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.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bleachers' Brew #231 Lionheart

This column appears in the Monday October 18, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.


by rick olivares

Napoleon Miranda Jr. has learned life’s lessons well. He went to San Beda all the way from prep to college. He played for the school and won a juniors NCAA title while playing alongside Boybits Victoria. He graduated a certified public accountant, appeared in a series of television commercials for Surf detergent, and got his business going. He got married and his firstborn was a boy who would follow in his footsteps. Life was perfect. Or was it really?

Miranda won’t lie. When his wife Leilani gave birth to Napoleon Miranda III, he was hurt when he saw that his son was born without a left arm. Growing up, he had friends who were deaf and mute. The irony of it all, he thought.

The father could have gone to a cold and dark place – and he did think about it -- but instead with his wife, saw it as a blessing.

The way the Mirandas teach Nap (or “Sep” as the mother fondly nicknamed him), it’s he is special because he is unlike everyone else in his family. Even so, the best way to work around it was to treat him like a normal person and do normal things.

Normal everyday stuff like playing basketball. You know, once a player, always a player.

There was (and it is always there) a risk of unkind and hurtful words from opponents. But the father assured his wife that this was the best way to assimilate Nap and prepare him because the challenges one faces on the hardcourt definitely mirror life’s.

Incredibly, it was like taking a fish to water. Nap took to the game with a passion. One parent was so impressed that he informed Britt Reroma, who was handling San Beda’s Small Basketeers of the Philippines team, about a one-armed wonder who turned school intramurals into a personal showcase.

“Nung una ko makita si Nap ay binibihisan siya ng tatay niya. Na-touch at na-intriga ako,” recalled Reroma of that first meeting. “Hindi naman sa parang novelty or mascot para sa feel-good story pero he can play.”

The son did have game as he grew to stand 6’1” and could not only rebound and block shots but score.

After grade school in San Beda, Sep transferred to La Salle Greenhills where he helped his new team win an SBP title. On their way to the championship, the Greenies beat San Beda in the semifinals as Nap pulled down some crucial boards and hit even more critical free throws.

A few months after that victory, Nap found himself cast out of the team in favor of a couple of others who didn’t do as well as him not just athletically but also academically. Nap was not only hurt but also disillusioned.

These were painful lessons he had to experience at an early age, recalled the father. “You teach him the value of putting in hard work and doing well in his studies only for him not to make the team for other reasons. That is a huge disappointment. Given his disability, you have to teach him to work around it and to rise above it, then meron pa pala iba.”

Sep moved back to San Beda where the familiar home confines served as the perfect tonic to his damaged confidence. As a 6’1” forward, he cracked the Passarelle starting five, won the MVP Award in a league in Antipolo City, and won the Junior NBA 2-Ball Challenge as a high school sophomore.

His teammate for the 2-Ball was Ateneo Blue Eaglet Kiefer Lim who trained in San Beda for a couple of summers because of his familiarity with Reroma. “Winning it was a great experience.” Related Lim. “We were underdogs in that contest because I was younger at that time and Nap had only one arm. He’s (Nap) great. He can shoot three-pointers with one hand. He’s that accurate.”

Soon after that, he cracked the Red Cubs Team B in his third year. And this year, he came off the bench for Reroma as the team enforcer. “It isn’t as if we have Nap go around and hit others. We adhere to a strong value system of good play here in San Beda. But he plays tough. He’s our sparkplug and inspiration.”

Nap’s play not only earned him accolades from his teammates but also from opponents. “We were afraid that given the competition, people might say terrible things,” said Nap’s father. “But that hasn’t been the case. I think they also respect him for what he can do on the court.”

On one occasion, the opposing team called a time out because they were having trouble boxing out Nap. “Ano ba 'yan?” angrily chided the coach. “Isa na lang yung kamay ng binabantayan mo, eh hindi mo ma-box out!”

“The coach didn’t mean it as an insult,” said the father. “It was a compliment and we were really proud of Nap.”

During the 2009 Fil Oil Invitational, Nap received a plaque of appreciation from the tournament directors for his determination and sportsmanship. And this year, he earned a spot in Reroma’s rotation en route to a back-to-back crown for the Red Cubs.

“Sa nagyon, ito yung pinakamalaking achievement ko.” Nap said of being a part of the Cubs double double and first title under Reroma who took over from the legendary Ato Badolato this year. “Well, isama mo na makapag-graduate ako ng high school sa San Beda kasi yung family namin dito nag-aral.”

Like his father, he is going to take up accounting in San Beda College. He’s undaunted by all the talent in the senior Team A. If he can’t, he’ll play for the school’s Team B. But the emphasis now is on studies.

When the elder Miranda is feeling the crunch of day-to-day living, he admits to looking at his son for inspiration. Nap has learned well to rise above his disability. Incredibly, when he received his driver’s license this year, Nap offered to drive for Reroma.

“One of his strengths is his desire to get things done by himself,” observed the father. “Whether it’s lacing up his shoes or driving, he wants to try it and accomplish it. He’s mentally tougher than most kids his age.”

Nap’s two younger brothers – Boden, who should crack the Red Cubs’ line-up next year, and Lance, who is with the Passarelle team – look to him as an inspiration.

Baser Amer, the NCAA Season 86 Juniors MVP, and Nap’s teammate glowed about Nap. “Kapag pumapasok siya sa laro hindi biro yung tapang niya na gawin yun. Kahit ako bilib ako. Kami dapat magbigay ng encouragement sa kanya pero siya nagbibigay sa amin nun.”

“All this time, we’re teaching him to cope,” said the proud father. “To learn from life and not let obstacles stop him from achieving his potential. Actually, it is the opposite – we are learning from him."

1 comment:

  1. Wala akong masabi - madaldal pa naman ako. Whatta kid. Hindi lang yan - what parents! What a family! What a team! . . . What a school. GO SAN BEDA FIGHT!