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, September 26, 2011

Tunnel vision: the Ateneo Blue Eagles and FEU Tamaraws before Game 1

This is something I jotted down right before Game One. Thought I could use it as part of my game piece but it didn't fit. So maybe it was best that I separate it.

Tunnel Vision
by rick olivares

September 24, 2011
When teams arrived early for a shoot-around they were relaxed and loose. The lights were still dimmed and the throngs of fans and supporters not yet in. In an hour’s time the quiet will give way to a frenzied atmosphere. The season that seemed so far away before tip off was almost at it’s end. It’s game day of the Finals.

The players stretched, shot baskets, played one-on-one games, or chatted with some well wishers and members from the opposite team. There were smiles and the sounds of laughter.

However, once they headed back to the dugout to change into their game uniforms and for a last minute briefing, the change in mood was palpable. They had put their game faces on.

With tip off 20 minutes away, the FEU Tamaraws were the first to emerge from their dugout. Before they went out the tunnel where teams do their traditional warm-ups before they run out to the floor, team captain JR Cawaling gathered his teammates for a players-only huddle. He spoke earnestly and reminded them of the difficult task at hand. They were here last year and they know what it is all about. Now was the time for redemption. Some teammates nodded in agreement. The others… their difficulty of their undertaking was written all over their faces. The Tamaraws emptied into the tunnel, formed two lines and began to limber up.

The Ateneo Blue Eagles filed out some eight minutes later. And one by one, they gathered just outside the corridor fronting the media room and Bb. Pilipinas office deep inside the bowels of the Araneta Coliseum as is their custom. Kirk Long gave his short pre-game talk that last under a minute. Then team began to bounce around, arms around each other bonded in glory or a grim sports death. They chanted in unison “A-ya-yay! A-ya-yay! A-ya-yay!” several times before there it gave way to a shout – “Ateneo… one big fight!”

Ateneo then went to the tunnel just as FEU finished their warm-ups. This time, the two teams did not look at one another. They wore the look of you-are-now-my-enemy-and-I-can’t-wait-to-kick-you-butt. No pleasantries or low fives were exchanged. There’s a time for that and that is not now.

The UAAP Finals means much to both teams.

The FEU Tamaraws have spared no effort to reach the Promised Land. This past season, they trotted out icons of past success in Bert Flores, the last man to lead the team to a title. And there’s Johnny Abarrientos and Vic Pablo who know what it’s like to end another team’s dynasty when they stopped La Salle in the early 1990’s. The dynamic duo is now with the Tamaraws coaching staff and part of their job is to impart hard won nuggets of wisdom to the new generation of FEU stars.

The three Ateneo captains – Long, Raymond Austria, and Emman Monfort – are the sole remnants of the years where the team was frustrated by other squads in holding aloft that coveted trophy. They know well enough not to take things for granted. Some others have only known winning and they constantly have to remind them to remain steadfast in their goals and their tried and tested system. They know that all streaks come to an end but they hope they can do it one more time and go out a winner.

The teams looked straight at the entrance leading to the court. Eyes riveted. Minds transfixed on the task at hand. The drums and cheers are calling. It’s time.

The Blue Eagles raced out to the court. The Tamaraws followed a minute later.

With my prized student Emman Monfort (above) and old bud Greg Slaughter (dating back to the early days of Smart Gilas).


  1. sir rick, may i ask what class you teach? was classmates with emman in sir sev's PR class... more power!

  2. Intro to Journalism. Thanks so much!

  3. is that the one that sir Chin Wong previously taught (if i remember he was my intro to journ prof)?