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, March 31, 2009

At a photo shoot yesterday, had a long chat with Purefoods' Ryan Gregorio and Alaska's Larry Fonacier. Those stories well, we're going to reserve them for another time. After Holy Week, I figure.

And hopefully, we'll be seeing a piece here by Larry's wife, Lora, who goes here to Brew a lot. Thanks! That's real cool.

Six more days before the start of the new Major League Baseball season.


I have the River Avenue Blues (with much much homage to Laura Nyro and the 5th Dimension; one of my favorite soul artists like forever). I totally miss baseball a lot. Spring means a couple of things... the end of winter (which everyone looks forward too), summer is around the corner, and baseball's up!

Ben, Joseph, and Mike do a good job for us rabid Yankee fans.

Put away them cold gear, amigo. Time to break out those cargoes, and we be jamming.

Went walking around the campus last Sunday afternoon with an old school chum and we talked about well, doing a lot of walking while living in the US. I loved walking around except when going cross-borroughs. That was real fun.

While working in Flatbush, Brooklyn, I used to tell my mum and dad that the only white people I saw were cops. And I stuck out like a sore thumb. But the place isn't bad.

I frequented a Jamaican restaurant across where I used to work along Nostrand Avenue. There was a nearby barber shop where I befriended one of the proprietors and he once asked me why I was a Yankee fan. Of course, I told him why. Turns out he's a Dodgers fan... a Brooklyn Dodgers fan not the LA variety.

I listened intently to his stories when the Dodgers were the Lords of Flatbush and they played in the legendary Ebbets Field.

I forgot that until I saw this book by Michael D'Antonio.

If you love baseball then this you gotta read.

While going around Brooklyn looking for the old Ebbets Field, well, it's gone now; in it's place are the Jackie Robinson Apartments across McKeever Place.


New old kits

Did anyone notice those retro kits that England wore during its friendly with Slovakia? I am not so sure whether I like it or not so I'll reserve my judgment for another time.


It seems though that retro kits are coming out now. Miggy Mendoza tells me that adidas recently released the old Crown Paints kit. Golly, that was terrible along with the Hitachi ones. I still say that Carlsberg is probably the best sponsor for LFC.

Also out are old Juventus kits.


Monday, March 30, 2009

For those who get hired to get fired, this one's for you...


Who should be considered for this year's recipient of the Red Auerbach NBA Coach of the Year Award?

Here are my picks:

Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers (58-15)
These guys keep on rolling no matter what and in spite of last year's finals meltdown and injuries to Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, and Lamar Odom.

Glenn Rivers, Boston Celtics (56-19)
He's been getting the job done in spite of all the injuries, slumps, and questions about desire. This is his best coaching job.

Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic (54-18)
He's got this young and upcoming team steady all season long.

George Karl, Denver Nuggets (48-26)
He trades away one malcontent (Allen Iverson) but still has to bear with another (Carmelo Anthony). He has this team playing hard and is getting max effort from Nene.

Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets. (48-26)
Your mercurial All-Star disappears; you trade your starting point guard away but the Rockets keep on trucking.

Jerry Sloan, Utah Jazz (45-27)
Every year he's on the list. Every year, he's overlooked. Look for voters to do it one more time again despite another solid job.

So where's Mike Brown or Erik Spoelstra?
Cleveland is winning because LeBron raised his game. But he did so beginning the Summer Olympics. As for Miami, can anyone say... Dwyane Wade?

How does it come down?
I'd say Rick Adelman or George Karl.

English Hearts, These Red Devils

Julio Bello of Cuba asked me what I thought of Manchester United, a thought I really do not relish. But I have to give props to the Red Devils for they are truly a great team. The fact that they have dominated the English Premier League says a lot about them.


Aside from the money that the Glazers are able to pump in (that helps bring solid players to the squad) and having one of the best manager in Sir Alex Ferguson, I think that their all-English core (probably the most of the top four in the Premier League) is a huge factor. They already play for a storied club to begin with then the key players take to the pitch with a lot of pride.

Take a gander at their starting eleven:

Edwin Van Der Sar (Goalkeeper, Dutch)

Rio Ferdinand (Central Back, English) Nemanja Vidic (Central Back, Serbian)

Gary Neville (Captain, Right Back, English) Patrice Evra (Left Back, French)

Michael Carrick (MF, English)

Ronaldo (Left MF, Portuguese) Paul Scholes (Central MF, English) Ryan Giggs (Right MF, Welsh)

Dmitar Berbatov (Left Forward, Bulgarian) Wayne Rooney (Right Forward, English)

Manchester runs a staggered 4-4-2 with Argentinean Carlos Teves in for Berba or even Rooney. When Owen Hargreaves is healthy, he starts in the place of Carrick. Hargreaves is English. So that's Ferdinand, Neville, Carrick, Scholes, and Rooney (you can include Gigsy too). Wes Brown comes off the bench for this unit too.

While Neville is captain, Ferdinand is vice-captain of the National Team (after Chelsea's John Terry) so this team is not lacking in on field leadership.

Carrick plays an important role in this unit as he feeds his mids and allows Rooney and Berba to play deep.

Hate to say it but this is one tough line-up.

Bleachers' Brew #151 Go Zags!

http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/sports/8147-go-zags.html



Go Zags!
by rick olivares

When I was in Grade 7 at the Ateneo De Manila, our sections were named after Saints who served in the Society of Jesus. My section was named after St. Peter Canisius.


One of the other seven sections we had then was Gonzaga named after 16th century Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.

Although were made to briefly study the people behind the sections as part of our religion classes, it was eventually stored in some folder in the back of my mind. As a rite of passage for any young boy, I started to hang out with my friends and form the first of life-long friendships. We were on the cusp of high school where music, sports, and girls would preoccupy our mind rather than centuries-dead saints.

It was a few years later when I once more stumbled upon the name “Gonzaga” when a little known point guard would be one of the best picks of the 1984 NBA Draft. That was John Stockton who would eventually be named as of the NBA’s 50 Best Players in its first half-century.

But this was the beginning of the Michael Jordan era where many switched allegiances in terms of their favorite basketball player and team. I was not immune to change as I chucked my woeful Philadelphia 76ers in favor of the sexier and in vogue Chicago Bulls.

I was hardly paid any attention to US college hoops as I was into pro sports. But Jordan’s loyalty to the University of North Carolina by wearing his school’s colors underneath his Bulls uniform got me interested in the Tar Heels and the American college basketball. And I stayed on as a Tar Heels fan as the university fed pro basketball with a steady stream of very good players from Brad Daugherty and Kenny Smith to Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace to Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter.

But old loyalties die hard as the Jesuit bloodlines came to fore.

While attending one Ateneo alumni reunion in New York, a visiting priest came down from Spokane, Washington to say Mass for us at the Philippine Consulate at Fifth Avenue. At this time I was living a couple of blocks away from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City; a coincidence that I quickly noted.

The priest arrived wearing a Gonzaga Bulldogs cap and during the Homily, he spiced it up with Ateneo and Gonzaga basketball news (there were matches for both schools’ squads going on at that moment) to a delighted congregation.

And slowly, I was turned from Tar Heel blue to Bulldog blue, white, and red.

At the end of the late 1990s, Gonzaga began a stirring run towards the US NCAAs by making the Elite Eight several times. The excitement generated by this tiny school’s success in spite of having a paltry athletic budget (for the few varsity teams the school fields) got the campus of 4,500 really excited. Such was the excitement that students decked the statue of famed Gonzaga alumnus Bing Crosby in a Bulldogs jersey with a sign that said, “Go Zags!”

Gonzaga has none of the players that Sportscenter salivates over. Dan Dickau, currently of the Golden State Warriors, wouldn’t look out of place jamming with current garage rockers the Strokes. When the Bulldogs’ French player, Ronny Turiaf, would dunk, did it make the evening’s highlights because it was a spectacular slam or was it because of his ethnicity? Or is it because of one of the team’s stars, junior Josh Heytvelt, was once arrested on drug charges and was nearly kicked out of the team.

This small school ironically was once called the Fighting Irish was back in the early 20th century. That was kind of odd since St. Aloysius was Italian but they eventually settled for the Bulldogs with its twin mascot, hence “the Zags” term.

Gonzaga located some 275 miles from Seattle and established in 1887, had for years been financially strapped. But the success of the basketball program has done wonders for the school in general.

During the 2003-04 school year, a whopping total of 3,713 freshmen enrolled in Gonzaga. That’s more than double the 1997-98 (the year of the Bulldogs’ resurgence) numbers. The increase in enrollment led to initial measures of renting out local inns or purchasing nearby establishments that were eventually converted into students’ quarters.

The basketball team’s success prompted university President Rev. Robert Spitzer and Coach Mark Few to seek athletic endowment by building a new arena that has been packed to the rafters. Like my alma mater, time was you could walk up to the ticket booth during game day and buy a ticket anywhere including the patron section. Nowadays, you have to turn to school connections or scalpers to even get upper seating tickets.

Now, the Zags have become a power in the West Coast Conference. Making the 64-team NCAA Tournament is something they are able to achieve with regularity. But to date, they have not been to the Final Four.

A couple of years ago, my Solar Sports officemates and I could not leave because we stayed riveted to the tube watching the Zags battle the UCLA Bruins. Gonzaga gave up a 17-point halftime lead as they lost on a last second play. That game is also remembered for the unbridled display of post-game emotion by the Bulldogs’ Adam Morrison who crumpled to the floor in tears after his team lost.

This ongoing tournament, the Zags played poor defense as they were blown off the court by the UNC Tar Heels (who if you ask me are subtly beckoning me to return as a fan) in the Sweet Sixteen.

This Zags team as bannered by Heytvelt and Jeremy Pargo (the younger brother of former Chicago Bull Jannero Pargo who many remember for his late game shootout with the Washington Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas several years ago) has grown on me.

Watching them walk off the court dejectedly after being manhandled by Roy William’s Tar Heels, I felt bad for them. They did lose to an elite team that has a powerful starting unit but I guess that’s the beauty of the tournament too; seeing all these teams hoping for a chance to make it to the Big Dance.

It is the last game for Pargo, Heytvelt, Ira Brown, and Micah Downs for the Zags. It is unlikely that any of them will be lottery picks for the next NBA Draft. Maybe Pargo and Heytvelt have a chance, some will play ball in other countries but at least, they’ve got a diploma and a good education.

And for Coach Mark Few, he’ll have to infuse new blood into a young team that should continue to build on the efforts of Stockton, JP Batista, Morrison, Turiaf, Richie Frahm, Blake Stepp, and Derek Raivio. I won’t be surprised though that they’ll top the WCC and make it back to the NCAA’s. After all, St. Aloysius is the Patron Saint of Youth.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Pair of items I Picked Up on A Sunday Morning

Atty. Onnie Martin has been a friend of mine for some time. Back when I was still in shape to play basketball, we played together twice a week at the Moro Lorenzo Sports center and were teammates for a couple of seasons in the Ateneo Basketball League. Although I stopped playing hoops regularly, every chance we get we chat when we see each other especially during the UAAP season.

I never knew Onnie had it in him but he's penned two humorous books: Much I Do About Nothing and its sequel. You can find it in the Filipiniana section of Power Books.

Good job, bro. Oh by the way, Onnie also played for the Blue Eaglets in HS.

When I first heard about direk Mark Meily's Baler, I was excited about it. I remember telling myself, "Finally, someone's doing a film about this extraordinary story."

I have long been a history buff and our colonial past is something I have read a lot on. In a previous post, I wrote that how fixated I was in doing a commercial that commemorated the Battle of Tirad Pass for the Centennial PLDT ad. I argued, fought, and threw tantrums over it to no avail. In the end, we had to make do with a Katipunan-themed ad that was shot at the La Mesa Dam (it was directed by Peque Gallaga).

I got the special edition DVD today at a thousand bucks (ouch). For those who know me well, I do not watch Filipino films or television shows ("Rizal" and "Muro Ami" are the exceptions and the couple of damned films where I made a cameo appearance -- that's for you to find out what movies they were). I've had long discussions about the local film industry most notably with Eddie Garcia while drinking at a bar in Hoboken, NJ.

But this film; this DVD, I made the exception. Thanks to my old classmate in ADMU, Viva's Vincent del Rosario for making sure this film was done. Good job too, dude.

In my parent's home, we still have the old Filipino Heritage book series and the ones that featured the War of Independence are still my favorites; I think it's volume 7 or 8 I have to check that out. One time, I attended a book signing of Nick Joaquin and we had a long conversation about that period.

I've always lamented how poor we are as a nation to preserve history. Whereas in other countries, landmarks and historical sites are well preserved and make up a huge part of the tourist industry. Imagine my surprise when I visited Corregidor the other year and found out that they plan to build a golf course on the Rock.

A golf course is the last thing this country needs. What we need it much better leadership and a change of the system because we are hopelessly corrupt. The economy, jobs, health care, education, and the environment are so so off the radar. All we have are leaders who do a lot of posturing. How the hell can politicos own islands and such?

Awww... I'm ranting again. Sorry. But Baler... good job, Direk!


I attended a pro-am tennis tournament yesterday at Palms Country Club and it helped rekindle an interest in the sport. In my high school years I played recreational tennis and once more took it up a few years ago. Spent some time walling in the past year since I'm heavier, am nursing a knee injury, and am not in shape. But yesterday really lit the fires once more for the sport.

Chatted a bit with Johnny Arcilla who was nursing a hamstring injury and did not push himself too much. In the two years I was with Solar Sports, I took several TV crews down to the Philippine Columbian and the Olivarez Sports Center to feature tennis tournaments and players. It helped that some of my cousins (Edna & Eva) were tennis All-Americans so you could say that the interest was there. I even featured Eva in the Remember the Titans photo shoot for San Miguel Corp.

Arcilla noted that since I left, no one has gone down to Columbian or anywhere else to feature tennis. I'm not exactly sure what's going down with Solar since it's been a while since I was there but i do know that its staffed with sports nuts who I am sure would love to feature tennis too. I figure it must be the constraints.

The tennis played was awesome. very competitive. It was sure nice to know that people in Palms read me too.

It was only in the last two years that I made writing more or less a full-time profession. I have been looking to tyeach also in Ateneo and in the last couple of weeks have been helping groups of students with their advertising and communications projects. It is gratifying to know and hear that they learned more in the space of one hour than the entire sem from their prof.

One of the perks, although it is rather unusual, of writing is that two apparel companies have asked me to wear their clothing line. This summer, I'll start with another (although it is not exclusive). Kind of cool and I am truly grateful. It helps get into functions that normally would be difficult to gain access.

On the weird side though is when I speak with people, many of them always say, "off the record" or "don't quote me." It does get annoying at times but I mostly chuckle about it. Some expect me to stand on one side no matter what. What they do not realize is that I stand with what is fair and right. If they are on the wrong side that doesn't neccessarily mean I am against them. I hate this excessive Pinoy sensitivity.

But more than any materialstic benefit, the true gift for me is connecting with others as we share experiences and ideas. And if and when possible, to help influence their lives or help them express themselves.

With The 18th Banner finding a publisher (and with forewords by Fr. Ben Nebres, Chris Tiu, and another person), I'm turning my focus on Turn On the Bright Lights, a chronicle of years spent in Hong Kong and New York (with travels around the US and Mexico). A partial manuscript is in the hands of someone very dear to me and who is helping me with it. It isn't an easy thing to do as it is intensely personal. Coach Joe Lipa has been very supportive of this and has also pushed me to put it out and let it be a message or a story of hope.

Towards the end of the year, we're also putting out a compilation of the best of Bleachers' Brew with updates on many of the columns that include reactions. Commentary also features noted columnists from the New York Times and the South China Morning Post and others as well as many local athletes and coaches. I have friends from Ateneo and La Salle helping out with its publication.

I'm still plugging that upcoming story about a Fil-Am soldier in Iraq. Keep a look out for that. I'm using Holy week as a time to finish that and the Alec Rivera piece before we head right into the UEFA Champions league and Philippine college basketball.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Behind the MFC


The Muntinlupa Football Club not only has to ward off the attacks of opposing teams when they do get to join tournaments, but they also have to fend off advances, takeovers, and internal dissension.

One coach was receiving donations but was not turning in everything. What he did with the donations no one can say. Another tried to take the team away from Coach Leah Madrid by turning the players against her because of her lack of experience as opposed to others. This guy even was asking the female players to engage in suggestive play that borders on sexual and physical abuse.

It is important that clubs/teams or outreach projects like them are handled well with the best of intentions.
I informed the club that as soon as I am able to put them in touch with private and organized donors, I'm off. I have done my part.

But things like that happen. We have seen time and again how UN Aid does not reach their intended recipients as they go to the black market or the garages of warlords, police, and the politicians.

What I am doing now is advising them on certain matters but in a very limited capacity. But I did apply to work as a coach for a school-based team (not Ateneo).

So why mention this at all?

So that the predators know that we know and we are watching.

Thanks for the support though. It is much appreciated.

Agin, those who work on the Homeless Word Cup activity in Ateneo, let me know.

Allow me to gripe just once more

After listening to the Press Con where Manny Pacquiao detailed "the move" to ABS-CBN, I have come to this conclusion:

one, ABS-CBN should have not gotten into this in the first place. They should and would have known that there was a live contract between the boxer and Solar Sports/GMA. Isn't it obvious there is one in place? Who in the blue hell is the idiotic person who said that there is none and that there was a provision for such a quick release?

two, the first time he left Solar (I was still with the network, I'd like to know how he was able to worm his way out of it. I'd also like to know how he was able to leave ABS-CBN to go back to Solar. I want to find out how he broke his contract with oscar De La Hoya to go to Top Rank. What were the forces or events that surrounded them? Then we'll all come to the truth.

three, I don't believe either of them.

I think that everyone has to look at his failed campaign to run for public office in Gen San. That says a lot too of how people perceive him. I spent some time there and was shocked to hear first hand accounts of certain things that I'd rather not talk about.

Years ago, I had this opportunity to write a huge story about Manny for a Hong Kong newspaper. I backed out of it because I was being asked to write some things that would put him in negative light.

I totally understand if he's become snobbish or even not willing to talk to a lot of people. I would be like that too knowing that everyone is after my money. If he engages in extra marital affairs or whatever that's his own look out. Like he is the first. That has no place in a sports story.

I backed out because I thought that the editorial direction was wrong.

Anyway, I used to root for him even knowing all his flaws. But that slowly eroded in the last year or so. The latest affair still wouldn't have happened had he agreed no matter what the promises were. He's had a nasty habit of reneging on contracts.

People claim that it's a publicity stunt to generate more interest. Like those love teams of old for lousy, sappy, and formulaic dramas or comedies (song and dance number, boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl, ghost hunting).

Not only do I not believe either of them but at this point, I do not care and hope Hatton knocks everyone off their high horse.

Please do not tell me that this is the Philippines versus England. That's barking up the wrong tree.

It's about ethics.

Hey anyone remember a few years ago when the country objected to the report naming us as the most corrupt country? It came out that the complaint was, "we're not the most, only just one of..."

Thank God it's the US NCAA's, the NBA play-offs, and the various football leagues are winding down. They are infinitely more interesting.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stuff

Dinner at Chili's Thursday night. That's Mike Yu, Chris Soler, Pia Boren, Mike Abasolo, and Euclid for a business meeting of this project that'll be done by June. Aww, Chris. Sorry but Sharon Yu didn't go.

I really thought that latest rant by the NCRFA against the PFF that came out in another paper was foul. Not only is the rant a month too late but it was in poor taste to even make insinuations about the health condition of the Federation's President. Then they had the temerity to complain to Harry Angping who not too long ago got embroiled in a controversy about his statement about Fil-fors when he just took office.

If my first four parts on the state of Philippine football were objective (please do not even count my rant because that was merely reserved for the blog and that came out immediately afterwards), the fifth part will be my opinion on why the scene is a frigging mess. It's based on what I've seen and heard first hand. It's based on the volumes of paperwork and documents that I've been handed by different groups.

Some parties have sent me information that contain a lot of virtiol that it could brings matters to a boil. But I've asked, if you have all this info, then why haven't you brought them out yourselves? The one thing I have to keep in mind is that people in media are sometimes used by others to advance their own interests. It's a fine line one has to tread when writing or even taking shots at some parties.

Anyways. Watch out for that next week.

On another note, that football film project is finally moving. Yes! Yes! Yes! I will be in Iloilo from April 20-22 working on this.

Regarding MFC, thanks to the Ateneo Men's & Women's Football Teams, Accenture, Trish, Thor, Pat, and Carl for pitching in on this.

Congrats to Johann Uichico. Graduation Day, bud. Good luck in med school. Yes, we were born in the wrong era. Man...... Chris Soler would surely agree with me.

Those who want to volunteer for a Homeless World Cup event at the Ateneo, please let me know right away! It'll happen this April or early May.

When I woke up this morning, I prayed to God for several things:
1. I thanked Him for that cool new project that I'm working on with Ateneo that we will call for now "The Heritage Series."

2. I asked Him to please tell Steve Jobs to stop making iPods. I was at the Mac Center in Greenbelt yesterday and was slobbering over the iPod Touch. Was getting my Woof for my Macbook and hoping to install additional memory when I saw the iPod Touch. I had to use my line in the Tony Blair piece... tempting temptation. Give in, Rick. Give in.

Note to self.... Chili's servings are sinful. Hahahaha. Dinner at Gbelt 5 with my friends was cool. Went to my dad's b-day bash afterwards. Haven't seen that many people pack the place in a while. Hindi nakayanan ng industrial aircon. Hahahaha.

3. To help this friend of mine who is making an important decision that will change his life because it will take him on another journey.

4. To thank Him that the football docu is going to move after three years of looking for someone to help out. This past several months have seen the fruition of several things from the Ateneo Sports Calendar, the book, the mag, the gig, the well... ah, basta.

5. For reminding me to continue that Good Deed of the Week that I used to do with someone. Was given a goodie bag yesterday and I left it with this kid who was sleeping atop the overpass. Hope he puts it to good use.

6. That he gives my bad knees the strength. Will be at the Palms Country Club in Alabang this Saturday where I'll play tennis and hand out awards in a tennis tournament. (you actually think I'm competing? Saling pusa lang ako!).

I was supposed to hit some balls with PJ Tierro (who I did a TV interview with on Solar Sports several years back) but he backed out at the last moment coz of some tournament for La Salle. So I figure it's going to be with Johnny Arcilla. Take it nice and slow and don't make me run the baseline. Be good. First game then I'm retiring. Hahahahaha. Grabe. Nakakahiya. But I'm so amped for this. Thanks for all the opportunities.

7. Today coz it's Friday and it's another day. And it's the weekend and I can start playing football again soon.
+
AMDG

On the UAAP bidding

Word is that of the three networks that bid for the right to cover the UAAP two years from now, GMA-7 came out on top with Solar at second and ABS-CBN at third. The previous contract stipulates that the incumbent (ABS-CBN) has the right of first refusal and can retain the UAAP's services by matching the best bid.

It is said that seven of the eight schools are looking to switch networks. The one dissenting school will be fielding an African player this coming Season 72.

The recent tiff between Manny Pacquiao/ABS-CBN and Solar/GMA did nothing to help ABS' image and all the more put off other members of the board who have been unhappy with the incumbent network over the last couple of years.

But if you ask me... it will stay with ABS-CBN. For now.

Word too is that the UAAP Football Finals (already on delayed telecast) will also be pushed back to late April. This isn't all the more going to sit well with the board members and will only give them more ammo in thumbing down the Lopez-owned network.

AND the drama continues... Manny Pacquiao will call for a press con today to tell what happened between him and ABS-CBN. Trading punches before the fight with Hatton. Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle.


Living on Brewed Time


The Coffee Beanery has a special promo this week. You can purchase the latest special issue of Time Magazine at the cover price of Php 120 and get a free regular-sized cup of brewed coffee.

I figure the cover topic alone is sufficient pull. It's a great read.

But hey, Coffee Beanery, your wifi service sucks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In case you don't know, the Chicago Bulls have a very good point guard who is not named Rose


They got rid of Andres Nocioni. Sure they got John Salmons who is now my second favorite Chicago Bull.

Kirk Hinrich reminded everyone why he was the man too, when he led the Bulls to three straight play-off appearances after dusting off Detroit with 24 points.

Frodo lives, Chi-town.

He's for keeps.

Someone asked me today over lunch if I was still going to be writing for Season 72. It took a while for me to answer that as I pondered my response and the weight of the direction I want to take. After a couple of minutes of silence, I spoke.

Yes, this is the last season I will write about Ateneo sports. For real and for sure. I am not even going to say what sports for now. I'll make up my mind in the summer. But that's a little ironic since I'm giving a multi-session workshop in Ateneo this summer.

Many do not understand my reticence about continuing to follow the varsity teams. First and foremost, I am not a hack with a formulaic manner of going about writing. It is rather difficult. When I was asked to sub for Paolo Trillo on the Blue Eagle stuff, I honestly had no clue how long I'd keep it up. I followed them when we were down and out all the way 'til we won. How do you top that -- by going back-to-back? Second, the time that I give to this is consuming. Many of the friends I've made in the teams over the last few years have all graduated. When the remaining few put on their togas next March, I'm done too.

Before there was some resistance on my part about leaving because there were things and people I was leaving behind.

I am no longer tethered to those.

There are many things I will be doing over the next few months that if done successfully will require my full attention. There's this thing we're trying to sort out with a TV channel and hopefully, I can do more work that is not sports related (no it's not ABS-CBN). If that planned Jakarta trip works out then good. If Italy works out too, then consider me gone. The fall back plan has always been to go back to the US. I have long postponed going back to the US, but right now I am devoting all my energies to make that happen by spring of 2010.

It took a long time to figure things out but I am at peace with so many things.

I'm going on a short vacation... if not in Bangkok next week, then Hong Kong (where I want to volunteer for the dolphin show at Ocean Park -- I've done this four times and I never get tired of it) or somesuch by May.

I'm keeping my column in Business Mirror whatever happens. But on the other hand, I want to do other things and tell other stories. I'm winding up this story of a Filipino-American who joined the US Army and was present during the invasion of Iraq where he served three years. I JUST FOUND OUT THAT HE IS BACK IN IRAQ. HOLY GOD. I'm keeping it anonymous to protect his identity. It's supposed to come out in Business Mirror but I will post it in the 11-11 Pages. If I discontinue many of my sports assignments what happens to the blog? Ah, you'll just have to find out, won't you?

How am I right now? Everyone seems to be asking me that. Thanks for the concern.

I am okay.

A Moment of Introspection with Chot Reyes

A Moment of Introspection with Chot Reyes
by rick olivares

Chot Reyes was upset that his Talk 'n' Text team lost to Red Bull after leading comfortably in the early goings. "Those are the kind of games that get coaches fired!" he said with veiled anger. He paused then broke into a smile. "It's a good thing it's still early in the conference and we can only get better... and it helps that we won the last conference."

The longtime PBA Coach queued along with everyone else to listen to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's talk in Ateneo. Not only does he teach a class but he also gives talks. Even at his age and with his experience, there is always something new that he could learn.

As for coaching, that is something that he attributes to the great Baby Dalupan who pushed him to pursue it not soon after he was in college.

A day after the Blair talk, he was seated on the bench at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center watching his Tropang Texters in practice. Assistants Nash Racela and Bong Ravena were putting the team through the paces. Nearby team manager Virgil Villavicencio and Assistant Aboy Castro were filling up forms for the team's upcoming training in Serbia. He talked about the work ethic put in by his staff. Like players, Reyes looks for coaches with a keen eye for detail and who do their homework. He speaks highly of Altamirano, Binky Favis, Racela, Castro, and even former Ateneo Lady Eagles coach John Flores who knows a thing or two about preparation.

There's a misconception that pro basketball players do not listen to their coaches because they supposedly know all they need to know. A pro coach, describes Reyes, still has to teach. "He has to be more than that. He has to be able to communicate, to counsel, and cheerleader. He has to skillfully balance his getting angry and yelling with knowing when to hold back. But I am an animated coach."

Nearby, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets were patiently waiting their turn to take the court for their regular practice.

"If we only had this when I was playing..."

His voice trailed off. Reyes was referring to the support the Ateneo basketball program is now receiving; a far cry from his days as a Blue Eagle. He played during the First Dark Age and coached during the Second Dark Age. He manned the point guard slot then with Jeric Hechanova as his running mate. Jonel Ladaban was at the 3-spot with Rey Rances and Vince Araneta, a pair of 6-1 players holding up the frontline. Off the bench was Perry Martinez and Dave Dualan. "Oh we got pummeled," he smiled. But that team, in the era of the pre-three-point line, could bomb away from the outside. They even beat Allan Caidic's UE Red Warriors in one memorable shootout.

Those were the days when they even had to fight the school admin to get even their jackets. "No truth that even the basketball team got all the perks. This was the post-NCAA and no one got any perks." There was no Blue Babble Battalion to cheer them. There were lots of empty seats on hand at the games.

But for one brief summer, they were a powerhouse team. They had three great rookies in Jojo Lastimosa, Bennet Palad and Caidic, and they thrashed their opponents in the pre-season. Only this was the Blue Eagle team that never was. Caidic moved to UE while Palad found himself in UST. Lastimosa lasted another year and then there were none and they were done.

When he was coaching the Blue Eagles, his team -- with Eric Reyes and Olsen Racela -- came within two missed Ritchie Ticzon freethrows of making the UAAP Finals against La Salle. He gestured to Ravena who was nearby, whistle in his mouth directing the practice. "Bong led UE in that game against us."

In spite of their losses, Reyes, as the team's coach on the floor, gave everything he had on the court. It was a trait that he has tried to imbue in every team that he has coached in the PBA.

He talked of the recent PBA Fiesta Conference Finals battle with former mentor Tim Cone who remains a dear friend to this date. "Our friendship demands that we always give our best in each game. We accept no less."

If Cone's hallmark has been longevity as he's been with Alaska for more than a decade, Reyes's career has been marked by change. If he is known for being the only coach to steer three different PBA squads to All-Filipino championships, he attributes that success to the hard work of all involved.

When he won with Purefoods (with Eric Altamirano as his assistant), he inherited a great frontline with Alvin Patrimonio and Jerry Codinera. He also had some wondrous guards in Dindo Pumaren, Olsen Racela (who was then coming into his own as a pro player), and Glenn Capacio. "That was a super team," he said.

But when he won with Coca Cola that team was a rag tag bunch of discards with no stars (if ever there were, they were in the twilight of their career). "What made that team go was Rudy Hatfield," he points out. "Up to now, I am still looking for a new Rudy Hatfield whose energy and enthusiasm for the game is boundless."

Talk 'n' Text is unlike Purefoods and Coca Cola. This team is a more guard-oriented team. His bigs are terrific, but this is the post-Asi Taulava team where players like Harvey Carey and Ali Peek are scavengers off the boards and are recipients of drop passes.

Reyes looked over to his squad on the floor that was wrapping up the day's practice. "Jared Dillinger comes close. So does Mark Cardona."

If he can have a team that plays with the zest of the Hatfields, Dillingers, Cardonas, and Alapags of this world, he'd be a happy man. But he knows that life isn't like that. Like his old and overmatched Blue Eagle teams, his pro squads will scrap.

When he first scouted Dillinger several years ago, he was playing the point but had no outside shot. He was deemed to be a marginal player at best. About a year later, he received an overseas call to once more take a look at the kid. "He had transformed himself," beamed the coach. "He is performing close to the tag of 'franchise player.'"

As for Cardona, Reyes is most happy that he the prized player is starting to realize how good he can really be. "We were able to minimize his turnovers and get him to up his assists. The results speak for him."

His mobile phone rang and the coach excused himself. His day, he would describe later, is one of constant activity. "You only live once so you have to make the most of it. And you have to take the good and the bad."

Even those games that can get a coach fired.

Ten minutes after practice, Chot Reyes was off. It was family time.


-----

I asked Coach how he'd feel if his son, Martin, made it to the senior varsity and his eyes lit up. "What father doesn't want his son to play for Ateneo?" He admitted it's a longshot but with a lot of hard work, who knows?

As it is, I only know of three father-sons combos who played for the Blue Eagles: Ric and Danny Francisco, Frankie and Louie Rabat, and Jimmy and Jean Alabanza. There have been uncles and nephews, cousins, brothers, but father and son is pretty rare.

Coach's Corner: My Friend Sonny

This is John Flores' third contribution to Bleachers' Brew. Thanks, bro!

My Friend Sonny

by John Flores

I started my career coaching 11 and Under boys, moved on to the 14 and Under age bracket while going full time as assistant coach of a men’s basketball team. There were also stints in the MBA, PBL, as director of a basketball camp, juniors and women’s basketball team. In my experience working with grade school, high school and college kids, one thing will always be inevitable, close encounters with parents. Parents come in all shapes, sizes and sounds. What I had to learn to adjust to is the velocity of their approach. Sometimes you see them coming, at times you don’t. I have learned that part of my job is to try to be patient with parents who seem to think that they are better coaches than let say Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski.

When I was coaching in the province, there was this parent who was a known warlord. There were bandits who would attack his haciendas and this guy’s hobby was to go to the mountains on weekends and hunt down these bandits. Oh they tried to get back at him, and he single handedly took out seven of them in front of his house and he has the news clippings to prove it. If this guy said “I want 40 minutes playing time for my son.” I would have given in to his request and applied a little free post game massage to his son’s back. But he didn’t, he was the type of parent who would give you a pat on the back when we lost and shook your hand tightly when we won, the guy had class. He had my respect; the guy understood what it took to win the big ones. We have been good friends ever since. Oh, I forgot, we won a lot of titles during those years.

Which brings me to my best friend Sonny, I have known him since I was 14 years old. We were kids who loved to party and do crazy things. We were rebellious and sometimes got into some trouble. If Sonny were Hiro and I were Ando and we teleported back to the early 80’s, I probably would have kicked the crap out of the two us for our bad attitude.

Teleporting back to the present. We are now grown ups, chose different career paths, he is in IT, while I chose sports. The pressures we go thru are almost the same, work, perform and deliver, the very “grown up” thing to do. We still act like kids most of the time, but I believe that we turned up fine despite how we led our teenage lives.

Sonny has four kids, they all play football. His eldest, Francis is a 14 year old boy who shows a lot of promise in his sport. He likes girls and enjoys partying, just like any normal teenage boy who likes to chill.

Then there is his daughter Gabby, who is 12 years old and is a real go getter. Gabby is driven, an A student, class president and team captain. I really don’t know if Gabby uses the word perfectionist, but that word aptly describes her. Oh, and at 9 years old, she asked her parents what the best school was in the world, and they said “Probably Harvard.” Gabby said, “I want to go to Harvard.” I jokingly told her parents that I was planning to give Gabby a brief case and a corporate suit for Christmas.

The other kids are still too young to be in varsity

In one of the games, Francis scored a hat trick. After the match, one of Francis teammates hitched a ride with them. During the drive home, Francis spoke excitedly of his achievement but Sonny told his son that they should discuss the game later. After they dropped Francis’ teammate, Sonny explained to Francis that it was now fine to talk about his game. He told Francis that he didn’t want his teammate to feel bad because he failed to score a goal. After Sonny said his piece, they went crazy in the car, jumping and throwing high fives. It was hilarious, but to me there was an important lesson to be learned here.

A few months ago, Sonny invited me to watch Francis and Gabby compete in the RIFA 7 aside tournament. That is where I saw the balancing act of a parent. We were watching Francis play and realized that Gabby’s game was about to start. We sat patiently waiting for Francis’ game to finish, our patience was rewarded when his son scored a goal in the dying minutes of a close game. During the game, I noticed that Sonny would cheer quietly during the game, never heard him shout instructions. It was the same thing when we watched Gabby’s game. He would shout things like “Go Gabby!” and cheer when the team scored. All the words were meant to encourage, no instructions needed, just enjoying seeing his kids enjoy the game. I too was enjoying the game, not just because they were winning but for once I was a spectator again.

Of course, not all good things last, including this one. Like I said, sometimes you see them coming, at times you don’t. She introduces herself and asks Sonny who his daughter was. This is what she said, “Oh! Gabby is your daughter? She has improved a lot, her defense is awesome! She is also very aggressive, I never expected her to be this good this fast!”

“Nice one Sonny, you ought to be proud.” I thought.

Then came the unsolicited advice, “You know Sonny, you should always ask Gabby to watch all the football games on TV! There is ESPN and other shows about football.”

She continued, “Me, I make my daughter watch UEFA, World Cup or any football games on TV. I even video tape games for her to watch when she comes home from school. Oh! And not just videos of games, I also bought her instructional videos to sharpen her skills.”

All I could think about was, “Here we go again.” But I got curious so I asked who her daughter was and she said, “She is that one, number #, sitting on the bench. I don’t know why the coach doesn’t play her much.”

“Maybe she is injured.” I said. She told me she was ok.

Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what the problem was, either she was sick and tired of being bombarded with all things football or the kid just doesn’t have talent. I know, I have seen it happen time and again. When so much expectation and pressure is placed upon a young child by parents, this usually results in a lot of negative effects.

As coach I run a tight ship. Practices are tough and discipline is a premium in all the teams that I have coached, whether it be a strong team or a weak one. My practices are never pleasant, it is all business. The only reward you get from it is that you know that you are going to get better and with that improvement you will be given a chance to harvest the fruits of your labor. I am hateful to some and a friend to others, depends on what metal, emotional and physical capacity you have. I come only in one speed, and to quote Bill Warren, “I come in louder than a 747, just to make sure you hear everything clearly.”

Imagine if your kids had the misfortune of playing in one of my teams. Kids don’t need another coach after practice. They need support whenever they feel down and tired. It is no joke to work 2 to 3 hours everyday and fight for a spot in a very competitive and challenging environment.

The kids who are stronger mentally and emotionally usually go over those obstacles and adapt, the weaker ones, they just go thru the motions of playing, developing a bad attitude and typically becomes a negative influence on the other kids.

The important thing is to let the kids go thru the activities that the coach implements for them. Let the coach-player relationship take its natural course. Sports teach kids not just to be strong, but it also trains them to adopt quickly, to get up, dust off the dirt and shrug off the pain when they fall. They learn to make good decisions, working with others and fair play.

My friend’s demeanor and attitude during the games was inspiring. It made me realize that there was a reason why they were called Mom and Dad, and we are called coach.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Blair Peace Project


An Ordinary Human Being in an Extraordinary Situation
Tony Blair on the Leader as Nation Builder in a time of Globalization
by rick olivares
photos by Raffy Lerma of Inquirer and Teya Sabado of ateneo.edu


If my friends told me that one day I’d be Prime Minister (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), I would have laughed,” exclaimed Tony Blair in a whew-what-a-life moment.

And the now former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland who described himself as an ordinary human being in an extraordinary situation, had an audience of several hundred at the Irwin Theater at the Ateneo De Manila University laughing as he spiced his experiences as one of the free world’s important figures with witty one liners and humorous anecdotes.

If the picture in our minds of national leaders is of the droll, humorless, and smug type, Tony Blair was quite the charming opposite as he was candid and introspective. He gave a glimpse of a personal side that was perhaps never revealed to most of the world as a Guardian in Faith.

If Blair sounded like Robert Ludlum’s globe-trotting Jason Bourne telling his tales of standing at the banks of the Jordan River, tempting temptation at the Mount beyond Jericho, or working the dinner talk circuit during Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th American President, rest assured he skirted the cloak and dagger in the decision making behind the invasion of Iraq and the problems that stem from the acceptance and interpretation of different faiths. Sorry, students. Need to know basis; surely you understand?

While continuing his public service as a Quartet Representative to the Middle East, he is paid handsomely (a reported whopping $250,000 for a day’s worth – under six hours of lectures and Q&A’s) to share valued learnings. Yet suffice it to say, that even in this distant corner of the world where Britannia ruled the Philippines ever so briefly (1762-1764), even at his age, he too is taking home with him some valuable lessons that only back up his theories.

As he stood in front of the Rizal Monument in Luneta during the day before, he noted that the national hero was a profoundly educated man who made a difference. “Education is the difference in the success of countries,” he emphasized.

During a quick visit to Intramuros, he stood inside the San Agustin Church and marveled at how rich and varied our history is yet at the same time how our present problems is something most nations share.

Blair was correct in pointing out a lack of a sense of solidarity to make things work, but he omitted the sins of colonialism that exacerbated old hatreds and prejudices.

While it is always good to understand and study history, Blair presented several truths or values that form the crux of his stewardship in a time of globalization: that today’s problems require a unified response, that response should be based on concepts and ideas that is fair and just, that response should be respectful of different faiths, and that response should bind people together.

As a youngster, Blair envisioned himself to be a rock star in the mold of the Rolling Stone that gathers no moss, Mick Jagger. He sang and played guitar until a friend, who as a true friend should be, pronounced with all due honesty, that from thereon Blair should just play the guitar and leave the singing chores to him.

If you tell Tony Blair today that he could have been a rock star maybe in the vein of his current favorites U2, he’d enjoy a hearty laugh. He certainly was better off as the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


____

My aunt, Philippine Daily Inquirer political columnist Belinda Olivares-Cunanan attended all of Tony Blair's talks yesterday and she said that the former British Prime Minister's first stop of the day in Ateneo was the best one and that he personally enjoyed it more. He truly loved the Q&A with the students and thought the atmosphere at the Irwin Theater was more intimate.

If there was a chance for me to ask a question as I was seated alongside the media folks, I would have queried him about relating Newcastle United's woes as they struggle with relegation (the economy) and globalization (they have 19 Brits on the team as opposed to the token few on the top clubs which you can relate to foreign investments). Mr. Blair is a massive Magpie supporter here. Sorry, sir. Am a Scouser. Tough job for Chris Hughton here.

Nevertheless, it was enjoyable. And I've never seen such tremendous security in place. It wasn't even like this when Erap attended the Ateneo Homecoming as Chief Executive. In high school though, I did see Jackie Ponce Enrile go back to visit his old teacher with two carloads of back-up bristling with guns and bodyguards but still... it was a mini-military operation.

It's not always I get the opportunity to listen to a former Chief Executive. I lined up for a short talk by Bill Clinton in New York but the line was simply way too long. I did get in though for JK Rowling and that had the grown up in me bedazzled with a youngster's eyes. I should do this more often.

Thanks to Joanna Ruiz and Gia Dumo for the invite. For Coach Chot Reyes for the excellent chit chat on our way to the Irwin Theater. There's going to be a follow up to this one... on Tony Blair's talk (in China) regarding sports and the Olympics.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Talk about being on a mission


Liverpool annihilated Aston Villa 5-0 in Anfield. They are now 1 point behind Manchester United 64-65 although the Red Devils have played one fewer match than the Reds. But they now enjoy a 2 goal advantage over MUFC. Looks like LFC is peaking at the right time after floundering in December and January that eventually coughed up their lead. At this point, they must win their final eight matches and put the pressure on the defending champs.

Oi. What hit us, lads?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #150 Hope FC

This is my 150th column in Business Mirror. http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/sports/7819-hope-fc.html When I met up with coach Jojo Durian of the Muntinlupa ParaƱaque Las PiƱas Football Association (MPLFA) and Rick Venus at the PFF offices more than a month ago, we talked about writing this story.

Yesterday, I hardly slept a wink Friday night (as I had been looking forward to meet Muntinlupa Football Club (MFC) and left for Alabang Town Center at 5am. We met up at McDonald's for breakfast before heading to nearby Munti. This is MFC's story. Thanks also to (Tito) Dickie and Cathy Rivilla for their graciousness, candor, and for lunch. Congrats on your daughter's graduation.

_______________________________________________


Hope FC
words and pictures by rick olivares

Inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City; if hope flickers, it is either on a cancer stick that trades like currency behind bars or in the crude scroll marks on the walls that count the days, weeks, and eventually years. Unless the inmate has drawn life, it is a most simple diary of mad men.

Yet outside the walls of the prison, life too is hard and hope is all people live for. For some, it comes in the shape of a football where lives and destinies are woven together like the 352 stitches it takes to hold the ball together.

It was a way out of General Santos City for Ronald Macadag-un. He used it to get a scholarship at the University of Visayas before he was snapped up by the Philippine Army where he continued to play the sport. After his discharge, he went to work at the Mizuno factory in Muntinlupa where they manufactured golf and football gloves. He taught his co-workers football and they played in the Bilibid Sunken Garden that was converted into a pitch that drew crowds.

It was here too, where Leah Madrid, one such face in the crowd, found an end to her grieving.

Madrid’s husband left her and their four children in a hush and with almost no means to support themselves. She found it tough to cope with the pain and anger that it affected her work as a nurse in a hospital.

It all came together in a game that was played to a samba-less beat yet the bronzed bodies that glistened with sweat played with grace and a sense of joy that seemed so rare in such a mirthless place. She approached Macadag-un afterwards to teach her the game, and four years later, it is what has kept this patchwork of 34 lives (23 boys, 8 girls, and 3 coaches) bound together.

Welcome to the Muntinlupa Football Club.

This is where the sons and daughters of convicts and jail guards play the beautiful game where there is no black and white. While there is no “I” in team there is most certainly one here for it resides in this family which is what they’ve become. They make no distinction about background, family, or religion. The name that matters is that of their club’s name in front of jerseys that they’ve been wearing for more than two years now and it looks a little awkward on many because they’ve all started to grown into their early teens. They all hang out together and look out for each other. If they see someone learning how to smoke they quickly report the matter to Madrid who brooks no vices.

Here they watch their heroes like Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, and Lionel Messi on youtube since not everyone can afford cable TV.

Here the kids save their meager allowance of Php 20 pesos if and when they are given by their parents. When they do save enough, they buy soccer shoes that fetch for Php 50 in ukay ukay stores. But they are cheap imitations that afford no comfort for their feet. Sometimes they discard them to play in socks. They just make sure that they have their homemade shin guards (out of cardboard and discarded plastic PEP bottles) on to protect them.

They play in the Sunken Garden just outside New Bilibid’s walls where games are oft interrupted by vendors who pass right through without a care in the world for what goes on. Here a recovery meal is a six peso ice drop in buko, vanilla or chocolate flavors. Pinipig costs ten bucks and the kids check if they have enough to afford it.

The few traffic cones they had for training were stolen. And the steel bars that form their goals were once stolen perhaps by those who needed money which is always in short supply round these parts.

Madrid once set the monthly dues at Php 20 per player yet they found it hard to collect so they scrapped it.

If they do get to play, it is in tournaments where there are no registration fees and they only have to worry about transportation and food which altogether another problem.

They play because the game is more than a distraction for the coaches (Macadag-un, Madrid, and coordinator Mark Dampil) and kids. For the coaches it’s a way of giving back (they don’t even make money off this). For the players, they cling to the belief that the game will help them get an athletic scholarship to school which is their meal ticket out of this place.

One was able to get one at Perpetual Help College but he had to drop out because he had no money for food or transportation allowance. He now works in a fastfood chain.

On weekends and non-school days, they play everyday for it keeps them away from the lure of gangs and distraction of computer games.

Madrid multi-tasks as coach/surrogate mother/older sister as she also counsels the kids with their schooling, problems at home, and the stirrings pangs of puppy love (she also helps the boys with their love letters). And she makes sure that they are focused on four things: God, family, school, and football.

Christian Abay is a 15-year old kid who is being raised by his grandfather who served his time for rape (he says he was framed) and his mother who works as a janitress. His father passed away when he was born. His lolo hates the game of football and he insists that the young lad get serious with his studies. He sees Christian as their way out of their poverty. But football helped save Abay who roots for Liverpool. Prior to learning the game, he hung out in the malls and acquired the nickname of “Gamol.” He’s nicked playing hooky but the name stuck and like those one-name Brazilian wonders, he’s shown an aptitude for weaving around defenders for a goal.

Jervyn Pamatian writes for his school newspaper at Philippine Christian University. He loves to write and he has a blog that he says only 10 people have visited. Nevertheless, his gift for words, like football, has allowed him to express himself. “Maybe I can write about football and make it popular here in the Philippines,” he said with youthful optimism.

Here, in spite of their hardship, they know of their potential.

They once played in an open tournament in Ateneo where they beat Claret 1-0, La Salle Green Hills 5-0, Don Bosco Technical Institute 4-0, and Laguna FC 3-0 to top their division. Except they did not receive any trophy and instead faced an older Corinthians FC team in a cross-over match where they lost 3-4 in penalty kicks.

The loss hurt but what stabbed deeper into their hearts and minds was how opposing coaches, parents, and yayas (duh!) regarded them. “Anak ng preso mga kalaban ninyo. Mas masarap yung kinakain niyo sa mga yan kaya mas malakas kayo diyan,” they screamed during the games.

The statement isn’t entirely true but they had no voice to say otherwise. And that when the reality of their situation sets in.

Windell Dagum was the one gifted player on MFC. Despite his smallish size, he beat defenders with his speed and skills. And he could score some. He did not go unnoticed and was chosen by a major television network to go to Germany for the 2006 World Cup as an observer and ambassador for the country. But at the last moment, his place was inexplicably taken by someone else from UP. It crushed Windell. He doesn’t have much to begin with then to offer him a sliver of hope that was cruelly snatched it away...

Windell no longer plays football. He doesn’t even go to school anymore. Instead, he’s hooked up with a fraternity where misery loves company.

For the Muntinlupa Football Club life goes on. Madrid pulls double duty as a nurse and a football coach while she and Macadag-un attend coaching clinics when they can afford it. The kids play – two to three hours in a day. The joy and laughter evident in their faces. You know – God, family, school, and football. It’s what they live for.

When you watch them, in a few minutes time, you’ll know that hope resides in this mirthless place.

Muntinlupa Football Club

Those who would like to donate old football shoes for boys and girls (of the age 15 and under), football gear, or would like to treat the kids to some sandwiches either this coming Saturday or the Saturday before Palm Sunday, kindly email me at rickolivares@gmail.com. I am meeting the coaches around 2pm Friday March 27 at Mega Mall (where I have a lunch work meeting). Any one is welcome to join that meet up and if you have anything to bring as well please do so.





Saturday, March 21, 2009

UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal Draw


Villareal vs. Arsenal
Manchester United vs. Porto
Liverpool vs. Chelsea
Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich

April 7/8
April 14/15

Manomanoman. The Reds vs. the Blues again for the fourth time in the last five years. Thank God, that attention hog Jose Mourinho isn't in this cast.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hey, Atenista...

Hey, if you're looking for some good food, head on out to National Sports Grill at Greenbelt 3. It's owned and managed by former Ateneo Blue Booter Ponch Zamora. So say hi!

He has this discount for Ateneans... but I think ya gotta be a member of the Ateneo Alumni Association to avail of it.

Coach's Corner: What's In A Name?

Every now and then, we like to feature exclusive commentary by our friends. Stay tuned for inboundpass's Chris Soler who will write about football.

John Flores has been a friend since his days as coach of the Ateneo Lady Eagles. Every now and then we meet up and have coffee to shoot the breeze. and yak about sports, life, and pop culture (we're both military buffs). He recently commented about the State of Philippine Football in a post alongside Ria Tanjangco's. Here is his take on the current Pacquiao-Solar controversy. Thanks for sharing this with the denizens of the Bleachers, Coach!

_____________________

What's In A Name?
by John Flores

Boxing is probably the toughest job in the world. No matter how successful or big a failure the boxer is, that fighter still submits his body to the most punishing activities before and during the fight. These days, the toughest job in the world is starting to look like the oldest profession.

You know you are a whore when you have the habit of signing another contract despite a promise to honor an existing one. Oh, honor, he likes to talk about that. "I am fighting for the honor of the Filipino people." or " for the honor of the country..."

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be the first crab to pull you down, I am not, I understand that your body can only take so much pounding and you are investing for your future. I have no right to criticize you for you decisions lately. It is your body and you use it the way you want it. Just like that lady of the night who would suck whatever you want sucked for the right price.

If you can't honor a simple contract, how do you expect us to believe that you can keep your promises when you win a congressional seat. You deal in the shadows, behind your partners back, to get what you want. Reminds me of all the pacmans in the government who gobble up everything in their path. Traditional politician....AND YOU HAVEN'T EVEN WON YET!!! Once again, I don't blame you, it is not your fault. You get great advice from a snitch, a grandstander and all the other clowns in your circus.

You went back to school, received a doctorate degree, honorable that is, there goes that word again, honor. Despite your return to school, political science right? You still did not learn anything. Not your fault, you need an education to run for office, that is if you really learned anything at all.

Now don't get me wrong, I admire the sacrifice that you made to get where you are, like I said, the experience of training for a fight is guaranteed physical punishment and mental torture. You are courageous, I give you that.

You have to win because you inspire a nation thirsty for something to be proud of. You are this nation's shining beacon, a people's icon for hope...that is why you have to win. I want you to win.

What is in a name? There is Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, who ironically does not display any flash or flamboyance. What I know and what I heard about the Flash is his humility, sincerity and love for his people, and the people loved him back.

Pacman...nice ring to it. It fits you.

The SBP-Smart Gilas RP National Team

pics by romy florante & rick

Mac Baracael likes to keep things loose. He ribs his teammates with good-natured jokes. His candor is highly-appreciated in a locker room filled with personalities who previously were foes on the opposite end of the UAAP hardcourt. It helps break the ice and the former FEU cager has some mighty big words, "Second family ko to."

The players join the assembled Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and sports officials, guests and media that have come for the official launch of the Smart Gilas RP National Team at the Promenade Teatro in Greenhills, San Juan.

The lights are on outside as players and coaches are interviewed by television crews and media people.

And just like Baracael likes it, it's a relaxed atmosphere. The players queue for the dinner buffet which has been set up on a small platform at the back of the theater. Baracael takes the opportunity to kid teammate Greg Slaughter who's 6'11" and has to hunch himself lest he scrape the ceiling.

Ford Arao sat in the seat next to me and as always he has an easy smile. He resigned from his job at a computer company last year to pursue a goal. Like many others, it is to play in the PBA. With two ACL injuries in the span of four years, he's thinking that the national team might be his best chance to pursue another goal.

As a tall youngster out of Alaminos, Pangasinan, he never thought he'd play for a big school let alone the national team. The ultimate goal by all here is to help the Philippines Qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. It remains far-fetched but anything is posibble.

He still feels some pain in his knees but you'll hardly notice as he willingly bangs his body on the court as he pursues loose balls and rebounds. While he was never known for his explosiveness, that has been a weapon as he has a deceptive first step that allows him to get to the basket. Playing against shotblockers like Aldrech Ramos and Jason Ballesteros in practice helps because he is also tasked to play center sometimes.

All the players express extreme confidence and profound admiration for Head Coach Rajko Toroman. The Serbian has been under scrutiny and criticism by a sensitive coaches association but the players will have none of that. "Ang galing," says Baracael shaking his head. "Ang daming alam at ang sarap matuto. Kita mo na lang sa PBA game, kaya namin makipagsabayan. Nakakataas ng kumpiyansa."

Dylan Ababou walks over to say hi. He still remembers the piece we wrote about the UST Tigers. He's excited about the whole team and the SBP's plans. Like his teammates, they look forward to some tune-up games in Serbia where they will be heading by month's end.

When talk about leadership comes up, Baracael and Ababou both point in the direction of Chris Tiu who is seated in the back beside Jayvee Casio and Rey Guevarra. "Sino pa nga ba?" says Ababou. "He's the man!" Then he laughs.

When I arrived, I shook hands with SBP Executive Director Noli Eala who says, "I thought you weren't coming when you didn't reply to my text." My phone hasn't been working right the past three weeks with the texting feature kayoed. If I need to talk or reply to anyone I've been forced to call them and it has killed my phone bill. But we chatted for a while and later got to hobnob with Nolie Eala, Joey Bautista, Nic Jorge, and Mark Joseph who I last chatted with at great length during the Philippine Football Federation Warehouse Sale at the Discovery Suites.

And there were coaches Eric Altamirano and Vic Ycasiano, my old officemate Val Victa who now works for the Tao Corporation, Coach Chot Reyes who ribbed me about my failure to do a Talk N Text story (Gawd he got me there), PBL Commish Chino Trinidad who never fails to make people laugh with his jokes, and the coaches of the team and the players.

Salamat talaga sa magandang bati ni Coach Allan Gregorio! Hahahaha.

Here is the line-up of the team:
Dylan Ababou
Claiford Arao
Jason Ballesteros
Marnel Baracael
Mark Andy Barroca
Ryan Clarence Buenafe
Joseph Evans Casio
Ricardo Cawaling jr.
Rey Francis Guevarra
Rafael Joey Jazul
Aldrech John Ramos
Magi King Sison
Gregory Slaughter
Christopher John Tiu

Head coach: Rajko Toroman
Assistant Coaches: Djalma Arnedo, Allan Gregorio, Jude Roque
Strength & Conditioning Coaches: Albert Rolle and Jimbo Saret

If you're looking for Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Rico Maierhofer, the former will make his decision in a few months' time as he has to deal with some personal things. The latter, well... it's a no. But they'll have one Fil-Am reinforcement.

One of the press photographers asks me if this line-up can win. I say, look, we didn't win before with an all-pro team, sending them again doesn't guarantee anything. Right now there are no guarantees. It will all boil down into the system and how the team responds. They could spring some surprises.

Pics from New York


I once worked here for four months. Good friend Miggy Mendoza snapped up this picture just the other day and immediately sent it to me. I worked here part time and at night. Some times I worked the floor assisting customers with their purchases. Usually I spun the CDs on a mixer and had a lot of fun doing it. The last time I spun stuff like that was in high school and those were with vinyl records. I wanted to work first at Tower Records at the Lincoln Center but they had no opening then. The Virgin Megastore was the coolest. I had a day job but I always wanted to find some extra work (my day job I used for savings, home, tuition etc. while what I earned at night went to my luho -- CDs and traveling).

The pic below is from the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The State of Philippine Football Part Four: Low ball. High ball.

http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/sports/7671-in-this-part-of-the-globe-the-world-game-gives-way-to-more-worldly-concerns.html

Part Four:
Low Ball. High Ball.

by rick olivares

The Filipino Premier League kicked off on the ominous date of September 21, 2008 at the Philsports pitch. And ironically, a military team, Army FC was going to play in the first match against Pasargad FC (although they now hardly feature the Iranian players that once staffed the line-up). Army, long the haven for provincial footballers who wanted to continue playing, beat Pasargad 2-1.

In the Press Kit that was provided to the media, there were eight teams listed in the latest “national” league. With the terrific showings and jump in standings of the Men’s National Team, there was a renewed interest in football in the country and the Philippine Football Federation wanted to utilize the FPL as a means to showcase the newfound awareness of the sport.

Except that of the eight teams listed: Ateneo FC, Diliman FC, Giligan’s, Mendiola United, Pasargad FC, Philippine Air Force FC, Philippine Army FC, and Union FC, the Air Force did not suit up opting to stay at the Terry Razon Cup which not only was similar to the FPL but had more teams with eleven.

The military team was replaced just in time by Arirang FC, a club made up entirely of expatriate Koreans and was coached by Chul-So Kim, who also was handling the Far Eastern University Women’s Team.

A total of 26 matches were played in four months and coincidentally, Army FC also saw action on the final playing day as they beat Giligan’s 2-0 for the first ever FPL title on December 14.

One team, Union FC did not even finish the tournament citing the lack of funds to continue.

It was a troubled if not innocuous beginning for the FPL. For years, the PFF hosted a variety of national tournaments from the P-League to the National Open right down to the FPL.

But the flaw of the FPL, whether due to semantics or planning was it only featured clubs from the National Capital Region. It had excluded teams from the provinces. Former National Coach Juan Cutillas took the federation’s leadership to task for the poor start. “How can you call it a ‘premier league’ when you have weekend warriors playing and many of them were overweight with bulging stomachs? That does not help the image that we want to project. And then you keep it to Manila only.”

Even worse, the PFF declared the teams that played in the Terry Razon Cup could not play in the FPL (although the NCRFA which ran the Razon Cup allowed teams to crossover). Although the rules were nebulous, there was no limit or specifics with regards to eligibility or even foreign players. Arirang FC was composed entirely of Koreans.

It was politics at its best and not only was it a waste of resources but it underscored the rift between the association and its parent organization.

Vision Asia, the think tank project under the Asian Football Confederation, was in Manila for a two week study on Philippine football. They recommended that the league be placed under the auspices of their organization to manage it more effectively.

They noted that the owners of the eight clubs comprise the board. “This is not optimum as conflicts may arise,” it was said in Vision Asia’s report. “Some of the top clubs and teams are not participating. A first step would be to establish similar leagues in other areas.”

It wasn’t the first “national” tournament conducted by the PFF.

There was the P-League that ran for three years in the late 1990’s. The first one was held in Manila where it failed for the lack of interest. It was moved later on to Davao then Dumaguete where it played to packed crowds. But the lack of funds and corporate support eventually killed the fledging league.

Then during the tenure of Johnny Romualdez as PFF President, the Men’s Open Cup, which was wider in scope was held. It required all PFF members to participate in the tournament with each province hosting their own qualifiers with the winners advancing to the regional level. The champion of the regional level would advance to the national level to determine the overall champion.

During Romualdez’ last year, it was likewise discontinued for lack of funds although when he stepped down to give way to the current President Jose Mari Martinez, he left Php 2.4 million.

After Vision Asia submitted its report, they recommended that the FPL be developed into a true national league with the champions participating in the AFC President’s Cup and the Asian Football Federation Club tournament.

But as always, it boils down to funds. The problem of football and most other sports in the country is that there is hardly anything to aspire for after the collegiate level since not everyone makes it to the national team. Those who live for the game go to the Armed Forces where they not only train how to jump out of helicopters and fire an automatic rifle, they get to continue playing and they become a feeder for the national squad.

As proven by the Gothia and Helsinki Cup victories in the 1980’s, the Philippines can compete with the rest of the world at the lower levels. But there is a significant drop in skill and exposure once players reach college because many of them do not push themselves farther since there is no money in football and it is more practical and realistic to get a real job.

In this part of the globe, the world game gives way to more worldly concerns.


Post script: The second season of the FPL has been temporarily moved to June. Philsports has not given the green light for the use of the field because of unsettled debts. The PFF is waiting for more funds from Vision Asia to continue the tournament.