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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mad dogs and Joshua Webb (reprinted from last year's issue of Rebound magazine)

Mad dogs and Joshua Webb
There’s no method and there’s no madness to La Salle’s talented and mercurial forward. He is in his words, “an ordinary guy who’s driven.” So what drives him? Rebound’s Rick Olivares sifts through the layers.

When the drums reverberate inside the Araneta Coliseum, Joshua David Webb initially cannot hear them. He’s got his headphones on and the decibel level gets cranked up. The three-chord riffs of Iggy Pop and the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” that classic distortion heavy proto-punk anthem for a dispossessed generation, is like a fuel injection that courses through his veins. It pumps him up further and is a moment away from maximum overdrive.

“So messed up I want you here.
In my room I want you here.”

Webb has three tattoos. On top of his right breast is the Latin word “Veritas.” It’s for his Uncle Hubert who has been incarcerated inside New Bilibid Prison since Joshua was five years old. Every Sunday, the entire family goes to visit Muntinglupa unless there’s a game to be played. Visiting never gets old except for the age that begins to show on his uncle’s face. It hurts Joshua. But he never lets anyone in on it. What his uncle has been teaching him is to be strong in the face of adversity.

Family is what is important to De La Salle University’s designated human energizer battery. After every match, what follows is an hour or two of dissecting the game – of what went right and what went wrong. His grandfather Freddie, a Philippine Basketball Association legend, is always present to give his grandson some pointers to ponder. So is his father Fritz and his Uncle Jason when he is around. Joshua wouldn’t want it any other way. And his parents, his face lights up when he talks about them. They set him straight and bring him back to earth when he gets overly anxious about things. These are the people who care about him. And they mean only the best.

His eyes light up when he sees former Zobel teammates Simon Atkins and Nico Elorde in the seniors’ line-up. The three of them share a bond that became stronger when in 2005; they led their high school team to La Salle’s first secondary title since 1955. Webb and Elorde would later team up once more for a second in 2007 over Ateneo. It was a victory that showed that 2004 wasn’t a fluke and that the Junior Archers were for real.

Webb thinks that they have the makings of real pride right in Taft now that there are more homegrown players on board. There’s also the addition of freshman Luigi de la Paz and LSGH standout Ferdinand still manning the slot.

“Now we’re gonna be face-to-face.
And I’ll lay right down in my favorite place.”

The rush tingles up his spine as Webb runs onto the court with his teammates. He bounces around brimming with energy. He’s got so much charge in him that someone should stick a meter on to him.

“I have to find a release for it, man” he declares. He’s finally into the joys of running. One time, he ran for 10 miles that during practice, his shots were flat. New Head Coach Dindo Pumaren chewed him out albeit in a good way. Webb had this sheepish grin on his face but he nodded in agreement. “It wasn’t for the lack of effort,” he explains. “It was more of proper timing and channeling it properly.”

Webb has a second tattoo; this one below his left wrist. It’s the word “freedom” in Arabic and comes with a double meaning -- one again pertaining to his uncle and the second to himself.

The basketball court is his canvass where he can express himself. Everyone sees the antics and trash talk. He confesses he has no idea why he’s like that. He folds his arms and thinks about it. It is a startling contrast. Off the court, he’s a homebody who prefers to watch DVDs for hours in his room or lose himself in his a steady mix of classic rock that ranges from Led Zeppelin to Cream to Jimi Hendrix and to the Doors among many others. “I’m a throwback,” he laughs. “The music then was real. No pretensions. And I’m like that.”

If he weren’t playing sports, he’d be a rock star. He says that without hesitation. It’s evident because his eyes light up and that definitely gets his juices flowing. While in high school, he once sang in front of the whole school with an orchestra backing him up. “That was a dream come true.” he smiles.

But as soon as he steps on the court, he’s got his game face on.

Webb fears no one. As a child, he played a lot of pick up basketball at Bilibid with prisoners. He got so used to it as a kid that never did he once think that it could be dangerous. Uh-uh, he shakes his head. “Maybe that’s why I play with no fear,” he surmises.

Sometimes, that over eagerness leads to mistakes such as when he kicked at Ateneo player Raymond Austria during a scuffle for the ball. “I make mistakes. I have to learn from them.”

The inmates have never given him any advice that has stuck with him. That comes from his head coaches.

“I want you to give your team all your energy.” He’s heard that from his Boris Aldeguer as well as from Franz  and Dindo Pumaren who just took over a few months ago. “I like my role. I’ve got a large supply of that. And hopefully I can infect everyone with it.”

He’s the type of player that everyone loves to hate but would like to be on their side. He knows that so he doesn’t get bothered by the jeers and catcalls from the gallery.

“Oh, I love it,” he says of the heckling. “I feed off it. In fact, it makes me even more focused. But that’s only on the court. Off it, man… I’m actually a sensitive guy.”

He’s no tortured soul. Far from it. He just relishes life. “I learned that from my uncle. One day you’re free and the next you’re not.”

He isn’t blind to failure and the change that comes with it. Being a part of the first La Salle team to miss the UAAP Final Four rankles him. And then there’s his closest friend on the Green Archers squad Hyram Bagatsing not being on the roster anymore. He keeps quiet, takes it on the chin, and soldiers on. “Life’s like that. One day you’re on top and the next you’re losing left and right.”

“Now I’m ready to close my eyes.
And now I’m ready to close my mind.
And now I’m ready to feel your hand.
And lose my heart on the burning sands.”

The third and last tattoo on Webb is just above his left wrist: Joshua 1:5. He admits to not being the overly religious sort but he does believe in the passage that says: “No one can withstand you while you live I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not leave you nor forsake you.

Webb thinks about being a third generation basketball star and how he would like to lead La Salle back to the Promised Land. “Have to learn from all of this, man. What’s it’s like to lose and to fail. At first, it seemed so easy. I should know better than the others of not taking things for granted.”

He knows that the school has been building a contender. All of a sudden, he is no longer the newbie but a veteran on a very young squad. “My teammates are also looking up to me to lead the way. I don’t mind the responsibility.”

When “I Wanna Be Your Dog” comes to a thrashing end with Iggy Pop urging, “So c’mon!” Webb is ready to kick in the afterburners. Webb lets out a primal yell and he bounds up and down like a pogo stick. His music then segues into the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.”

It’s game time.


I wrote this last year for Rebound magazine so it might read a little dated. But it should give you a better understanding of Joshua who remains a good friend. The issue with the Ateneo Blue Eagles on the cover. Incredibly our first issue to sell out. Thanks, Joshua.

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