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, November 20, 2011

Bleachers' Brew #286 The nuclear winter of our discontent

This column appears in the November 21, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

The nuclear winter of our discontent
by rick olivares

Welcome to the National Basketball Association’s winter of discontent. And even here in the tropical Philippines, I’ll have to bring out my cold weather jacket because all this posturing over money is sending chills up my spine.

The current lockout is terrible because as a NBA fan and there are so many sub-plots heading into what is supposed to be the new season. When I was working with Solar Sports several years ago, we were looking for a concept to promote the games locally and I used as inspiration the 1950s television series The Naked City and its tagline about life in New York: “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” So the production group and I went about producing plugs for the different subplots surrounding the 30 different NBA teams. A few years later, I saw the NBA do similar plugs with their “30 teams. 30 stories.”

For instance, I want to find out how my favorite team, the Chicago Bulls, would bounce back from their playoff loss to the Miami Heat. Who else will take their talents to South Beach to help the Miami Heat win the Larry O’Brien trophy? Will a full pre-season under his belt, will Carmelo Anthony lead his hometown New York Knicks back to the league’s elite?

There’s so much but only now, it doesn’t look like they will be answered. Instead of basketball subplots, the questions that have characterized the last five months of the year have been how to split the revenue between the owners and the players, and how to manage the salary cap. And in the advent of a nuclear winter with more than a month’s worth of games wiped out, a new question has been added, will there ever be a basketball season?

The National Football League may be the top dog in American sports but the NBA players are the ones recognized globally and the highest paid.

On that note alone, I cannot really feel sympathetic to people who are paid extravagant amounts of money and they still feel it is not enough.

For as I long as I have been working, I have at times felt underpaid and at times, worth every cent that was promised me. Even when I felt the former, I never went to management and threatened to hold out until I got more.

I was always aware that my performance would be appraised and any increase was dependent on how I went about my work. There were times when I felt the increase was low but I always resolved to work harder or look for an alternative means for making money. My parents always taught me that if I didn’t like my current situation then I could always opt to move elsewhere.

I work for a company that isn’t perfect but thus far has provided a perfect setting for me. It isn’t every day where you like your bosses and everyone you work with and I do not have to force myself to get up in the morning to head to the office. Putting two kids to school (and the tuition fee in Ateneo de Manila University is a killer) is no joke and I have to bust my butt to make sure that they are well prepared for adult life. That explains why you will find me here, there, and everywhere. I do what I can. I make do with what I have. And I have always been conscious of what the late Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need. Not man’s greed.”

Having lived in the United States and New York most especially, I understood the values of hard work. My father always drove in my thick skull to live within my means. I juggled three jobs at the same time to pay the rent, schooling, and whatever hobbies I occasionally engaged in. If I wanted to watch the Yankees, the Islanders, the Giants, or the Bulls I had to work overtime or do odd jobs so as not to take away from my budgeted savings. If I wanted to buy a basketball jersey or go to a game, I saved up for it. I never bought anything on a whim. I always planned my expenses. On the rare occasion I spent more than I should have, I always felt bad and redoubled my efforts to recoup the money.

But inside the arena, I bought hotdogs, nachos, and popcorn. I bought cups of soda or a beer or two (that I once dumped on a Red Sox fan). I bought programmes and jerseys. I worked two blocks away from the NBA headquarters in New York and oft went to the NBA store where I ogled all the stuff I wished I could buy. I wanted to purchase Manu Ginobili’s San Antonio Spurs authentic jersey that fetched for over $200 only it was too pricey. So I waited until the season ended before I bought one because by then it was at half price. But even so, I still felt that it was a dent in my savings.

I, like thousands and thousands of other fans, go through this routine every season. And I agree when it is said that it is incredible about how these millionaires and billionaires are fighting over the fans’ money.

Maybe the players should listen to what the Big Aristotle once said when he quipped: "I'm tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok." Of course, I am sure that Shaq was well covered by his endorsements.

In the absence of the No Basketball Association, there’s plenty for me to follow – there’s ice hockey that I tremendously love, there’s the NFL and Green Bay’s pursuit for perfection (not to mention the weekly Tim Tebow’s miracles that I am of the belief that one of these days he will walk on water), there’s local sports, and so much more. Including stuff that grounds me like saving for my eldest son’s summer class etc and his impending move to med school.

With all this talk about the lockout, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I think of the greed that has taken hold of the sport. I recall that infamous quote from the since banished Latrell Sprewell who turned down the Minnesota Timberwolves offer of a three-year contract worth $21 million because he felt it was insulting. “Why would I want to help them win a title? They’re not doing anything for me. I’m at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed."

Hell, I wish I made a million bucks let alone $21 million. So you’ll have to excuse me if I really cannot sympathize with these All-Star Whiners.

However, I do feel bad for those people who work as concessionaires, stadium guides and whatnot due to the lockout. Many have lost their jobs because of people’s greed. And I do miss watching Charles Barkley and his gift for gab. I crack up every time I remember him saying about former Los Angeles Lakers forward AC Green: "Hey, A.C. If God is so good why didn’t he give you a jumpshot?”

Unfortunately, the current lockout is so unfunny.

How could this have all gone wrong?


  1. Great read as usual sir Rick! Hoping against hope that they'll find a way to cut a deal soon.

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