Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Look, ma. We didn't have to wait 14 years for another one.

When Ateneo won its first UAAP title in 1987, I purchased the championship shirt at the high school covered courts. The design was simple, a shot of the team during the singing of the alma mater. I wish I saved it but that's kinda impossible since that was 21 years ago.

I always wanted to do another championship shirt like that and well, good things come to those who wait. Here's the design and we'll be selling an initial batch of championship shirts tomorrow at the bonfire. Just look for me there. The design is on a gray shirt.

Our championship shirt available in all sizes.
Php 350 bucks.
Ze photo by Aly Yap.

Someone already asked me of our chances for next year's title and I said, "Hopefully."

The one thing people have to understand about Ateneo's basketball program is, WE ARE NOT BUILT TO WIN EVERY SINGLE YEAR; no matter how strong the team is. There are two points for the program:
1. to be competitive and contend for a Final Four slot,
2. to make sure these student-athletes graduate and get an education.
If we happen to win a title or two along the way, then that's the gravy there.

So if you ask me, we've been pretty much successful. There's more but you'll have to ask me when you see me.

Reflections on a championship

Reflections on a Championship
by Simon Mossesgeld

I watched the first game of the championship live right behind the bench and marveled, as I have many times throughout this season, at how this team is a team in the best tradition: unselfish, hard working, with great respect for one another, friends on and off the court. The players are largely unassuming. They do not strut about to let the world know how good they are or their team is. They just do their part and play their best together. This is what strikes me most about this team and I think it explains best its championship character. I could not watch the second game because I was teaching in a seminar but resolved to immediately proceed to the Gesu. I had texted Paolo Trillo that morning saying I would see the team in the Gesu. That is how confident I was.

Someone asked me while we were waiting for the team to arrive at the Gesu after the championship, “Sir, do you miss being team manager?” I realized that I did miss it a bit but much, much more than anything I was very happy for the team. I was happy about how the coaching staff and management (and the school) formed the players into men we could all be proud of. I did not taste a championship during my two-year tenure but it did not matter because Ateneo basketball is more than championships. It is about giving it your best. It is about forming men with the right principles and values. It is about gratitude for all that we have received. It is about community. It is about God and this team, like many teams before them, is all these. But I sense there is more in this team.

A friend texted me the next day that she saw me at the Gesu that evening looking as if I was in a trance. I guess I was in a trance-like state. I was deeply thankful for God’s love for his players, his team and his Ateneo. I was very quietly happy for the team, for my fellow Ateneans and for the school and was simply content to bask quietly in the happiness and the gratitude that filled the church that evening. This is the Ateneo I grew up in and have grown to love.

Tonight we will celebrate four champion teams—three in basketball and one in swimming. I once again thank God for his blessings.

To the Ateneo Blue Eagles, Mr. Simon Mossesgeld is affectionately known as, "Mr. M." He was the former team manager of the Blue Eagles and in the pros, the Purefoods Hotdogs. We worked together for the LEAD INSTITUTE OF SPORT and while helping out with Ateneo Team B several years ago. Thanks, sir.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Post-Game 2 Courtside

Sorry for the grainy look. It's the compression. On my Macbook all the stuff I edit looks fabulously clear.

Bleachers' Brew #126 A Tale of Two Brothers

A Tale of Two Brothers
words by rick olivares pix by mhel garrido and den dee

Hours before tip-off for Game 2 of the championship for the 2008 Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Araneta Coliseum was already jammed to the bleachers. Not only did people arrive early to get the good seats but they also wanted to be on hand for the awards ceremony where the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles almost made it a clean sweep of the individual awards.

When Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Ateneo’s starting center was handed trophies for being voted as the league’s Most Improved and Most Valuable Player (he also bagged a spot on the Mythical Five), lost in the adulation of the Ateneo gallery that nearly filled the entire coliseum was one man.

On the court, he is an imposing figure at six-foot-six. His lean chiseled body and the tattoos that adorn his arm make add to that fearsome reputation. But more so now since he’s got game to back up that menacing scowl.

Carlo Sharma, in a white shirt and baggy khaki shorts stood beside former collegiate foes and current Red Bull teammates Rich Alvarez and Magnum Membrere in the patron section. The look on Sharma’s face was a mixture of pride and glee. He clapped his hands vociferously. When Al-Hussaini, his half and younger brother, made his way to the dugout to prepare for their match against La Salle, Sharma pointed to his brother who returned the gesture which is a sign of recognition and respect.

It was four years ago when he steered his Rabeh to his school’s archrival; a decision Sharma never regretted. Rabeh showed plenty of promise as a player for the Philippine Christian University Baby Dolphins and was heavily recruited by all the major college basketball programs including La Salle. But Sharma’s falling out with his school’s coaching staff and the hardship of latching on to a pro team in an increasingly competitive PBA landscape made the decision an easy one. “Kung basketball ang pagpipilian dalawa lang naman ang choice mo. Pero kung sa basketball at sa pag-aaral, alam mo naman kung saan ang tama para sa ‘yo, ‘di ba?”

Having said that, Sharma wishes he had an older brother to advise him during his formative years to steer him in the right direction. But who knew, right?

Incredibly, basketball wasn’t Carlo’s first sport as a youngster. “Chess,” he laughed at the incredulity of the notion. “Talaga.”

Being the tallest student at Paco Catholic School, he was forced to play for his school’s basketball team as a high school senior. “Pinilit ako pero tama lang yun kasi naging maganda yung bunga ng basketball para sa akin.”

Once he learned the sport, Sharma despite being a late bloomer soaked in everything about hoops. He even patterned his game after then-Portland Trailblazer Rasheed Wallace (take note even the tattoos on Carlo’s arm).

Rabeh, a good eight years younger gravitated to basketball at an earlier age but nonetheless idolized his older brother who led the Green Archers to a 2001 triumph over Ateneo.

The two are close even with the disparity in age. “Lagi ko siya tinatawagan,” says Rabeh who credits Carlo along with Norman Black (as well as his teammates) for the quantum improvement in his game.

“Kung napansin mo nung mga first years niya sa Ateneo, laging mainitin yung ulo niya,” noted Sharma who remembered feeling alarmed about his brother’s temper. “Kahit hindi siya kasama sa eksena nandun siya para mag-defend ng teammate o kung saan yung may away.”

Sharma took aside Al-Hussaini and gave him some advice that imprinted itself on his younger brother’s mind. “Huwag mo ako gagayahin sa mga pagkakamali ko,” urged Carlo. The former enforcer of the Green Archers laid it out the realities for his younger brother if he didn’t make good on his studies and if he didn’t work harder on his game.

Norman Black, Al-Hussaini’s coach with the Blue Eagles said that Rabeh’s skills and potential to be a big-time player was always there. “He just needed to realize it and to change his attitude. Once he came to that realization, the game became easy for him.”

Carlo also noted that this season, with better focus and an understanding of hoops, Rabeh has raised his game by leaps and bounds because he no longer allows others to exploit his short fuse. “Ikaw na ngayon mapipikon sa kanya.”

Sharma too had an epiphany of sorts after riding the bench in the PBL with ICTSI and with Shell and Coca Cola in the PBA. “Akala ko tapos na yung career ko kahit halos hindi pa nagsisimula. Nagisip ako talaga kung ano yung gagawin ko kung tuluyan ma-cut sa PBA.”

In Red Bull where Sharma has gained a new lease on life in his pro basketball career, he found himself teammates with a number of old college foes like Ateneans Alvarez, Membrere, Enrico Villanueva, Larry Fonacier, and Paolo Bugia and Cyrus Baguio of the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers. Far removed from his hell-raiser days with the Green Archers, Sharma became a locker room favorite for his wittiness and presence. “Carlo Sharma is one loud boy,” laughed Alvarez when asked to describe his teammate. “Never a dull moment.” That trust bequeathed on him (and his teammates) by Barako Coach Yeng Guiao saw the power forward-center become a dependable and regular part of the rotation where he was a candidate for last year’s Most Improved Player.

Although Al-Hussaini is unable to watch most of Sharma’s games in the PBA because the Blue Eagles practice in the early evening, he makes it a point to catch Red Bull’s matches on television. If not, he calls his brother for a recap and to ask how he did.

Sharma on the other hand, tries to watch Rabeh when permissible. It isn’t unusual to find him seated beside his former college rivals during UAAP games where he normally wears white. But he makes it a point to cheer his brother on even if it’s La Salle that Ateneo plays. “Hindi na tinatanong yun,” explained Carlo. “Kapatid ko siya.”

After Rabeh brought home a number of individual awards and helped Ateneo win its fourth UAAP Men’s Basketball Championship with a two-game sweep of La Salle, Sharma kidded his brother to spot for lunch or dinner. “Ha? Ikaw yung may trabaho diyan hindi ako,” parried Al-Hussaini.

“Kuripot,” jokingly rebutted the beaming older brother. The brothers now have led their respective schools to a UAAP title.

As youngsters, the two played ball at home whenever they could. Sharma because of the age and height difference used to beat Rabeh regularly in friendly games of one-on-one.

But when asked if they have yet to match up on the court now, Sharma has the last word: “Hindi na. Baka talunin na ako.”

Monday Sideline Slants

Brett Favre throws six touchdowns in a 56-35 New York Jets victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Who says he doesn't have it?

Fernando Torres scores a brace in Liverpool's 2-0 win over Everton in Goodison Park. Now Robbie Keane has to get going lest you go the way of Nick Barmby.

Mike Mussina won his 20th game of the season -- his first ever in an 18 year career with the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees as the already eliminated Bombers beat the Boston Red Sox 6-2 in today's double header. They're playing their final game of the season right now atFenway Park. Thanks, Moose. Stay with the Yankees!

Tricia... so how's it now in Virginia! Your Washington Redskins sent the Dallas Cowboys crashing down to earth with a 26-24 win. Clinton Ports sure has found a home outside Denver. Great great discussion between former Seattle Seahawk Cris Collinsworth and Bob Costas over the aftermath of Dallas' loss. Terrell Owens... grow up. One third of the cowboys offense went your way and you have the gall to complain on national television. Remember, TO also stands for Turn Over.

Chino Trinidad withdraws his PBL referees from officiating Game 3 of the NCAA Finals between San Beda and Jose Rizal. No one likes to get blamed for things, Chino, but it was wrong to pull them out.

Beth Celis. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhha
Sagot ng kapatid sa inyo.... "Sabihin niyo na lang kung ano ang gusto niyo." Then he laughed. Spin control from the sore losers and a team with the biggest excuses.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Daddy Cool and that 1958 victory vs La Salle

by rick olivares

In 1958, Ateneo, after a 19-year wait, got back at De La Salle by trumping them for the 1958 NCAA crown. In a game witnessed by 10,000 people at the old barn along Vito Cruz, the Blue Eagles rallied for a 105-103 overtime win versus the Green Archers.

La Salle's starting unit then was Jose Laganson, Jose Zubiri, Kurt Bachmann, Hector Gamboa, and Dominador Servillano. Ateneo on the other hand started Ed Ocampo, Bobby Littaua, Cris Arroyo, Tony Jose, and Jimmy Pestaño.

Unlike the rest of the NCAA field that lined-up 16 players, Ateneo only had 12. The rest of the roster included Lito Carvajal, Amado Martelino, Boogie Pamintuan, Vic Kramer, Dodie Agcaoili, Nani Hernaez, and Mike Jalandoni. Coaching them was former player Jing Roco. The team had been gutted by team discipline and academics. One casualty of that squad was Paquito Diaz. The actor and father of Joko Diaz.

The championship game featured16 deadlocks and 11 lead changes.

In the final seconds, Jose Laganzon was fouled but missed both free throws that would have broken a 103-stalemate. Incredibly Zubiri was able to muscle his way in for an offensive rebound but he missed the putback. Tony Jose finally pulled down the rebound and passed off to Bobby Littaua. Thinking he didn't have enough time, Littaua heaved a halfcourt shot that hit the side of the board. Dodo Martelino and Cris Arroyo raced down court around the same time and the former pulled down the rebound that caromed mightily off the backboard. His jumpshot missed but Arroyo, who was nicknamed "Stretch" for his penchant for driving to the lane while exposing the ball for foes to block, got one final offensive rebound and scored as time expired.

In case you want to know, early in the match, LSC (as they were called then) spotted ADM a sizeable lead. It wasn't the cheers of "Fabilioh" or "Halikinu" that got the team back into the match, but "Daddy Cool," a popular rock 'n roll tune back then. The Blue Babble Battalion also featured a full brass band along with someone who also played an electric guitar.

The cost of a reserved seat (as the patron section was called back then) was Php 3.00. But it did not matter as everyone sat in the bleachers where tickets cost Php 1.00.

The following day, the late-journalist and television personality Joe Quirino visited the campus in Loyola Heights expecting to find a festive atmosphere. Instead the college was stone-cold quiet.

Quirino met up with the team's Spiritual Adviser and PT Fr. James B. Reuter S.J.

"Good morning, Father. Where are the boys?"

"Oh, they're in their classes taking their semestral exams," replied the Jesuit nonchalantly.

"After winning a championship?" asked the media man with raised eyebrows.

The good priest took Quirino by the arm as he showed him around Kostka Hall to check up on the players who were lost in thought as they took their tests. "Our players are students first and incidentally basketeers. We do not grant them favors just because they won a championship."

"Don't you think that they're tired after winning the championship?"

Fr. Reuter then explained that the team lost 30 players on both Team A and B between 1956 and 1958 owing to academic deficiency and breach of team discipline. "That's their lookout. Our players must have good grades to remain on the team. It is unfair to make a boy into a bum by passing him. They cannot be basketball players forever. They have to earn a living and basketball cannot teach them that."

Jimmy Pestaño graduated that year but instead of playing pro ball in the MICAA, he went corporate where he joined a multinational oil company. It was a part of an employee's training back then that they had to pump gas for a while to learn servitude and humility. When word got out that the former Ateneo cager was working in a gas station, former foes from LSC and SBC would pass by in their cars and derisively ask Pestaño to fill up their tanks and wipe the windshields of their cars .

Pestaño recalls it was difficult at first as he had to swallow his pride. More so because those who taunted him where cagers who he easily beat with a drive to the basket or a fallaway jumpshot. He eventually rose through the ranks and later migrated to Canada. He had the last laugh. But those days of balling with Ed Ocampo, Bobby Littaua, and his teammates remain a good memory. As is that victory against La Salle.


Mr. Pestaño's son, Mike, was my classmate and kabarkada later on in college. I got to personally meet Mr. Jimmy later on and he is a true gentleman. Retired now and back in the Philippines, he serves as an officer of the Ateneo dorm association.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ateneo versus La Salle UAAP Finals Game 2

(Sorry it took awhile to pen this. We had dinner with some good friends at Bellini's last night where I had a nice chat with some gentlemen from San Beda College who congratulated us for our victory. See you in the UAAP, friends. Animo San Beda. Animo Ateneo. This appears in

The Champions
Ateneo 62 vs. La Salle 51

word rick olivares pix martin & mhel

It ended right where it began. In the solemn refuge of the Church of Gesu.

A year ago was the sermon after the loss to La Salle. The team not only had to rebuild its psyche after a series of debilitating losses since 2004 but they had to survive a near-putsch of Norman Black by a disgruntled alumni base.

Ryan Buenafe, who was yet to be a member of the team and the school at that time, sat by the right side of the Church and witnessed the lowest of lows. Incredibly, it took Ford Arao and Zion Laterre, the two departing players who were hurting the most, to put a smile on everyone’s face with their upbeat farewell speeches. Buenafe remembered feeling touched. It was a far different community, he thought. The team had just suffered a most painful loss yet they celebrated, offered thanks, and gave their graduating players a unique send off – basking in the love and cheers of a grateful community. He imagined himself to be in that position and although it would take him a while more to decide where to matriculate, the image was nonetheless indelible and a powerful one.

Early this past summer, Norman Black flew to the United States to attend to a death in the family. While over there, his thoughts never strayed far from what he had left behind in the Philippines.

Like a kid given the keys to Toys ‘R Us, Norman had a great sandbox to play in. They had bagged some blue chip recruits and the team’s holdovers were rounding out into deadly form. Weeks after the heartbreak of Season 70’s Final Four, the team showed no signs of an emotional letdown in the 2007 Champions League campaign; a stark contrast to their dismal 2006 showing. The team ran roughshod over the competition and bagged the first bit of glassware of the Norman Black era in Ateneo. “We have a good team,” said the coach to me in one of the many private discussions we’d have over the course of the year. “Don’t tell anyone but I’m excited about this team. We have a very good chance of winning the championship with this year.”

Another pre-season tournament win – this time in the Nike Summer League – seemed to confirm that but Black was still publicly reticent about his team’s chances perhaps not to lift up expectations. “As long as we can beat the top teams once or twice then take down the lower seeds we’ll have a very good chance to make it to the Final Four. Then we’ll take it from there.”

Only no one could have predicted the romp would come in such devastating fashion. Not since the 1987 squad topped the league with a 14-1 record (en route to a 20-1 streak that continued well into the back-to-back crown of 1988) has there been a Blue Eagle team so dominant. And all season long, they proved the doubters wrong. They won game after game and repaid debts in spades.

After they prevented UST from defending their crown in Season 70, the Blue Eagles crushed the Tigers twice in the eliminations to underscore their mastery of their España rivals.

There were the University of the East Red Warriors who took two games from Ateneo in Season 70. The Blue Eagles evened up the score this year and in the rubber match that was the Final Four, sent them packing in humiliating fashion. That victory might have ended Dindo Pumaren’s tenure as UE coach as word is he is all set to move to our fabled foe from Mendiola.

There was National University that went into this year wanting to prove that their second round victory of Season 70 that put a severe crimp on Ateneo’s title hopes was no fluke. As fate would have it, the blue and whites faced them once more in almost the same situation as last year with a twice-to-beat slot hanging in the balance. For a half there, the Bulldogs thought they were the Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers, as they played rough thinking it would knock the Eagles out of their finely tuned rhythm. In the end, it was another good old fashioned butt-kicking that sent the team into a reorganization (as was done to FEU three years ago).

And then there was La Salle on the ultimate stage of the UAAP Finals for the fourth time. The Green Archers sent the Eagles crashing in ’04, ’05, and in ’07 with a glorious comeback of their own.

Thus far, they were beaten in three games with one more until the mission was done. The day before game two, Nonoy Baclao was icing his knees at the clinic in Moro Lorenzo. The team earlier got word that the team practically romped away with the majority of the season awards. Rabeh Al-Hussaini, walked in shook Baclao’s hand and joked, “Mula ngayon, tawag ko sa ‘yo ‘Doy.’ ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ kasi pero panget pakinggan yung ‘DPoy.’” Baclao congratulated his teammate on his winning the MVP plum; the fourth Atenean to win the award after Jun Reyes, Rich Alvarez, and Enrico Villanueva.

There was some concern that the team might come out flat after the awards ceremony given the enormity of the situation. The Green Archers were obviously going to be all fired up. “It’s a good thing they found out early so the joy and anticipation has somewhat died down a bit,” said Debbie Tan, the team’s liaison from the PLDT-SMART Foundation.

Don’t worry,” promised Baclao. “Focused kami.

Hindi na namin papatagalin pa,” added Al-Hussaini.

Close by sat former teammate Ford Arao who was rehabbing his second ACL. “Kung sakali manalo bukas,” he whispered in a low voice so no one could hear. “Kami lang pala nila Zion, Ken (Barracoso), Johann (Uichico), Emman (Monfort), at Martin (Quimson) hindi magcha-champion.” He looked mournful for a few seconds then brightened up. Di na bale. Basta mag-champion. Para naman sa lahat yan."

Team spirit.

In three previous meetings, Ateneo had three players in double-digit scoring. In Game One of the Finals, co-captain Chris Tiu found himself saddled with early foul trouble and scored only two points that were huge nonetheless. Al-Hussaini and Baclao had burned DLSU badly that the coaching staff theorized that there would be a renewed defensive focus on the Blue Eagles' frontline. But stopping them was altogether another matter. And it was time for Tiu and Eric Salamat to get untracked.

It was another sterling defensive effort but for the first time all season, only one player – Chris Tiu -- finished in double digits (16 points to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists). The caveat there was all 10 Blue Eagles who checked into the match scored making it even more difficult to stop the team. Once more Jobe Nkemakolam made a case for himself as a force to reckon with as he came off the bench to score 8 points in addition to pulling down 2 boards and dishing off 1 assist. Mike Baldos was another factor as he started in Baclao’s place and added 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block.

Despite an early DLSU lead, the score remained close; another indication of their inability to land a haymaker. After Tiu hit a jumper at the 2:34 mark of the first quarter to put Ateneo up 12-10, it was for the lead they would not surrender.

The Blue Eagle captain later scored seven straight points to post the blue side with a 10-point lead that would eventually balloon to a 15-point cushion at the half.

For only the second time in four matches, the Green Archers took a quarter from Ateneo as they came out of the half firing literally. The Archers’ bigs set a series of staggering picks that freed up Jayvee Casio for four treys to go with one apiece from LA Revilla and James Mangahas. The lead had evaporated to three after three quarters 50-47 as the Green Archers scored 21 points to Ateneo’s 9.

Al-Hussaini who this time around was plagued by early foul trouble kept Ateneo afloat in the face of the withering La Salle assault as the newly-crowned MVP scored all his 7 points in the crucial third canto. But La Salle would pay the price for their overly aggressive play.

Rico Maierhofer was slapped with a second technical for taunting with 1:31 left in the quarter and subsequently ejected from the game. Almost a minute later, Casio picked up his fourth foul.

Despite missing their two vital cogs, Ateneo was unable to capitalize on the Archers’ misfortune as they remained scoreless for four minutes. However, with under six minutes to play in the fourth period, the Archers problems were compounded as they were already in penalty.

Chris Tiu’s three free throws off a three-point challenge at the 8:24 mark was the game’s turning point. It gave Ateneo breathing room as it padded the lead to 53-47, a luxury in the now close match.

That was it for the team from Taft as their offensive ineptitude and coupled with the defensive noose hung on them by Ateneo tightened. The Archers scored a low of four points with all coming from PJ Walsham who all season long was riding Franz Pumaren’s doghouse.

In the fourth finals match up between the two teams in the UAAP, the Ateneo Blue Eagles repaid one final debt as they beat the De La Salle Green Archers 62-51 for their fourth UAAP title and 18th overall (including the 14 in the NCAA). It was Ateneo’s fourth championship victory in six meetings with La Salle as well.

The Blue Eagles showed everyone that they too can come back.

In 2006, JC Intal joined a slam dunk contest and wore Norman Black’s San Miguel jersey during one of his attempts.

This year, the Blue Eagles paid tribute to the man who led them all these years by taking to the court of the Araneta Coliseum before Game One wearing a black shirt with the number 24 emblazoned boldly on the back.

When the oncourt celebration began, Al-Hussaini and Black enjoyed a tearful embrace in center court. “Thank you,” said the coach to his center who enjoyed one of the finest seasons of any Ateneo player ever. “Hindi, coach,” replied Al-Hussaini. “Thank you po sa inyo.

A cast of former Blue Eagles littered on the court. There was Eric Reyes (1987 & '88 UAAP Champions) who congratulated his old teammate Gene Afable for a job well done.

There was Intal and Macky Escalona who both (were from the 2002 UAAP Champion team) said prior to the game that they wouldn’t miss this for the world. “Bawi na para sa amin,” beamed Escalona.

Bajjie Del Rosario and Magnum Membrere of the 2002 team were also in smiles as they congratulated their former teammates.

Ricky Palou, who was a long time ago his team’s (1969 NCAA Champions) version of Nonoy Baclao shook hands with his successor. “Good job,” said Palpal Palou (as he was fondly nicknamed all those years ago by the sports press) as he shook hands with the Finals MVP who had a net dangled around his neck. Then they shared a high five.

There was Nonoy Chuatico (1987 UAAP Champions) who played for Robert Jaworski’s Ginebra San Miguel teams of the early 1990’s, who also wore an iamnonoy shirt. “Makikisawsaw ako,” he laughed. “Sarap maging champion ulit.

There was Sandy Arespacochaga who waxed eloquent for one final time. During the bonfire party of 2002, he walked around Bellarmine Field clutching the trophy that eluded him as a player. “This is a good win,” he grinned as he allowed himself a smile that eludes him when he has his game face on.

There was Jimmy Alabanza who in retirement spends all his waking hours trying to help his alma mater shaking hands with every one. Even with people he doesn't know.

And there was Ford Arao wearing a Mike Baldos jersey with Yuri Escueta’s number taped in front. His large frame standing out in the sea of blue that had crowded the maple court. He smiled that big goofy smile of his and sought out his former teammates. He found his buddies Escueta and Baldos and the three huddled up. They emerged with tears in their eyes as Escueta tapped Arao’s chest as if to say, “Para sa ‘yo ‘to, Ford.

The big man wiped his eyes and flashed that grin of his. “Para sa community ‘to.

It ended right where it began. In the solemn refuge of the Church of the Gesu.

And win or lose, as always, every one was there to give thanks, celebrate, and to remember. After all, this is the Ateneo Way.

Author’s Note:
This one is for Ford Arao, Zion Laterre, Ken Barracoso, Martin Quimson, Johann Uichico, and Emman Monfort. Brothers in arms in the trenches.

And for Norman Black. Now you can sleep soundly, Coach.

Animo Ateneo.

Ateneo 62Tiu 16, Baclao 8, Nkemakolam 8, Al-Hussaini 7, Baldos 6, Buenafe 5, Reyes 5, Salamat 3, Austria 2, Escueta 2

La Salle 51Casio 18, Walsham 8, Maierhofer 7, Revilla 5, Atkins 3, Bagatsing 3, Mangahas 3, Ferdinand 2, Malabes 2, Barua 0, Villanueva 0

Thanks to these dudes who got my back.

My plan was to wear a different jersey for each quarter -- my tribute to the players of last year. I wore Ford's sophomore jersey during the pre-game analysis. I wasn't able to wear Emman's jersey and I grabbed the wrong jersey from my closet. Instead of Zion's I picked up LA Tenorio's. But no worries. Hey, LA!

Thanks to ABS-CBN for giving me the opportunity. Was super surprised on my way inside the Southgate when they asked me if I wanted to do the pre and post-game analysis. Ms. Tessa Jazmines, my colleague in the Business Mirror for help in the Press Room. My friends from Mike Abasolo - Mr. Red Simba, Chris Soler, Kim Lesaca, and my old friend, Sid Ventura for their thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and laughs. Mike and Kim... genuflect now, bruthas! And to Kamae De Jesus and Portia Silva... cheerleaders in the production room and fab peeps! Good job both of ya. And to Boom Gonzales and Rolly Manlapaz for their insights too. And last but not the least, my brothers in the Ateneo Sports Shooters and the Guidon. One Big Fight, hommes.

To all Ateneans and non-Ateneans, email me your stories and thoughts of the season, the games, incidents, anecdotes. We're doing something also from the point of view of the fans and spectators. Please be a part of this.

Coach Norman... dammit. I'm happy for you. Yung mga bwisit na alumni na batikos ng batikos kay coach at sa mga players tapos nagpa-picture with them afterwards... up yours! Kapal ng mga mukha niyo. Homegrown my f****** ass.

Photo op before Game 2: With Fr. Ben Nebres, Rabeh, Nico, and Yuri.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yesterday on my way out of the Production Room after a short briefing, former Archer Dino Aldeguer was outside and we had a brief chat. He told me that my Game 1 pre and post-game analysis was spot on and that -- in his words -- "Sana pakinggan ka ni Franz."

We chatted a bit more about pro hoops and Ateneo-La Salle. Thanks for the kind words, Dino. Best wishes to your school and team.

To my fellow Ateneans and even non-Ateneans, kindly send your fave memories or personal anecdotes about this year's campaign. No game analysis please. How you felt about the tickets, the games, the officiating, the Mass at Gesu, or whatever.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What's the time?

Two fans were thinking of ways to give their team a boost.

Fan 1: Everybody does those signs with puns. They think they're very punny. We should be different!
Fan 2: I hear you. So how about we march inside the Blue Eagles' locker room... demand, hold them hostage, or we can beg... to be given one minute of their time to express how we feel?
Fan 1: Okay ako... except the part where we hold them hostage. Sira focus nila doon. Maybe sa isang team na lang.
(Both laugh high five. One lets out a whiff of gas and they laugh even harder.)
Fan 1: Ayan tuloy... sige. (laughs a little more) How about we give them a one or two liner -- yung famous movie quote? Yung mala-"win one for the Gipper."
Fan 2: Who's the Gipper?
Fan 1: Damn. And you call yourself a sports fan.
Fan 2: I'm only 20 years old!
Fan 1: Sige, how about we say -- from the movie Cool Runnings 'to -- "Feel the rhythm. Feel the rhyme. Get on up. It's bobsled time. Cool runnings!"
Fan 2: Okay siya pero si Rabeh at si Jobe lang naman mahilig sa hip hop o reggae dyan. And that's bobsled. This is da Philippines, man. Walang bobsled bobsled dito. O, ganito...
"Bleep bleep bleep La Salle. Bleep bleep bleep bleep La Salle. Bleep. Bleep. I don't know about you, but bleep bleep bleep La Salle."
Fan 1: (shocked). Dude, get a grip on yourself. Chilax. Okay yun except hindi papayag si Fr. Nemy niyan. Wholesome tayo. Where did you get that?
Fan 2:
Fan 1: Hahahahaha Let's try something else.... yung sa Miracle, "I am Mike Eruzione. And I play for the United States of America.
Fan 2: But they all play for Ateneo? Some of them have been wearing the uniform for several years na... maybe sa National Team kasi they come from different schools. And how does that work when the coach leaves the team and goes home and comes up with all sorts of excuses to coach against Ateneo?
Fan 1: Ouch.
Fan 1: Wala na akong maisip.
Fan 2: Simple na lang.... Believe.
Fan 1: Yup. One Big Fight!
Fan 2: Fabilioh.
Fan 1: Halikinu.
Fan 2: Blue Eagle Spelling.
Fans 1 & 2: Go Ateneo. One Big Fight!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's that time of the year

(Taken from the upcoming issue of the Loyola School Bulletin)

It's that time of the year
by rick olivares

People should correctly adjust their Philippine almanacs. There aren’t two seasons – rainy and hot – but three. You have to pencil in the basketball season for the hold the games have on people from all over the archipelago. And depending on the results, they alternate between tropical depressions and bright and sunny dispositions in certain parts of the metropolis.

And if you’ve browsed through the first five pages of lately, you will have noticed that there are at least 30 threads with “Ateneo Blue Eagles” or an Atenean as its direct topic. And that is not counting the generic threads that discuss power rankings to Final Four odds to officiating; all with a heaping helping of ye good old blue and white.

As of early September 2008, if you googled “Ateneo Blue Eagles,” you will have received at least 46, 900 entries on the World Wide Web to feast your eyes on. A few weeks later, it jumped up to 57,900 and counting.

For the visceral types, on youtube, there are more than 200 videos of the blue and white for fans to relive sensational plays and highlights regardless whether we won or lost.

Adidas which has been sponsoring Ateneo over the past few years has since last season, put out various Blue Eagle apparel. Last year, they sold out nearly everything save for a few kiddie wear. This year, with orders up by 27%, there are now two kinds of windbreakers and golf shirts, replica jerseys, and a hoodie finding their way into stores everywhere. And if you haven’t got one, then maybe you should because they’re going, going, and by the time you’re reading this, they’ll all most likely be gone.

The incredible fact about that is not all the Ateneo team wear is bought by current students or alumni. Paul is from St. Nicholas College in Pampanga, but every chance he gets, he watches the Blue Eagles on television. Having an Ateneo jacket is the closest thing he’ll get to being affiliated with the school or the Blue Eagles and he had to take an hour-long bus ride to Manila to buy a jacket.

Explained one retailer, “It is aspirational kaya binibili. It helps that the team is popular and clean-cut yung image. And maganda rin yung color combination… blue and white.”

Most recently, adidas placed “higantes” standees of each member of the team on either side of Fr. Masterson Drive fronting the Blue Eagle Gym. They have become a landmark and a photo op for fans. Word is some overzealous people are offering several grand for someone to pilfer the Chris Tiu standee. It also prompted the mother of one female volleyball player to wonder why there aren’t any similar standees for other athletes. “But mom,” explained the Blue Spiker. “Men’s basketball is the most popular sport in the country.” The mother harrumphed and said no more, but obviously she stewed on it.

It’s also that time of the year when there are frequent one-day leaves during the working week. “I save up my leaves for the UAAP basketball season and for the summer,” said Mark who asked for his surname and company not to be revealed. “But our HR Manager has seen a pattern for my leaves over the last couple of year. They tease me na seasonal ang fever ko… ‘Blue Eagle fever.’”

For the higher-ups, when possible, employers schedule meetings around the games. If they can’t, then they set meetings during the games. “It helps if yung ka-meeting mo or ang boss ay Atenista,” joked PJ (not his real name), an executive with Ayala.

Alumnus Jem Bengzon tells of an incident a couple of years ago when an employee of his set a meeting outside the office. Bengzon thought nothing of it until he saw his staff on television watching the games at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum. “Kitang-kita,” laughed Bengzon of the incident. “He was cheering and jumping up and down. Of course pinagsabihan ko siya. He was lucky he didn’t get suspended for that even if Ateneo lost (to UE) that day.”

Moral lesson, never sit where the TV cameras can spot you.

Another alumnus, George has been long retired from work and spends his time watching as much collegiate basketball as he can. “The hardest part about watching the games is that after having come so close to winning a couple of titles in the past few years you have to wait an entire calendar year before you have another chance at it. Any off-season or summer league title helps but it’s not well, the UAAP. We’ve got a very good team this year. I hope that this time around, it’s going to be a year-long celebration.”

Sideline slants on Game 1

Nonoy Baclao was summoned to the Commissioner's Office after the game because La Salle complained of his trash talking. The reason why Nonoy let out so much emotion is that as soon as Rico Maierhofer checked into the game, he began gabbing. You know, he talks so much he should be a television show host. Give him a show. By the way, when he was asked how many semesters more before he was finished in school by Mhel Garrido, it took him two minutes to answer.

Noy was apologetic about it. But you should hear these guys as well as those on their bench. Give them a Most Courteous Award. People play the press to be politically correct but these games aren't about sportsmanship. They are about oneupsmanship.

There is nothing ever cordial about these games.

And they complain that they got bum calls? They had plenty of help. Two of the fouls called on Chris were not fouls at all. And even a couple by Nonoy were dubious. Their tactics were obvious. Bump, push, and throw them off their rhythm. Their press worked? Of course it did, they got away with a lot of handchecking and grabbing. I should videotape the whole game from my vantage point.

Nonoy was called for using his arms when he curled around his defender. Yup, foul all right. But Jayvee Casio does that a lot. Ditto with Jervy Cruz but they are hardly called for that.

Chill lang. Just play the game.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are these dudes the winners?

MVP: Rabeh Al-Hussaini
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Buenafe
Defensive Player of the Year: Nonoy Baclao
Most Improved Player: Rabeh Al-Hussaini
Mythical Five Selection: Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Jervy Cruz, Rico Maierhofer, Jayvee Casio, Chris Tiu

That Mythical Five selection sure is an awesome one if ever fielded together.

Yeah I forgot to mention that I also voted for Rabeh as the Most Improved Player.

For Women's Hoops, I voted for UST's Marichu Bacaro and in Boy's basketball, I cast my ballot for Mark Juruena of Adamson.

Expect Great... Sue Bird

Series tied with the LA Sparks (beat LA!). It's Game 3 tomorrow between the Seattle Storm and them Sparks. Hope your team advances, Sue. And that you win the MVP Award.

Let the good times roll. Goodbye Yankee Stadium.

It’s not like the New York Yankees were folding up.

But it’s close.

In 1901, the team was ironically formed in Baltimore, Maryland and established as the Orioles. Sounds kinda weird that the origins of this team were from another team. Two years after their inception, the squad moved to New York and became known as the Highlanders but somehow the team was nicknamed the Yankees, an old Dutch term for “American.”

The team received another transfusion years later when it stockpiled itself with a number of exiled Boston Red Sox and soon the team got on the winning track. That in itself is actually an understatement. The New York Yankees are one of the world’s most famous teams with the interlocking “NY” logo as famous as the Swoosh and the Golden Arches becoming famous as with their World Series victories one after another.

The dynasties are now only a memory although a good one. The team has been under achieving in spite of having the biggest payroll in baseball.

And for the first time since 1994, they are missing the play-offs.

A friend of mine once said he preferred photographs of himself with celebrities rather than ask for their autographs. Another said that if a friend didn’t believe you and where you’ve been and who you’ve met then they’re no friend of yours.

Me? I’m somewhere in between.

“Go on,” said the Tour Guide. “Scoop up a little dirt.” It’s not everyday that one gets to trot out to the field of Yankee Stadium. I was there as part of one of the off-season tours. I stood on top of the mound where guys like Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre, Ron Guidry, Dave Righetti, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Mariano Rivera mowed down batters. I appreciated the significance of being atop the mound. I chewed no tobacco nor did I blow gum like an overgrown kid. But I stood there for a good two minutes and soaked in the vibes. Like Bernie Williams said during the closing ceremonies of the last ever game played at the House That Ruth Built, “I’ve got those memories inside my head.”

How do I feel about the Stadium closing down forever?

I feel sad. Sure it’s not state-of-the-art. And its certainly seen better days. It’s not perfect but it is home. And that translates into a huge homefield advantage even for the downtrodden Yanks. I never liked it when the floors would get all sticky because of the spilt beer and sodas and I disliked sitting next to boorish fans. Except for summer, I always made sure that I’d always bring a windbreaker because I almost always sat up in the upper tier seats. But that’s part of the ambiance of ballparks. Most of my friends were Mets fans so most of the time I took the 4 train to the Bronx by myself. But I never got lonely because it was like visiting an old friend. Obviously, I had a grand time every time I was there. The most famous game I ever saw live? Aaron Boone's home run against the Red Sox in Game 7 of 2003 ALCS. I threw up my soda and cracker jacks in glee and must have doused quite a lot. No worries though because no one minded and I had beer all over me.

I imagine that this is how Celtics and Bulls fans felt when the old Boston Garden and Chicago Stadium were closed down and demolished.

The Yankees and us fans said goodbye to their cathedral by beating their ancestor and offspring, the Baltimore Orioles 7-3. It was poignant and touching and I, though several thousands of miles away, could feel my hair stand up. Already there’s something different. Bob Sheppard, the longtime voice of the Stadium has been out for awhile recovering from an illness. The Yanks are almost sure to miss the post-regular season. Because of politics and shame, guys like Roger Clemens, Joe Torre, and Don Mattingly were shown only briefly on the video tribute.

I guess it’s like moving homes. I felt sentimental for the old house but when we moved, I loved it. I didn’t feel all that bad because it was time to make some new memories. I always dreamed of making it back to New York this year. I guess it's turning out to be a special year no matter what. The Giants won. Brett's a Jet. Mike D'Antoni's with the Knicks. The Yanks aren't the toast of baseball (the Red Sox are). And guess what's on Broadway.

Now I, we, wonder what awaits in The House that the Boss Built.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ateneo vs. La Salle UAAP Finals Game One

The Blackbirds
Ateneo 69 vs. La Salle 61

by rick olivares
pix by Philip Sison

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life you’re only waiting for this moment to rise.
- from an ancient yarn by Lennon-McCartney

The day began unlike any other one. That is for a lot of people. Many had gone about the previous days’ business albeit with a knot of anticipation in their stomach that threatened to give them an ulcer until they popped an antacid. That’s what being on the cusp of a basketball championship means to so many.

For the Event Security detailed at the Araneta Coliseum, it meant getting very little shut eye for the previous night they worked the reunion concert of the APO Hiking Society. You could say that the seminal OPM group paved the way for an all-Ateneo weekend by kicking butt and taking names with a fabulous three-hour show. And that meant the event security had to be back at the Big Dome by 9am to prep for another slobberknocker between Ateneo and La Salle that ended in another defensive masterpiece by the Blue Eagles.

(Read the rest in

Ateneo vs La Salle by the numbers

I had fun yesterday serving as a pre and post-game guest analyst alongside former Sen. Freddie Webb. Thanks to Direk Abet, Direk Al, and Ken for the opportunity. Thanks to Kamae De Jesus and Portia Silva for the rah rahs! Hey, I'm a fan too of you girls. Hahaha. I had fun talking with the Senator yesterday about UAAP hoops, the state of Philippine basketball, corruption in government, why Joshua Webb went to La Salle and not Ateneo or UST, and why Rabeh Al-Hussaini is Da Man. The Senator was kidding me that if Ateneo won, he'd wear my blue hoodie and if La Salle won, I'd have to wear a green jacket. Game on, Mr. Webb!

Ateneo has beaten La Salle three times this year:
79-73, 65-57, and 69-61
In the 12 quarters played, Ateneo has won 11 of them.

Ateneo has outshot La Salle every time out:
40%-39.1%, 48.%-33.8%, and 42.4%-28.6%

Ateneo has outrebounded La Salle in all three matches:
46-41, 45-37, and 44-40

Ateneo has outblocked La Salle thrice
7-3, 7-3, and 7-5 (coincidentally, "7" is Nonoy Baclao's jersey number)

Ateneo has more turnovers every time out:
12-10, 21-13, and 23-18
but La Salle has been unable to capitalize on them.

But perhaps more tellingly, Rabeh Al-Hussaini is increasingly playing better against the Green Archers:
1st game 10 points and 8 rebounds
2nd game 18 points and 11 rebounds
3rd game 31 points and 9 rebounds

In all three Ateneo wins, three players scored in double digits while La Salle has struggled
1st game
Tiu 26 points, Al-Hussaini 10 points, and Salamat 10 points
Casio 19 points, Maierhofer 16 points, and Mangahas 13 points

2nd game
Al-Hussaini 18 points, Baclao 11 points, and Reyes 10 points
Maierhofer 16 points

3rd game
Al-Hussaini 31 points, Buenafe 12 points, and Reyes 12 points
Casio 20 points and Maierhofer 17 points

Regarding keys to an Ateneo win, here's what I said yesterday:
1. Establish inside game. Ateneo arguably has the best 1-2 punch inside the lane in the UAAP. If Rabeh and Nonoy can put points on the board early on while playing great D, it will open up the perimeter for Jai Reyes and Chris Tiu. In case you've all been watching, Ateneo has transformed itself from a guard-oriented squad into a big man's team. Witness the games of Paolo Bugia, Doug Kramer, Ford Arao, Zion Laterre, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and Nonoy Baclao. Interesting because Norman Black was a guard in the NBA, CBA, and NC2A.

2. Avoid foul trouble. In last year's Final Four, early foul trouble to Ford Arao, Zion Laterre, and Nonoy Baclao wreaked havoc on Norman's rotation. With no bigs to shore up the middle, La Salle beat Ateneo on the boards for the first time all year. The vets need to stay on the floor long enough.

3. Stop DLSU's perimeter game. As shown in their second round masterpiece, no Jayvee Casio points means DLSU has to scramble for points from someone else. And no one has stepped up. Stopping the opposing guards means fueling the defense and break of Ateneo.

Hahahaha. Didn't have enough time since I only had a minute.

With Direk Al Neri and the Real Aga Muhlach.
Pix by Aly Yap and Martin Romero.
Coffee by Starbucks.

By the way, winners for the Write the Blue Eagles contest:
Michael Yu
Johann Fojas
Clarisse Ligunas
Robbie Tan
Allen De Vera
Ya'll won an Ateneo shirt from adidas + a baseball cap! Congrats!

I'll be in ADMU from 5pm-830pm tomorrow. We can meet up at Xavier Hall around 530pm. For the iamnonoy shirts, maybe mga before 6pm?

Poll Results:
What do you think of the adidas Ateneo team wear?
Tres cool. I love it. 59 votes
Okay lang. 30 votes.
It sucks. 9 votes.

What adidas Ateneo team wear do you most like?
Hoodie 48
Windbreaker 29
Tee shirts 24
Jerseys 9

What other adidas Ateneo team wear would you like to see?
Replica jerseys with names and numbers 54 votes
Football kit 30 votes
Baseball jersey 25 votes
Undies 16 votes
Scarves 16 votes
Baseball caps 13 votes

From Krishna. Thanks, girl!

Yuri-ka! Salamat at after a long wait nasa cham-tiu-nship ulit ang Ateneo. This season is a really big rabeh-lation. Good job-e Blue Eagles. Bombahin nyo ang oping-sa ng La Salle with a jai-namite. Baldos-er their defense, always block-lao their shots, and continue zig-zags-ging to create fast burke points. Justin time for them to be black-ed out. Lets see if makaka-salva pa sila.

Phew..I think I'm going to have a buenafever because of all this heat. So bring home the bacon guys.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Brew Index

The statistical points of a player in the UAAP is calculated this way:
(Total points + total rebounds + total assists + total steals + total blocks) x 2 - total TO's - Penalty Points + bonus points = statistical points

Penalty points = 5 for every technical foul & unsportsmanlike foul, 10 for an ejection
Bonus points = 15 points for every game won in which player played

Okay, I wanted to try something different. Something I call the Brew Index. I added the minutes played because it gives an indication of a player's worth as well.
This is how it goes:
Step 1
total minutes played + total points + total rebounds + total assists + total steals + total blocks = positive statistical points
Step 2
positive statistical points - penalty points (total turnovers + total fouls + total technical foul (equivalent to 4 points assuming there are 2 free throws plus ball possession for the opposing team) = positive statistical points
Step 3
positive statistical points + wins (10 points per win) - loss (10 points per loss) = final stat points

Here's what I got from the Top 4 teams:

Rabeh Al-Hussaini
(404 minutes, 252 points, 134 rebounds, 18 assists, 2 steals, 9 blocks) = 819
819 - (2 TOs + 29 F) = 761
761 + / - (win/loss points) = 881 points

Chris Tiu
(407 minutes, 202 points, 85 rebounds, 51 assists, 10 steals, 1 block) = 756
756 - (23 Tos + 22 F) = 771
711 + / - (win/loss points) = 831 points

Jayvee Casio
(414 minutes, 238 points, 57 rebounds, 51 assists, 20 steals, 1 block) = 781
781 - (32 TOs + 34F) = 715
715 +/ - (win/loss points) = 775 points

Rico Maierhofer
(321 minutes, 184 points, 141 rebounds, 24 assists, 11 steals, 17 blocks) = 698
698 - (33 Tos + 37 F + 2 Tech Fs (8 points) = 628
628 +/- (win/loss points) = 680 points

Benedict Fernandez
(352 minutes, 179 points, 40 rebounds, 16 assists, 6 steals, 4 blocks) = 570 points
570 - (23 TOs + 24 F) = 523
523 +/- (win/loss points) = 583 points

Mark Barroca
(371 minutes, 158 points, 73 rebounds, 40 assists, 21 steals, 1 block) = 664
587 - (33TOs + 44F) = 587
587 +/- (win/loss points) = 647 points

Marcy Arellano
(358 minutes, 146 points, 61 rebounds, 53 assists, 20 steals, 2 blocks) = 640
640 - (31 TOs + 30 F) = 579
597 +/- (win/loss points) = 619 points

James Martinez
(365 minutes, 137 points, 57 rebounds, 37 assists, 6 steals) = 602
602 - (17 TOs + 15F) = 570
570 +/- (win/loss points) = 610 points

And for the sake of argument, the players whose teams did not make the Final Four:
Jervy Cruz
(455 minutes, 277 points, 192 rebounds, 13 assists, 6 steals, 12 blocks) = 955
955 - (34 TOs + 41 F + 1 Technical Foul (4 points) = 880
880 +/- (win/loss points) = 856 points

Edwin Asoro
(427 minutes, 189 points, 129 rebounds, 30 assists, 16 steals, 28 blocks) = 819
819 - (56 TOs + 48 F) = 715
715 +/- (win/loss points) = 615 points

Nonoy Baclao
(361 minutes, 98 points, 107 rebounds, 15 assists, 7 steals, 36 blocks) = 624
624 - (11 TOs + 39 F) = 574
574 +/- (win/loss points) =
694 points

For FEU, it's amazing because Benedict Fernandez "leads" the team simply because of points scored, but looking at the over-all picture, it's Mark Barroca who makes this team go.

Jervy put up some great numbers because of a couple of overtime games too. But the Tigers didn't win especially against the Top 4 squads and that pulled down his numbers. Take a look at his final numbers though... pretty heavy.

I'm thinking of trying another facet of tabulating points which should include: dunks, three-pointers three-point plays, and fourth quarter points.

Anyways, based on the Brew Index, that's how I saw who was really valuable for their team and the league. And I didn't even add any points for making the Final Four (maybe I should). But Rabeh tops the list still.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bleachers' Brew #125 Behind the spotlight

Behind the spotlight
words 'n pix by rick olivares

Away from the glitz of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), basketball isn’t all that crap that has turned the game into a slum book for multiply or facebook.

There are no pretty girls in cheerleader outfits and pigtails to tell at the crowd they’ve got the fever. After all, it’s only during the opening ceremony and the finals when the stands are buzzing with people. On regular game days, the audience is sparse with the few in attendance usually players from the other team who watch for a few minutes then stretch out on the seats and doze off. The matches are far from yawners. They’re close and intense except that the dim lights and stifling heat make one sleepy. They even dull one’s senses that sometimes, the referees or the coaches have to call the attention of the arena utility person to mop the sweat or water off the court.

There are however cheers of “defense” yet it emanates not from the gallery but from the players on the bench with an assistant coach or two chiming in. The other is the ubiquitous “hooh” that is commonly used during inter-barangay games to distract free throw shooters. Does it work? One can only hazard a guess. But the games are exciting that even the official timer occasionally forgets (whether intentional or not is anyone’s guess too) to get the clock going.

Figuratively speaking, NAASCU (National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities) is where old coaches go to die. Jimmy Mariano, Francis Rodriguez, and Adonis Tierra were once top bench tacticians in the pros and the premier collegiate leagues. Now? Well… they are where the television spotlights don’t shine. The league hopes to see any of its players make a name for themselves in the pro leagues because it will bring honor, attention, and much-needed corporate sponsorship to NAASCU.

Literally, this is where hoop dreams live and flourish. Where kids who get buried in Team B’s or go unnoticed keep alive their dreams of making it. Yet occasionally, they dream of playing if only for another day.

Mike Cabangon is a six-foot forward for the STI Olympians and last Friday, September 16, he played his last game for his school team. It was only the squad’s 16th match of the season (with at least six to go), but league rules prohibit a player of 24 years of age from suiting up. And two days after that Friday game, the clock struck twelve and Mike now at 24 years of age was done for college. His hopes now hinge on either finding a slot on a PBL team or trying out with the Liga Pilipinas or some other alphabet league.

Cabangon was a high-wire act and the singular draw for North Western Visayan College before he ventured to Manila to tryout for Cris Calilan’s Jose Rizal Heavy Bombers. He didn’t make the cut but with the help of a friend, he found his way to STI as a walk-in. After an impressive tryout, Olympians coach Vic Ycasiano said, “Kunin na natin bago makawala.”

The Olympians’ dugout at the Makati Coliseum is spacious but at once unnerving. It’s almost devoid of anything save for a bench that you’d rather not sit on and it has a shower room that well, you’d rather not bathe in. A couple of years ago, the Coliseum hosted the Champions League and the PBL games. Now, it’s commonly used for stag derbies and it has clearly seen better days and for this season, the coliseum is one of the many venues for NAASCU matches.

The team’s recovery meal is in styropacks and it’s up to the players or the coaches when they want to eat it. There aren’t enough assistants or even utility persons to haul their equipment so it’s the players themselves who bring in their food, juice drinks, and water.

In the final briefing by Ycasiano, a former Red Cub teammate of Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano, he reminded the team that their opponent that day, the league-leading San Sebastian Recoletos of Cavite Baycats are faster, stronger, and a whole lot deeper. The Olympians aren’t the team of last year when they won their first NAASCU title. Ycasiano’s squad features 11 rookies with only center Darryl Mendoza, power forward Ramon Mabayo, point guard Alvin Macabasco, small forward William Vasallo, and Cabangon the holdovers from the title-winning squad. Of the five, Macabasco and Vasallo previously saw a lot of time on the pine yet this year, they are expected to deliver.

The Baycats upset the Olympians in the first round and after a difficult start, the champs have found their groove as they hurdled from seventh place to second behind San Sebastian. The game has many implications because a win would give them a share of the lead and on a smaller scale, it would be a great parting gift for Cabangon. A team jersey is placed in the middle of the huddle with Cabangon’s #9 taped on the uniform. Ycasiano has no time for sentimentalism and exhorted in not too many words to win for the school, themselves, and for their teammate. The Olympians broke the huddle with a grunt: “Effort!

The game turns out as the STI braintrust prophesied. The faster and more athletic Baycats burst out of the gates and nearly run the defending champions off the court. The Olympians’ 2-3 zone is largely ineffective because Baycats Romelle Alcasabas, Ric Gracilla, and Mark Basa beat their slower guards off the dribble penetration or for a spot-up three.

With 3:51 to play in the first quarter with the score 7-13 in favor of SSC, Ycasiano inserted Cabangon. The forward promptly lapsed into a series of turnovers that put the team in a bigger hole. “Last game ni Mike pero ang sama ng laro,” muttered Ycasiano to no one in particular.

The shit then hit the fan as the Baycats raced to a 15 point lead 41-26 with two minutes before the merciful halftime break. Just when everyone thought the game was lost, the Olympians sprung back to life anchored by the superb defense of Mendoza, strong drives by Mabayo, and timely treys by Jay Aranzaso and Vasallo. Ycasiano’s squad was back in the hunt and down by five after the first 20 minutes of play 52-57.

The coach’s voice was raspy and he momentarily turned the reins over to assistant coach Hubert De Los Santos, who is also the head man over at La Salle Green Hills, for a critique on what they did right and wrong. Ycasiano sealed the deal with a simple instruction, “If you do what we ask of you (slow down the game and execute their game plan which called for quick ball movement then pounding the ball inside) we will get back in this game and win. I promise you.

The coach’s words weren’t lost and with time down 2:21 on the game clock, Cabangon skied for an offensive board over the Baycats’ center Kris Lucernas and a putback that tied the match for the first time 69-all. Seconds later, a William Vasallo trey gave STI the lead for good 76-74.

The Baycats’ coach, former San Sebastian Stags’ hotshot Edgar Macaraya, whose claim to fame was breaking Allan Caidic’s three-point record in college, sued for time to draw up a final play. Macaraya called for a pick and roll and a strong drive by Alcasabas (both squads were in penalty at that point). Over the Olympians’ bench, Ycasiano worked on his perimeter defense. “Now is the best time to win. Play honest D!” The Olympians didn’t fall for the screen and the ball instead swung towards SSC’s John Pantonia who was emphatically blocked by Cabangon. STI added three more free throws for insurance and the final margin of 79-78.

They now had the share of the lead.

Ycasiano leaned back on his seat and let out a sigh of relief. “That was something, huh? Big win and a big test of character.” He clapped his hands and followed his victorious squad into the dugout.

Mike Cabangon lingered on the court for a moment as he accepted congratulations from the few supporters who watched (including a pair of FEU collegialas). “Hindi ko alam ko kung masaya ako o malungkot,” he said as he slowly trudged towards the dugout. He can’t let go. He doesn’t care whether it’s the glitz of the top flight leagues or the anonymity of toiling in the NAASCU. He hopes to make it somewhere, anywhere. He just wants to play.

Author's Note: This one's for Mike Cabangon. Thanks to the real Aga Muhlach for helping out with this. Check out what's written in his Starbucks' cup of coffee.