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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Inside the dugout

The Locker Room
The UP Maroons’ locker room at the Philsports Arena is equal parts cinema and sauna. Aboy Castro sits serenely in front of the rectangular room. How he does it is anyone’s guess since the airconditioning unit isn’t working and he looks unperturbed. Either he’s in a zen-like trance or he’s lost in anticipation of the game to come. Almost all the players view highlights of UST, their opponent for the day. A few who sat behind the laptop are tying the laces of their sneakers. There are taped messages of support and belief by their school brethren or news reports in the media on almost every locker. There’s a chair-laden with fruits for anyone to dip into. Hardly a word is said and if there are, they are in whispers. After a few minutes, Castro stands up and discusses the game pan one last time. He asks how the team will defend the Tigers’ Dylan Ababou and he is met with initial silence. Whether the team is unsure of themselves is anyone’s guess, but Paul Sorongon raises his hand to answer. Then Jay Agbayani segues in. Castro then points to the white board located at the back of the room and everyone turns around to look at the pointers.

The UST locker room is a distinct contrast. One player is lost in the music of his ipod. A couple of others are chatting merrily. Swingman Khasim Mirza is dribbling a ball between his legs while seated. Center Jervy Cruz silently surveys his team then exchanges observations with Japs Cuan. Outside the locker room, rookie guard Jeric Fortuna is stretching. The coaches are in conference in one corner. It’s a serious business for them, but when veteran sports photog Tony Lu enters, Coach Pido Jarencio offers a smile and a handshake. Lu goes around and shows his photos of the players all who ask for copies. Fr. Ermito De Sagon, pops in after to bid the team luck. The players seek him out and get his blessings.

The dugout of the National University Bulldogs is a revelation. Manny Dandan’s boys are not going to apologize for first impressions. The players are bright and cheerful. They dissect game strats with almost clinical precision that you have to wonder why that desire and knowledge doesn’t translate on the court. Dandan realizes that and issues a stern warning about sloppy play and he reminds shooting guard Elmer Fabula to be ready. Fabula is a nice but sensitive kid. He can drain treys in succession during practice but when the official whistle blows, he’s a bundle of nerves. He just needs experience, points out Assistant Coach Jeff Napa. Behind those glasses, Napa is constantly calculating. He loves the game of basketball but found himself playing for peanuts in the amateurs. He makes more from coaching and is happy to be helping his alma mater. Graduating players Jay Jahnke and Edwin Asoro are vocal with their encouragements and in the huddle, it is the point guard who leads the team in prayer. And when the players run out, the coach sits for a few moments to finish a smoke.

The Skinny
I cannot understand the boorishness of some UST fans and alumni. Now that the Tigers have started losing, they're calling for Pido Jarencio's head. Seriously, they have not been able to replace Allan Evangelista and Jojo Duncil who were real leaders on that team. Don't even suggest that Mark Canlas or Francis Allera have taken on that role. Is it possible that the team actually overachieved in the last couple of years? So that could mean that Pido got the most out of this team. Cool lang kayo, the pressure does not help the Tigers.

When Jeric Fortuna committed those two turnovers and Clark Bautista decided to take matters into his own hands, sure they looked bad. Fortuna doubled over in his self-inflicted pain as he knew that those boo boos all but ended the Tigers' hopes this season. Let me say this though, Fortuna and Bautista will be killing a lot of foes in the next couple of years.

By the same taken, there is reported unrest in the UP locker room. A disgruntled player or two have been quoted as saying that they are sick and tired of Aboy Castro referring to last year's woes and comparing them to this year. Whether true or not, losing sure brings out the worst in everybody. A couple of players had to be pulled away from each other after an argument inside the locker room. But I pity the team, they've had positive gains this year and it's a shame that some have not redoubled their efforts. I was planning on writing something again about this team but decided against it. Who wants to write about one's diatribe against another?

The only one with no gripes against their coach is DLSU (or are there).

As for the self-serving people in Ateneo sports. You're next on my firing line.

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