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, November 30, 2009

Madrid, cabron, saluda al campeon Barcelona!


The first of meeting in the El Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid couldn’t have come at a proper time. Both sides had their walking wounded hale and healthy for the match so no side can claim that they were at a disadvantage. In recent weeks, Madrid had claimed the top spot from the defending champions with four wins out of five matches while the latter could only account for two wins in five of their own. Yet only one point set them apart in the Primera Liga standings 28-27.

After coming on from a largely ineffective Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Catalans’ answer to the galactico wave from their blood rivals when he was signed from Italian champs Internazionale in the off-season, proved his million-Euro worth by smashing home a volley from a Dani Alves cross in the 56th minute. That was preceded by a superb stoppage of a Gonzalo Higuain strike and the Catalans went on a quick counter. But the celebration had to be quickly tempered as Barcelona were reduced to ten men when midfielder Sergio Busquets was sent off six minutes later for a handball and the challengers renewed their pace.

Barca’s Pep Guardiola then brought in Lionel Messi for Henry and the move created some chances. Cristiano Ronaldo, sidelined for nearly two months almost got the equalizer in Camp Nou but he fired straight at Victor Valdes who was brilliant in front of the net. French internationalist Karim Benzema replaced the Portuguese striker with 25 minutes left ad had two chances but misplayed them.

Messi, back from a thigh injury, nearly scored a second goal for Barcelona, but like Ronaldo before him, blasted straight at Iker Casillas.

All told, Barcelona looked more impressive as they dominated possession for 62% of the match only to see their fortunes change although not direly when Busquets was booked and sent off. The 1-nil win gives them 2 points ahead of their rivals in the standings and sent a strong message that they own their rivals thus far. And what pains Madrid’s press and their fans is that defiant Catalan cry, “Madrid, cabron, saluda al campeon."

Surfer Girl

Wonder what Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys would sing if they had seen Maya Gabeira riding those big waves? We'll never know but I might have an opportunity to interview her. Got my fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #185 Be like Bike

http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/sports/19082-be-like-bike.html

Be Like Bike

by rick olivares

The question might have been somewhat ridiculous but it still packed plenty of wallop.

“What will happen if you stick your nose to your car’s exhaust?”

Kind of a no-brainer, right?

Now think of it this way – the carbon monoxide that cars spew into the atmosphere? Well, they come back right to us. It circulates around us and we inhale it. Even in the supposed safe confines of air-conditioned rooms with filters, where do you think the air comes from? And we wonder how and why pollution is killing people.

Ours is a car culture. Yes, a car is a status symbol here in the Philippines. It says, “I can afford.” Or if it’s a snazzy vehicle you like to show off, it’s “I got it made.” Phasing out cars? Not a chance in a third world country where even 1960’s model cars are for keeps.

However, when Filipinos go abroad they don’t mind commuting: “Oh, I know how to commute – I take the bus when I’m in Chicago.” But once they’re back in Manila… go figure.

Of course one cannot fault car owners because one, it’s their right to chose personal mobility, and two, the urban planning and public transportation system of Metro Manila has degenerated into crap and that is a most damning understatement. For proof, check out that tuna canning plant that runs the length of EDSA and is called the “MRT.”

In a most recent survey of citizens done by the National Center for Transportation Studies, people who do a lot of walking and commuting, if they had a choice and had deeper pockets, they’d rather – another no-brainer here -- buy a car.

However, in this day and age of climate change where it has accelerated at an alarming rate than the most pragmatic of scientific predictions, some folks are taking us back to the pre-industrial revolution. I’m talking about good ole manpower where one walked or biked to get around.

The Firefly Brigade is not for the faint of heart since they are oft on the road to promote for a harmonious road relationship between cars and bicycles (considering that Filipino drivers think they’re on the Talladega Speedway or on some slalom course) while getting more than a noseful of toxic fumes. It’s important don’t you think when at one time or another we want to release or inner Mad Max on stupid drivers. And there’s the usual government ineptitude but let’s not get into that because whenever talk about them comes up I want to do more than a Mad Max on them.

Thankfully I have not decided to descend into bouts of barbarism and an interesting analogy made by the Law of Nature Foundation’s Counselor for Environmental Law Atty. Antonio Oposa Jr. has knocked even more sense into me. He gives lectures on a transportation revolution where he begins by asking whether ants -- yes, these lowly creatures -- are more intelligent than man in a certain way.

As Oposa, a University of the Philippines law professor, humorously relates, ants travel in a single file and never cause miniscule traffic jams. They do not take up needless space and do not pollute the air while going about their daily routine. Perhaps, the most telling difference is when they bump into each other, they do not argue, fight, or kill. Hey, Jason Ivler -- take a lesson from ants, why don’t you?

You have to hand it to the Firefly Brigade who are named after that winged beetle for their use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey and are seeing less of because of pollution. This volunteer action group promotes the use of bicycles as a means of transportation and works for the full implementation of the Philippine Clean Air Act and its Non-Motorized Transport component (RA No. 8749) that calls for the unequivocal reduction of smog and air pollution to make cities more inhabitable.

In Asia, half-a-million people a year die prematurely because of pollution while in Metro Manila, 70% of the urban air pollution is caused by motorized transport. The increase in transport, industry, and biomass burning produces greenhouse gases and the blight air. And incredibly, people choose to watch Hollywood films by the purveyors of extinction events  such as Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin (see The Day After Tomorrow and 2012) rather than pay more attention to An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. Bollocks to those Friday the 13th horror-type films when the real frightening stories on climate change are reported in newspapers and magazines yet do not merit the kind of interest that purported dalliances between a boxing champ and a young and beautiful woman fresh out of college receive.

Cycling is an alternative means of transportation that is cheap, efficient, environmentally sensible, and good for one’s health. And note that 16 bicycles can be parked in the space of one car.

Of course, it a tropical country like ours, the heat can be oppressive and leave one perspiring. That is why there must be facilities in work places for cyclists to wash up.

This is not a call for the eradication of motorized transport but rather an urgent demand for more responsible urban planning and more efficient, affordable, and clean public transport. For a country like ours that loves to emulate foreign models (and we do so poorly at that), we fail to look to world-class cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Zurich, or Curitaba, where both rich and the poor regularly use buses and trains. Instead more and more roads are being built that hardly begin to address traffic concerns. When those flyovers were first built it was said that it would reduce traffic. I should ask the idiot who said that if he has been inhaling carbon monoxide or taking illegal substances. Are we turning the metro into a gigantic freeway? There are way more people who commute as opposed to those who ride cars yet they have the lion’s share of the road. Think of the money that should be spent otherwise on improving public transport and for the proper greening of Metro Manila!

While the films such as The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 may be Hollywood creations, the end results of those movies that depict the large scale death due to nature’s revenge – that is the one thing they’ve gotten right.

 

Post-script: I have once more decided to take up biking (after having hanging it up some 15 years ago. Thanks to Rosar Crisostomo and his family (Karen, Aneka, Mihali, and Juancho) for the inspiration. I also recommend that you check out fireflybrigade.org, observatory.ph, klima.ph, and cai-asia.org.

I am also looking for people to help me disseminate copies of Panahon Na! – the Philippine version of An Inconvenient Truth produced by the defunct Presidential Task Force on Climate Change. It’s not bad; just go beyond the telenovela production with Dingdong Dantes and the beautiful Nikki Gil serving as hosts. Typical Pinoy – adding a showbiz element to every endeavor. You’ll understand what I mean after seeing it.

Kudos to Senator Pia Cayetano who filed her candidacy while on a bike and to the LRT-Lines 1 & 2 management for allowing foldable bikes in its coaches.


In case you don't know:

- Metro Manila is sinking 

- the Philippines will be one of the worst hit countries because of Climate Change

- small fishermen are increasingly finding it hard to fish because the water is hotter and it kills the natural habitat of fish. it won't be long before even food resources dwindle.

Team Philippines finishes at 4th

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia—Iran once more demonstrated why it has become a rising power in basketball as their Under-16 team ended the Philippines’ fairy tale campaign 83-73 in overtime, to cop the second runner-up of the Fiba Asia U-16 Men’s Championship Friday night at the Bandaraya Stadium here.

After back-up slotman Jeoffey Javillonar missed a relatively easy undergoal stab  in regulation, the Iranians came back with 13 unanswered points to snatch the third-place trophy.

In the championship match, China walloped Korea, 104-69, to win the title of this inaugural tourney that sends both teams to the Fiba World U-17 Men’s Championship in Hamburg, Germany next year.

It was the second heart-breaking loss to Iran by the team since winning twice in the 2nd Nokia Invitational Cup in Cebu City recently. Iran clobbered Team Pilipinas in the quarterfinals, 76-70, sending the Filipinos to an impossible mission of beating China in the semifinals.

The Filipinos lost a chance for a better finish after being overmatched by the Chinese in the semifinals, 66-85, and to the Iranians in the battle for third. But fourth place is a huge achievement for the young and talented squad.

With its big men in foul trouble, Iran found itself in a deep six-point hole, 61-67, in the last 3:58 mark of the final period, giving the Filipinos a good shot at winning the bronze medal.

Sajjad Mashayekhi fought back and ignited a 9-4 Iranian rally to square the count at 70 and set the stage for the Filipinos’ final play with only 13.1 seconds left.

Kiefer Ravena had 18 points, four rebounds and four steals while wingmen Von Pessumal, Dan Sara and Angelo Alolino connived for 34 points to offset the Filipinos’ dismal rebounding after Jeron Teng, Paolo Romero and Kevin Ferrer got tangled in early foul trouble.

“It could have been a different story had we controlled the rebounds down the stretch,” Altamirano said, noting the rebounding picture where the Iranians had 52 while the Filipinos had only 34. “It’s still a good game, I’m proud of the boys. They played the way I want it to be.”

Yousefi Soheil led Iran with 18 points while the frontline tandem of Mir Fattahi and Amir Sedighi combined for 29 points and 29 rebounds despite being hobbled with foul trouble.

The scores:

Iran 83 - Soheil 18, Fattahi 17, Faghihparvar 16, Mashayekhi 13, Sedighi 12, Ojaghi 7, Abediaraei 0, Khademnamdari 0, Taherikoladooz 0, Monji 0, Behzadi 0, Zangeneh 0

Philippines 73 - Ravena 18, Pessumal 13, Sara 11, Alolino 10, Teng 8, Javillonar 7, Ferrer 2, Pate 2, Tolomia 2, Bantayan 0, Romero 0

Quarter scoring: 12-15, 37-31, 56-53, 70-70, 83-73 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Score Episode 11

Get Adobe Flash player

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Score Episode 11

Was asked to co-host Episode 11 of The Score, the new online sports talk show on flippish.com. Last time out it was Jinno Rufino who was out; this time it was Noel Zarate. But I totally had fun for both. Won't spill the beans just yet but will have something going sometime early next year on radio again. Got my fingers crossed.

Slammed

Joakim Noah slams one on the would-have-been-Bull Carlos Boozer but the Jazz pummeled their hapless visitors 105-86. Bad coaching, Vinny. 

The Big Show


The Big Show

The UAAP’s runaway success affects the national sports scene in so many ways. But it has brought on a whole slew of problems that are both good and bad.

by rick olivares

The scent of a winner

The day after the Ateneo Blue Eagles won the Season 71 Men’s Basketball championship, the phone lines at the University Athletics Office rang non-stop. The callers were of the local and long distance sort from the National Capital Region to the far-flung islands of the Philippine archipelago to the different time zones of Asia and North America.

“The calls were inquiries about tryouts for the Ateneo Men’s Basketball Team,” revealed Emmanuel Fernandez, the Assistant Athletics Director. “Everyone just wanted to join the team. Kaya during open tryouts sobrang daming tao. It isn’t solely winning a title but also because they appear in various media and are identified with a global brand such as adidas. And that makes them very visible and desirable as an ambition.”

While Ateneo may be on top of the basketball pole in different ways, the other member schools of the UAAP have also been beneficiaries of the league’s success.

National University’s Board Representative Robert Paguia reported a modest increase in enrollment – an accepted barometer of a school’s successful athletic program – this school year ‘09-‘10 even if its Bulldogs finished at the bottom of the basketball standings last year.

“A part of it has to do with the enhanced image of NU when the Sys (of Shoe Mart fame) bought the school. Better funding and better facilities definitely helps. Plus, seeing the sports teams on television is always attractive,” said the longtime NU administrator. “That is why the basketball program is being built up to acceptable standards.”

If it is fashionable for billionaires to purchase football teams in the English Premier League, in the Philippines, taipans buy into the UAAP schools (see Lucio Tan with the University of the East and Henry Sy with NU). “We got into education because we believe that we can play a major role in developing our youth for tomorrow,” said Hans Sy of SM Prime Holdings, the new owner of the Sampaloc-based university.

And it doesn’t stop there. Far Eastern University’s Anton Montinola intimated that there have been inquiries by other schools about joining the UAAP. “We are studying all our options,” promised the highly visible team manager of the Tamaraws. “I like to think that we have been doing something good and others want to be a part of that.”

The Big Ticket

For all the headline news and twitter about the UAAP games, there was a time when you could walk up to the ticket booth at the already ancient Rizal Memorial Coliseum on game day and secure seats with a great view of the on-court action. However, those days weren’t exactly great from a commercial standpoint.

There was hardly television coverage. There was none of the merchandise that is the norm and fashion today for every rabid fan. And there was certainly no cheering competition for the only ones who trooped to the court during halftime was Ateneo. In fact, if you spoke of forming pyramids that didn’t mean a routine formed by cheer dancers and lifters but Johnny Midnight and toning.

Johnny who? Toning what?

Exactly.

Today it’s a mad scramble to procure tickets more so during the annual Ateneo-La Salle games, the Final Four, and the Finals where anyone who secures a ticket is akin to finding one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets.

And ticket sales have also been beneficial for each school. “A school receives 25% of all tickets sold so you can imagine what goes back to a school like ours,” underscored Ateneo University Athletics Director Richard Palou. “That extra money goes a long long way.”

The league’s ticket sales trump those of other collegiate competitions confirmed Montinola. “That’s why the games are increasingly held at the Araneta Coliseum because of its bigger capacity. “

The high profile nature of the basketball games has also a great effect on the fortunes of its players.

Before the lure of fat television contracts and endorsements galore, the UAAP fed the national teams and pro ranks with its players. In fact, a look at the national teams of the 80’s and 90’s revealed many of its members coming from the junior circuit (the rival NCAA is older but is perceived to be less glamorous). The names of Allan Caidic, Benjie Paras, Jerry Codinera, Glenn Capacio, Dindo Pumaren, and Jun and Eric Reyes all became household names in the UAAP and amateur basketball before being drafted into the PBA.

“The high profile nature of the UAAP is perhaps the biggest recruiting tool we have,” chipped in Montinola who also admitted that having four of his former and current Tamaraws on the Smart Gilas Philippine National Team as being added publicity. “Now you have many kids out there saying, “I want to play for FEU because they also have a chance of joining the national team.’”

The basketball conundrum

Yet if there has been anything golden about the UAAP, it has been the ten-year partnership between the league and broadcast giant ABS-CBN. “The partnership has been mutually beneficial. Commercialization has made it easier to get sponsors for the school and its athletic programs. The UAAP as a whole receives Php 65 million from ABSCBN that is used to subsidize the other athletic competitions and programs.” disclosed Palou.

Added Fernandez, “Commercialization has been good because in the case of adidas, we receive uniforms and equipment for all our teams that would otherwise be too costly for the university to provide.”

Adidas, the German-athletic apparel giant also sponsors De La Salle while competitor Nike dresses up rivals FEU and UE.

While it is perceived that basketball receives far too much attention than other sports, the irony of it all is that it – along with volleyball that has become increasingly popular – funds all other athletic competitions and events of the league. 

Added Paguia, “We insisted that it be in our contract with our television carrier that it not just be basketball but other sports especially volleyball and football.”

Just as the windfall from basketball helps other UAAP sports, it also supports ABS-CBN’s other sports programs. A sales person from ABS-CBN who refused to be identified, disclosed,  “The number of sponsors for the UAAP this year is a little down last season but it is still wildly successful with revenues well over the P100M mark. The UAAP is the primary cash cow of ABS-CBN Sports helping it to support the coverage of other sports events. It is safe to say that without the UAAP, ABS-CBN would not have a sports department.”

Other television networks realize the drawing power of the UAAP. At the end of this season, the league’s contract with ABS-CBN will expire. Although the network giant will have the right of first refusal meaning they get first crack at retaining their prized client, rivals GMA-7 and Solar Sports are also knocking on the door. For GMA-7, if successful, it will be their first major foray into long-term continuous sports coverage as they have cut their eye-teeth in canned shows and telenovelas. Solar, the cable giant is the acknowledged ladder in local sports coverage and having the National Basketball Association, the Philippine Basketball Association, and the Philippine Basketball League on their roster looks good on their resume.

GMA-7 is reported to have submitted the best bid thus far. “We will make the decision by the summer,” said Montinola. 

The success of the league has also spawned an industry of websites, blogs, and t-shirt business where expressions of school spirit are proudly emblazoned in front. In Ateneo alone, there have been three major players in Get Blued, Blue Crew, and OGBD. “Your school is a huge market in terms of sales and following,” explained former Blue Eagle Mike Baldos, one of the owners of Blue Crew. “It helps that we are composed of former and current players and when the team runs to the floor for warm-ups, people watching on television see them wearing the shirts.”

“That’s school spirit,” summed up Palou. “That’s a following that you will have for life unlike professional teams with the notable exception of Ginebra San Miguel whose following is nationwide. But in many ways, the UAAP has begun to rival and even surpass the PBA. Let’s just say that it’s neck-and-neck at this point.”

Said Dianne, a student in the Ateneo: “For three months (the UAAP basketball season), I have to juggle watching the games with my studies. I also have to manage my time surfing the internet reading about the games and budgeting my allowance buying t-shirts and magazines. And there’s the matter of tickets that is always difficult. Being a fan is never easy.”

Ateneo Alumni Association President Mike Valencia agreed, “You wait for a year for three months of UAAP basketball and you’re fixated in that time. Even work takes a backseat. Then when the season is done, you ask yourself, ‘So what do I focus on now?’”

Pandora’s box

Collectively, league officials believe that the UAAP’s commercialization is good for the league since it drives fans, following, and hype. “The negative aspect here is when some sponsors ask for executions of their sponsorships in a particularly tasteless manner (e.g. a scantily clad woman holding up a sign in the audience telling people to call me....) because it cheapens the league,” decried our source at ABS-CBN.

The crass commercialism aside, the popularity of the league has seen it beset with allegations of game fixing, point shaving, and a win at all costs mentality that purportedly drives some schools. 

“Success comes at a price and we have to be vigilant. One of our biggest concerns is scalping,” pointed out Palou. “That is why this year we have experimented by separating the other matches from the Ateneo-La Salle games and have the different playing days for the Final Four. The point is to create a bigger supply of tickets so more alumni and students can watch. That should drive down somewhat the prices of scalped tickets.”

As for game fixing and point shaving, the league is vigilant on these allegations but its officials confess that it’s hard to prove. Current UAAP Commissioner and former Ateneo Blue Eagles Head Coach Joe Lipa concurred, “You can’t see it but you can smell it.”

Apparently when it comes to Ateneo de Manila, people everywhere can smell opportunity and even a winner.  The team – most especially the basketball team – has become a brand. “It’s also become an aspiration for many,” beamed Palou who once played for Ateneo winning an NCAA title way back in 1969.

He motioned to hold that thought. There was a phone call. It was from an athlete who was inquiring about trying out for the Blue Eagles. He grinned from ear to ear. 

Talk the talk. Let's walk the walk.

He may be the heir to Bundini Brown as the Sweet Science's street poet, but lawdy... someone ought to shut up Floyd "The Mouth that Always Goes South" Mayweather Sr. 

He talked smack against Pacman when he was in the corner of Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton. And each time out, his fighter lost and he turned on them. 

And now with the richest fight in boxing history looming, he accuses Pacman of taking steroids. The Champ, who never ducks nay fighter unlike his equally loud-mouthed and obnoxious son, has never tested positive for anything and the latest test proves that. Maybe they should test trainers too? There must be a reason for motormouths to keep truckin' when they should be shuttin'. 

Will the fight happen? Pretty Boy wants the lion's share of the receipts but Pacman's camp wants an even 50-50 split. Then Bob Arum says, "If Mayweather wants to fight, he knows where to call me." Sure but who will do the talking?

That of course brings to mind the Denver Broncos' head coach Josh McDaniels who was taunting the linebackers of the San Diego Chargers with, "We own you!"

As much as I like the Broncos, trash talking by the coach has no place in the game. It's a good thing the Chargers won 32-3. Said Shaun Philips, the Chargers' LB who was one of the subjects of McDaniels' taunts: How much has he really done in this league? He had a team that was 6-0 and now he's looking up at us in second place." Bwahahaha. 

And the Chargers were saying if they hear that smack from a player on the field it leads to a fight, so why shouldn't that happen with a coach? I know one UAAP Assistant Coach who tried that three years ago and when he was confronted in the dugout in front of his team he chickened out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday Sports Zingers

FIFA suspended the Iraqi Football Association because of constant government meddling into the national team’s affairs. Hey, Sepp Blatter, but you conveniently turned a blind eye when Asian Football Confederation’s Mohammed Bin Hammam when he bribed regional NSAs to prolong his stay in power?

If you look at the PFF office at the corner of Capt Henry Javier and Danny Floro Street in Pasig (in motel alley), there’s an outpost at that corner right in front of the football headquarters. The logo right in front of the outpost? Victoria Court with the lady holding up a finger to her lips. That’s right. Quiet lang sa kalokohan sa loob nito.

If Thierry Henry was remorseful about his deliberate handball that led to the equalizer by France against Ireland, then why was he celebrating after William Gallas scored? The proper thing to do would have been to replay the match. But then again, they’ve allowed Diego Maradona’s handball to stand since forever.

Allen Iverson retired. But he says he can still play at the highest level. That’s his answer. Next.

Why is the Bureau of Internal Revenue going to tax Manny Pacquiao? He is already being taxed in the US then he is going to lose more to the thieves in our government? Can someone explain to me why this is so? Sorry. I don’t know anything about this. On a non-related note but still on our corrupt government, I have a neighbor who works as a security person at NAIA Customs and he drives a Mercedes SUV and he recently has his house remodeled (it includes a Jacuzzi). He is thinking of buying a BMW next. How do I know? He told me.

Liverpool, so we're out of the Champions League but there's always Europa


What is the Europa League? The Europa League is Europe's second club competition and was previously known as the UEFA Cup before its rebranding in the summer.

Haven't we been here before? Yes. It's a tournament Liverpool have enjoyed great success in over the years, most recently in 2001 when a dramatic 5-4 victory over Alaves in Dortmund brought the trophy to Anfield for the third time.

Our other previous triumphs in the competition came in 1973 and 1976.

The three successes put us joint-level with Juventus and Inter Milan for most number of titles.

The last time we played in this competition was 2003-04 - the season Rafa Benitez's Valencia won the trophy.

At what stage will we enter the competition? The Reds, along with the seven other third placed teams in the Champions League group stage, will be entered into the draw for the Round of 32, which will take place on Friday, December 18.

 

The draw for the following round will also be made on this date.

How does the format of the competition differ from the Champions League? It doesn't, although there is an extra round played in the knockout stages of the Europa League. Ties will be played over two legs, with the away goals rule in place, until the final.

Who could we be paired with in the draw? Like the Champions League, there are still matches to be played in the group stage of the Europa League, so the names of the 32 teams who will be entered into the draw is yet to be finalised.

However, of the teams currently in the competition, Liverpool could potentially face Ajax, Anderlecht, Valencia, Hamburg, Sporting Lisbon, Roma, Galatasaray, Villarreal, Fenerbahce, Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Werder Bremen.

Holders Shakhtar Donetsk will be in the last 32, while local rivals Everton could also be in the mix.

Some of the Champions League teams who could drop into the Europa League include Bayern Munich, Marseille, Stuttgart and Atletico Madrid.

Will we be seeded for the draw? As Liverpool are likely to have one of the better records of the teams dropping out of the Champions League, particularly if we beat Fiorentina, it's probable the Reds will be seeded.

The draw for the last 32 sees the 12 Europa League group winners, and the four best third placed teams in the Champions League group stage, drawn against the Europa League group runners-up and the remaining third-ranked sides from the Champions League group phase.

Seeded teams will be drawn at home in the second leg.

When do matches take place? Matches are usually played on Thursday evenings.

What are the match dates?

Round of 32

18 February 2010

25 February 2010

Round of 16

11 March 2010

18 March 2010

Quarter-finals

01 April 2010

08 April 2010

Semi-finals

22 April 2010

29 April 2010

Final 

12 May 2010

Where will the final be played? The 2009-10 Europa League final will be played in Hamburg at the HSH Nordbank Arena, which has a capacity in excess of 57,000.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hoopland Part 1

They are the only things that you will find in more bountiful numbers than convenience stores around the country. These basketball courts – makeshift haphazards to specimens of fine engineering -- they mean many different things to many people. But bound by a common love; a rapturous passion, what it does very well is give rise to dreams. That brief moment when man dares to take flight confirms it.

These are stories of flights of fancy. A simple picture essay of playgrounds throughout the country. Watch out for the other parts. (photos taken from GK Molave, Payatas, QC)


Forum on Metro Manila's Walkability & Bikeability

One of my advocacies is addressing Climate Change and only the stupid around us come up with all sorts of reasons to disbelieve the evidence that has dumped all sorts of problems on us. Anything that is related such as the Walkability and Bikeability of Metro Manila is something I support. 

Most recently, I met the amazing family of Rosar Crisostomo (who is a Theology professor in Ateneo) through his youngest son Juancho who is such a dear. And they've revived in me my interest in biking. About a decade ago, I biked a lot and loved motorbikes. While speaking with Ed Tamayo of the Mad Dog Motorcycle Club, I sort of wanted to get into it except that it's rather  expensive. But biking is so much easier and  more attuned to the concerns of our environment. 

Yesterday, I attended the Forum of Metro Manila's Walkability and Bikeability (at the Mandarin Suites at Gateway Mall, Araneta Commercial Center) as sponsored by the Firefly Brigade (I suggest you google them) as I am writing a long series on Rosar's family. I came away moved and interested in the movement and am teaming up with them in one of the series of seminars I am putting up on Climate Change. The forum had plenty of interesting speakers in Senator Pia Cayetano, Sudhir Gota of the Clean Air Initiative-Asia, Robert Nacianceno of the MMDA, and Atty. Antonio Oposa Jr of the Law of Nature Foundation and a UP College of Law professor. I was initially planning on staying for an hour or two as I was writing on Rosar's wife, Karen. But I stayed and boy, am I glad I did. I'll be writing about that in my next Bleachers' Brew column in Business Mirror and am pitching in. And I'm getting into biking again. Yahoo!




Arrested Development

Arrested Development

The Road to London goes through other countries not to mention oceans and other continents. Unfortunately, for the Smart Gilas Pilipinas National Team, just as the journey gets underway, they have to deal with some speed bumps in the fast lane.

by rick olivares

Waiting to exhale

Volleyball practice by the Ateneo’s high school varsity team was winding down when Rajko Toroman walked in. The Serbian coach of the men’s national basketball team, tussled brownish blonde hair and all, wore his customary golf shirt, khaki pants, and Air Jordans. But the biggest difference was how wide the smile was on his face.

For a change, there was none of the usual traffic that stretched from the flyover along Katipunan all the way to UP that tried many a people’s patience. The amiable coach shrugged at the daily traffic that clogged the metro’s streets. “That’s life,” he would say. But the easy grin in his face, the spring in his step, could be attributed to more than that. He felt as if a thorn that had  long been stuck in deep in his side, had been removed. 

In the first real taste of challenge since May when the Smart Gilas team competed in the FIBA Asia Champion’s Challenge Cup, the nationals’ stint in the ongoing Philippine Cup of the Philippine Basketball Association had degenerated into a theater of the absurd.

Following the high of dismantling the Powerade National Team, the youthful squad had to contend with controversies that involved several of its players that threatened to undo the chemistry that was so vital their fighting form not to mention their mission.

The team as part of their preparations, would time and again, go up against the pro teams in practice games. They had performed well and blew out many a foe even while undermanned. But with a long road ahead, they simply couldn’t keep playing practice games or going abroad for friendlies. They had played in Japan where they were massacred by the referees. And most recently, they became the first Philippine team to beat the Singapore Slingers. But going abroad was taxing on the budget. So logically, it made sense to apply as a guest team in the Philippine Basketball Association much like they did in the previous year.

The PBA first debated whether to allow Gilas’ candidate for naturalization, CJ Giles to play. Some coaches claimed that it gave an undue advantage to Smart Gilas while others didn’t mind thinking it would help raise the bar. That the league even bothered to debate about it seemed comical more so when some 20 years ago, they allowed the Northern Consolidated Cement team that was the national squad, to play with three supposedly naturalized players. And NCC won a championship.

As good as the league is, they are hardly the paragons of consistency as they’ve botched many issues. The Fil-Sham Controversy is one and while not an issue any longer, the results were hardly satisfying.

Hardly had the Giles question been resolved when the Japeth Aguilar controversy blew up. Aguilar, the former Ateneo and Western Kentucky center was chosen as the Number One Over-all Pick of 2009 by Burger King yet following a stint with the Powerade team under his Burger King coach Joseller “Yeng” Guiao, Aguilar refused to sign and said he’d rather play for the Smart Gilas National Team.

Burger King management was stung by the startling rejection and they proposed to the board to ban him despite the lack of any rule that said a draft pick cannot renege on the draft rights. It wasn’t the first time a draft pick refused to report to the team that selected him as Fil-Am Alex Cabagnot  returned home to the United States rather than report to Sta. Lucia, the squad the drafted him. After some threats and mediation, Cabagnot finally reported.

With the intercession of SBP Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, who also owned Talk ‘N Text, Aguilar signed with Burger King and in a three-way trade and agreement, played one game for the Whoppers before moving to Talk ‘N Text where he was promptly released to the national team. The aggrieved Burger King team received draft picks and cash in exchange.

The PBA’s Board of Governors then bandied about the decision whether to render the squad’s games as bearing or non-bearing. After some haggling, it was decided that the PBA teams will play Smart Gilas in a single round robin. A win by the PBA team would count in the standings while a loss would not. As odd as that decision was arrived at, it was passed. And it would come back to bite them again in a few short weeks.

Internal Affairs

Smart Gilas’ troubles wasn’t all external. After their exhibition series in Japan where everyone to a man will say “hindi lang niluto, ginisa pa,” the players went back to their mother teams for the college season. Those only ones who remained, having graduated from college, were Chris Tiu, Jayvee Casio, Jason Ballesteros, and Mac Baracael. The return of Dylan Ababou, RJ Jazul, Ric Cawaling, and the others saw the finely tuned offense sputter. Toroman chafed at the way UST used Ababou at the four-spot. Ditto with Mark Barroca at the two-spot. Their sudden re-integration into the Gilas’ system was a re-learning experience once more.

And then there was the addition of Aguilar and Al-Hussaini to the mix that also changed the rotation or even the way some were used. In Jakarta, the starting unit was Giles at center, Baracael at power forward, Cawaling at the three-spot, and Tiu and Barroca at the guard position. Now they had Giles, Aguilar, and Baracael. Casio, and Cawaling. If Ballesteros or Aldrech Ramos were the first bigs off the bench, now it was Al-Hussaini. Clearly, it was a relearning experience for all.

But it wasn’t all about rotation or familiarity with the system. Within the team, Giles sorely tried Toroman’s patience. His late night escapades, while a little tolerable among some of the team’s management, was inexcusable for the Serb who preached discipline above all.

When Giles’ younger brother Malcolm and then former college teammate at Oregon State, Wesley Washington, arrived in Manila, Giles would take them about town and would saunter back to his expensive condo unit in the wee hours of the morning. That affected his focus during practice and in one film viewing session on the eve of Gilas’ game versus Talk ‘n Text, the American fell asleep and Toroman finally blew his top. In his finely tuned mind, Toroman found Giles to be an example of what was wrong with the American game – they got by on sheer talent and athleticism. But on skill and teamwork, in the international game, the United States could be beaten. Why not? Serbia, or even back when it was a part of the Yugoslav Federation, beat the Americans soundly on several occasions.

Most of the team players preferred to keep away from the brewing storm. Giles was talented without a doubt. The Los Angeles Lakers saw that enough to give him a try during summer camp but the knock on Giles was that he was a headache.

Prior to his being invited to join the Gilas program, he was given a thorough background check where SBP officials conducted interviews with his former coaches in order to ferret the truth about Giles. Some of his coaches said that Giles’ alleged bad rep was blown out of proportion. He proved impressive enough when he showed up at the Joe Abunassar Impact Basketball Camp in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In Jakarta, Giles proved to be an invaluable player by holding off some of the best teams in Asia some of whom paraded two imports. He even played on a gimpy knee that spoke volumes of his dedication. Team Manager Butch Antonio was pleasantly surprised, “Like other American imports, he could have chosen not to play because that could have been a potentially career ending injury. But he asked to be taped up and we won the game against Lebanon.”

The team liked him and forward Mac Baracael, a highly influential locker room presence himself even dubbed him “Big Bird” after the shuttle bus that transported them all around Jakarta.

But even there, Toroman had to somewhat bend his rules. Curfew was set at 11pm where the players had to be inside their rooms to get rest for the following day. Most of the players and team officials hung out at the coffee shop where they took advantage of the free wifi as opposed to the $20-a-day charge at their rooms. Because of the time difference between Asia and North America, Giles stayed up late so he could chat with his brother and friends back home in Seattle.

The team’s assistant coaches Allan Gregorio, Jude Roque, and Djalma Arnedo took turns staying at the coffee shop until past midnight with one eye on their laptops with another at the entrance of the hotel in case some of the players decided to sample Jakarta’s nightlife.

On one occasion, Giles took exception to the head coach’s admonition to call it a night. The 6’11” player glared at the Serb who bristled at the disrespect that it bothered him all the way to breakfast the following day. “He has no discipline,” complained Toroman while throwing up his hands in the air.

And when Giles fell asleep during film viewing, Toroman had enough. Team officials stepped in to patch things up but had to be careful of not overly coddling the American. Privately, they knew that had the circus gone any longer, it would have come down to between Toroman and Giles. The team, the NSA, needed both. But between the two, Toroman was more important because without him, the program would be in disarray. Giles was a proven talent but the baggage that people warned team officials about began to surface and in Toroman’s mind, he felt that Giles should go. “Better to start fresh now than later,” he said while not letting on much how he felt about the setback.

As Giles made his way to the Cuneta Astrodome during Gilas’ match with Talk ‘N Text, his mind unfortunately wasn’t on the game. While checking his email from his mobile phone, he learned that his son Jayden was in the hospital with a blood problem.

Unfortunately, Giles only informed trainer Jim Saret of his problem. The coaching staff took his lack of focus to be another of his bouts of irresponsibility. Still, Toroman was willing to give Giles the benefit of the doubt. In the locker room prior to the nationals’ taking to the floor with the Tropang Texters, Toroman addressed Giles: “Are you with us? You are starting.”

But as the team raced on to the floor for their warm-ups, Giles still mysteriously looking disinterested, sat down on the opposing team’s bench while motioning one of the team’s masseuses to massage his thighs. Toroman watched it unfold from his side of the court, went closer to make sure that he wasn’t imagining things, and then turned around. He muttered a few expletives in his native tongue then called the attention of Saret who had become Giles’ confidant.

Still Giles started. But as the game began, he seemed out of sync with his teammates. As he hauled down a defensive board he whirled around and without even bothering to look, threw the ball to an opponent that led to a basket. Toroman who hardly sits on the bench during games was beet red. He sucked in air and told second string center Jason Ballesteros to go to the scorer’s table. He was taking out Giles. Not just from the game but for good.

Toroman wasn’t the only one angered, SBP and Gilas officials couldn’t contain their anger. “Pauwiin na yan,” threw in Bernie Atienza who is in charge of the team’s tournament schedule. SBP Executive Director told Giles that he was taking the first flight back home to the United States. “I told you that you will not destroy this team,” said Eala through clenched teeth.

The team was so dispirited that they were blown off the court. The loss lead to insinuations by league and club officials that Gilas had purposely dropped the match to give Talk ‘N Text a plus in the standings.

And Toroman, concerned about what the media had to say about the nationals’ problems, refused to read any newspapers after that.

The Hammer Drops

Toroman suspected that Giles was taking drugs hence his erratic behavior. Giles never drove around on his own as he had a personal driver who reported everything the American did. He also swore that he never saw the American taking any banned substances. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t doing anything.

It was only after the match that team officials and the coaching staff found out about the condition of Giles’ son. Toroman felt bad. “Why didn’t you say so?” The team knelt down in prayer to lift up Jayden to God. But soon after that, Eala, made a few calls to verify the veracity of Giles’ story.

The situation had turned ugly. Giles was upset that the team no longer trusted him. He liked being in the Philippines. With a sizeable salary, he had filled his apartment with toys that big boys with big salaries could afford. He even planned on putting up a t-shirt business with Malcolm in Manila. “I love it here,” he said on more than one occasion.

With the team management slinging arrows towards him, there were no wagons to circle around him for protection. And the big man finally let out how upset he was when no one came to his rescue when he was ganged up by Talk ‘N Text.

In a practice game with the Tropang Texters, the Nationals were pulling away from the pro team after turning the game into a jam session-cum-block party. Prior to that scrimmage, the PBA club had been beaten soundly in several tune up matches by the junior squad and clearly, it wasn’t funny anymore. That day, not only was Giles getting their goat but he was throwing a few choice elbows as well (although that depends on who you speak to for some Gilas players claim that the senior squad was playing dirty). At the half, the TNT team talked about teaching Giles a lesson at the next provocation.

With Gilas up by 10 in the third quarter, Ranidel de Ocampo and Giles became entangled and the former began throwing punches. Quickly, the Tropang Texters held Giles apart as the other teed off on the American. Mac Cardona even raced from the bench and began kicking the prone form of Giles. When asked later why he joined the fray when he wasn’t on the floor, Cardona replied, “Eh, Amerikano.”

What Giles did not see was his teammates rush to his aid but were prevented by both Gilas officials and Tropang Texters who had surrounded Giles. Giles privately felt the team had no balls and this only proved him right. He seethed at the inaction and the lack of fight. His thoughts regarding the team would resurface later on when Smart Gilas played Burger King in their opening assignment of the Philippine Cup.

But that was then. Now Giles was asked to produce the emails where the time stamps would prove part of his story, but it wasn’t enough to let him off the hook. An emergency meeting between tem officials was called. Most were predisposed to send him home and the meetings became tense.

The ramifications of the 20-point loss to Talk ‘N Text would be felt in the coming days as many in the league and in the media wondered that if the game was rigged to give the PLDT-owned team, a brother team because of it’s common patronage, an advantage in the standings.

Rabeh Al-Hussaini, the team’s new signee from the UAAP Champion Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles didn’t suit up as did his former teammate and Gilas skipper Chris Tiu. Al-Hussaini had been down with a fever for several days while Tiu was nursing a bruised thigh. Still the league was having none of it even if Gilas, still sans Giles and Tiu, suffered a double-digit and third consecutive loss to Barangay Ginebra.

Within a few days, PBA Commissioner Sonny Barrios sent Eala a letter stating that the nationals’ matches would be rendered non-bearing and the pro team’s victories over them would be nullified.

An angry SBP mulled over pulling out.

It was a public relations nightmare for both. The league’s decision was unprecedented. Never had they changed their rules midway during a tourney. Some theorized that it was the league’s way of getting back at Eala who was Barrios’ predecessor as league commissioner and who resigned in disgrace after being disbarred from his law practice after a messy marital problem. Other also said that the PBA had conspired to get back at Gilas after the Aguilar incident, the rout of Powerade, and Wynne Arboleda’s attack of a courtside fan during an extremely dirty game between Burger King and Gilas in the national’s first match of the Philippine Cup.

However the situation was complex. The PBA was a staunch member of the SBP and had been most helpful in the national endeavor. An agreement was reached to keep Gilas in the conference even if the matches were no longer counted. Giles, who had somewhat patched up his relationship with Toroman, was given a few days’ leave to attend to his son.

And by his return, the team seemed to break out of its funk as won their first game of the conference – over hardluck Coca Cola, a team not without its own share of troubles.

If anyone expected Giles to be chastened and more abiding of team rules, they should have taken those drug tests that Toroman asked of the import.

Within days of his promising that he would be a changed man, in a drunken stupor, Giles beat up his younger brother that required several stitches. And after a practice where he seemed out of it, the team’s braintrust finally had enough. Giles was sent packing. It didn’t help that Giles didn’t pass the drug test. He nervously tried to stay away from it if not delay submitting urine samples. But once he did, he nervously muttered, “I’m going to fail this.”

And the CJ Giles Experiment was over six months into it.

But within a day of his departure, the former Laker, was in Beirut where the Lebanese Champion Al Riyadi, which had long coveted him since his spectacular performance in the FIBA Champions Challenge Cup, signed him to contract. And there was talk that he would be naturalized alongside former Phoenix Sun Jackson Vroman who was a proven scoring machine.

“Him being there, if he is naturalized” noted one veteran sports scribe, “could haunt us one day.”

  

Post:

After the loss to Sta. Lucia, the team’s fifth in six matches, some players were of a mind that they were robbed of the win because of spotty officiating. When they added up everything that had transpired since that game with Powerade, they’re respect for the pro circuit had dwindled. “Nakakawalang respeto,” chorused several players.

While they all felt for the loss of CJ, they were quite relieved that the circus was over. “For a while it wasn’t basketball anymore,” thought Toroman. “But the good thing is, we make our adjustments now. Now while there is still time.

Chocolate Tin Eagles

Blue tooth meet sweet tooth.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Score Episode 9 Nov. 23 2009

Get Adobe Flash player

Wide Open

From left to right: Fernando Verdasco, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Nikolay Davydanko, and Robin Soderling.

"The one who says there is no fear at all will lie to you."

Novak Djokovic, the third ranked-male tennis player in the world, said that heading into the final ATP tournament of the year, the World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London, England. 

And you know, he's probably right. It's Murderer's Row all right when you think that the competition features Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Martin del Potro, Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydanko, and Robin Soderling (who replaced Andy Roddick who withdrew because of a left-knee injury). 

"This," pronounced R-Fed after surveying the field, "is wide open."

This is an elite line-up and Nadal, after battling an assortment of injuries, is healthy once more. And Federer is still wary. "He had the most incredible first five months of the year before he got injured. Now he's got a chance to finish strong."

The winner of the tournament could be $1.63 million richer. But while these guys already have the money, a win here is for bragging rights. 

"This is a chance to be the very best," said a confident Nadal. "That sounds nice."

Monday, November 23, 2009

For bargain hunters and a nice gift for your kids

Mike Lupica is a sports columnist for the New York Daily News. Aside from his usual beat, he also writes children's books and Miracle on 49th Street, while a work of fiction, is a winner. I chanced upon a hardcover copy of this in Booksale Megamall this afternoon -- for Php50 smackers! So cool!

And here is the Booklist preview: When 12-year-old Molly Parker returns to America from England following her mother's death from cancer, she harbors a secret: her father is the star point guard of the Boston Celtics, Josh Cameron. Molly confronts Josh, who reacts with ambivalence to the sudden news that he is a father, but as their relationship grows, he seems to want to make Molly part of his life. Still, he also seems worried about his good-guy, bachelor image. Adding further pressure to the situation are his warmhearted housekeeper and greedy, image-conscious agent. Despite a sentimental ending, Lupica delivers a winning novel, creating a realistic character in Molly by authentically capturing both her fragility and pluck. Young readers will also enjoy the look inside Josh's pampered sports-superstar world. Ostensibly sports fiction, this could attract a wide range of readers.

A Real Comeback. Except it was for RSL.


The season began with more of the same – a circus. Only it seemed to degenerate into an international incident. David Beckham versus Landon Donovan.

Donovan’s comments about Becks in a book were unflattering to the former England captain. But why not? It was the truth.

But the truth was Beckham had misplayed his hand. He could have significantly raised his profile. Boosted his stock. Instead he was a largely ineffective captain of the LA Galaxy who was also at the same time not in the pink of health.

After Frank Yallop and Ruud Gullit, the Galaxy finally brought in the most bemedalled American football coach in Bruce Arena. In his famous words to Donovan: “Let him (Beckham) be the captain; you be the star.”

Donovan performed well in the latter and led the Galaxy in scoring a year ago. But Beckham’s gallivanting and near defection to AC Milan destroyed him in the eyes of many. So he was stripped of his captain’s armband and booed in his first trip back to the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

But after another slow start, the Galaxy began to play great football. In fact they were only one point less than perennial power Colombus 49 to 48. Although they finished at 12-12-6, they made it to the MLS Finals after beating Houston 2-0.

Except while they were one of the better teams in the past season, they were up against a red hot Real Salt Lake that played the best football in the second half of the season.

It seemed perfect… an opportunity for the LA Galaxy to win a title. And Becks, would have won another title in another continent and it would have significantly boosted his falling stock in North America. Except that this time, hobbled and bother by a stingy RSL defense, Becks and the Galaxy were kept on their heels.

And as it went into penalty kicks, Donovan, who had converted on 21 of 23 chances missed badly as his spot kick went way high up the crossbar as RSL keeper Nick Rimando guessed wrong. Edson Buddle, who was named after Brazilian great Pele, bungled a third PK and LA’s chances of staying alive depended on RSL’s Robbie Russell who nailed it 5-4 for the expansion team.

It was a terrible way to lose. But think of the magnificent turnaround – from last place to second place. And the year that started out with gossip page fodder became all about football and really, isn't that what it should be all about (Alex Rodriguez had a similar year except he held aloft a trophy by the season's end). As Beckham gets ready to play once more with the Rossoneri in order to secure a place with England’s campaign in South Africa, the future suddenly seems bright.

And for Victoria Beckham who will be staying with the couple’s three sons in Los Angeles, it is a sign that Goldenballs will be back. Hopefully, he will have fire once more in his eyes.