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, May 31, 2010

Schedule of remaining FilOil Invitational Games

Kobe Bryant and the Fellowship of the Ring

Kobe Bryant and the Fellowship of the Ring

by rick olivares

A few weeks ago, it seemed a little far-fetched that the Boston Celtics would make the National Basketball Association Finals. On the other hand for the Los Angeles Lakers, it was like a foregone conclusion that they’d figure in the final clash for this year’s Larry O’Brien trophy.

Now it’s Boston versus Los Angeles for the 11th time. Rather than dwell on the obvious match-up, I thought I’d look at Kobe Bryant’s making the Finals from a different perspective.

Hindsight is 20/20 but say this about the Lakers’ management (from owner Jerry Buss down to General Manager Mitch Kupchak), they are wholly justified in retaining Bryant who is one of two remnants (the other being point guard Derek Fisher) of the early dynasty of the new millennium.

Bryant has led the team to its third straight Finals appearance sans Shaquille O'Neal (who may yet one day return to the Staples Center as a spectator and in better relations with the organization) and has an opportunity to avenge the humiliation of 2008 when Boston dusted off LA with a thorough butt kicking.

Come Game 1 this NBA Finals, it will be Bryant's seventh appearance with Los Angeles, one that ties him with James Worthy and Byron Scott (although both won only three titles in 1985, 1987 and 1988). Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is next with eight trips to the title round (where he won five rings). Lastly, there is Jerry West and Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

When West was with the Lakers, he formed one of the game’s great duos alongside Elgin Baylor. However, if Baylor wasn’t injured, he spent the better portion of one season fulfilling his military service. Without Baylor, West shouldered the offensive load aside from leading the squad. The only time he surrendered leadership and the scoring lead was when Wilt Chamberlain and Gail Goodrich came on board years later and that was in the twilight of his career. "Mr. Clutch" as West was called -- he was "Big Game" even before Worthy -- made the NBA Finals for nine years but won only once – in 1972 when things simply turned LA’s way. It was painful for him to be turned back by Bill Russell's Boston Celtics almost year after year. And if it wasn’t those guys in green then it was Willis Reed's New York Knicks.

If West’s great career was marred by futility at the Big Dance, it was the opposite for Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Not since Bill Russell was in Celtic green had the NBA seen someone make the Finals seem like a birthright.

When the Lakers won the coin toss in 1979 and picked out Johnson from Michigan State (the Chicago Bulls were left with UCLA’s David Greenwood a serviceable but unspectacular center), the do-it-all point guard brought Los Angeles to a plateau that only Boston stood upon. Where the term “dynasty” -- rightfully reserved for centuries-old Chinese empires” as Chicago Sun Times writer Rick Telander once wrote -- was conferred upon the team. The team of the 1980’s to be more precise.

Johnson helped the Lakers to the title in his rookie year and at the expense of a supposedly stronger Philadelphia 76ers team that featured Julius Erving, Caldwell Jones, Darryl Dawkins, and Maurice Cheeks among others. And Magic did it while playing center as he subbed for an injured Jabbar. He led them to eight more appearances for a total of five championships and on the way repaid as debt with Boston as they took the head-to-head Finals match up in the 80's 2-1.

And now, it's Kobe's turn to uphold the Lakers' honor.

After rudely being brushed aside in 2008, he led the purple and gold to a championship -- his fourth overall and first sans the Big Sour Puss (O’Neal) -- against the overmatched Orlando Magic. This season it's Boston-Los Angeles for the second time in three years. It revives a rivalry that was dead following the retirement of Johnson and Larry Bird.

A win by the Celtics will give their Big Three (or now the Big Four as Rajon Rondo has become one of the NBA’s elite) of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen their second title and at the very least dispel any talk of one-year wonders.

A win by the Lakers and it ties Bryant with Magic Johnson for the most titles won by a Laker (okay you can throw in George Mikan but that was in Minneapolis) with five. Whether he is thinking about it or not, that will give him one more than Shaq and put him one away from breaking the Lakers' record for most titles won by a player since current nucleus should be good for another two years.

But that might just be for conjecture.

Let a Larry Bird -- a Celtic of all persons -- quote put this in a whole different light. After winning his third title with Boston in 1986 against the Houston Rockets, said the self-proclaimed hick from French Lick, "Championship rings? I'm greedy about them."

Bleachers' Brew #211 He's Still Got Game

This appears in my May 31, 2010 column in the sports section of Business Mirror. Erratum: Thanks for pointing out the mistake on Danny Florencio!

He’s Still Got Game

Old school? Aric del Rosario has been involved with the game of basketball for over five decades now. And he tells Rick Olivares that he’s still got game.

Aric del Rosario is a basketball junkie.

By all rights and purposes, he should stay home retired and become a couch potato. He’s earned it after all – two championships as a player for UST, four later as his alma mater’s coach, a bunch of titles as an assistant to Alaska in the PBA during the 1990’s, one as a benchmaster of the Pampanga Dragons, and a one-time stint as coach of the national team.

Except that he is entering his fifth decade of being involved in the game of basketball in various capacities – player, coach, and league commissioner of various alphabet soup leagues.

Maybe in his younger days he would brag about the championships he’s won. Maybe he won’t. Maybe it will take the prodding of liquor.

Except that he seems almost embarrassed that someone else is singing high praises of a resume few coaches have.

He still works seven days a week. He’s commissioner for the Fr. Martin Cup that is played four times a week. On the three other days? He is co-commissioner of the Fil Oil Invitational Tournament.

You think his wife is used to it?

In the den of his home he has two television sets. At night, they are oft switched on at the same time – one for the PBA games and another for the NBA.

His wife throws up her hands – “Maghapon ka na nasa Arena paguwi mo pa basketball pa rin!" If she needs to watch the latest tele-novela she can do so upstairs in their room.

He smirks. He no longer patrols the sidelines yelling, cussing, and gesticulating like he used to when his Glowing Goldies lorded it over the UAAP. Even then he looked like a grizzled veteran. Not a basketball player mind you. But like Mickey. The crusty old “Mickey” that was played by Burgess Meredith in Rocky.

But age is a state of mind. He isn’t one of those old dogs who cannot be taught new tricks. His stint as commissioner of the NCAA and Fil Oil has given him a different perspective on things. He isn’t ashamed to admit that he was also wrong back then. That at times, he was a pain. He understands the referees and officials and the work that needs to be done to keep the game safe and sound. He can appreciate the scientific approach to the game. The new breed of coaches with a different savvy. He observes and learns. But he’s still old school in many ways.

When he played for UST, he started at forward alongside Danny Florencio. His coach for two years was Fely Fajardo and during his last two years, Caloy Loyzaga. He played against Joe Lipa who starred for UP. And there was of course, “the Big J” – the UE Warriors’ Robert Jaworski who stymied him in his last few years as the Big Red Machine won seven straight titles.

The Warriors proved to be a thorn in his side. In his first year as coach of UST, he had a young spitfire of a guard in Alfredo “Pido” Jarencio. There was Bennett Palad, Julian Rabbi Tomacruz, Gido Babilonia, and Alfrancis Chua. They were stopped cold by the Warriors of Allan Caidic and Jerry Codinera.

The loss in the finals was painful and even if he would guide the Goldies to a four-peet a decade later, he still feels the pain for Jarencio et al.

He still feels pain when UST – now called the Growling Tigers – lose and people call for him to return to the gold and black’s sidelines.

Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. But he knows it’s not his time anymore but even up to last year in 2009, he was coaching in the Liga Pilipinas. It’s the only thing he is really good at, he admits with a chuckle. If he stays home, the Kapampangan in him will cook and cook and he’d grow fat. He’s a little more round in the edges, a little more gray in the hair with lines in his face, but more or less, Coach Aric is still the same. “You should see my kids,” he challenged. “Ang tataba.”

He may have seen it all but in a room full of old warriors that includes another great – Ato Badolato. The old war stories fly thick. The youngsters who work in the tournament’s backroom seem unimpressed. But when the media come in – and most of them are hoop junkies too – his eyes light up and he talks. He dispenses old school wisdom and stories that cackle with mischievousness and basketball trivia.

Has there ever been an all-star line-up of coaches such as what they had in Alaska in the 90’s? There was Tim Cone, Chot Reyes, Joel Banal, and himself. Great times. Great stuff. Don’t think coach has gone sentimental and will get teary-eyed. Instead, he lets loose a cussword. Even after all these years, he is still in disbelief. Long removed from his playing days but on the other side of the court was his old nemesis Sonny Jaworski who was the heart and soul of Ginebra San Miguel. This time, his team, Alaska, turned the tables on Jaworski as they played many a spoiler’s role to Ginebra.

When someone asked if del Rosario would deign to coach for another school he is quick to answer. “Oo naman. Basta wag lang sa UAAP. Hindi ko kaya mag-coach laban sa aking alma mater. Buong pamilya ko diyan nagpunta. Hindi maaring walang sasama ang loob. Sa ibang liga okay lang.”

The Fil Oil Invitational will wrap up in two weeks. And two weeks after, the 86th edition of the NCAA will get underway where Del Rosario is once more commissioner. His wife throws up her hands but she understands. Her husband is in love with only two things – family and basketball.

Was it ever mentioned that Aric del Rosario is a basketball junkie?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New kicks

I love this tennis shoe for its superb cushioning. It's slightly lighter than the Barricade but it still fits my feet snuggly while giving it some room to breathe. The traction is fantastic especially for hard court surfaces. And like the Tirand which I truly love as a shoe, it doesn't stick when you need to make sudden stops and quick turns. There's another variant -- the Barricade adilibria that has perforated holes that allow your feet to breathe. What I love about the Barricade, Tirand, and the Response is that my feet don't feel boxed in and never at the cost of keeping you free from ankle injuries.

I wore my Tirand a lot in Singapore where I did a lot of walking and touring and it was perfect. When you're traveling it's important to wear shoes that are not only comfortable but will provide a lot of cushioning for your feet when walking. I'm perfectly happy with it that I intend to purchase a second pair.

Does the Tirand and Response hold up for walking or jogging? Yes, they do.

On moving a Grand Slam event

I was reading about how French Open organizers are pondering a move of the tennis event away from Roland Garros, it’s home since 1923.

It seems that the event has outgrown its home and with residents and environmentalists challenging plans for improvements, organizers are wondering if the venue should be moved.

It isn’t going to be easy because for one, it’s in Paris. And two, the only other locations will take some driving time and aren’t ready to handle the influx of tourists and fans.

Of course, any plans to move the French Open away from Roland Garros will be met with a firestorm of protest. Personally, I think that organizers and residents should meet halfway. After all, should the French Open move then it’s the loss of the area. The only reason why the real estate value has jumped is because of the Grand Slam event. Let no one else kid you about that. Tourism is up because of the history of the tennis event.

It never is easy to move a popular sporting event or a team out of a venue that it has become synonymous with. But one of the things that I have learned that change is constant and good.

For the longest time, the Blue Eagle Gym was home to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. But when the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center was put up the team no longer practiced there. The facility at the far end of the campus was so much better and had the facilities the team needed.

I guess storied venues do go the way of the wrecking ball. There’s Chicago Stadium, the original Soldier Field, Boston Garden, and there’s Yankee Stadium to name a few. They moved to accommodate bigger crowds and to maximize their earnings. In the era of free agency with pricey contracts, moving to a bigger venue for higher profit is a no-brainer.

The Australian Open has changed venues seven times. Melbourne is the current home and it should remain there for quite some time. It was even held in New Zealand twice!

The US Tennis Open was once held at Forest Hills in Queens, New York. It was at the West Side Tennis Club to be more precise. Forest Hills is an upscale section of Queens. Kind of expensive if you ask me but with the right kind of snobbery for want of a better term.

When the US Open moved to nearby Flushing Meadows in 1978 (22 years ago) it was to a bigger facility. If there were concerns about getting there then it is easily accessible via subway, bus, or taxi. And moving also meant a change in surfaces. In Forest Hills, for the most part, tennis was played on grass. But I think in the last few years there they experimented with clay. But in Flushing Meadows, they make use of an artificial turf that makes for faster balls. Of course there were concerns and protests but look at the decision to move now -- it was the right thing to do.

The neighborhood has seen an improvement but continued immigration (from people who need a lesson in proper cleanliness) but it can on occasion get dirty. With Citi Field (and Shea Stadium before that) nearby it makes up Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The area is popular with joggers, tourists (also because of the Unisphere that the Mall of Asia copied), and other sports enthusiasts.

The US Open is more boisterous than any of the other Grand Slam events. I know that some tennis players complain about the noise from passing airplanes that take off from JFK or LaGuardia. Maybe because it’s New York that's why it is noisier. It has that rock ‘n roll atmosphere that can pump up a player. When I think of Jimmy Connors comeback in the 1989 US Open that makes my hair stand up. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. He lost to – man, I am not sure now – Jim Courier or Michael Chang. But the place was rocking.

I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the US Tennis Open and work part time in the event (selling programs). I’ve always wanted to watch in Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and Melbourne. All I can take away from those venues and events is what I see on television.

Regarding changes in venues. I think that it’s okay because at the end of the day, it’s the people, the athletes, and the fans who make the venue what it is. They create the memories and the history. At the end of the day, it’s doing what is right for the sport. So the French Open... why not?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

This is what the World Cup is all about

I always thought that football commercials had more substance than any other sport and said much about the way the world is. And this commercial "United" sums up everything you need to know what the World Cup and the game of football stands for. "United" features Bono doing the voice over and the music of U2's "Magnificent" as the soundtrack. This is, in my honest opinion, the anti-thesis of Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire."

And below is the full-length version of the "Jose +10" adidas commercial of the 2006 World Cup. Man, Franz Beckenbauer. Der Kaiser! One of my all-time fave players (of course, he played for the New York Cosmos).

No tragedy for the Celtics. Just a shot at banner #18.

The Eastern playoff picture is a wasteland for teams with very good regular season record. The problem with that is both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic have been turned into roadkill by the Boston Celtics who turned things up a notch come play-off time. It's like they were bored during the regular season grind waiting for the playoffs to begin then boom! It was lights out for everyone else. There were two bumps on the road for these Celts but what they needed in the end was that good old homecooking. Re-energeized by being back home, they pulverized the Magic who were Tragic in the end. Another season of futility for Dwight Howard and company.

I'm happy for Nate Robinson. Many wondered why Boston picked him up. He seemed miscast in green and white. But now -- Doc Rivers and Magic Johnson look like seers.

I'm happy for Danny Ainge. He sure took some heat for picking up some of the bench players they have but look at these guys -- they're now in a position to win an unprecedented 18th NBA title.

In 1981, when the Celtics picked up Ainge away from the Toronto Blue Jays (he did hit two home runs for the Jays in an okay career as a Major League ballplayer), in those first few games, I remember telling myself, "Now this is one guy who seems born to play for Boston." I said that because he was like a ML Carr lite. Waving his towel, exuberant, and one who embraced what it was like to play in Boston. I still think it was a mistake that they traded him away to Sacramento but Ainge did find success with the Portland Trailblazers and the Phoenix Suns. And what a homecoming for him in Beantown (of course he had a couple of lousy years as GM that sort of made everyone wonder if he knew what he was doing)!

Now they wait and that gives time for Rajon Rondo and Rasheed Wallace to recuperate. If they're up against the Los Angeles Lakers that's going to be one heck of a finals. One that no one saw coming.

Les 23 pour l'Afrique du Sud

I'm rooting for two teams in the 2010 World Cup -- USA and France. I have been rooting for Les Bleus for the last two decades now beginning with the team of Youri Djorkaeff, Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Zinedine Zidane, and Patrick Vieira. This will in all likelihood be Thierry Henry's last World Cup (and he's team captain) and he should really try and go out with a bang because he had a sub-par season with Barcelona. But much of Les Bleus' success will have to do with their young midfield corps of Jeremy Toulalan, Franck Ribery, and Yoann Gourcuff. If they slice through opposing team's then that will open up the field for Nicolas Anelka and Henry. The problem with this team is that they are notoriously slow starters. Their last run in Germany was largely fueled by the individual brilliance of Zidane and Ribery who was a breakout star for the French. Also gone are Lilian Thuram, Claude Makelele, Vieira, and Fabian Barthez.

Although they stumbled on their way to South Africa, the fact that they have qualified for four straight trips to football's biggest stage is huge. They may not strike fear in the hearts of opponents as they once did but you can never discount them. Not with their rising stars.

It's up to Gourcuff and Toulalan to show that they belong. They're in Group A along with hosts South Africa, Mexico, and Uruguay. They shouldn't take any team lightly.

Friday at the Fil Oil Invitational

NU's Jewel Ponferrada is thriving with the presence of Emmanuel Mbe in the slot. As I written some time ago, he did well when Edwin Asoro was there because he played clean-up to what his teammate missed out on. Last season, with Ponferrada as the man in the middle, he floundered. This year, with another big who can help him and the team, he is doing better. He just needs to finish better. Against FEU in the Fil Oil Invitational, he missed a lay-up that could have given his side some breathing space or even the win. Yesterday, against CSB, he missed two free throws with a few seconds left. Luis Sinco missed one free throw for the Blazers that gave NU the chance to win it at the buzzer but they missed. Growing pains for these Bulldogs although they played minus three players who were out with minor injuries.

I told Richard del Rosario I thought I'd never see him smile again (except in the PBA). He closes out his team's campaign with a 54-52 win. Is this the Blazers' line-up for the NCAA? No. They will evaluate and maybe bring up some of their Team B guys playing in the Fr. Martin's Cup.

The Mapua Cardinals were overwhelmed by the FEU Tamaraws yesterday 86-72. Big game by Pippou Noundou who finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists. The Cardinals were no match from the very beginning.

I missed the game between Emilio Aguinaldo College and University of Perpertual Help Dalta System that came down to the final shot. The Altas escaped with a 76-75 win.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Stuff

Interesting reads from the latest issue of Time magazine:

- Facebook and how it is redefining privacy

- "Resumed Innocent" by Nathan Thornburgh on using DNA to prove that executed inmates were in fact innocent.

The game between Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini at the French Open that was played until 9:55PM with only a scoreboard providing the available light. I am not familiar with the rules on games playing onto the night but I wonder if tournament official Stefan Fransson knew it was right. Anyways both Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils agreed to go on so if there was any difficulty then they were just as much to blame. But what a bizarre match. Was hoping that Monfils would advance.

Manuel Pellegrini, former Real Madrid coach, hits back at Florentino Perez and his club for the lack of professionalism. And I totally agree with his comments (here reprinted from Soccernet from the radio interview with Cadena Ser):

"I came here with high hopes and great pride to manage this team. Unfortunately I wasn't able to do what I wanted to do and I had differences from the beginning of the season. There were a lot of disagreements in the club. I asked for them to keep (Wesley) Sneijder and (Arjen) Robben, who were two very important players for me. I missed having a debate on sporting issues, with the coach included. As (former Real coach and current Spain boss) Vicente Del Bosque said, even the club shows no respect for the position of the coach, and they don't give them the authority internally or externally. Florentino's project is extraordinary but I think he's got it wrong. It hurt above all because they had already tied up a new coach which isn't ethical. I wouldn't have spoken about a team that already had a coach in place. It isn't very ethical, but he (Jose Mourinho) is a coach that has proven he is a winner in every team he has been with."

How soon is Neverland?

How soon is Neverland?

by rick olivares

In the movie Hook (starring Robin Williams and directed by Steven Spielberg), a sequel of sorts on the fairy tale of Peter Pan, the eternal kid is all grown up. Suddenly confronted with age and the problems that come along with it, he is advised to retreat back to his “happy thought” (being a father) in order to relearn magic and to fly.

A rejuvenated Peter Pan goes on to vanquish the returning Captain Hook, save his family, and finally bring back peace to Neverland. And as fairy tales oft end, they all live happily ever after.

Neverland for Jeffrey Solis is the memory of Melbourne, Australia in December of 2008 and the memory burns fiercely in his mind.

For seven days in December, Solis was shown a vision of hope. During that time, he was a part of the first Philippine Homeless World Cup Team that competed and finished 44th in a 48-country field. The competition features a four-a-side mixed lineup of players at least 16 years of age. In the tourney, teams compete in two 14-minute halves in a small-sized court with a dimension of 22x16 meters. It’s like futsal only in a faster and more exciting setting.

Team Philippines didn’t win much, taking only 4 of their 13 matches but at the end of the competition, but in the end, they came away like cup winners.

In the five editions of the Homeless World Cup, the organization has reported a 73% success rate of its participants bettering their positions in life after this unique experience.

Bill Shaw is from East Jordan, Michigan, but he found his calling in the Philippines as the Executive Director for Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation Inc. and the organizer for the local Homeless World Cup team. Said Shaw, “What we’re trying to do is get kids off the streets. Help them get an education, and look for opportunities for them after the competition. One of our efforts is selling a street magazine called “The Jeepney” which is all about issues of poverty. For their efforts, the kids get a percentage of the sales. Our mission is not just for the homeless but also those recovering from substance and alcohol abuse and the poor. The HWC is a home for the homeless and the disenfranchised.”

Talk about opportunity. For the entire Team Philippines, the Homeless World Cup was an eye opener.

Solis was surprised by how different, how clean Melbourne was. He never dreamed about going to another country because such a thought wasn’t even in the realm of possibility. The only time he began to earnestly dream about it when the team began its earnest preparations for the tournament. He rode on an airplane, made new friends, ate different food, and for the first time in his life, felt like a different person. The things the fortunate take for granted were a wholly new and intoxicating experience for Solis and his teammates. But more than the experience and the medals that were proof of their participation in Melbourne, they were shown a glimpse of hope.

He hated to come home. It was an uncertain future after all. But the team organizers did their best to help them by giving them work, shelter, clothing, and allowances.

Jeff Solis knows the streets of Manila so well. Abandoned by his mother years ago, he had to fend for himself by begging, working as a jeepney barker, and sniffing rugby when he wanted all his problems to go away. Picked up in the stratosphere half naked by the Manila Police, he was brought to the Tuloy sa Don Bosco Street Children Village in Muntinlupa where half the HWC team comes from (the other half hails from the Nayon ng Kabataan of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Mandaluyong City). There he found a home, religion, an education, and football.

Excited about the prospect of going to Australia and representing the country, he was informed that he needed his parents’ signature for him to get his passport to Australia. After much looking, his mother surfaced one day. She merely said “hi” to her long-lost son, signed the papers, and disappeared again. Just when Jeff is on the rebound, his old life sneaks in a sucker punch to the gut that leaves him in tears.

After Melbourne, coming home was a jarring reality check.

Along with his Homeless World Cup teammates Jay-R de Jesus and Kevin Prix Logioy, the three finished a vocational course at Tuloy sa Don Bosco before they moved out to find their place in the world.

Jay-R helps teach football at Sisters of Mary Boystown in Silang, Cavite, while Kevin works in a restaurant. Jeffrey is now with former national player Rudy del Rosario at the Art of Playing Football School in Sun Valley, ParaƱaque. The money the three youngsters collectively make isn’t much but they get by. They rent a small room in United ParaƱaque where they each have a mattress and a pillow to lie down on and a couple of electric fans to beat the heat in this sizzling summer.

Education and sports. They are considered as the great equalizers in life. To be so near yet so far.

Jeffrey was offered a football scholarship at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines but it was held back because he had only finished a vocational course and did not complete his high school education. The setback upset Solis who admits that it contributes to his unhappiness. He has no idea on what to do although del Rosario is trying to find a way to help him finish his education and get a diploma. Solis knows his knowledge about football is only so much and it will only give him so much work.

Everyday he wages a battle in his mind to revert back to the street life that he once lived or to continue with only a sliver of hope to light his way. That is why he constantly retreats to those seven days in Melbourne. When he does, he feels the tears streak down his cheek.

“Ayoko na ng buhay na ganito.” he said meekly as he turned away apparently ashamed that he has let someone glimpse him in all his vulnerability.

“Sabi nila sa football dapat hindi mag-give up dahil lagging mayroon bukas at isa pang laro,” he suddenly chimed wanting to explain himself. “Kailangan lang kumapit sa paniniwala na ‘yon.”

Jeffrey Solis is hoping and working for a happy ending.

Post script: The other members of the first Philippine team to the Homeless World Cup include Kevin Prix Logioy who now works at Henlin, Ricky Elequio who works at Amici Restaurant, Nina Verzosa and Rondolf Longgakit still both live at Nayon ng Kabataan where they are finishing up their secondary education. Russel Jacinto worked in a Chinese restaurant before returning to her native Agusan del Sur.

Urban Opportunities for Change Foundation was founded by William and Deborah Shaw in November 2007 in order to call attention and find solutions to the issues of homelessness and poverty. Through participation in the Homeless World Cup, they hope to provide their players with a positive life changing experience that will help them continue their education and find steady employment through its corporate sponsors or through football. Even after their participation in the Homeless World Cup, the Shaws know their work is only beginning as they look for ways to help their wards. Obviously, it isn't easy. While all seven of the first team are employed or back in school, the Shaws constantly have to work and guide them.

Yep, it is in him.

I picked out this from -- Facebook CEO Zuckerberg holding a PET bottle of Gatorade while in his trademark hoodie. Low-key look for this Harvard genius.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What it is!

When I first saw the mascots of the 2012 London Olympics -- Wenlock and Mandeville -- I thought of Dr. Seuss. Upon even more scrutiny, I thought that they were mutant freaks (ET go home). But whether they are cuddly or not or will make great stuffed toys or what, should we be surprised since this is the country that brought us Dr. Who and those insufferable Daleks.

Is Jose Mourinho made for Madrid?

Is Jose Mourinho made for Madrid?

By Rick Olivares

An unprecedented era of glory in Madrid? Or another one, an expensive special one who will bite the dust after one season?

Since 1999, Real Madrid CF has had 10 managers. That’s 10 in a decade or roughly one every year. Yet during the 2004-05 season, they went through three managers – Jose Antonio Camacho, Mariano Garcia Remon, and Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

Among the 10, three won La Liga titles – Vicente del Bosque, Fabio Capello, and Bernd Schuster – with the former being the most successful in his four-year stay. Capello and Schuster were replaced a year after they won and was not given a chance to defend their title. And ironically, Capello has twice coached the club for a year and each time, he won the domestic championship and each time he was let go because his side played Italian-style defensive football; far from the attacking flair that is desired in the Santiago de Bernabeu Stadium.

Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini was just let go after one year with Los Merengues. His side, filled with expensive superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, and Xabi Alonso did not win the La Liga. Their loss to eventual titlists FC Barcelona the other month being the difference in the title race that came down to the final game of the season on points.

Incidentally, Pellegrini won 75% of his team’s matches, the best ever in Real Madrid history.

But a second place finish with its highest points total ever (Barcelona, back-to-back winners also had its highest points total this season), a roundof-16 exit in the Champions League and a dismal upset in the Copa del Ray led to the manager’s dismissal. And the greedy fat cats led by club President Florentino Perez who spent enough money to pay for several countries’ debts with their Galactico II project deemed the season a failure.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

How can a team win when every year there is a change in the system and style of play? The players can always sabotage the manager if they do not like him knowing that the club officials hold him on a short leash?

And now perhaps this club’s biggest signing-to-be isn’t some football sensation but a special one – the arrogant Jose Mourinho who comes with an ego the size of the Eiffel Tower. Mourinho, fresh from a Treble with Inter Milan, will come in with unprecedented powers where even if he doesn’t win the Liga cannot be let go. Mourinho who demands the spotlight and center stage. Mourinho who makes Liverpool’s Rafael Benitez sound like an annoying minnow. Why not? He has talked the talk and walked the walk.

While at the San Siro where he turned AC Milan into second-rate co-tenants, he would openly flirt with the majesty of Madrid; of returning the club to its former glory. His quotes all but condemned Pellegrini into a top-or-duplicate-Barcelona’s-treble-feat situation. But then again, maybe not.

After all, Capello and Shuster piped the Catalans yet were dismissed after a year.

How Mourinho challenges Perez will be of great interest seeing as to how he did the same with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. But he is no longer special in Stamford Bridge since the Blues won the Premiership and FA Cup this season under Carlo Ancelotti. But make no mistake, Mourinho’s legend grows. He’s won with Porto, Chelsea, and Inter Milan. He is the latest version of Fabio Capello who has won with every club he’s been.

Capello can only dwarf him if he leads England to the World Cup Finals in Johannesburg this July. He will be knighted and take Wayne Rooney’s place in the recent Nike advert “Write the Future” where the Manchester United forward is given a glimpse of glory or slow death pending the outcome of the World Cup.

But Real Madrid… is it worth it? They have high hopes now after they shamelessly cast aside Pellegrini. After all, they have just made a play for the biggest Galactico of them all.


This appears in the May 28, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tase him! Quick!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Season 7 VLeague winners

L-R Season 7 VLeague Awardees - Analyn Joy Benito (Most Improved Player), Lizlee Ann Gata (Best Digger), Jennelyn Belen (Best Setter), Suzanne Roces (MVP), Bualee Jaroensri (Best Scorer), Aiza Maizo (Best Attacker), Nicollete Tabafunda (Best Server), Nasella Nica Guliman (Best Blocker), and Porntip Santrong (Best Receiver).

Bloodied, beaten, and bewildered

Steve Nash is one of my favorite NBA players yet there are times when I wonder if he’s an mixed martial artist what with those injuries of his that are sustained during games. I don’t recall seeing anyone banged up as bad as Nash in the NBA. Make no mistake, he is a warrior and is as tough as they come. At the end of his career, Nash will considered as be one of the best ever. But I gotta wonder if all these injuries are good for the Phoenix Suns.

What am I getting into? Well, it could be nothing. But then again…

In Game 1 of the Western Conference second round playoffs of 2007, Phoenix point guard Steve Nash sustained a gash on his nose following a collision with San Antonio’s Tony Parker. The Spurs won 111-106.

But Phoenix won the next game 101-81.

In Game 4 of that same series, Nash was hip checked by the Spurs Robert Horry that precipitated a near brawl. Horry was ejected and the Suns won 104-98 to level the series at two-games apiece.

But San Antonio won the next game and the Game 6 clincher.

In Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference finals against the LA Lakers, the Suns were fighting for their playoff lives and won 118-109. But Nash broke his nose following a collision with the Lakers’ Derek Fisher.

Am just wondering here, when the Suns win after a Nash “injury” does it mean that they will lose the next game? Is there a pattern here or is this nothing? We’re going to find out in Game 4.

Mine tangled thoughts III

Listening to AM radio yesterday, there was this congressman (is he) relating how someone approached him before the start of the campaign period about how they could rig the elections through the CF card. And if he paid up, they could guarantee a win. He said he wasn't an IT guy so he couldn't understand it. Now after the elections he comes up with the story. For one, it's like that in this country; if you lost, chances are you were cheated out of a win. Two, whether you know IT or not, I'm sure you know what cheating is. It's too late for you. You should have come out with it even before the elections.

What's this crap about LBJ, his mom, and Delonte West?

I feel bad about the loss of Smart Gilas to Kazakhstan. The team has been working real hard to the point of exhaustion and too much basketball. The crabs will be out to criticize them and this might be unfair to the team. But then again, to many people, there's nothing in between but Ws and Ls.

Many have asked me if I fought with the SBP leadership hence my reticence to write about them. No, there was none. Not even a disagreement. Simply put, it's hard to write about the team from a distance. I cannot simple craft a story about them based on the ED's text (although some can). I'm just not wired that way. I missed the last two trips and that makes it hard. Does it have something to do with not going? Yes, it does. It can be frustrating when you're told you're going then it doesn't happen (More so when people inside give conflicting stories as to what happened. Right, Joey?). It's also hard to rely on interviews after the fact because details get lost in translation. Lalo na pagtalo. They don't want to talk about it. Does this make me unhappy? Of course, it does. We were supposed to prep stories for a long term goal that is a book on the team. At least my colleagues are there so we can follow what they write (and I trust the guys over there).

This is an interesting read from the New York Times about the French Open poster.

And on the eve of the Stanley Cup -- the NHL Finals, here is a nice article about my downtrodden NY Islanders and how their dynasty of three decades ago remains the best in NHL history.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Some thoughts as the French Open begins

Rafael Nadal and Aravane Rezai are the two players in the men's and women's division who are on a hot streak as the French Open. Success in tennis can be fleeting and one injury can change everything. Ana Ivanovic has yet to reach that form and if Maria Sharapova didn't win the Strasbourg International for her 22nd title, then she'd be on the list.

Nadal is injury free and in top form and three successive titles shows he is hungry and focused. And... he's playing on clay so he's a favorite to win it all (he's won his last 15 matches on this surface). I wonder how long can he maintain that pace and game that is similar to Boris Becker's where he throws himself all over the court. That must sure be hell on his knees. He's won the major clay tournaments heading into Roland Garros. That would be a huge feat for him to bag this one as well. But as hot as he is, the men's tour is loaded. Won't be easy. Robin Soderling awaits.

Rezai will be a focus more so since she beat Justin Henin, Jelena Jankovic, and Venus Williams en route to her victory in Madrid. Yet even as a favorite in the women's draw, she knows how difficult it is for French women in their home tourney as they have wilted under the weight of expectations. If she does win it, she'll be the first French-born woman in the Open era to win the tournament. One can make a case for Mary Pierce but she was born in North America and just represented France (she even spoke in a clear North Am accent).

Bleachers' Brew #210 The Commissioner

This appears in the Monday May 24, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.

The Commissioner

by rick olivares

“The difficult part is being named the Commissioner. The easy part is running the league.”

Thus said the late Leo Prieto, the Philippine Basketball Association’s first commissioner who, despite his failing health, took the time to offer Renauld “Sonny” Barrios some advice.

After a five-year absence from the league as he joined former commissioner and childhood friend Emilio “Jun” Bernardino in retirement in 2002, Barrios was invited back to serve as Officer-in-Charge when his immediate predecessor, Jose Emmanuel “Noli” Eala stepped down. The interim status was soon upgraded to full-time position and Barrios was the league’s seventh commissioner.

The league’s founding fathers had laid down the groundwork for a support system that would keep the pro loop running like a finely tuned fastbreak. Even on bad days such as the controversy that surrounded his decision to upgrade the Flagrant Foul 1 call on Purefoods’ James Yap to a Flagrant Foul 2 (that carried with it a penalty of a one-game suspension) in a hotly contested finals series with Sta. Lucia in 2007.

The Commissioner’s office (along with a battery of lawyers, technical people, and senior league officials) goes through the rules with a comb and tries to come up with the best possible decisions. “There are many learnings,” intoned Barrios. “From that incident and others as well.”

At work, Barrios starts his day with a prayer with the entire PBA staff. “Let’s count our blessings not our misfortunes,” he would regularly remind his staff.

And though “misfortune” isn’t an appropriate word to describe this 35th season of the PBA, it has been one of the most tumultuous in its history (aside from the year when the rival Metropolitan Basketball Association was formed and the Fil-Sham controversy threatened to undo the league).

The ceremonial jump ball of the first game of the season had yet to be tossed when the league’s number one overall draft pick refused to sign with his club. And when the games began, Wynne Arboleda was suspended for the rest of the year (since lifted last month) after he attacked a heckling fan during a heated game against the Smart Gilas Pilipinas National Team. Not soon after that, Gilas’ matches were rendered non-bearing after their candidate for naturalization was benched against its “sister team” an incident that was questioned by other squads more so since the nationals and Talk ‘N Text were considered as sister teams as they were ran by the same owner. That was followed by the walk out by Talk ‘N Text and the subsequent financial state of health of a couple of teams that forced them to trade their star players to the top squads.

“There is never a dull moment in the PBA,” joked Barrios. “But on a more serious note, we have to find a balance here because the rich teams get stronger while the less financially liquid teams get weaker. But the league has weathered so many storms. And having been around for 35 years now -- that says something about its strength and staying power.”

At the time when Barrios joined the league, the PBA was the only show in town. The way the streets are deserted when Manny Pacquiao fights today? It was like that back in the day during the Finals. With more distractions, more pursuits, more choices, the pro loop has lost some of its luster. There are always new challenges and changes with the times. “The PBA has to find ways to adapt to the expanded competition.” said Barrios using the term they use to refer to other sports events such as college basketball, the NBA, the V-League, malls, internet, and other similar pursuits.

And based on all of that, there is the ultimate advice: “Pare, gitna ka lang parati.” That came from Atty. Rudy Salud, another former commissioner who helped craft the PBA’s constitution. “That’s how you navigate between the superpowers of the PBA. Siguraduhin mo na meron ka na kinakapitan na rules or regulations. At dapat mayroon kang high sense of fairness at hindi baluktot yung desisyon mo.”

The past and present commissioners are like an old boys club. They stick together and offer help and advice while maintaining their space as to give the other room to grow and the space to be his own man.

In every decision, one team will be satisfied while another will feel aggrieved. “They may not agree with you,” warned Salud. “But if you back it up well, they will respect it.

The league that Barrios grew up in was different. In fact, it was being in the right place at the right time.

Alongside Bernardino who was his classmate since Grade 2 during their elementary days in Ateneo de Manila, they played the game during intramurals and after class. When they were old enough, they tried out for the team though it was Bernardino who made the cut. Even in college Barrios tried out for the team but he had difficulty with then Blue Eagles’ coach Al Dunbar’s drills.

“I thought that was the farthest I’d be in the game,” reminisced the commissioner.

Bernardino later landed a job as the Man-on-the-Ball for the PBA and he provided his friend with courtside tickets to the games. And when Bernardino was moved to the front office, he invited Barrios to come along.

“Dati libre ka lang manood. Ngayon babayaran ka para manood.”

Barrios and league officials do more than watch the games, they review them and find ways to improve the games including never-ending issues on officiating. Some of the new things they have introduced are English-speaking classes for the referees. With more Fil-Ams in the teams, the reason why some refs shy away from talking to coaches or players is that they cannot express themselves properly. An ophthalmologist was brought in and it was discovered that some referees had problems with their eyesight. And now all the referees have weekly on-court basketball drills to help with their muscle memory and on-court positioning. Aside from the television partner’s cameras, they have their own in order to better monitor what goes on inside the court.

Summed up Barrios about the job as league commissioner: “It’s not a perfect system but we are always finding ways to improve. As for myself, I have to do a good job in selling the acceptability of the decisions especially on controversial matters.”