a title-clinching game on the Celtics’ fabled parquet.

It was more than the Lakers’ first finals win over their arch-nemesis in nine tries. They had gotten the proverbial monkey off their back and they would repeat the feat two years later to cement their place as the team of the 80’s and the NBA’s new dynasty after Bill Russell rode off into the history books as the ultimate winner.

In the aftermath of Boston’s slide into mediocrity, Los Angeles emerged as the class of the NBA. In Magic Johnson’s 13 years in purple and gold, the Lakers went to the NBA Finals nine times and romped away with five titles. Johnson’s premature retirement due to contracting the HIV virus saw LA’s own slide in the 1990’s, but the team kicked off the new millennium with a three-peat of their own and nearly won a fourth before a new team was built around Kobe Bryant. And as a testament to the professionalism of their organization, the Lakers (aside from the Phoenix Suns) have become the favored destination of many pro ballers.

Boston is one of those proud cities with successful teams whose feats are a part of local folklore if not sports history. Unfortunately, aside from the Celtics, Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary Pass to Gerald Phelan in 1984 that enabled Boston College to beat the University of Miami, and Bobby Orr’s two Stanley Cups with the Bruins, Beantown’s underachieving teams for the longest time were romanticized in prose and song as loveable losers or ultimate underdogs. They were self-effacing “idiots” who although they never brought glory to Mudville, were remembered as heroes who kept the faith.

But the worm has turned and there is most certainly joy in Mudville. Call them now ahem… “Title Town.”

The Red Sox shrugged off the Curse of the Bambino (and Dan Shaugnessy) to win two World Series titles after going winless in 86 years. And they did so in spectacular fashion after crushing the hearts of their ancient rivals the New York Yankees who are now in their own deep funk.

The New England Patriots, hitherto known as the patsies of the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, have won to date three titles and become one of the most feared teams in the NFL (Spygate notwithstanding).

Speaking of American Football, the NBA was the victim of an end zone TD of different kind… Tim Donaghy. After more than two decades of being the toast and model of American and international professional sports leagues, the NBA was beset with a new generation of malcontents who aside from making outrageous sums of money even before they played a minute of pro ball neither knew nor cared about the league’s heritage and history. There was an increase of on-court violence that people weren’t sure if they were watching pro basketball or the NHL. And with the invasion of cyberspace and newsprint of conspiracy theories, the last thing the NBA needed was a dagger into its integrity.

The Celtics, in all this time, hung their fabled 16th banner in 1986, lost to the Lakers in ’87 Finals, and made one more serious challenge in 1991 before tumbling into the nether regions of the Draft Lottery.

When General Manager Danny Ainge sought to replicate the Big Three of his era by adding Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to their lone All-Star in Paul Pierce, Boston went somewhere fast. The troika even before they played an NBA minute together were pegged as title favorites.

Enter Memphis Grizzlies General Manager, Chris Wallace, who was Ainge’s predecessor in Boston. Wallace, in a mid-season trade with Los Angeles, sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers, who were floundering after an injury to center Andrew Bynum who was in the midst of a breakout of a season. And with every passing week, it seemed like a return to glory days of the 1980’s when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson elevated the NBA from its drug-addled past onto a whole new level.

The Celts couldn’t be more pleased. If this was going to be a return to glory, then who best to beat than the Lakers. And just as it was in the 80’s, the Celtics have somewhat reversed their own curse.

After 1986, it was pretty clear that Boston was about to be overtaken by younger and hungrier teams in the East like Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit. More so with the Pistons who were seriously knocking on Heaven’s door. But thanks to the greatest heist in Boston since the Brinks job in 1950 when Bird pilfered Isiah Thomas’ lazy inbounds pass to Bill Laimbeer that he immediately shoveled to a cutting Dennis Johnson for the back-breaking win in the 1987 Eastern Finals, the Celtics were able to stave off the young Turks.

But the Pistons learned from that failed campaign and came back to bedevil the Celtics and put a disappointing end to the careers of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. And in this age of Western Conference dominance, Detroit has for the last five years running been the one force in the East capable of dethroning the kings of the West.

If the success of the Pistons of the 80’s against Boston saw the team make wholesale changes (the team went with the youth movement of Reggie Lewis, Brian Shaw, Kevin Gamble, Rick Fox, and Dee Brown) and bid goodbye to crucial pieces of their championship years in Ainge who was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Joe Kleine and to Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton who both retired.

Flash forward to 2008, and the new jack veteran-heavy Celtics pretty much ended an era in Motown by sending the Pistons home for the summer with a 4-2 Eastern Finals win that has shook the franchise. Coach Flip Saunders was fired. And the core of their 2004 title squad – Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, and Chauncey Billups – are said to be on the trading block.

And these Celtics are turning conventional basketball wisdom on its rear end.

The much-maligned Doc Rivers has actually outcoached the Master himself Phil Jackson. The ghost of Red Auerbach and Celtics past seemingly refuse to see the Lakers’ Hall-of-Fame coach surpass the late-Boston patriarch’s total number of titles. Ray Allen, the subject of numerous treatises on how shooting guards who see a rapid decrease in their game once they hit the age of 32, has clearly been the team’s most consistent player in the Finals. Rajon Rondo, he of the sublime skills, has shown critics everywhere why he was kept in favor of Delonte West who was shipped out. And Leon Powe, James Posey, and Eddie House, for the most part forgotten by Rivers, have been superb firemen responding to the foul trouble that has plagued Boston’s starters and in the process make their coach look like a jenius. We’re spelling it with a “j” because the jury is still out on Rivers’ chops. Pierce reached deep into NBA history and pulled a Willis Reed and has thus far outplayed Kobe Bryant. And Garnett… has played like Kevin Garnett.

Los Angeles may have the league’s Most Valuable Player, but Boston, these once down-trodden Celtics after being pushed to the limit by the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers, have been labeled as underdogs, clearly have the best team.

You can actually imagine Paul Revere riding once more and crying out, “They can no longer mock us!”

Good luck and best wishes to Ford Arao

In the last PBL conference, Ford Arao suffered another ACL injury in a game versus Harbour Centre when Beau Belga decked him. The ACL was on his left knee but has since been successfully operated on.

This is terrible blow because Ford was going to apply for the next PBA draft. As such, he'll have to go to therapy for his injured knee and find the confidence to get his game back.

The affable big man who was on hand to watch Ateneo win the 2008 Nike Summer League said, "Buti na lang nakapagtapos ako," Ford said as he waited for his former teammates to come out of the noisy dugout.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer Catch

Ateneo 65 vs. UE 64
Nike Summer League Seniors Championship
by rick olivares

June 15, 2008
Philsports Arena
Norman Black slumped on the wall outside the cramped Ateneo dugout. He took copious swigs from an energy drink bottle between answering post-game questions. His black golf shirt was drenched in sweat and if he was anywhere within the realm of exhaustion he did not show it for he flashed the smile that only a championship can bring.

When he entered the dugout, his jubilant and once more victorious players let out a collective whoop. The team came back from the brink of a near-disheartening loss to upend tournament favorite University of the East in the 2008 Nike Summer League. “Where are my coaches,” the fourth year mentor asked and one by one the team officials all filed in. He thanked them for a job well done then singled out his players.

“Happy birthday, Noy… and great game.” It was forward Nonoy Baclao’s birthday and the second-year forward, grinning from ear to ear was telling no one in particular that this made for a great present.

Some 20 minutes earlier it seemed that any post-game dinner would be somber and subdued. From the opening whistle where the Warriors’ James Martinez banged in a triple from the left quarter court, UE spotted Ateneo a lead that went as high as 12 points.

When the Blue Eagles would make a run, the lead would invariably go back up as the Ateneans would shoot themselves in the foot with a gagging cacophony of turnovers. Even worse, UE was hitting treys as if the basket was as wide as an ocean.

At they parlayed that terrific field goal percentage into a 37-30 halftime lead.

Leave it to Norman Black to be Ateneo’s fount of optimism. “Look here, fellas. UE’s shooting something like 65% yet we’re only down by seven. It’s important that we get those stops and we execute much better. Then you’ll have a chance to get back in the game.” He further instructed the team to challenge every shot and pass while playing a shifting man-zone.

The Blue Eagles took heed at the resumption of the game. Yet while they blanketed UE’s outside artillery and got their opponent’s starters in foul trouble, Ateneo was still getting clobbered off the boards.

Dindo Pumaren’s wards repulsed one rally after another but with under two minutes left in the match, the lead was down to five 64-59. A Rabeh Al-Husseini putback and a gutsy drive by rookie Ryan Buenafe into the heart of UE’s defense netted the fifth and last foul of the Warriors’ jumping jack center Elmer Espiritu. The former San Sebastian Staglet nailed both shots to shave the lead to a more manageable 65-63 deficit.

And that meant that it was time for another pulsating finish.

The core of the team has been through numerous for-the-win situations in the last three years and if anything, it has given the Ateneans a quiet confidence in their abilities. They’ve won some big games now all they needed to validate that belief was getting the job done en route to Season 72 of the UAAP which was a mere two weeks away.

The Blue Eagles were getting stops but not the ball. In one UE offensive, they hauled down two offensive rebounds and got a third crack at the basket in one possession when the ball was incorrectly ruled off Al-Husseini’s fingertips. “Pero hindi kami nag-panic,” admitted Baclao. “Sabi lang namin, kailangan ng isa pang stop.”

After sparkplug Paul Lee’s set up hastened UE’s possible doom when his kick out pass to James Martinez instead found teammate Toto Bandaying on the bench, it gave Ateneo one more chance at salvaging a win with 35 seconds left.

Black called time to map out their last offensive.

Nine times out of ten will get you a play for the last shot to be taken by Chris Tiu. The thing is, our opponent’s know that and as a result, he will in all likelihood be tightly guarded. After Al-Husseini set a back pick for the Blue Eagle captain, the defense collapsed on Tiu who had the option of dumping it to Nonoy Baclao for a roll towards the basket.

Unlike their first game back after a couple of weeks of training in the United States where La Salle forced the ball out of Tiu’s hand, this time the skipper saw daylight.

Bang. A fifteen footer that was all net. Rally complete. Ateneo had the lead for the first time in the game. 65-64. Now they could have the victory if they stopped UE’s last chance to win their second tournament championship in as many days.

With 8.7 seconds left, the Blue Eagles wisely used their fouls to shave as much set up time as they could for the Red Warriors to set up a decent shot. But with a hand in his face, Paul Lee, who torched San Beda the day before with an incandescent display of shooting to wrap up the FilOil Pre-Season Tournament, threw up an airball. And with the final buzzer a hail of confetti floated around the dejected and the victorious.

“Kaya mo pala tumalon ng ganoon,” ribbed second assistant Gene Afable to Buenafe referring to his big time drive on Espiritu and his ensuing two free throws.

“Hindi ko nga alam na kaya ko gawin yun,” joked the prized recruit out of San Sebastian. “Sana next time and-one siya.”

“San Miguel. San Miguel,” chorused Al-Husseini and Chris Sumalinog inside a raucous locker room.

I bade Norman Black with another handshake and congratulations and left him with another cheery thought. “Don’t get used to that,” I said referring to his second off-season title with the other being the Collegiate Champions League won almost immediately after the last UAAP season. “I wouldn’t mind becoming greedy about championships.”

“That’s what I’d like to do because I’d love to continue coaching this team,” said the American mentor as he opened the door to the dugout. “But say this, even when we were down with about four minutes left, we never stopped hustling. Never stopped competing. Now that’s heart. A fighting heart.”

Ateneo 65 – Al-Husseini 18, Tiu 11, Buenafe 9, Salamat 7, Escueta 7, Baldos 6, Baclao 5, Austria 2, Salva 0, Chua 0, Gonzaga 0

UE 64 – Martinez 11, Lee 9, Lingganay 8, Espiritu 7, Llagas 7, Bandaying 6, Thiele 6, Etrone 4, Zamar 4, Reyes 2, Tagarda 0, Alabanza 0, Arellano 0

Quarterscores: 13-25, 30-37, 47-53, 65-64

Tournament Mythical Selection (exclusive for players wearing the Swoosh; other brands do not qualify because it doesn't look good for them)
G- Eric Salamat (Ateneo)
G- Andy Barocca (Far Eastern University)
F- PJ Barua (De La Salle University)
F- Rico Maierhofer (De La Salle University)
C- Perry Llagas (University of the East)

MVP – Eric Salamat