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, August 22, 2009

Down there

Down There
My commentary on the day's tough results for two teams

I’ve been inside NU’s locker room so many times – pre-game, halftime, and post-game –that it’s really a painful exercise. If I feel that way then how much worse could it be for Manny Dandan who will surely be under the gun with all these losses?

They all know that not much is expected from them this year but still… all those losses can drive one batty.

Mervin Baloran and Kokoy Hermosisima are a couple of steps away from becoming their go-to scorers but they have to learn to let the game come to them and play a lot more smarter if they want to be elite ballers. Baloran, the team captain, makes better decisions but he needs to bulk up and work on his mid-range game to become even more effective. He needs to scatter his points across all the quarters because it will ease the load on the others. When the points aren’t coming, Hermosisima and Ajeet Singh fire at will from the outside which is bad because at times they don’t have a rebounder in place.

Hermosisima should stop shooting at every turn because when he misses those shots, they kill the team. Not only does it not involve the team but also when he misses, the opponents run with the ball catching them flat-footed on transition.

Any notions that Jewel Ponferrada could be an elite player for NU have surely evaporated now. He performed well last year playing alongside Edwin Asoro. He cleaned up those errant shots that escaped Asoro and was the beneficiary of his teammate’s double teams. If this team had a solid power forward then he would ease Ponferrada’s load. He’s had zero dunks this year. Zero.

The Bulldogs should do a better job of taking it strong to the hole. Their drop passes aren’t just happening.

They are a young team without a doubt but they should have better discipline when it comes to running the offense. And that should be on the point guards Michael Luy and Joseph Terso. If there’s a little more discipline to their game then that will lessen their turnovers.

But they are a young team that is only now learning to win the right way with the proper resources. You know the saying about nowhere to go but up. And that’s something new about these Bulldogs.

A lot of people are asking me if the De La Salle Green Archers are really a lousy team this season.

No, they are not. They are underperforming for a variety of reasons. But look at the material they have for years to come!

Some have said that the holdovers from last year aren’t the leader types but role players. Maybe so. But how much of that is because of the rift between the newbies and the veterans? The veterans even have a term for the newbies – “sila.” Franz Pumaren must have a reason for making Hyram Bagatsing the team captain but he is one of the most inconsistent players on the squad. He plays good one game then doesn’t do well in the next.

Joshua Webb? Well, he might not be on every other team’s Christmas List but I am damn sure that every other team would love to have him on board. A leader he isn’t. At least until he decides to stop playing heir to their long line of assholes in tank tops like Cardona, Yeo, AraƱa, and Maierhofer. Then again, their antics and rage fueled their championship drive. So I guess all this tough play that Pumaren preaches really works and is a key component to their game.

How important is the role of the captain?

I remember DLSU’s football team of two years ago. They were kicking everyone’s butts in the pre-UAAP tourney but once the football season began the team had all sorts of problems when their captain started throwing his weight around. He immediately lost the respect of his teammates and it told heavily on their play. It sent the Green Booters on a tailspin that they never recovered from.

Back to their basketball team, I am not saying Bagatsing is not capable. I wouldn’t even know their dynamics, but from what has been told to me, the vets feel that the rooks are getting too much props and have poor work ethics. “Star” kasi from their previous squads. But Bagatsing tends to ignore some of the chemistry problems they have. Whether their coaching staff is aware of this I have no idea.

Can’t say I sympathize though as I’m hoping that we continue to stick it to them. Every team has to eat some humble pie before they become great.

I find it funny that (based on what my friends from DLSU tell me) that now there are calls for Franz to be replaced. Is this for real?

If that’s true… he should have been sacked after 2005 but since he wasn’t... napaka-ingrata naman ng mga ito. After all those titles you turned a blind eye and now the team is struggling ayan na kayo. Ruining his final year? Speculation aside that it is his last tapos na ba talaga? Ahem… now the finger pointing (what’s with all these fingers from their school?) begins.

What I’ve realized is how their rabid crowd is much like Ateneo’s – quick to blame and quick to conveniently forget things when they are winning.

Some say that this team needs some homegrown pride.

Fallacy.

For as long as I’ve seen them play pre-UAAP and when they joined the league, they didn’t have too many homegrown players. Homegrown pride lends to the never-say-die attitude but it is not a pre-requisite. It is in fact a goddam myth.

If that held true then how do you explain UE, FEU, and UST winning all those titles? How about San Sebastian? Don’t tell me that Ateneo’s 2008 win had homegrown written all over it? Only those sanctimonious snobs from the pre-coed Ateneo love to trumpet that.

College ball has always been different from high school ball. The competition has always been stiffer and several levels higher. High school teams generally get from within their ranks rather than recruit. There isn’t anything wrong with getting players from all over the archipelago not to mention abroad.

La Salle’s problem is no different from NU’s – they lack experience and cohesion playing together. The cracks showed in the summer leagues and it got bigger once the UAAP kicked in. I think Pumaren has tried several starting units this season and that is a clear sign that this team isn’t made yet. I thought they'd get their act together and in fact pegged them to make the Final Four (of course the season isn't over for them). That says a lot about their team and their coach's chops. Unfortunately, it just isn't there... yet.

They don't have that deadeye shooter in the mold of Ren Ren Ritualo and Jayvee Casio who made life easier for their big men. I don't think Peejay Barua or James Mangahas will ever be mistaken for those two. And that is a huge part of the problem. The missing dagger from the outside to open up the lane for their bigs and slashers.

They’ve been dominating for so long that people aren’t used to seeing them down there. Note to hoop junkies: take a long and hard look at the Duke Blue Devils. Not everyone stays on top forever. Note to sports fans: even the New York Yankees had their play-off streak snapped. They made the American League playoffs from 1995-2007. They didn’t make it last year but look how they’ve rebounded this year (I know the season is a long ways from being done).

It was La Salle that ratcheted up the recruitment when they entered the league. In an effort to become a sports power, they pulled all the stops to become champs and they did. It drove other teams to compete and while the level of competition went up so did the forms of one upsmanship both legal and illegal. Their days of dominance over? Not really but they will find it harder now that everyone has seen the benefits of a strong and winning program.

But they will be back and they will pay back every team in kind. And everyone knows that. Such is the story of sports that is filled with drama and emotion.

I think they would love to keep the Final Four streak going – and who wouldn’t? Right now they still have a chance but perhaps for the first time in their UAAP tenure, they are also dependent on the fortunes of other teams. That's tough and as Pumaren put it earlier in the tournament – there’s a first time for everything.

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