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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jesuit Hoops 1/31 roundup

The Gonzaga Bulldogs beat St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference 69-62 to claim top spot in the conference 4-0 (15-4 overall). Matt Bouldin led the Zags with 17 points.

The Georgetown Hoyas (12-7 and 3-5) travel to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee to play the Marquette Golden Eagles in Big East action. Although the Golden Eagles have a losing record (4-2) against G-Town, they are 18-2 overall and 7-0 in the Big East. Look for Marquette to upend the Hoyas this time around.

The last time the Boston College Eagles lost was to the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg Virginia 79-71. The was the last of a four game losing skid where they lost three straight at home. After traveling to Maryland where they beat the Terrapins, BC hosts Virginia Tech once more. The Eagles will be led by Reggie Jackson, Tyrese Rice, Joe Trapani, and Evan Ravanel.

When the greatest player in St. Joseph's University history -- Jameer Nelson -- was announced as a first time NBA All-Star, the Hawks won their seventh straight game over Richmond 68-58 in a road game in Virginia. They are now 12-7 and 5-0 in Atlantic 10 play. The Hawks travel to Ohio to go up against the #3 Dayton Flyers in a nationally televised game in a few days time. Xavier is top dog in the conference. Tasheed Carr and Ahmad Nivins lead the Hawks who will not have an easy time against the Flyers who are 7-0 this season in games decided by five points or less and its 13-game home winning streak - dating back to last season - is the longest in the Conference. In addition, UD is 35-4 under head coach Brian Gregory when it scores at least 75 points.

Aces up!

It seemed that Talk N Text had still not found an answer for LA Tenorio as he finished the first quarter with 4 points, 4 assists, and 1 steal in the first quarter alone. Tenorio's coming of age as a PBA player had seen Alaska race to an early 11-point lead.

But TNT, with the emergence of Mark Cardona as a scoring force, ratcheted up the full court pressure to overhaul the deficit and take the lead at the half. And with some six minutes left in the game, TNT still led 89-84 before Alaksa woke up behind Willie Miller who was so far having a sub par series. The Aces finished with a mighty 14-0 wind up and held TNT scoreless the rest of the way to spot their rivals a 2-0 series lead.

And it's been hard to stop Alaska because different players step up at different intervals. In Game One, it was the tandem of Tenorio and Tony De La Cruz who got them going. In Game Two, at first it was Tenorio and Joe Devance before Sonny Thoss (who got his nose bloodied by Ranidel De Ocampo and Mark Cardona on successive drives) and Miller finished off the game for Tim Cone's team.

I was quite surprised that when TNT needed points they shot consecutive treys that bombed out.

In Game One, putting De La Cruz on Cardona worked as he picked Captain Hook's pocket clean on three straight possessions. In Game Two, Alaska tried it again but Cardona, who should win Best Player of the Conference honors, shot himself out of the gym with poor decisions. They should have let Ren Ren Ritualo take more shots. Maybe even have Jared Dillinger attack more. And it certainly didn't help that Ranidel De Ocampo, who missed Game One because of a suspension, played sparingly because of foul trouble.

So how can TNT get back into the series? Well it may sound simple, but it isn't -- stop Tenorio and Miller and let the others beat them. Cardona plays great defense but will Coach Chot Reyes gamble on letting him try to stop Tenorio?

My friend Theo Jurado was telling me that the Araneta Coliseum wasn't packed. But that's okay. It still is a great series.

Alaska 100 - Devance 24, Tenorio 17, Cariaso 15, Thoss 14, Dela Cruz 9, Hugnatan 8, Miller 8, Ferriols 3, Fonacier 2

Talk N Text 91 - De Ocampo R. 20, Ritualo 18, Cardona 16, Alapag 16, Carey 14, Castro 5, Peek 2, Dillinger 0, De Ocampo Y. 0

UFC 93 Not very impressive

UFC 93 last January 17, 2009 at The O2 Arena in Dublin, Ireland. The crowd opened the evening with chants of "Ole Ole Ole" and I wondered if we were watching a European football match.

Marcus Davis vs Chris Lytle Welterweight Bout
Both promised a fight to remember and while it won't be one of the best, it is something they will remember as both left the octagon with bruised ribs, puffy eyes, and nasty welts.
Chris Lytle is a fighter who would rather stand toe-to-toe and slug it out. But he possesses a good ground game. Marcus "The Irish Hand Grenade" Davis who always enters to House of Pain's "Jump Around" is just as adept at boxing and striking.

In the first round, Lytle set the tone for the fight with a hard right that hurt Davis (it would quickly develop into an ugly mouse). The two traded punches throughout but the round would go to Lytle.

In the second round, because of Lytle's aggressive stance, Davis absorbed a lot of punches early on but he quickly put points on the board when he tenderized Lytle's body with powerful leg kicks. After he knocked down Lytle with a hard right, Davis followed it up with a body kick and a knee to the head that quickly puffed up the former's right eye.

By the third round, Davis took the advice of his coach and beat Lytle to the punch and danced away from those vicious uppercuts that missed by a fraction of a second. Davis was able to stick in more combo shots to go with head kicks and when he knocked down Lytle momentarily, that was all he needed to seal the win for Ireland's adopted son. Davis won by split decision.

Alan Belcher vs Denis Kang (UFC debut)
Alan Belcher who has shown tremendous knockout power was up against Denis Kang a Black Belter in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Belcher is seven years younger than the 31-year old Kang who was born in France but is Canadian by citizenship. And Kang was making his UFC debut.

While it didn't seem that Kang's UFC inexperience wasn't going to hurt him as he got off to a good start with wellplaced strikes. He got Belcher down on the canvass twice but was unable to inflict any serious damage. The American gained more confidence in handling the Canadian's ground game and when he went down for a third time, he quickly used Kang's momentum to sweep him into a guillotine for a quick tap with 23 seconds left in the second round.

Winner by submission Alan Belcher.

Jeremy Horn and Brazilian Rousimar Palhares
Does this look like a mismatch? The 33-year old Horn who hails from Utah pales in comparison to the size of the muscular Brazilian. And the free style fighting American surely had to worry about the ground game of Palhares who has massive power.

A quick feint and Horn ducked and Palhares swept him to the canvas and he was in deep shit almost immediately. After a couple of minutes fending off Palhares, Horn was able to get to his feet if only for a few seconds before going down again. Horn barely survived the first round and showed no offense. Got no licks in.

At the start of the second Palhares lifted up Horn and threw him once more to the ground. But Horn was able to get to a full mount position where Palhares was able to avoid an arm triangle. Horn gets a nice shot at Palhares' face before being taken to the mat again until the horn blows to end the second round.

The Brazilian started the third round with a suplex as he found himself mounting Horn again and trying to hammer down the American from behind. But the Brazilian was unable to finish Horn or inflict serious damage. But he did get a unanimous decision in a more technical fight than anything.

So far UFC 93 wasn't that exciting.

The co-main event of the evening. Shogun Rua vs. Mark Coleman.
A grudge match after Coleman, the first ever UFC Heavyweight Champion, broke Rua's leg. in a match in 2006. But as great as the sub-plot is, how good can Coleman be if he is 17 years older than the Brazilian?

Big leg kick by Shogun to start. But Coleman sent Rua to the canvass. Coleman got another punch before he pulled Rua again to the mat. But Shogun made Coleman eat a couple of knees and gave him three straight leg kicks. Coleman looked totally exhausted because of the takedowns.But the American survived the first round.

A relaxed Shogun came out for round two and missed a couple of roundhouses. Was he hurt in the first round because he seemed slower while Coleman looking heavy got in some good licks.

Had both expended a lot of energy in the first round? Rua was able to isolate Coleman's arm to get him to submit but the Brazilian didn't look like he had the energy to flip him over. And again, Coleman survived the round.

Towards the end of the third, after breaking grappling, Rua got in six straight shots that dropped Coleman and the referee stopped the fight in favor of Rua. Sorry. Totally unimpressive fight and a win by Rua.

Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson (Light Heavyweight non-title bout)
If the undercards weren't that great, then it was up to the Main Event to salvage an otherwise ho-hum UFC 93.

Franklin got in an early punch before Henderson, who took the title from Rampage Jackson sometime back, gave a leg kick. As Henderson slipped, Franklin failed to capitalize as the champ got him instead on the mat. It seemed tense for a moment before Franklin broke free and they faced off once more in the center of the octagon and traded punches and kicks. An accidental headbutt by Henderson opened up Franklin's head. The first round went to Henderson by just a bit but the second was a draw.

An accidental poke in the eye by Henderson decked Franklin but after a minute's rest they resumed the fight. But no knockouts or further takedowns. So it was up to the judges.

And Hollywood Henderson was declared the winner by split decision only because he won round one. Now he gets to captain Team USA in Ultimate Fighter.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My vote for the All-Star Game in Phoenix

My vote for the NBA All-Star Game line-ups:

My ballot is cast. After deliberating and polling myself, I can say that the vote is in. Overseen by NAMFREL. No vote buying. No flying voters. Oh. You mean to say that only exists in this country?

Well then. The rest is easy. I wonder how it stacks up to the popular vote.

-- coach Mike Brown (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) - C
Kevin Garnett - (Boston Celtics) PF
LeBron James - (Cleveland Cavaliers) SF
Dwyane Wade - (Miami Heat) SG
Jameer Nelson - (Orlando Magic) PG
Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics)
Chris Bosch (Toronto Raptors)
Devin Harris (New Jersey Nets)
Mo Williams (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks)
Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks)

West -- coach Phil Jackson (Los Angeles Lakers)
Yao Ming - (Houston Rockets) C
Tim Duncan - (San Antonio Sterns) PF
Brandon Roy - (Portland Trailblazers) SF
Kobe Bryant - (Los Angeles Lakers) SG
Chris Paul - (New Orleans Hornets) PG
Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns)
Shaquille O'Neal (Phoenix Suns)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Sterns)
Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers)
Dik Nowitski (Dallas Mavericks)
Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets)
Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)

Who else I'd like to see: Jose Calderon, Chris Duhon, Derrick Rose, Rashard Lewis, Steve Nash, and David West.

Ateneo Men's Football Match 4: Slip Sliding Away

Slip Sliding Away
Ateneo 0 vs. UP 1
By rick Olivares

January 29, 2009
Erenchun Field
The Ateneo Men’s Football Team lost its third match in four games; this time to league-leading UP 1-nil. Even worse, this is the first time the team has been at the bottom of the standings since Ompong Merida took over in the mid-1990’s. The lowest they’ve previously placed was fifth. Thus far, they’ve been shut out in three of their last four matches and have only scored once.

While no team stays on top forever, the decline of the Blue Booters is perplexing. They played well in the pre-season giving observers a perception that the disappoint loss in last year’s finals is but a memory and they would once more challenge with the arrival of blue chip rookies. Instead now they wish they had the kind of striking power they had from last year even from a supposedly weaker line up.

Against the Maroons, they only had one shot on goal in the second half. And it was off a set piece and Luigi Meer’s 40-footer missed by two inches.

In a game where Ateneo needed to break out like gangbusters, they started out slow and with hardly any fire. Their sleek passing game, that once begat a bushel of goals has been disjointed. The short and long game is in disarray. If the previous question was, “Who will score – Gerard Cancio, Anton Amistoso, James Arco, or Gino Tongson?” Now it’s, “When will they score?”

Needing a massive overdose of energy to match up with the Maroons who even at the pre-season were tourney favorites, the Blue Booters came out flat.

Within the game’s first three minutes, UP’s Andrei Mercader almost scored as he beat Ateneo defender Paul Cheng got inside the box and uncorked a powerful shot that went wide.

Ateneo was quick to counter as Miko Manglapus’ set piece from some 50 feet out sailed over the cross bar. Sadly, the only true scoring chances were from free kicks.

From there on, UP stepped up its attack. With Alvin Perez marking the Maroons’ Andoni Santos well, it was up to Keith Mordeno and Steve Permanes to try their luck against the Ateneo defense.

A vicious shot by Permanes was stopped by Ateneo keeper Joel Faustino. But the recoil from the shot was powerful and the ball broke free and threatened to roll in for an own goal. This time Faustino was quick enough to react as he reached out and grabbed the ball before it could cross the line.

With Ateneo unable to mount any serious threat, UP gained momentum. And in the 66th minute, another ball that wasn’t cleared properly (the clearance grazed off the back of Fred Ozaeta) and went to Santos who was a few feet outside the box. Thinking that he’d advance it further, the Ateneo defenders froze. That was all the UP striker needed as he sent a powerful shot that blew past Faustino for the marginal score.

There was still another stark contrast in the game’s aftermath. Minutes after the final whistle, with both teams ensconced in their own sides of the field, after the Blue Booters got over the shock (there were no tears this time unlike the previous ones), they were laughing, joking, and eating their spaghetti recovery meal. The UP team under new coach Frank Muescan stretched for a few minutes then sat and listened to the coaching staff dissect their game. The players sat quietly and listened. It was as if they were the ones that lost.

But if you listen to their team closely, their silence and the look in their eyes says a lot about their focus which they’ve talked about for the last few months.

It’s to contend for a championship berth.

Match Statistics
Shots on goal
Ateneo 5 (2)
UP 13 (7)

Ateneo 1
UP 4

Ateneo 8
UP 8

Yellow Cards
Ateneo 1
UP 3

Ateneo 0
UP 3

Ateneo 6
UP 2

Postscript: Someone was asking me if I thought it was over for the football team this year. My answer was, they have to win all their remaining matches with no draws. And they have to score goals because the goal difference could be a tie-breaker since only the top two teams play for the championship. It can be done. But can they do it? If they continue the way they play then it could be all over by Sunday when they face FEU. The best then is to finish the tourney strong and have fun.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Things We Think and Do Not Say

The Things We Think and Do Not Say

Remember the times when as kids we used to make New Year’s resolutions and keep to it until a couple of days later until we gave in to our excesses? As we got older, it became common to look back and reflect (even review) what had transpired and try to learn from it.

As an ardent student of history, my views have been shaped in part by Spanish philosopher George Santayana. But sometimes it’s yearning for a more innocent time until we had to surrender our childhood.

Once in a while a work of pop culture comes along and defines a generation and becomes like a public biography or soundtrack of our life.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy the works of Cameron Crowe, Nick Hornby, and Marc Spitz because I can relate to what they write more than Joy Division’s brooding melancholia ever will. Not only did they write from the heart, but they found a way to coalesce sports and music into life or something like that.

There’s one film I never get tired of and watch it ever once in a while. It’s Crowe’s seminal film Jerry Maguire. It’s as quotable as Charles Barkley and I’ll say that Cameron Crowe my personal Coehlo.

Copy Store Jesus (played by Jerry Cantrell guitarist for Alice In Chains who appears as the copy center clerk): That’s how you become great man. Hang your balls out there.
When I was still in advertising, my team was prepping for this campaign for this telecom client. My concept wasn’t approved by our division head for reasons only known to herself. But everyone else on the team and accounts knew that was it. The group head chose the other concept by the other writer. I told my Creative Director that what we presented was it and he agreed. We had this bold plan that would have cost us our jobs. We were to present it to client regardless whether it was shot down internally. So we did.

To say that the client approved it is an understatement. He went fucking nuts and thought it was not only the best presentation our agency ever did but it was the best campaign for them yet. Our group head who was late to the presentation (God knows why) was shocked to see client ecstatic and she went along and said that she thought it was cool.

Client ran the basic concept of the campaign for three years even after I had left a year later.

My first few years in the agency biz, my team only lost one bid (out of nine).

Jerry Maguire: I was 35. I’d started my life.
Working abroad is probably the best thing I ever did. Having spent my first five years after school in advertising, I grew increasingly frustrated with dumb bosses and equally moronic clients who thought they were the target market. After a while I began to do triple duty in creatives, PR, and account management prompting a shift to marketing.

And working abroad gave me a worldy view on a lot of things. At the same time, it was tough living alone and trying to make a go of life in post 9-11 New York. It was like starting over at a later age.

When I went home (and I was only one leave from work), my life changed in so many ways I never imagined. For all the gains, I wish I stayed in New York and never went home. Of course, I’m thankful for the blessings that have come my way but going through a terrible break-up and a stupid job with an evil boss really leaves a sore taste in my mouth.

I’m just waiting to see what happens in the US and if it does get better by mid year then I’m gone.

Dorothy Boyd: First class is what’s wrong, honey. It used to be a better meal. Now it’s a better life.
Yes, our government and society is hopelessly corrupt. Have you ever wondered how these bastards are rich all of a sudden and own all these properties? It seems that public office entitles people to steal and set themselves up as god. We should have never gotten independence. We’ve fucked up everything and everyone wishes they had a green card.

Dicky Fox: Roll with the punches. Tomorrow is another day.
Well, Ateneo teams are not cut out to win year after year much more mount a single winning season. Hope springs eternal because there’s always next season.

Dicky Fox: I love getting up in the morning. I clap my hands and say, this is going to be a great day.”
I once had a sign in my office room that I inherited from an officemate. It said, “Today, I will do the best work of my life.” And that became a personal and daily mantra. At the end of the day, I’d ask myself if I earned my pay. It was rare when I felt that I didn’t.

Dicky Fox: If this is empty (the heart) then this (the mind) doesn’t matter.
After spending several months working on MAKING A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE, the Ateneo audio visual presentation for foreign students and universities, one school official said that she liked it so much because it had a lot of heart.

That’s something I try to imbue to most of what I write. A friend of mine from the Sports Nation class said that while it had a lot of heart and made him rethink a lot of things, he couldn’t help but notice that there was a tinge of sadness and pain. Well, yes. If you know me at all you’d say I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Jerry Maguire: It was just a mission statement.
The one thing I brought home with me after a long time abroad is that to never take anything for granted and to try and change the world beginning in my own corner. Having been in media for some time now, I’m surprised at how some of my peers are a disgrace to the profession because of the envelope journalism that exists in this goddam country. When I first got my column in the Business Mirror, someone in media said that now I could get rich. I looked at him with this crazy stare. I’m not like you leeches.

Dicky Fox: In life I’ve failed as much as I’ve succeeded.
Well, true. I’m in the midst of comeback #3.

Fire Rafa Benitez!

It's time to fire Rafa Benitez. It's not enough that the owners of Liverpool are to blame but since winning the Champions League in 2005, the club has gone down in performance and in the standings. Let's not even get into his system -- tactical genius, my butt! What we are witnessing is the slow death of the club. Of course there still is a chance to win the EPL and in Europe but how dysfunctional is the team? Blame the Yanks? Rick Parry? Benitez is just full of excuses. Time for a change. Fire Benitez.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hold fast in the Heat

Watched the Women's Doubles match of Ai Sugiyama and Daniela Hantuchova vs. Cara Black and Liezl Huber. The pair of Black and Huber had Sugiyama and Hantuchova on the ropes and I had to wonder about the chemistry between them. But they ralled to win (6-7, 6-3, 7-6) with some solid play at the net by the Japanese player. And they showed great poise and patience in slowly coming back.

And poise is something Andy Roddick will need in huge supply to go along with mental fortitude to beat Roger Federer in the semis of the Men's Singles of the Australian Open. You can say that he is ready after outlasting Novak Djkovic in the quarterfinals 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, 2-1. I really thought he was a goner after losing that first set and the start of the second but he came back.

Come back he must now for the American has not beaten the Swiss Sensation in six Grand Slam matches and is 2-15 lifetime against him. Although Roddick did beat Federer in Miami last year that was a different time for Federer who was struggling then.

My favorite tennis player was Pete Sampras yet seeing Federer chase his modern Grand Slam record of 14 titles... well, I don't feel bad. If the record is going to be broken, might as well it go to a classy player like Roger. But somehow, I'd like Roddick to win. Those days of Sampras-Agassi-Chang-Courier dominating (along with MaliVai Washington and Todd Martin) are long gone. And US tennis needs a shot in the arm. With James Blake once more faltering, it's up to Roddick to hold up the American flag down under.

As for the women's draw, here's to Elena Dementieva! Hope you win it all.

The Williams sisters beat Hantuchova and Sugiyama 6-3, 6-3 to win the Women's Doubles Finals.

Andy Roddick was ousted once more by Roger Federer who will face Rafael Nadal in the Men's Singles Finals.

Elena Dementieva likewise fell to Serena Williams who will play Dinara Safina for the Women's Singles title.

Random Pix

Here are random pix that have not been posted yet. One was shooting the Ateneo Men's Rowing Team for the 2009 Ateneo Sports Calendar. The other was me doing a video interview with JC Intal for the adidas Brotherhood shoot. Dude, I'm 5'11" and JC is like what five inches taller than me. Hahaha! The third pic is with Miriam College students who interviewed me for a school project regarding writing and publications. We had lunch at Cibo in Gateway. And the last pic is the cover of the January 2009 issue of COMMotion (the Communication Dept's newsletter/mag).

I'll be out in the next issue of The Guidon and The Eaglet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Alegria Em Coração Do Merida

A Alegria Em Coração Do Merida
(The Joy in Merida’s Life)
words by rick olivares pic by scott kho

Arnulfo “Ompong” Merida has been walking the streets of the Ateneo campus for 24 years now. Sometimes he drives around in his motorbike, sometimes in his car. And on occasion, he wonders to himself, “How lucky can I be?

More than three decades ago, the only “Ateneo” he knew of was the name of a street back in his native Romblon. He never even heard of the school until he arrived in Manila to study at play at Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

He first played basketball and was a high jumper in athletics before he eventually gravitated towards football. “It was a matter of time,” he figures. “Because in the south, everyone plays football, because of the Spanish influence, and maybe because of all these fields.”

Yet Merida wasn’t even sure what field to enter later in his life. All he thought was to enjoy the moment and that meant playing football.

The sport was kind to him and it was while in the Palarong Pambansa that schools from Metro Manila noticed him. Universities like UST and UP tried to recruit him but he chose PUP simply because most of his friends from the province were there. He knew that would make the transition from the province to Manila easier and battle the homesickness. The club and national teams then came yet while he was having fun; he wondered how he could stay in the game.

It took the late Ateneo Football Program Head Chris Monfort to bring him over to Loyola Heights first as a guest player for the blue and white team that played in a commercial league before coming in as a physical education instructor and as a coach for various Ateneo squads. He remembers first seeing the sprawling lawn and the tree-lined roads and how excited he was.

Football has been good for me,” he says with earnestness. “It is because of the sport that I got all these opportunities.”

Believe it or not, the championships are fine and are a treasured memory. The silverware is proof and a testament to time but what he holds close to his heart is being a part of the high school faculty and being given an opportunity to help mold the lives of all the boys who go through him. He remembers all his players and wishes he could have done better. “We make mistakes and it is only through growing older do we realize things,” he says. “But that’s life. Tomorrow’s another day.”

How lucky can I be?” he wondered as he recounted meeting his footballing heroes like Brazil’s Carlos Alberto and Didi during one of the many coaching seminars he's attended abroad. "I cried. I couldn't help it when I met them, " he now laughs.

He's gone to two World Cups and can't remember a more electric feeling. “I’m just from Romblon. Kung nasabi mo that I’d be able to visit a lot of countries and coach championship teams noon pa, hindi ako maniniwala.”

And the boy who went to Brazil came away truly convinced that the world game is life.

There are three great loves in Merida’s life; the first of which is football. He’d eventually meet and marry his wife who would be the third and as much as he loves the game, sometimes it takes a toll on his family time. As a compromise, dates are sometimes held on the pitch of Loyola Heights.

But the second great love, as he professes, was going to Ateneo. Yes that was once simply the name of a road (he now lives in a village called Ateneoville) but became his path to his dream and goal.

How lucky can one person get?

JC Intal & Doug Kramer (Chico Lanete) are now with Ginebra. In exchange for draft picks. How they find playing time for all I have no clue.

Thinking positive! For our varsity teams.

When I was living in New Jersey, I would often walk down the road from where I lived in Glen Mawr Drive in Ewing, NJ to buy the New York Times, the NY Post, and the New Jersey Star Ledger. The walk down the road was like from the AHS all the way to Blue Eagle Gym. And you can imagine what a horrible walk it was during winter. All for newspapers. Hahahaha! Even when I came home, I'd read the online versions. If I was abroad I'd purchase the NY Times. Last Sunday night, I was bummed out after the losses by the football teams and I did some reading. After I saw this, I forwarded it to the respective teams. I think it makes an interesting point about leadership and sports.

Vince Carter's upbeat attitude keeps New Jersey Nets thinking positive

by Dave D'Alessandro/The Star-Ledger
Saturday January 24, 2009, 8:49 PM

Bill Kostroun/Associated PressVince Carter's natural ebullience affects everyone in the Nets' locker room.
MEMPHIS -- The vibe is often more telling than the result, so as they packed up and evacuated San Antonio Friday night, the Nets didn't exactly resemble a team that had lost for the fifth straight time.
The mood was strange -- not buoyant or upbeat, exactly. But not downcast, either.

Lawrence Frank detected it on the 90-minute plane ride: "There was some disappointment, yet it wasn't morgue-like," he said. "We knew we gave a hell of an effort, and that we lost by one play."
One play, against a championship-caliber team.
But that's not all of it.

Yes, the Nets were relieved to discover that Devin Harris was back in good form, scoring 27 points against Spurs. They were inspired by Vince Carter's performance. And they appreciated that Brook Lopez experienced an essential rite of passage, even holding his own for long stretches against Tim Duncan.

But that's not all of it, either.

"Our guys are upbeat kind of people, for the most part, particularly our better players," team president Rod Thorn observed. "I got the feeling that they were like, 'Hey, we're ready to turn this around.' And that goes back to your leadership."

As in locker room leadership.

And the personality of the fellow who occupies the captaincy.

All you have to do is compare that with last season, when this was -- to use Richard Jefferson's famous phrase -- a "dead team walking" by late December.

"Oh, Jason was in a major funk," Thorn recalled, referring to Jason Kidd. "Our best player and leader was in a funk for reasons other than basketball most of the time. And it was hard for that not to carry over to other people.

"Your leader's attitude is very important. And I don't care what happens, Vince is an upbeat kind of guy. That's just his personality. Maybe inside the losses get to him, but publicly, he's very upbeat, and that's a major part of the team's attitude."

Indeed, in the postgame locker room at San Antonio, Carter was the most positive guy in the building, and his confidence showed throughout the game. It made a difference, his teammates say.

"Obviously between the three veterans -- I mean Vince, Devin and Keyon, who's the most vocal of all -- if they don't lose faith, there's no reason for us to," center Josh Boone said.

"We've experienced it before, when our top guys have kind of lost it and things went south. With this team, it's completely different. It's like night and day."

The obvious reason being, he admits, is that Carter's natural ebullience reaches every corner of the locker room.

As Frank put it, "Your best player sets the tone to how you react to virtually everything -- both good and bad."

"One thing that was extremely important to all of us -- from ownership on down -- was to get really good character guys," GM Kiki Vandeweghe said. "And it's times like these when character comes across. Look, when you're winning it's easy. And even though we're losing, we're proud of these guys. Their holding their heads up, encouraging each other."

There's no way of knowing whether they can maintain their optimism. But it doesn't normally happen for teams that are 8-16 over seven weeks, either.

The difference is that all it takes -- with this group, anyway -- is just one positive development to hold onto against the tide. That's why the Nets arrived here with a renewed sense of optimism, even though the Grizzlies were even more desperate for a victory than they were.

"Keep in mind, Vince and Devin had good games (at San Antonio), so everyone feels better, and the effort and energy go up," Eduardo Najera explained. "That's just the way it is. We've struggled the last couple weeks, and we've played really good teams. But (the Spurs game) was much better.

"It should give us confidence going into Memphis. If we play the same way, we should win. That's what you have to do -- take the best things out of this game and use it in the next one."

"We've had moments we're not proud of, but in terms of an everyday approach, our guys work," Frank said. "That's the character of this group. We fall off a little bit sometimes. But by and large, this group has been very consistent. And we knew in order to have a chance this year we'd need a unity. We have that.

"It's not that we don't have enough talent, but we can't rely on talent alone. We've gotten great leadership from Vince, and we have solid veterans who have seen both sides -- winning and losing -- and don't want to be part of the latter. And the young guys may not really know, but they're looking for positive role models, and they have that here."

Monday, January 26, 2009

The heartbreaking week in Ateneo sports

It isn’t easy playing varsity sports when you have to have to contend with academics and if ever, a social life. Many varsity athletes still do not comprehend the responsibilities of representing the school or sometimes being named team captain. Just as there are coaches who are coaches merely because of their experience as a strategist or trainer there are athletes who well, thinks it’s cool to have a jersey or be on the team but have no clue about what it means to put on the uniform.

Like a player on the football team who has yet to fulfill his potential. And most recently was late again to practice because his alarm failed to ring.

Here’s a recent item concerning Los Angeles Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovic who was almost an hour late for a recent shoot-around because his alarm didn't go off, he said.

He was fined by the team and didn't enter Thursday's game until the Lakers were ahead by 35 points with 1 minute 55 seconds left in the third quarter.

It didn't seem like enough of a punishment for at least one former NBA player.

"When you come to shoot-around with only five minutes left because you say your alarm clock didn't go off, that's a little spacey," TNT analyst Reggie Miller said. "He could say traffic was bad. I could go with that in L.A. But don't say your alarm clock didn't go off. Are you kidding me?"

Yeah, we’ve had athletes who were late for their call time because it was traffic. Unless you’ve lived abroad in the last quarter of a century then traffic is an everyday occurrence and is common place in the metro. Be surprised when there’s no traffic.

This second semester of UAAP competition, never have I watched more heartbreaking games at any one period of time than the past week.

It began last Sunday when the Women’s Volleyball Team fell to FEU in five sets. And this after spotting them a 2-sets to none lead. Sorry but I totally disagree that the airconditioned venue of the Arena makes it harder to loosen up because last Sunday, the heat and fatigue got to the team and it was so obvious on TV.

By the fourth set, the team was simply gasping for breath and in one timeout, no one could say anything because they were all tuckered out. That is until Bea Pascual said, “Hinga.”

While agree that the inexperience of the team eventually tells on them come crunch time I think that and them being forced to play too many minutes makes them less effective. The difference between high school and college competition is an ocean and for many, they are surprised at the pace of the game and how powerful some opponents could be.

FEU used nine players while we went seven players (I am excluding Averil Paje because she just made a cameo appearance in the fifth set and that doesn’t count). Why wasn’t Aillysse Nacachi and Misha Quimpo used to spell the Angeline Gervacio and Fille Cainglet? They could have provided a different look and some minutes while the starters got some needed rest.

Oh well.

Then there was that five-set loss by the Men’s Volleyball Team to DLSU. Some say we’ve peaked and that the team is out of gas.

I don’t think that they’re out of gas. For one, everyone is not taking them lightly anymore. Second, they’ve become tentative on the court. The sheer joy of playing and having nothing to lose is gone. They’re played tight and lacked fire. Even when they took the first set from La Salle, it seemed that they were the ones down.

They are one-for-five in their last five matches and now it begins to weigh heavily on their minds.

This is where the coaching and the motivational speeches end because it’s now in the players’ hands. They will determine where they go to from here on. But they have a good team captain in AJ Pareja and I could see after the match how this team looks forward to their next game. Hey, Duane. Shake it off okay? Bawi na lang.

Someone asked me last season why is it that I follow and write about their team when they’ve won nothing and are perennial doormats. Is that the case that we only follow teams when they begin to win? I hate placing emphasis on the line from the alma mater, “win or lose it’s the school we choose” but in the case of the volleyball team and similar ones, this is when that line rings out loud.

I’m actually appalled that the only Ateneo official who watches the football games is Jun Dalandan (Joe Santos watches volleyball and I'm excluding Ricky Palou and Em Fernandez because they are regular fixtures). But if they make the championship round you can bet you blue and white butt they will be there. C'mon! Ano? Puro basketball na lang?

Speaking about heartbreak, how about that thrashing of the women’s football team by La Salle 3-0?

It’s a really young team and it shows but I like the spirit of some of the newbies.

I like Yvette Gaston because she doesn’t give up on plays. And if there’s been an MVP on this team it has been goal keeper Krissy Drilon who also splits time with the softball team. And if they award the best goalkeeper, consideration for the choice should not be the goals given up but by the number of saves. And Krissy has had to fend off numerous attacks and scoring chances.

Belay Fernando. What can you say? She runs to help out in the attack and has to sprint back on defense. No easy feat for her.

Everyone tried their darn best in yesterday’s loss, but I like Tata Garcia’s heart playing on an injured foot. And in her limited minutes she played well.

I hate to say it but we do not have players who are as skilled as those on opposing teams. We have a few for sure. While heart can be an equalizer sometimes skill and talent can overwhelm those who lack it.

But I trust Coach Buda and Karen (and Jerwin and Jay) to get this team going.

Hey, it’s a big week for all our teams. Time to cheer them on. And yup, track and field is fast approaching.

Joe Torre on the New York Yankees

Tom Verducci: The book is not a first-person book by Joe Torre, it's a third-person narrative based on 12 years of knowing the Yankees and it's about the changes in the game in that period. Seems to me the New York Post assigned this third-person book entirely to Joe Torre and that's not the case. In fact, if people saw that Post story they probably noticed there are no quotes from Joe Torre in it. Joe Torre does not rip anybody in the book. The book really needs to be read in context.

It's not a tell-all book it's a very insightful book into baseball. It's a much larger book about the Yankees, not only how the game changed around them, but the growth of information analysis, revenue sharing, growth of intellect in front-offices, changes in Red Sox ownership, the Steroid Era, etc.

My take on this:
Do I think that Joe Torre was treated unfairly by the Yankees?

Honestly? Not really. If he were any other manager for another team he would have been fired a long time ago after all those play-off failures.

I certainly disagree with those who say that the Yankees would have won with any other manager. That is not true. His managing during those championship years all the way to 2003 were sound and apt. Having watched the Yanks very closely in all that time, after that, he seemed to run out of his magic.

It is sad that he chose to write a book a like this. There are some things that really should have been kept in the family. Does he deserve a spot in Monument Park? Absolutely. Will we see it happen in our lifetime? Who knows? Maybe not in Joe's.

Joe Torre, George Steinbrenner, and Brian Cashman in better days. >>>>>>>>>

Read what Buster Olney has to say and I totally agree with him:

Ateneo Men's Football Match #3: A Field of Question Marks

A Field of Question Marks
Ateneo 0 vs. La Salle 1
by rick olivares

January 25, 2009
Erenchun Field
Ateneo de Manila University
If there were questions about the resolve of the Ateneo Men’s Football Team entering their match versus De La Salle you can officially add morale and their mental fortitude to the list.

For all the firepower at the team’s disposal, their guns have been jammed and after three matches, the team has two losses and one draw to show for their efforts or lack of it. The last time they sunk this low was two years ago and the last time Ateneo lost to La Salle in men’s football was in 2002.

Since their first match against UE, what has plagued the team has been its ability to finish plays. In every match thus far, they’ve squandered numerous chances to score early and this game was no different.

In the Blue Booters’ first true opportunity of the game, Jolo Peralta and Anton Amistoso found themselves with only the keeper to beat after beating La Salle’s defenders. Inexplicably, Peralta only offered a meek tap that went straight to the Patrick Deyto, DLSU’s rookie keeper who was getting his first start of the season.

Peralta shook his head and silently wished the flub wouldn’t tell on the game’s final results. But it wasn’t only the fifth year midfielder who couldn’t find the target that day. Only once did Deyto, who gave a good account of himself, have to dive for the ball as all the shots went straight to him.

Unlike in the match against UST where the Tigers dominated the attack, Ateneo had more shots on goal with nine as compared to La Salle’s five. And Hans Smit’s rookie-laden team capitalized on two flubs that allowed them to score the winning goal.

Most of the Ateneo Men’s Team watched how UP won its first game of the season against UST when an unmarked Andoni Santos (the nearest Tigers defender was some ten feet away) straddled the outside of the box. With no man on, Santos fired a vicious shot that the UST keeper did not even contest as it curled in to find the back of the net.

And eerily, instead of challenging DLSU’s Nikko Villa, Derrick Candelaria allowed him to powerful screamer that although it went straight to Ateneo keeper Joel Faustino it bounced off his chest and an unmarked Wendy Tee banged in match’s only goal in the 59th minute.

The inability of the attacking third to score has placed more pressure on Ateneo’s defense and all three goals it has surrendered have been to costly miscues that the opposition has taken advantage of.

At the start of the tournament, Hans Smit vowed his team would play tough despite the presence of eight rookies. “Hopefully we can hang in there but watch out next year,” he said before kick-off. Yet after their second win in three matches (they drew with UP last week), the long-time La Salle coach tempered his elation. “We got a very good morale boosting win. It may be tsamba but you create your own luck too. It gives us confidence for the next game and the season.”

His opposite number, Ompong Merida, is left to ponder what is wrong as they had played well in the pre-season.

Quite surprisingly the answers can be summarized in key moments of the game.

It is strange that previously, Ateneo made use of the pre-season tourneys as a learning experience whether they got drubbed by semi-pro club teams or not. But this year, they used it as a barometer as to how good they can be. Instead, they’re getting all nervy.

After the opener against UE, a huffing and puffing Amistoso could only mutter about the pace of the UAAP tournament. “Ang bilis pala ng laro sa UAAP,” he said as he sucked in for air. Welcome to the big leagues, son. If we don’t adjust then it’s going to be one long year before the next one.

In the game versus UST, defender Paul Cheng lagged behind for the overlap run as the team went on the attack and as Gab Siojo whirled around for a square pass, there was no one to pass to. Apparently, the system doesn’t come as naturally to the rookies as everyone thought.

The anticipation for the long pass has been incredibly poor and too often there is a waste of energy as the forwards scramble for a ball they have no hope in catching. And the instead of putting the ball on the ground whether for square passes and a short game, they’ve been sending high balls that defenders have been able to adjust to and fight off.

“We keep saying we’re going to win,” said one frustrated player who refused to be identified. “But so far we haven’t done it.”

While the system still allowed them to get their shots and make the hair stand on Hans Smit’s neck at times, the inability score in the first half has so far contributed to a second half meltdown. The final 45 minutes used to be the team’s strength as they’d make the necessary adjustments to win the game, but thus far, we’d see a breakdown in almost every facet of the game.

As the team milled about aimlessly after the loss, one player asked if they did anything right today.

Yeah, no one got cramps.

Match Statistics
Shots on goal
Ateneo 9 (6)
La Salle 5 (4)

Corner Kicks
Ateneo 2
La Salle 4

Ateneo 2
La Salle 0

Ateneo 4
La Salle 11

Yellow Cards
Ateneo 0
La Salle 2

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #142 Chasing Red

Chasing Red
by rick olivares

Perhaps when Phil Jackson has finally given up for good on patrolling the sidelines will he be truly appreciated and lauded for his achievements. Critics dismiss his nine titles and vaunted triangle offense as the work of smoke and mirrors when he had the greatest basketball player and the heir apparent lacing up their kicks for him.

Purists point to Red Auerbach as still the greatest yet they conveniently forget how he routinely fleeced other teams and fielded an All-Star line-up in his years in Boston. Not to mention that he played in a weak ass league that only had teams in single digits for several years.

Red was a great coach and way ahead of his time. Whether it was his pioneering the sixth man or his use of the fastbreak to sprint their way to the NBA title year after year, one thing was for sure, Auerbach could coach.

But to say that Red is better than Phil or vice versa is difficult and arbitrary. Why not say that Red was the greatest coach in the nascent NBA while Phil is the best of the modern age?

Partisan fans never want to see the records of their heroes broken. Remember when Calvin Murphy erupted in glee when Larry Bird missed a free throw that would have allowed him to pass the former Houston Rocket’s consecutive free throw streak?

There’s the Los Angeles Laker’s 33-game win streak that they embarked on in their title winning 1971-72 season. The Houston Rockets won 22 straight last season until they ran into Kevin Garnett and the Celtics.

In the National Football League, it has become an annual rite for the 1972 Miami Dolphins to pop the bubbly when the last remaining and previously undefeated team loses a game.

And there’s Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in major league baseball that has stood for 67 years. Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon, and Derek Jeter are but some of the name who attempted but fell short.

Most recently, the Boston Celtics were on pace to break the Chicago Bulls’ 72-win regular season record until they hit a late December to mid-January slump that ended all talk of matching one of sports’ Grail quests.

And there’s Phil Jackson now who this season has probably one last chance to overtake Red Auerbach as the coach with the most NBA titles. He’s had two opportunities in his last two Finals’ stints but his squads lost to Detroit and to Boston.

Instead of going, "Great job, man! Hope you get it," cynics rattle off the boring, repetitive, and cumbersome excuses of having great players and playing in an era where teams aren't as strong as they used to be.

Well, the players of yesteryear never had to contend with today issues and stock of athletes who could jump out of a gym. When former New York Knick great Bill Bradley was asked how he's guard Robert Horry who was just out of Alabama and playing for the Houston Rockets, the Senator said he scream for help.

Do great players win championships? Of course they do, but not all the time. The Boston Celtics of the 1980’s had their Big Three and some pretty good benches yet they only have three titles to show for it. Of course they ran into the Lakers who had their own Hall-of-Fame line-ups. The Philadelphia 76ers of Julius Erving were plenty good but in four title appearances only won one crown. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz of the 1990’s had solid line ups with all-time greats augmented by terrific players. At times even on paper, they had a much stronger roster than the Bulls.

The Lakers of the early 2000’s faced great competition from Sacramento, Portland, and San Antonio yet they won three straight.

Players and coaches do win championships. They go hand-in-hand like Karo syrup with pancakes. Cheese dip and potato chips. Night and day. And Bonnie and Clyde.

In a clash of egos and credit, former Bulls’ General Manager Jerry Krause drove away Jackson and the crew that won him six titles in eight years. The rotund executive intimated that he’d like to win a title after overhauling the old guard. He’s no longer around and the Bulls ten years after the Last Dance are as disappointing as ever.

Jackson, though not yet done in his career is already in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He has successfully and skillfully guided the Lakers post-three-peat, post Rudy Tomjanovich, and post-Frank Hamblen into a frightening unit.

He is the all-time best in regular season and playoff winning percentage and has 1,004 regular season wins and 193 play-off victories reaching it in by far the fewest games.

He’s had to deal with more on and off court distractions than Red Auerbach dealt with. Free agency, player-coach-management issues that was virtually non-existent during Auerbach’s heyday, the emergence of international players, and rampant and crass commercialism that has turned the game into the Stern Entertainment Package – these are just some of the issues that Jackson has had to deal with.

In an interview with former Lakers’ great Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Jackson, now 63 years old, said, "Dr. Buss has insinuated that he would like me to coach longer, but I said, 'Let's just do one year at a time right now.' So that's what we're doing. But we’d like to do it until 2009-10.”

When he was younger and thinking of pursuing a law degree after a coaching stint in the Continental Basketball Association, he was asked why leave basketball when it was clear that it was something he did very well.

Well, he hasn’t and it is clear that winning basketball games and championships is something he does well. As much as it is fun to watch Mike D’Antoni turn the Knicks around (see how Phoenix has floundered without him), it is a pleasure to see a genius like Phil Jackson chase Red Auerbach and sports immortality. But isn’t he there just yet?

This also appears in the Monday January 26 edition of the Business Mirror:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Have you gotten your copy of the 2009 Ateneo Sports Calendar?

All those who wish to order the 2009 Ateneo Sports Calendar, please send your orders to or Or through our facebook product account. Just type in 2009 Ateneo Sports Calendar.

We will print only on demand. So if anything it will take anywhere from 2 to 3 days for you to get the calendars. The calendar is NOT AVAILABLE at A-Shop or at the Loyola Bookstore. You can either get it from me or Aly Yap or other members of Fabilioh.

Prices are as follows: Php 825 for the high end, Php 545 for the medium, and Php 375 for the desktop. If you're going to be at the football games this Sunday in Ateneo, just look for me at the UAAP Officials' tent, I'll have show copies with me.

If not, kindly see Aly Yap at the 3rd Floor Faculty Room at JGSOM.

Go GU Bulldogs!

Outside UNC, I usually follow the Jesuit universities in US NCAA Basketball. I like the Georgetown Hoyas and the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Big game today between Gonzaga (12-4) and the Pepperdine Waves (4-15).

What makes the Zags interesting too are the number of players with an NBA pedigree. There's Austin Daye, the son of Darren Daye and Jeremy Pargo, younger sibling of Jannero Pargo (who is playing overseas at the moment).

Pepperdine meanwhile is led by Mychel Thompson, the son of former Portland Trailblazer and LA Laker Mychal Thompson.

While Gonzaga looks to pulverize the struggling Cali team, they have to worry about their consistency. The started out the season well before slumping in December. Daye is starting to be more comfortable in his role as the team's go-to player but he must make better decisions. But you have to like the fact that the 4/5 of the starting five of is scoring double figues (Daye, Josh Heytvelt -- my fave Zag player, Matt Bouldin, and Steven Gray who can shoot like nobody's business). Pargo is a shade under double figures with 9.8 ppg.

Look for Coach Mark Few to give his bench badly needed playing time if this game turns into a laugher by halftime.

UPDATE: Gonzaga beat Pepperdine 83-69 behind a strong game by Josh Heytvelt who finished with 25 points! We're now 4-0 in WCC play.

Is this the end of Arsenal as we know it?

Florentino Perez who built Los Galacticos over at Real Madrid in the early 2000's has promised to sign away Arsene Wenger from Arsenal in the off season. Not only will the Frenchman be the manager but he will replace Predrag Mijatovic as Los Blancos' GM.

The question now is, will Wenger take it?

New York Diary Part VII: Icing in Manhattan

You know a relationship is going to go to hell when instead of cuddling up you're watching the New York Islanders play. Of all the sports that interested me as a kid, hockey was the one I didn't get to play. It was only later in my adult life that I got the opportunity. What got me into it? I have to admit, not only was the game fascinating but the players wore the coolest uniforms. What follows is a letter to my folks about playing the game like a fish out of water.

Dear Mum & Dad:
Thanks for the dried mango although I must admit that I can buy that here at any Filipino store. Do you know that a pack of chocnut here costs a frigging $2.50? Eh, sa Pinas wala pang Php 27 yan! So the dried mango is pretty much around the same price range. But thanks.

There’s a drone in my head that’s threatening to blow up into a full-fledged headache. It’s close to midnight when I punch out. The streets are rain-swept and it lends to the chill that’s already in the air. As soon as I step out I exhale and pull up the collar of my jacket. Suzi’s Slammers next door is closing up. I nod at Jose who still has the easy smile at the end of a long day. “Mañana,” he tosses back at me.

“No work tomorrow, amigo.” I cheerfully throw back.

“Ay ya yay,” he scratches his now unkempt hair. “Lunes, si?”


The subway’s just around the corner right beside the Barnes and Noble and Best Buy. It takes a few minutes for the train to arrive. Some of the people waiting for the train are regulars who work in the shops nearby and there’s this familiarity that we’re all working stiffs as we take the midnight train back to home wherever in the four boroughs it is.

I get off at Grand Central and transfer to the 7 train bound for Long Island City (I get off at Vernon Jackson Boulevard). Heth is performing at 51st and Lex tonight.

Heth plays an acoustic guitar and uses all sorts of effects as he plays pop songs with a jazzy bent. He’s even got CDs on sale (and a website -- If he joins Subway Idol, I'd vote for him.

I toss a dollar into the hat as I transfer platforms.

I’m renting a room at the home of a former anti-Marcos activist who has since eschewed politics for serving at the local Church. She married this Italian guy who works for a bank. The location is magnificent as it offers a view of the East River and you can see the UN Building from my window.

When I get home at night, I’d sit by the window and watch the all the lights across Manhattan and it would always take my breath away.

Real estate values have gone up and the city’s going to bid for the Olympics so you can be sure that rent and property taxes will go sky high.

I change into something more homey – just my Islanders jersey and my underwear. I’ll rest for a bit before I take a shower. I’m not one who can go to bed feeling all sweaty.

I can afford to stay up late since there’s no work tomorrow. I switch on the telly and it’s a replay of the Yankees-Red Sox game. I grab a bottle of Snapple from the fridge and sit on the bed. I really need a massage. Kinda expensive though. $10 for 10 minutes! So if I get a massage for an hour that’s 60 bucks?

Uh uh. I’d just soak myself in the tub.

There’s a knock on the door and I know it’s Mrs. Salerne. I put on a bathrobe and open the door. She asks if I’ve eaten and she made some pie. God bless this woman. I take the saucer and thank her. I’ll save it for tomorrow and put it inside my fridge. No sense in adding more stuff when it won’t digest properly this late.

I love Long Island City because of its proximity to Woodside and Astoria. They partially shot the Nic Cage film It Could Happen to You in Woodside. There these cool romantic-comedy drama movies making the rounds now: Garden State, Lost In Translation, and Pieces of April. I also did see The Fighting Temptations starring Beyonce and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Tomorrow I’ll be playing some hockey at the Chelsea Piers. I’m not good at it. Okay but not good. I can skate but I’m not yet at a level where I can make those twists and turns while rifling off a shot. So I’m what they call a “bender.” Late bloomer and lousy skater rolled into one.

Am I nervous? I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t. It’s like riding those bumpcars as a kid and people are gunning for me coz I’ve got glasses on and I don’t maneuver good. The other week I got checked on the boards and even with all the pads I felt my bones crunch. I’ve got some bruises that have the colors of the rainbow on my arms and back.

Sam laughs at me and says like I’m like a fish out of water. Give it up, he yells as I get five for fighting. Go back to soccer or basketball.

Is there a primal urge to play hockey? Almost everyone I know roots for the Rangers. Even the guys from Bangladesh. And I thought the only thing they knew was cricket.

Game time is 4pm and I’m in D8. That’s Division Eight. The lowest of the low in the Fall League. It’s for beginners all right. If you think that it just like those “Just For Fun” divisions in the Ateneo Basketball League you’ve got another thought coming. Beginners. Rookies. Everyone’s looking to score or pop someone. And it can get rough. Unlike basketball and football where I can play without my glasses (go figure on how I can pass the ball and score), for baseball and hockey I have to wear them. But I’ve got goggles on and these damn contraption costs almost $200 since it’s graded.

I’m a left defenseman and it suits me just fine. Isn’t it obvious that I’m a lefty? And I played defense anyhow in football so I’m supposed to be at home. I’m on the third unit and its 10 minutes into the game when I come in with we change it up.

We’re playing this team from Brooklyn and if these guys are beginners then I’m the King of the Bahamas.

First minute I’m in and they’ve got a 3-2 odd man advantage. My teammate, pokes free the puck but he slaps it way past any of our teammates to reach so an icing violation is called.

The face off is close to our goal and our keeper who we all “Hadoken” stops a shot. His real name is Sonam and he’s from Tibet but Mark our team captain is a huge Tekken fan and Sonam reminds him of those characters from the video game.

I later get cross checked but only shove back. Many of the game’s nuances still do not come naturally to be and I struggle at it. If I had played this at a younger age then it might come as a reflex. I help out on the offense and get a couple of shots in. Good ones I might add.

The game ends at 5-4. The Brooklyn team wins. The plus side for me is -- I did not go to the penalty box for fighting. Bwahahaha. Our team goes for pizza and some brew.

It’s 1030pm on a Saturday night and I’m staring out of my window towards Manhattan.

And I dream.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm a Kobe Bryant fan but this guy is the MVP

When I was writing the NBA Preview for Maxim, I chafed at the early deadlines (two months before the start of the season) since so much could change in terms of player movement. The one thing I was perfectly at ease in terms of predicting it was pegging LeBron James to win the MVP Award.

After a Redeem Team summer where he truly shone on the international stage, I knew he was totally read for the NBA. In Beijing, James unveiled a hitherto unnoticed part of his arsenal... his defense.

And more than his offense, I think it is his defense (well, Mo Williams running the point helps too) that has picked up the club because he is just as serious about stopping opposing guards. And it's not just any guard but they opposing team's key man.

Witness his game saving stop on Kobe Bryant in the last game and his match-up with Paul Pierce.

Can you say MVP and a spot on the All-Defensive Team?

Ateneo Men's Football Match 2: A Missed Opportunity

A Missed Opportunity and a Key Line-up Change
Ateneo 0 vs. UST 0

by rick Olivares

January 21, 2009
Erenchun Field
Ateneo De Manila University
It was only a couple of hours before kick off that Joel Faustino found out he was the starting keeper for the remainder of the football season. Didn’t the tournament just start four days ago?

Four days after one of the most infamous defensive lapses in Ateneo football history, the goal keeper was once more in the hot seat.

RS Mantos the team’s starting keeper the past three years was shelved on account of his academics wasting a year of eligibility and putting a crimp on the Ateneo Men’s Football Team’s title aspirations.

If Faustino, the freshman who was the Ateneo high school team’s keeper last year, was nervous he tried not to show it. “Yeah, man. I am. A little,” he said the gulp in his throat the only thing that gave away his nervousness.

Within three minutes, the frosh was put to the test as UST had the first scoring opportunity of the game. The Tigers’ Marvin Barquin sent the ball curling towards the goal and at that moment you could hear a pin drop.

As the Tigers’ powerfully built winger David Basa rose up for a header with Alvin Perez closely marking him, Faustino jumped up and punched the ball out. Migs Tuason cleared the ball from the danger zone as Merida nodded approvingly from the sidelines.

A few minutes later, perhaps flushed with confidence, the Ateneo keeper rushed out as Derrick Candelaria challenged an attacking Joel Bones just outside the box. An irate Merida yelled, “Wag ka muna lalabas meron ka pang depensa.”

The Blues started a few of its second unit opting to preserve Anton Amistoso, Gerard Cancio, and Paul Cheng for a second half charge that would hopefully give them fresh legs for the attack. With Mantos gone for the season, Blue Booters' assistant coach Bob Manlulo said that “our best defense would be a good old-fashioned offense.”

As opposed to their opening day match, Ateneo burst out of the gates with Kurt Alvarez and Gino Tongson leading the charge.

Miko Manglapus, getting his first start, played well at defensive midfield as he was able to help out Gab Siojo and Jolo Peralta in setting up the offense.

But it was no easy feat as UST in spite of starting six rookies hardly gave any ground.

There were four chances for Ateneo to score with the best opportunity a coach’s delight. Fred Ozaeta stole the ball from the Tigers’ Yannick Tuason that Jolo Peralta for the quick counter.

As the diamond formed around the pitch, Peralta found Gab Siojo in the middle who lofted it over to a cutting Alvarez whose shot went wide.

Ateneo had firmly controlled the first half and had numerous chances to score. But it was their inability to finish. “One goal will change the complexion of the game,” underscored Merida at the half.

Sensing the minutes slipping away as Ateneo was unable to break UST’s back four, the key starters were sent into the fray. Unfortunately, UST tightened up its 4-4-2 formation and clogged up the midfield where they immediately put a man on Siojo or Peralta to slow down the attack. It proved to be a sound tactic for it forced Alvarez to pick up the ball somewhere in the midfield where he’s not as adept as a playmaker.

The relative unfamiliarity of the Ateneo freshmen to the system sometimes saw the others slow to fill in the gaps that would form the triangle formations crucial to advancing the ball and getting off a shot.

With the pressure mounting to score a goal and pull abreast of the opening day winners (in the first match of the day UE and FEU battled to a scoreless draw and at he same time as the Ateneo match, UP and DLSU ended 90 minutes of play also with a goal drought), it was up to the Blue Booters’ defense to lead the counter.

After Fred Ozaeta, at the apex of Ateneo’s defense, took away the ball UST’s Dietrik Wieneke, Candelaria sent a long ball towards Amistoso who had beaten his guard. But the ball was a little long as it landed a foot away from him.

A few minutes later, another quick counter found Cancio beating his man but his goal was waved off because of an offside call.

But the attempts were few and far in between as UST switched to a stopper-sweeper defense.

With 12 minutes left in the game, UST midfielder Mario Clariño struck his side’s fifth corner kick from the right side. Faustino caught it squarely – a textbook keeper’s way of snaring the ball with the body firmly behind for control. But he bobbled it for a second that it hit the side post before he cradled it like a newborn baby. He winked at Perez, "Relax lang. I got this covered."

The coaching staff went from half applause to nearly getting out of their seats as heart rates spiked up for a second.

With the precious seconds ticking away two minutes into injury time, the Blue Booters had one last attempt as Siojo volleyed from far out in the box but the ball went straight to Arboleda as the final whistle sounded of a scoreless draw.

It was a far better showing than the game versus UE but the immediate concern was the build up to the offense and their finishing. Their defense held in the face of a spirited UST attack but how long if the scoring drought continues? And with La Salle up on Sunday, every match is slowly becoming a must-win situation.

After the game, Joel Faustino received hearty handshakes from everyone. “Nervous?” someone asked.

He shook his head while gulping down some water. But some of it trickled down and doused his hands and chest. He smiled. “We’ll do better.”

Match Stats
Shots (on goal)
Ateneo 10 (6)
UST 13 (6)

Ateneo (7)
UST (9)

Corner Kicks
Ateneo (4)
UST (5)

Ateneo (2)
UST (1)

Ateneo (10)
UST (6)

On Obama's reference to Washington

As an ardent student of history and well versed in the Philippine and American Revolutions, I was particularly struck by President Obama's mention of George Washington's crossing the Delaware River. I was a kid during the American Bicentennial and remember being flooded with books from my aunt and my mum (who worked for the US government) about the events of 1776 and beyond. I think it began a lifelong interest in all things military; something that even prompted me to even consider a career in the service. I even had a few friends and a teacher who went into the armed forces (American and Philippine) and my grandfather was with the US Army although briefly.

The mention of Washington's crossing is apt and a powerful image. At that point, the Continental Army had been pushed out of New York and New Jersey and with a brutal winter on the way, the British thought that the revolution would collapse in a matter of time.

Washington's army -- ill-equipped for war and winter -- crossed the Delaware to attack the Hessian garrison in Trenton. It was a bold move and they captured what is now the capital of New Jersey. That victory gave life to the Continental Army that was losing the war. The Americans attacked Trenton a second time (for they had to push back because of the lack of supplies) which they once more won before pushing towards Princeton which they captured from the British.

Those three victories were the turning point for the American War of Independence.

Like the American Revolution, I had read extensively on the Philippine Revolution. I even parlayed that into a PLDT Centennial television ad that was a nice dream for a kid fresh out of school.

There are many stories of the Revolution that I enjoy and follow but the one that I have been fixated on is the Battle of Tirad Pass. That was in fact my original concept for the PLDT centennial commercials but my boss thought it was too overly dramatic and costly.

Nevertheless, I've kept at it and have refined it for a play. I'm reworking it too for a short piece that will come out in the Loyola School Bulletin next month.

I tried to go to Tirad Pass last December but should make the trek soon. I've been to Bataan and Corregidor and to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. Does Ground Zero at the WTC count? My dream too, would be to go to Normandy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A New Hope

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

Essential reading: