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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Buckets Full of Smiles

This will appear in the Tuesday April 27, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror.

Buckets Full of Smiles
by rick olivares

After days of rain providing relief from the summer heat, Sunday is every bit apt as the sun is out this day. Even in the supposed air-conditioned confines of the Araneta Coliseum, isn’t enough to counter the beads of sweat that trickle down the faces and backsides of the production crew of Solar Sports as they’re getting ready for the last leg of the Philippine Basketball Association’s All-Star Weekend.

When the 6’2” Anthony “Buckets” Blakes entered the media room, he was as cool as a cucumber. He flashed a megawatt smile and shook hands with PBA broadcasters Alex Compton and Richard Del Rosario.

Someone asked Blakes to compare the heat in Manila and Phoenix where he hails from. “It’s almost the same,” he said in such a friendly and disarming manner that would make one think it’s actually cool to sweat. “It’s humid in Phoenix but it’s sticky here. But I’ll manage.”

It has been 18 years and a couple of generations since the Harlem Globetrotters last played in the Philippines and it’s time to get reacquainted with the new batch of the Clown Princes of Basketball. Buckets Blakes along with Big Easy Lofton, Handles Franklin, Hi-Rise Brown, and Skyscraper Alleyne among others will take the court where Curly Neal, Sweet Lou Dunbar, and Twiggy Sanders once trod – the Araneta Coliseum – for a three-game series on May 24 and 25, 2009. “We’re here to entertain,” pronounced Blakes who is all too aware of the Globetrotters’ legacy.

Formed in 1929 by Abe Saperstein and ironically in Chicago, Illinois, it took nearly four decades before the team played in their “homecourt” of Harlem, New York.

Harlem during the early 20th century was considered the mecca of African American culture in America. The Globetrotters in the meantime were a serious and competitive team early in their existence later but as the racial barriers were broken in professional sports they made the big shift to entertainment.

Arguably, the Globetrotters were the first pioneers of freestyling as trick and skills basketball is now called. And in the light of Barack Obama’s landmark election as the 44th President of the United States, the Globetrotters were actually one of the earliest ambassadors of African culture and for civil rights having played in almost every country in the world.

It’s a fact not lost on Blakes who was elated about Obama’s election more for his grandmother of 93 years. “She lived through some pretty tough times while us – my generation – didn’t have it as bad. She believed in a dream and that is now a reality.”

For Buckets, being a Globetrotter is also the culmination of a dream. After playing for the Wyoming Cowboys (that produced basketball greats like Kenny Sailors, Fennis Dembo, and Reggie Slater among others), he bounced around for a while playing for former Chicago Bulls center Stacey King in the Rockford Lightnings in the Continental Basketball Association before trying out Europe. After a while, he was invited to tryout for the Harlem Globetrotters; “A call-up from a boyhood dream,” he described.

I saw the Globetrotters on television watching Scooby Doo cartoons and it was only later when I joined the team that I actually got to see them up close. And that was a real highlight. I felt as if I joined history; am a part of history.”

Blakes was positively giddy recounting how he became a member of the world-famous team: “Not many get to become a member as one has to not only be skilled but he should be an entertainer as well while having a pleasing and fun personality. The last bit of criteria is important because people look up to us so we take being a role model very seriously. Believe me, that’s when all the fun starts and we (the team) genuinely like each other and have a blast making people laugh.

We’re doing the classic tricks while putting our personal stamp on the show.”

Bobby Dulle, the International Booking Coordinator for the Globetrotters who is also in town to help promote the upcoming event concurred. “I saw them as a kid. I mean, who didn’t? It sure is a kick getting to be a part of it now. And I see that smile I had on my face when I was young on the kids and folks who come to our shows. It’s like full circle.”

As for Blakes, an Arizona boy who went to school in Wyoming (“lots of beautiful spaces over there”), basketball has taken him to so many places and given him an opportunity to entertain and make people smile. “We played everywhere. Even on a nuclear aircraft carrier – the Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). So playing in a famous place like the Araneta Coliseum is another blessing.”

But the biggest thrill about being a Harlem Globetrotter and entertaining people is that we are in the business of selling smiles. And a smile is something we can never get enough of.

Buckets Blakes facts:
Favorite Cereal: “Honey Nut Cheerios when I was younger but I lay off that now I am older. Gotta eat right.”
Favorite NBA team: “Los Angeles Lakers. They know how to play the game and are real fun to watch.”
Favorite Harlem Globetrotter: “Curly Neal. He is one of the most talented and funniest persons ever!”
Debut as a member of the Globetrotters: “Madison Square Garden. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Post script: Thanks to Solar Sports for the invite. I was one of two sportswriters granted an exclusive and one-on-one interview with Buckets Blakes (the other being Quinito Henson who unearthed some interesting Globetrotters stories). I'm so honored. Muchos gracias.

Ticket Prices for three shows @ Araneta Coliseum:
May 24 3pm
Gen. Ad = P105
Upper B = P420
Upper A = P840
Lower B = P1,050
Patron = P1,575

May 24 7pm
Gen Ad = P210
Upper B = P525
Upper A = P1,050
Lower B = P1,575
Patron = P2,100

May 25 7pm
Gen Ad = P105
Upper B = P420
Upper A = P840
Lower B = P1,050
Patron = P1,575

No comments:

Post a Comment