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, January 31, 2010

Bleachers' Brew #194 Forth and Inches

Forth and Inches

by rick olivares

One Mississippi

When I first read an excerpt from Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side, in the pages of the New York Times in 2006, I knew right away that it had movie adaptation written all over it.

The Ballad of Big Mike,” as it was titled in the New York Times, was not a story of redemption, realization, or triumph over almost impossible odds. And it was most certainly more than a simple plot of a person coming out of nowhere to become a success story. I’d say it’s pretty much like H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights where there are no heroes and villains; only people who just go about their lives trying to make the best out of a bad situation. There was uncanny depth to the story; heart if you will. Essentially, it’s a long and tedious process in the shaping of a person from a tabula rasa into someone who is now a professional athlete. Only the shaping works both ways.

Michael Oher wasn’t the only one whose life was changed. It was also his surrogate family of Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy as well as his teachers and tutors Jennifer Graves and Sue Mitchell among others. And perhaps, as Lewis postulated, Oher was the latest version of the Bears’ Orlando Pace to play Left Tackle, a position so critical in protecting the blind side of the quarterback ever since the New York Giants’ Lawrence Taylor took out the Washington Redskins’ Joe Theismann in November 1985.

The Left Tackle, argues Lewis, is the second most important player on the team, and whose role is to primarily protect the Quarterback from blitzing linebackers. And 2005, the Left Tackle has become the second highest paid player on the team. Right behind the QB. That’s how important he’s become.

Two Mississippi.

A long time ago, my parents sat me in their room to watch Brian’s Song on television. All my pop told me was that it was a true story about two members of the Chicago Bears. What he neglected to say was that it was a tearjerker that had me crying buckets after. Brian’s Song starred James Caan who played Brian Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams who played Gale Sayers, both of whom were running backs for the Bears. Piccolo was white while Sayers was black and this was at a time when there when racial tensions were still headline news and Vietnam was the quagmire that would precede Afghanistan and Iraq. Piccolo succumbed to cancer at an early age but it is his friendship with Sayers not only helped tear down barriers but also forced a downpour from many a tear duct.

Into my adult life, I noticed how many of my favorite sports films – Jerry Maguire, Friday Night Lights, and Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, Rudy, Radio, Any Given Sunday, and Gridiron Gang -- featured stories revolving around the game of American Football.

Sure there were cool films about other sports and who didn’t want to be like Robby Benson in One On One or even fly like Julius Erving in Pisces? I thought that Paul Newman was the epitome of cool when I saw Slapshot and that the Hanson Brothers’ penchant for mayhem was the precursor for the anti-hero. There was Escape to Victory that featured Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, and the great Pele that depicted the power of football to affect the world.

Except that those three aforementioned non-American football films were works of fiction. And save for Jerry Maguire and Any Given Sunday, all are real life stories.

So what is it about the game that makes for such interesting storytelling and is the subject of many a Hollywood film?

The game is about turf and marching down another’s territory while pushing him back to score as many points as one can in order to be victorious. It is a very masculine metaphor for war and conquering another. In fact, the coaches are like generals with the players as the grunts who do the fighting. And when you think of the brutes lined up in front of a player trying to pummel him or shove his nose to the dirt, it’s a stark reminder of huge obstacles that are oft in the way of one’s goal.

The game is the most blue collar of sports and probably more than any other is the ultimate in team sport competition. A great quarterback can only achieve his feats if he has a good offensive line and terrific receivers or running backs. At any given time, everyone is functioning and the play’s success hinges on everyone doing their job. Someone misses a tackle and the QB could be sacked. And under pressure, his pass could lead to an incompletion or interception.

But the more compelling argument are the characters who deal with racism, hardship, poverty, the pressure of continuing a legacy, are handicapped, or are plain joes like you and me except that they play football for a living.

As it was so eloquently put in the film “Any Given Sunday,” the game much like life, is a contact sport and a game of inches.

American Football is a spectacle (the Super Bowl is broadcast to over 150 countries) and many of its nuances and aspects have found their way into modern lingo, idiomatic expressions, and pop culture – touchdowns, cheerleaders, quarterbacks, fumbles, stalling for time, going all the way, punt, field goals, zebras, game plan, and flag on the play among others.

And NFL Films forever changed the way documentaries and sports telecasts are done with their flair for drama and portraying matches as a matter of life, death, and honor.


Three Mississippi.

My Top 10 American Football Films:

1. Remember the Titans

2. The Blind Side

3. We Are Marshall

4. Jerry Maguire

5. Friday Night Lights

6. Rudy

7. Radio

8. Any Given Sunday

9. Brian’s Song

10. Gridiron Gang

North Dallas Forty is my Honorable Mention here.


Four Mississippi.

As I saw the film version of The Blind Side, I came away thinking that it was a great adaptation that was faithful to Lewis’ work yet tweaked a bit here and there. I’ve never been a huge fan of Sandra Bullock but she was every bit deserving of her Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Touhy. Like Jerry Maguire, the film, as directed by John Lee Hancock (The Rookie starring Dennis Quaid), disarms you of any preconceived notions about sports films and their formulas. It doesn’t weigh you down too much nor does it appear overly sappy because of its excellent mix of self-effacing humor and tension over obstacles in everyone’s way.

Bullock isn’t the only one who delivers a masterful performance. Quinton Aaron, in his first ever lead role, captures Oher perfectly and is a sympathetic character. And Tim McGraw as Sean Touhy, Leigh Anne’s husband and Kathy Bates as tutor Sue Mitchell both give excellent supporting performances.

A movie can be said to be truly good if it lives up to the book if it is not better. And a movie can only feature so much in the space of a 90 minutes so obviously the director and the script writers have to trim it down and tweak certain scenes because movies are altogether a different milieu.

The Blind Side accomplishes all that and more. And I’d say that the movie is a touchdown.

UAAP Season 72 Volleyball Standings

Click on the images to enlarge them. Top: Men's Volleyball rankings. Below: Women's Volleyball rankings then scores of AdMU-FEU match on Sunday January 31, 2010. That was a great comeback by the team! Whoo! Good going, girls! Onwards to the Final Four and beyond with three matches left in the eliminations.

Good Buys for Football Fans




Available at the 4th floor of National Bookstore Superbranch in Cubao, QC, you'll find some really good bargain books for all genres. In the sports section, they've got hardbound books on The Essential History of Liverpool, Jules Rimet Still Gleaming? (about England's World Cup failures), and others on George Best, Scotland's Rangers, Manchester United, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest, and Newcastle United for as low as PhP 75 and as high as PhP 375. Not bad, eh.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Running close to barefoot

Friday, January 29, 2010

The next cool thing after seeing your face on a billboard. This is on a Starbucks Menu Board


Kinda cool, huh, AJ? Snapped this pic at Starbucks, The Podium. AJ's a regular there where he studies while on break from the Ateneo Medical School.

Philippine Football Federation -- Would you like to level the score?

Some members of the PFF sent a complaint to FIFA. They do not normally respond as they want the NSA to send official communiques. It's a flawed system that can cover up a lot of shit. Fortunately, they listened. But to date, there has been no reply. Click to enlarge, folks.



Mr. Romualdez' and Mr. Marty's columns in the PFF newsletter. Power of the Pen indeed.


The Philippine Football Federation released a newsletter late 2009. And in that newsletter former PFF President Johnny Romualdez had a column titled “The Power of the Pen.”

He took to task those in media who have criticized the PFF “and their attempts to derail the Federation’s honest efforts at development.”

He then alluded to a colleague from the Inquirer and other writers who criticize – including those members from the PFF who even deigned to sent their complaints to FIFA.

First of all, Mr. Romualdez, there is nothing wrong with criticizing. One of the wonderful things to democracy is that we can disagree with one another yet not go to war about it like they did in previous centuries. And no, we are not the puppets of the "rebel groups" as you like to term (are you a fan of Star Wars? The Galactic Empire liberally uses the term "rebel" against Alderaan, Corellia, Chandrilia, and the Mon Calamari among others?). We've walked out on some of their misguided meetings as well. Check and balance, anyone?

Second, if your complaints are not even being entertained by your current arrogant President who keeps daring to meet up in a common place for a confrontation but never shows up, who always dismisses complaints with a “noted” but never follows up on them, who doesn’t even care to answer an official request by FIFA sent October 9, then what recourse do others have to take?

Third, in that same newsletter where you penned “your opportunity to admonish” writers and complainants, the current treasurer Antonio Marty that the PFF “has been financially healthy this year, reducing the debts of the previous administration of up to 50% already since Mr. Mari Martinez took over as President.”

Ah, what were the debts did your “administration” incur? Did you or did you not leave some money in the bank? I know you did. And if the PFF is financially healthy, then why are national team slots for sale and why were the salaries of coaches late last year? And when we talk about late it’s not by a few days but months. Why were allowances or fees in Iloilo and other places like UP Los Baños not paid (and it still isn’t)? You do not want me to go to a rehash of the problems of last year.

So did the AFC President really give a donation of PhP 10 million during that infamous donation (some say it was a bribe and I'm inclined to believe that) of his last year?

And isn’t there in the charter in the PFF -- a supposed national tournament? There hasn’t been one in two years.

The PFF guys are a joke. And you were even were a part of the move to oust Martinez but jumped ship a the worst possible moment because of your “I love football” statement.

You are not the only one who loves football. Disabuse yourself of the messianic complex that only you and Mr. Martinez or the others in the PFF can save football because it certainly needs saving from those who are willfully blind.

You once told me while we were having breakfast before the PFF Congress last year that you have always been careful about your name with regards to money. And I believed you. Not because you were my father’s classmate in the Ateneo but you were always stingy and careful with money to the point of being kuripot.

So how do you feel about Mr. Marty’s statement? And these guys never present proof, it’s always a report. If some people would accuse me of such I would instantly try to clear my name rather than not respond. The government of transparency that Martinez mentioned while campaigning for the presidency is but another empty promise.

Politicians. He was supposed to back up Pablito Araneta in the voting for the POC President right. Araneta ran under the banner of Art Macapagal, but Martinez arrived at the elections one day and sided with Peping Cojuangco and became the swing vote. But you should know that. Your own PR Officer, Ed Formoso ran for the PFF Presidency but you sided with Martinez. And Formoso helped bring in PhP 1 million from Solar Sports when I was working there (something I was against because I honestly don't know see how the tie-up between us and you could have helped our promotions. As far as I know, the PFF doesn't mean anything to the success of the World Cup other than PFF officials going there because they get a free ticket).

Ed is doing more for football with his work with street kids and the homeless. Lesson here, folks. Never judge a person by his looks.

Words. Not the power of the pen but out of the mouth of those who are supposedly the caretakers of the game.

I will borrow your line here – “I’m taking this opportunity to admonish.”

And that begs the question: what will you really do for football?

The Blind Side

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ateneo Men's Football Game 4 The Fighting Generations


The Fighting Generations

Ateneo 2 vs. UE 1

words by rick olivares picture by aly yap

After last Sunday’s Ateneo-La Salle match, long-time Green Archers football coach Hans Smit sat on a chair and put his hands at the back of his head. The match lived up the hype and had more excitement than the normal. His side took their first victory of the season at the expense of Ateneo but it was no cakewalk. He shook his head and exhaled, “Even those who are new to the rivalry are into it like they’ve been here forever.”

Truer words were never more spoken. The names may change but the rivalry and perhaps more importantly for Ateneo, that digging deep and fighting heart lives on forever.

Inside the dugout at the Blue Eagle Gym right before the Blue Booters match versus the UE Red Warriors, the team began its customary pre-game meeting without the coaches since the tactical briefing was done. As it has been since the start of the school year, team captain Gabriel Siojo spoke and the team listened.

There was an urgency to the atmosphere and to the game but without any traces of nervous desperation. Siojo recounted how his grandfather, Cesar Sison (on the maternal side) once played alongside the grandfather of current teammate Jacobo Lorenzo, the great Luis “Moro” Lorenzo in the Blue Eagles.

The team was playing the UST Goldies in a basketball game and the blues found themselves down by 20 points at the half. In the dugout, the team spoke about finding a way to come back. The term “one big fight” had not yet been coined but the sentiment, the never-say-die attitude had been bred in every Atenean’s heart and mind. There was a reason why they were called “the Hail Mary Squad.”

The team of yesteryear came back and won at the buzzer.

Siojo's teammates listened intently to the story and took to heart the lesson from it. No further words were needed. They were locked in. After all, they could empathize for they found themselves in a similar hole.

The Blue Booters had taken their first game, a whopper of a win against FEU 2-1. They followed that with two loses – a 2-0 dismantling by UP and a 1-0 heartbreaker to La Salle. This match against UE, a team they were friendly with on and off the pitch, was winless but that didn’t mean that the Red Warriors were going to roll over for the home side.

“We’re in a similar situation,” said defender Mario Marcelo. “You have to experience being down there before the words ‘One Big Fight’ really mean something.”

And down they were once more when UE midfielder Nikko Molo headed in a perfect cross from the right wing at the 24th minute. The goal had stunned not just the team but also its supporters that were just trooping to Ocampo Field.

Despite UE being winless, they were a team that was like Ateneo’s – a few veterans like defender Shem Bensurto and forward Fitch Florence Arboleda now shorn on his trademark afro – and stacked with froshes and sophs. The difference being that UE had U-16 national players. Give them a year more as they come to grips with the college game and coach Lloyd Lim’s team will be killers.

Despite Ateneo being down, it seemed that the team was on the verge of scoring. One could feel it.

In the previous three matches, Derrick Candelaria, who had been installed at the top of the 4-2-3-1 formation, had been unlucky in his scoring chances. Twice he had a sure goal but each time he muffed it. The first was against FEU when all he had to do was slot the ball into an empty net but an FEU defender came flying out of nowhere to repulse the shot. The second came against La Salle.

He charged and found himself about to break from his defender inside the box when he was tripped up.

The referee whistled the visiting team for a penalty.

When it comes to PKS, Siojo is the designated kicker (as it is Paul Cheng for corners and Luigi Meer or Miggy Monfort for long range shots).

Siojo sent his blast to the right that UE’s keeper William Albao was a split second too late to react to. Ateneo had the equalizer in the 37th minute.

At the half, the Blue Booters’ coach Ompong Merida tinkered with their 4-3-3 attack formation by moving Siojo to the back of the attacking midfield with Anton Amistoso playing above him.

The switch worked as it turned up Ateneo’s offense several notches higher. The problem was Ateneo had to finish better. James Arco, Candelaria, and Siojo had some chances to get the go-ahead goal but each time they botched their shots.

With the minutes perilously slipping away and a draw looming depriving Ateneo of three precious points that would allow them to climb from their fifth place in the standings.

In the 82nd minute, with an air of desperation beginning to hang over the team, Gerard Cancio, heavily marked in the last couple of years because of his goal scoring process took a quick inbound from Carl Llado at the midfield laced a looping right cross that was perfect for a scoring opportunity. The ball landed in front of Candelaria who was praying for another scoring chance. “Please,” he said to the Man above. “I will do better next time.”

And he didn’t muff it this time. 2-1 Ateneo.

The team held on for its second win in four outings with one to play (against front-running UST) to cap the first round.

The Blue Booters had played well as a team. Amistoso put quite a few moves on his defender and was an effective playmaker alongside Siojo as they fed teammates on the attack. Arco, had his chances. The defense, though spotty in the first half, had tightened up and gave their offense plenty of chances on the quick counter.

Cancio who doesn’t need to score to be effective had his imprint on almost every attack.

In many ways, the win was more joyous than their opener against FEU. With UST atop with 10 points, UP at second with 9, FEU at third with 7, Ateneo had leaped past La Salle for fourth place with 6 points. The Green Archers had dropped to fifth with 3 points while UE remained winless at the bottom of the six-team field.

The teams weren’t too far from one another and if anything, the top two slots for the finals are up for grabs. The matches this coming Sunday (Ateneo vs. UST, UP vs. FEU, and La Salle vs. UE) and their results could really shake up the standings.

As Team Ateneo stretched by the sidelines, talk quickly turned to their next practice and their game against the Growling Tigers.

“You have to know what it’s like to be down there,” said Marcelo who referred to last season’s dismal fifth place finish and their two consecutive loses this new campaign. “to appreciate things. And whatever happens from here on, we’re going to give it that One Big Fight.”

Starting Elevens

AteneoRS Mantos, Jacobo Lorenzo, Mario Marcelo, Fred Ozaeta, Luigi Meer, Anton Amistoso, Gabriel Siojo, Paul Cheng, Gerard Cancio, Derrick Candelaria, Keith King

UEWilliam Albao, Ed Aguirre, Rolando Aljecera Jr., Fitch Florence Arboleda, Fitch Johnson Arboleda, Shem Bensurto, Adrian Bequello, Reynold Lim, Nik Molo, Nikko Molo, Felix Rivera

Shots on goal

Ateneo – 10

UE – 10

Corners

Ateneo – 4

UE 4

An Open Letter to Steve Jobs


Dear Steve Jobs:

Apple just posted its highest ever profits for first quarter sales. That’s $16.8 billion in revenue. I can’t even begin to count to that number. Nevertheless, congratulations.

I’d like to tell you that I am one of those who contributed to that mindboggling amount.

In that first quarter alone, I purchased an iPod Nano, iPod Touch, iMac, and a Macbook Pro. And that’s not counting the accessories I got at the Apple Store. One of my favorite brands is Giordano and it has been for years. Last year, I didn’t buy a single thing from Giordano. Not even a crew shirt. I saved it all for your Apple stuff.

I must have purchased every single version of the iPod that I have my own iPod showroom at home.

If it’s too much to ask, I implore you not to make any more iPods. They’re already fine as they are. If I need anything more, then what can my Macbook Pro not supply? And it’s not like these items are cheap.

The Apple iPad is making my head spin already. If I get that too, then there goes my budget for a vacation this year.

Nowadays, an Apple a year keeps not only the doctor away but all other purchases as well. Time was picking apples meant going to an orchard, now it means going to an Apple Store.

Maybe the environmental footprint saves some bucks and trees but I don’t even have a fraction of your wealth. For hardworking joes like me, Apple products are a luxury.

The iPod is fine as it is. I think that last thing that we need is a new design for an iPod. Maybe with your genius, you can find a cure for the common cold or cancer. I’m that much of a believer in your genius.

But please… hold off for the moment on iPods.

Thanks.

Your loyal customer,


Rick Olivares

P.S. By the way, If you have any openings, I’d love to work for you.

A never-ending cycle of incompetence in Philippine sports

Today, Thursday January 28, 2010, at 10am in the Padilla Room of the Senate, there will be a inquiry into the issues surrounding sports such as the feud between the POC and PSC as well as the crappy state of our NSAs. Senator Pia Cayetano called for this in the light of our dismal performance in the last Southeast Asian Games. Aside from finishing fifth in the standings, there was controversy regarding cyclist Marites Bitbit who was disallowed from competing because of the infighting at the Integrated Cycling Society of the Philippines.

I'm really wondering what will come out from this. We've seen this time and again and nothing has happened. Poor finishes and controversy are common place here with no resolution or relief in sight.

Am I being too cynical about all this? If something does happen then I'd be happy to apologize and chip in to help fix stuff but I'll tell you, by next week all this is going to be a non-issue.

But I'm tackling local football issues again.

Wasn't it embarrassing that the Azkals lost to two Taiwanese teams in a friendly and one of them hardly prepped or practice for the game? And our U-16 team lost to a Don Bosco school from the province.

The last time that happened to us a national basketball team lost to a team of showbiz types and it bowled over the basketball NSA in more ways than one. And still here we are thinking that Fil-foreigners are the solution to all our problems.

All I can say, football, I'm back to tackling this issue and that's like throwing a grenade inside the foxhole.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Just Signed This Petition


To: New York City Soccer Fans

We, the Undersigned, support The Borough Boys Supporters Club and other parties involved in their drive to bring back the New York Cosmos as a Major League Soccer franchise. 

New York City is the most diverse city in the World but yet does not have a soccer team to truly call its own. Recently many of the former NASL teams have been brought back and continue to be brought back into MLS but the cornerstone franchise is still not back. 

New York City is ready, more than ever, to support and embrace a soccer team to call its own.

Please bring back soccer to New York City! Please bring back The Cosmos! 



www.thisiscosmoscountry.com

--------

Before I became a fan of Liverpool, I was a fan of the New York Cosmos. As I have written so many times here in Brew, they were the original Los Galacticos of football. They were fun and exciting to watch and for a budding sports fan like me, they were larger than life. I even had a Cosmos lunch box and a shirt that is now way way too small for me. Hahaha. I know MLS has the Red Bulls but if the Yankees and Mets can co-exist, then the Cosmos and the Red Bulls certainly can. Franz Beckenbauer!!!!!!!!

Wednesday this week

CNN was wondering it Twitter has peaked. I never got into Friendster and only got a Multiply page because friends kept telling me to check out their sites (I hardly manage mine). Facebook and Twitter are the only ones I devote some time to (aside from Blogger). With all these sites, I'm really wondering what the next big social networking thing is. But for those asking who are the celebrities I follow, well, my list isn't much.


Kim Kardashian, DaMarcus Beasley, Jon Favreau, Nonito Donaire, Tamar Kaprelian, Bill Gates, Alyssa Milano, Randy Foye, Mariah Carey, Manu Ginobili, Landon Donovan, Grant Morrison, Barack Obama, Steve Nash, Shaquille O'Neal, Jessica Alba, John Legend, and Nathan Fillion.

When I was writing about the Collision Course fights last weekend, I wanted to start out my piece using referee Gene del Bianco. I honestly think that he's one of the best in the business and this dude wouldn't look out of place in an MMA fight. he sure does command the fighters' attention with his simple but effective means of officiating. Will keep my notes on file for something in the future. My last column on Bruce McTavish was by accident. I was intending to write about how Collision Course was put together and that is very revealing and says a lot about the business. I still have the notes to that but it seems somewhat anti-climactic.

People who have asked why I have not written about Smart Gilas, it's like this... I didn't go with the team to the Middle East and two, I'd rather wait for everyone then get the skinny straight up.

Ah, the Philippine Football Federation. Turns out that the PhP10 million "donation" was a ruse. You, sly bastards. If I were you, I'd listen to the Clash's "London Calling." Fire in the hole.

Have been busy with some other stuff that need doing that's why I haven't done stuff for the newspaper or some other mags. I'm headed for Hong Kong next week and that will keep my out for a couple of days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baron Davis in New York City



(Taken from Kicks On Fire) Baron Davis films this cool clip in promotion of his new Li-Ning gear. The shoe may not be made by a well known brand but they look pretty fresh and more importantly they are built for rigorous performance.

The clip shows Davis dribbling in the streets of NYC and just generally having a ball. (Pun intended) It also features cameos from Common, Jim Jones, Irv Gotti and DJ Clue. If thats not enough maybe the backing track from Diz Gibran produced by J Dilla is enough to hold your attention.

UAAP Season 72 Volleyball Standings



Ateneo Men's Football Game 3 The Bummer


The Bummer

Ateneo 0 vs. La Salle 1

by rick olivares and aly yap

January 24, 2010

Erenchun Field, Ateneo de Manila University

Sometimes, when a situation is born out of desperation, there is a momentary lapse in concentration that provides just enough a window for a stinging defeat.

Former IBF Light Flyweight Champion Brian Viloria will rue not finishing off Carlos Tamara in the earlier rounds and after a stinging defeat, the question about this being the end of the road.

One day after the pugilist’s debilitating loss, the Ateneo Men’s Football Team, reeling from a 2-0 loss to UP days earlier, had taken control of the match against La Salle, but a pair of stinging mistakes by longtime team stalwart Luigi Meer did them in.

Unlike Viloria, the Blue Booters still have a chance to make a comeback since it’s only the third match of the season. But the opportunities are slowly passing by as it is only the top two teams that will figure in the finals.

After scraping his knee after a tackle, Meer ran to the sidelines to douse water on the blood. He returned to the fray without informing the fourth official who instead of calling back the player allowed him to get back on to the pitch. It was just one of the many non-calls made by the game officials that almost let the game get out of hand.

At the next deadball, the official called the attention of the referee and Meer was assessed a yellow card.

Minutes later, Meer, perhaps thinking that the ball was out of bounds, made the mistake of touching the football at the edge of his own box. The linesman whistled. Penalty.

La Salle midfielder Rafi Milan, who just a week earlier was sent crashing down on a breakaway by FEU keeper Bricks Caballero, took the penalty and sent it left as Ateneo keeper RS Mantos went right. It was just enough. And the Green Booters held fast on defense for the win, their first of the season.

Both teams were coming off loses (DLSU lost to FEU 1-0) and the game took on a greater importance not just because of the rivalry but because they needed a win to keep pace in the standings.

UST earlier upset UP 2-1 with a pair of fantastic goals by Christian De Juan that offset Andrei Mercader’s equalizer. Now the Tigers are atop of the UAAP with a 3-0 record followed by UP and FEU both at 2-1. And over at the Ocampo Field at the same time of the Ateneo-La Salle match, FEU wa sin the process of demolishing hapless UE 3-1 (FEU’s Glester Sobremisana scored two goals while Jason Cordova added one to the sole score by UE’s Fitch Arboleda).

The game began with sloppy play as both teams were tense but booming free kicks by former AHS booter Miguel Montelibano gave the green and white the first scoring opportunities while their defense choked the Blue Booters’ attack that kept them on defensive.

At the 30th minute mark, the Ateneans seized the momentum as they found the right wing more susceptible to runs by Gerard Cancio that lead to a few scoring chances including a beautiful cross to a charging Derrick Candelaria who for the second time in three matches was unable to convert at near point blank range. Undaunted, the blues stepped up their aggressive play that resulted in a pair of back-to-back corner shots that they likewise turned up negative.

Milan’s conversion changed the complexion of the match and La Salle instead of staying on the defensive, renewed their assault with more fervor. Milan, hounded by his coach Hans Smit almost the entire first half for being out of position, nearly scored a second goal with a thunderous shot from way out that Mantos was able to parry.

With time slipping away, there was one last chance to salvage an equalizer with a free kick from outside the box, but Paul Cheng’s shot that cleared the wall found its way into La Salle keeper Patrick Deyto’s hands.

Deyto, his poor antics aside that nearly led to a melee after the match, was superb as he turned back numerous scoring chances by an Ateneo side that was scrambling for a goal. Two minutes of added time wasn’t enough and when the final whistle was blown, Meer squatted in the middle of the field in tears as his teammates consoled him.

Smit’s gamble of playing much of his rookies had worked. They had given their side a much-needed lift with their fire and grit. For Ateneo, though they are playing much better than last season, the question now is all about their mental toughness. They’ve been pretty much unbeatable on Erenchun Field in the past decade but the last three years have seen a drop in form and toughness that has allowed visiting teams to torch them on their home field.

Unlike Brian Viloria, who did not seize the opportunity, for the Ateneo Blue Booters, there’s still a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, they’re fast using up their quotas for loses.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Frozen Moment

Four wasted set points and a spirited rally

Four wasted set points. A spirited, lucky rather than good rally but still because of dogged determination, and a quarterfinals berth. I thought that Andy Roddick saw himself, or at least his near meltdown where his emotions or anger got the best of him in Fernando Gonzalez when he lost a challenge to a call. From there on, the Chilean lost his nerve and perhaps the match. It was obvious how bothered and frustrated he was that he could not put away Roddick who came back from a set down to force a fifth set and win convincingly. And on Gonzalez' serve too. 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. Now its Marin Clicic who upset Juan Martin del Potro.

I think it was in the second round where Roddick was complaining about these "challenges" for calls. I don't see what the fuss is? It's rather simple.

As for Gonzalez complaining that he could he gone after the lineball, I agree with chair umpire Enric Molina, there was no way he would have gone after the ball or else he would have at least lunged for it, which he did not. Roddick won because he did not give up.

Bleachers' Brew #193 The Referee's Scorecard

This appears in the Monday January 25 edition of the Business Mirror. That's me with Bruce McTavish at the weigh-in for Collision Course.

The referee’s scorecard

by rick olivares

The fight was intense. All blood and guts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going well for one fighter. And that was an understatement. The referee stopped the match because to let it go on meant possible and irreparable harm to the losing fighter.

A second after the referee waved his hand to signal an end to the fight, the trainer of the losing boxer climbed up the ring and charged him. With a speed belying his years, he ducked the sweeping left and sent a powerful uppercut that knocked out the aggressor. Everyone was stunned. The referee adjusted his ruffled suit and nonchalantly got down the ring.

Bruce McTavish has spent nearly his entire life in boxing; first as a boxer where he compiled a 33-2 record then as a trainer then ultimately as a judge and referee. “Oh, I got stories to tell,” he cackles. I’m sure he does.

Ever hear of the time he told Vitali Klitschko that the two of them were alike. The 6’7” Ukrainian cocked an eyebrow. “You and me,” he said to the chiseled champ. “We’ve both got doctorates. We’re a rare breed – the only ones in boxing.” The heavyweight champ, who has a Ph.D. in sports science laughed and shook hands with the six-foot tall man with a doctorate in Economics from Auckland University.

He’s officiated matches in such boxing hotbeds of Austria, Russia, North Korea, inside a women’s prison in Thailand, and Africa. “One time in Novosibirsk, Russia the weather conditions were freezing outside. Sub-zero temperature. Then the fight was held inside a hockey rink and it isn’t called the Ice Palace for nothing. The ice made the place so cold I got the chills. After the fight, I got invited back. I said, ‘Thanks but I think it’s always good to give opportunities to others. It’ll be a great experience for them too.’”

That he says, is his polite way of declining.

“When I was younger, I’d be the first one to hop into a plane if there was a fight for me to officiate. But these legs have seen better days so I try to stay close to home (that is in Angeles City, Pampanga) and around Asia.”

One time after another heated match inside the Angeles City Cockpit, McTavish stopped a match after one boxer got decked six times in the fourth round. “Why did you stop the fight?” yelled the handler. “That’s a part of our strategy. We make the other believe that were losing then we come back strong!”

What do you do when you’re on the business end of a firearm?

You tell him what he wants to hear.

“Why didn’t you tell me that before the fight,” said McTavish as he put his arm around the enraged cornerman. “Next time, I won’t stop it.” He finished with a wink. The man holstered his gun and went down the ring but not before leaving him with a point to ponder: “You’re a lucky man.”

McTavish turned around not wanting others to see him as he wiped the beads of sweat on his forehead. “Yes, I am,” he thought to himself. “Boxing teaches you diplomacy.”

And it should also teach you to get out of the way.

While officiating another match, one pugilist unloaded a powerful roundhouse that missed his opponent but tagged McTavish who cracked a few ribs. The other boxer went on to knock out the offending fighter. After the match, said a pained McTavish to losing fighter. “You would have won the fight had you connected with that.”

McTavish runs eight kilometers five times a week and does calisthenics for 45 minutes everyday. He also holds a black belt in karate that has kept him in superb shape.

He hasn’t needed it for self-defense so far. But his daughter one time disarmed a robber who held up a gun to them as they withdrew money from an ATM. “The other guy, his back-up, got out of there as fast as he could,” remembered McTavish who is a recognizable figure in Pampanga.

“Si ref ‘yan.” say the tricycle drivers who at times don’t charge their local “celebrity” for his fare. But the New Zealander would have none of it. “We all have to work for a living. I’m not asking for special treatment.”

He’s refereed over 120 fights and judged 34 matches. Sometime last year, McTavish, now at 68 years of age, was thinking of hanging it up. “But one time, I was standing in the corner waiting for the boxers to make their entrance and I felt that familiar tingle in my spine. The rush was there. The lights. The crowd. The ambiance. I told myself when I lose that then I know it’s time to hang it up. But for now, it’s still there and I love it.”

The first fight that he ever officiated paid him PhP 29. He was then working in Pampanga while working for Chrysler’s business at the former Clark Air Base. That began a career, “love affair,” he corrects, with the sport of boxing that has taken him all over the world, to work fights of some of the best boxers of our times, and yet, in spite of having been everywhere, to call the Philippines home. “It pays better now and it has allowed me to raise my family and to provide for them. I am very much married (to Angeles native Carmen Tayag, his wife of over 30 years) and happy to be so.”

When I first asked him for a few minutes of his time, he smiled and said, “I got all day. I got lots of stories to tell.”

And yes, he does. I sat enthralled.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My photos of the Viloria-Tamara fight. (Pics by Rick)

"Brian, look at me!" yelled trainer Roberto Garcia right before the 12th and fateful round. "I need you to move. Are you hearing me?" Before the start of the 10th round, I situated myself right beside the corner of Viloria and could hear all the exchanges between him and his side. By the 11th, I figured he was gone. I have a whole set of pictures that show his eyes were gone. That's what gave him away. As Brian got pummeled some more, Garcia was banging his palms on the canvas, "No! No! No! Move, Brian. Please!" It was heart-rending. The television broadcast did not do justice to the fight or its ambiance. I've been witness to a lot of heart-breaking defeats but this one was right on top with the worst of them.

The last shot at glory. Brian's left jab nearly dislocates Carlos Tamara's jaw. This was from the 8th round. This was the second time I've been right at ringside. The first time, I was in Nonito Donaire's corner and this time, I was with all the media photogs crouched at the side. It hurt my knees bad and I felt all wobbly after. But the disheartening loss made me feel worse. You'll have to forgive me with the camera. It's the first time I'm trying to shoot fulltime. But it's impossible to write and take photos at the same time. Impossible. I also have on sequence the spectacular knockout by Dodie Boy Penalosa Jr. of Anthony Balubar. I was fiddling around with the set up and the shot's exposure was terrible. But it's still revealing. Will post it soon. Business Mirror used this photo for my accompanying piece.

Stone Cold Stunner: Brian Viloria loses title to Carlos Tamara

Brian Viloria collapses in the arms of trainer Roberto Garcia with some help from referee Bruce McTavish after the dramatic fight with Carlos Tamara.

Stone Cold Stunner

Carlos Tamara wrests IBF Junior Flyweight Title from Brian Viloria in a thrilling and heartbreaking match.

words and picture by rick olivares

In the days leading to his second title defense of his IBF Junior Flyweight title, Brian Viloria exuded confidence during a light workout at the Punchout Gym in Salcedo Village, Makati. The Hawaiian Punch noted that his challenger, Colombian Carlos Tamara, liked to drop his hands. “I’m going to take advantage of that,” promised Viloria. “I’m ready to do 12 rounds if I need be and I’m going to win.”

And Viloria seemed to be well on his way to keeping his promise as he was way ahead on points from the first to the eighth round in the Main Event of Collision Course.

But in the ninth round, “El Olimpico” as Tamara is nicknamed, came out smoking and landed a flurry of punches that seemed to hurt and take the starch out of the champ. He continued to hammer away at the champ and was on the verge of taking the 10th round as well when Roberto Garcia, Viloria’s trainer and a former IBF Super Featherweight champion himself, hurled instructions from the corner. “Steal the round, Brian. Steal the round.” he urged his voice betraying a sense of urgency.

Tamara had taken the last two rounds and the tide had clearly turned.

Viloria’s long time manager, Los Angeles attorney and businessman Gary Gittlesohn, stood up from his ringside seat and went up to his fighter. “Second wind, Brian. You have to find your second wind.”

Except the challenger, sensing blood in the water, began teeing off on the champ who had backed off at the resumption of the fight. Viloria weaved and bobbed and evaded potential haymakers but expended more energy in doing so. When he did land the occasional punch, the power was a fraction of what he threw earlier in the fight.

It was Tamara who found his second wind. The Astrodome crowd chanted “Vi-lo-ria” to give the hometown hero a boost but that was all she wrote. But like Garcia’s or Gittlesohn’s voices earlier, they fell on deaf ears.

“Look at me!” commanded Garcia during the last huddle. The time for One-For-the-Gipper speeches was over. His fighter was running on fumes but Garcia hoped to tap one last reservoir of gasoline in his beleaguered fighter. “I need you to move. And give it all you’ve got. Steal this!” he hissed. “Everything you got. Now!”

Viloria never looked him in the eye.

The 12th and final round was a formality to the eventual coronation of a new champion. One last coda to a masterful comeback by the challenger who after the eighth round and severely behind on points was egged on by his trainer Edgar Sanchez to do it for his two daughters who were left behind in the fighter’s home in Bergen, New Jersey.

That Viloria lost was shocking especially after he seemed to get his career back on track following his incredible win against Ulises Solis last year and his first defense of the crown against Jesus Iribe. But what was ghastly was seeing Viloria run out of gas and twice lunge and miss so badly that he couldn’t hit the side of a barn even if his life depended on it.

“I felt his power,” Tamara would later say of Viloria’s punches that he ate from rounds three to eight. In the last three rounds, Viloria was spent. It was he who dropped his hands and had no defense. It was he who did not go the distance as Bruce McTavish, being charitable to the erstwhile champ and to the hometown crowd gave Viloria a few more seconds to steel himself but instead only delayed the inevitable. At the 1:45 mark, McTavish threw himself between the two fighters and the fight was done.

And for the crowd in attendance, you could feel the wind sucked out of them and out of the building. Gittlesohn sat dumfounded, his perfectly combed hair now a tussled matte. Solar Sports’ Chief Operating Officer Peter Chanliong stood behind Viloria’s corner and looked stunned. Like fight analysts Ted Lerner and Mike Ochosa, he was not sure about what he had just witnessed. He found himself a chair and sat down. He too was spent.

The crowd showered Tamara with applause. Some in the audience already took the opportunity to shake hands with his trainers and ask for photos. “I told you that we were going home with the belt,” said Sanchez. “We trained hard for this. Real hard. This opportunity doesn’t come to often and we knew we had to seize it.”

As Tamara obliged the media for interviews and photo opportunities, Viloria was rushed first to the San Juan de Dios Hospital then to the Makati Medical Center for a CT Scan that proved negative for blood clotting but he had to get stitches to the ugly gash that was opened above his left eye. “He’s fine,” said Dr. Nasser Cruz of the Games and Amusements Board. “He will just stay overnight at the hospital for some observation. But he’s in no danger.”

A concerned Tamara and his advisers lauded Viloria for his class and being a model fighter who did not engage in needless verbal sparring. “We’re going to visit Brian Viloria in the hospital after we get dressed,” said Tamara through Sanchez who worked as an interpreter. “That’s returning the respect that was shown to us in our stay here. We have only good things to say about the Philippines.”

Early in the 12-round bout, it seemed that Tamara’s would have traveled 8,000 miles to get a whipping as Viloria was landing those bombs of his. But the fourth round foreshadowed the meltdown to come.

After firing away at the El Olimpico, Viloria looked tired and dropped his hands. Tamara fired a few jabs that tagged the Hawaiian Punch who recovered. Viloria landed numerous power punches but as in the fight with Iribe, he couldn’t put his foe away.

The challenger showed that he could take Viloria’s best punches and now it was his turn. He took the last four rounds and got stronger while Viloria wilted.

“I knew it was going to be hard,” said Tamara through his interpreter. “But I showed that I too, have a fighting heart.”

Notes: After 11 rounds, the judges scored the fight this way: Joe Garcia still gave the edge to Viloria 106-103; Ray Reed had Viloria slightly ahead 105-104; and Somsak Sirianant had it 105-104 for Tamara. The new champ, now with a 21-4 record, will now set his sights on Ivan Calderon. Any rematch with Viloria, who falls to 30-3-1-1 will be discussed at the proper venue should he decide to continue with his boxing career that is once more in question. El Olimpico who wore a New York Yankees 2009 championship baseball cap to the post-match press conference will celebrate first in New Jersey before flying home to Colombia. His dream now would be to throw the opening pitch at a game in the new Yankee Stadium.

This article appears in the Monday January 25, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.

But other Filipinos hold the fort…

But other Filipinos hold the fort…

by rick olivares

The Viloria-Tamara fight wasn’t the only one that featured a Filipino fighter versus a foreign adversary.

Jason Pagara, a 17-year old fighting out of Tony Ala’s stable, was the beneficiary of a hometown decision against Thailand’s Eddy Comaro when he won by majority decision despite being hammered all fight long and looking largely unimpressive. The Cuneta Astrodome crowd let the judges (who scored it 96-94, 98-92, and 95-95) hear it.

Pagara was slow and showed no imagination whatever to his game plan. He would throw harmless punches that missed or hit the Thai’s gloves (that do not score a point) before Comaro would let him have it on the counter. Even after the fight, you could tell that Pagara has been in a scrap while Comaro looked ready to go another 10 rounds.

The second of the undercard of Collision Course pitted the come backing Jimrex Jaca and Indonesian Ramadhan Weiru. The latter showed no ring discipline and no defense as Jaca jabbed at him all throughout before throwing some powerful hooks that rocked him. With 10 seconds left in the 5th round, Jaca dumped him on the canvass with a powerful combination and was unable to answer the 10-count. Jaca, who had not fought in 15 months, did a headstand at the center of the ring with this big win. His record now stands at 29-6-3.

In the co-main event and in a non-title fight, WBO Minimumweight Champion Donnie Alas foreshadowed the main event when he dominated Mexico’s Jesus Silvestre early on even scoring a knockdown in the first round. But Silvestre, who trains under boxing legend Erik Morales, fought gamely back and seemed to have a chance to steal the fight if he could deck the champion. But in the 10th and final round, after taking a punch to the face, the challenger spat out his bloodied mouthpiece as he couldn’t breathe. Much to the surprise of everyone, he made the mental mistake of retreating to his corner where his trainer gave him a sip of water forcing the referee to disqualify him.

In an earlier fight, Dodie Boy Peñalsoa Jr., cheered on by an excited crowd, knocked out Anthony Balubar with 24 seconds left in the 2nd Round to win his first professional fight. Despite being an orthodox fighter, it was Peñalosa’s left fist that twice decked the Baguio-based Balubar. Said, Peñalosa Sr. after the fight, “Na-relieve ako. Ako ninenerbyos eh. Lalagpasan ng anak ko yung mga nagawa ko.” Dodie Sr. is a former IBF Light Flyweight and IBF Flyweight champion. His son is a 3rd Year Engineering student at Southwestern University in Cebu who took inspiration not only from his father and uncle Gerry Peñalosa’s ring exploits but also those of compatriots Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria, and Nonito Donaire.


This article appears in the Monday January 25, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.