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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #316 Welcome to the club, LeBron.

This appears in the Monday, June 25, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
The ultimate winner, Bill Russell, hands over the Most Valuable Player Award to LeBron James.

Welcome to the club, LeBron.
by rick olivares photo by andrew bernstein/nbae

Welcome to the club, LeBron.

Opening the door for you in this now-that-I’ve-won-a-major-championship-can-I-get-some-love-club is none other than the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez who for the longest time was the whipping boy for critics, analysts, and armchair generals.

The criteria for this club is simple – have otherworldly talent and underachieve yet command a monstrous contract, get into some controversy, leave the club you started with by ripping the fans’ heart out, and piss off a lot of people (the latter two is optional but you get my drift). Rodriguez was an instant star when he came up with the Seattle Mariners in 1994. He put up gaudy numbers but the Mariners were oft deep sixed. He eventually left for bigger contracts with Texas and New York. His numbers were as high as his salary but the cupboard for silverware was bare until he was clutch in 2009 when he led the Yankees to the World Series title. And now, he’s well on his way to being named one of the game’s greatest not to mention being one of the Yankees’ all-time best.

At this club’s lobby, you’ll find David Robinson who’ll take your coat to hang it on the rack. The Admiral here? Yep. He suffered the infamy of being John Thompson’s poster boy for Olympic failure in 1988 when they finished third in Men’s Basketball. Sure he tore up the NBA when he was released from military duty but soon after, he was labeled as a close relative to Mr. Softee. His reputation suffered when even then-teammate Dennis Rodman slammed him lacking fortitude inside the alligator wrestling pond (that is what former NBA assistant coach Johnny Bach called the shaded area). Robinson did win a gold medal with the Dream Team in 1992 where he averaged 9.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game but that was a team of Titans where he took a backseat. It wasn’t until Tim Duncan joined San Antonio when Robinson won two NBA titles.

While you’re getting comfortable, John Elway should be down any moment to hand you some Cuban cigars. John knows pressure like you. He was racking up some serious yardage and stats but the only record that he seemed to be known for playing for three losing side in the Super Bowl until he won two and called it a career. The Buffalo Bills and quarterback Jim Kelly now own the distinction of Super Bowl futility with four consecutive loses.

You’ll find many familiar names here, King. The basketball wing reserved for this exclusive club seems to have a lot of members who have incidentally been named as some of the NBA’s greatest.

Clyde Drexler will bring over the bubbly just you wait. Before Drexler won a title with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston, his Portland Trailblazers were known as the Buffalo Bills of the NBA only they wore tank tops. And he seemed destined to follow the path of another high wire act in Dominique Wilkins – all super talent but no championship. Yet like Robinson, he won Olympic gold before he tasted an NBA title. Drexler was the Man in Portland but he caddied for Olajuwon in 1995. Luckily for him, he toiled for a small market team and kept out on any controversy so he was labeled as a good guy.

I guess being quiet and a nice guy helps. Look at John Stockton. He went to two NBA Finals but left empty handed although he does have Olympic gold. So how come his name doesn’t crop up as an underachiever?

But sometimes, being nice doesn’t cut it. Julius Erving promised Philadelphia a championship but he too went to three finals and lost every one of them including a massive howler to Portland when the Sixers went up 2-0 in 1978 but never won another game. And you know how demanding and fickle Philly Phans are. It took a guy named Moses to lead Erving, the Sixers, and the City of Brotherly Love to the Promised Land.

How’s your Spanish, King? We all know you’re a minority owner of Liverpool Football Club and for sure they can identify with the pressure of underachieving and not winning. But it isn’t the Reds who want to have a chat with you. There’s a whole bunch of football players from Spain who would like to join you in the photo op.

For years, Spain (along with the Netherlands) has produced some of the world’s best if not iconic footballers. There’s Raul who’s fallen out of favor never mind if he was the one shining light in a long dark tunnel for football ala La Furia Roja. Ah, but being under the spotlight is part of the problem. It’s part and parcel of the fame – you’re under the glare, under a microscope, and under scrutiny for everything you do.

Luis Aragones and Vicente del Bosque would like to swap stories. But be careful with Aragones, he said something uncool about Thierry Henry if you get my drift.

When you’re done exchanging war stories with the members, you might want to enter the throne room. That’s where the Executive Council resides. Michael Jordan, believe it or not, should be there. Only like his stint with the Washington Wizards, he’s not there much. You see, in his first seven seasons, he was labeled as another talented dunker. It was also said that he could never win the big one until he passes the ball, shoots less, and becomes more of a team player. He did and turned himself into the biggest winner in the generations that followed the ultimate winner in Bill Russell.

And that bring us to the chairman, the president, the real king, the Big Kahuna of this club. Only he’s moved on elsewhere but he retains the title as “Chairman Emeritus”.

His name is Wilton Norman Chamberlain. He did win two titles – one with Philadelphia and one with the Los Angeles Lakers. Wilt has some of the most eye-popping stats imaginable but many say even today that he should have won more. Imagine if Wilt had played in your era, LeBron – this era of incessant sportscenter and YouTube highlights, in this age of Twitter, Facebook, forums, and talk shows for basketball cognoscenti and armchair generals to express themselves. Would Wilt have wilted under the pressure? But that is just for speculation for Chamberlain won his share.

Every one in this club eventually won. They won, won, won with some having their pictures next to the Webster’s Dictionary entry of their respective sport. Oh, hell. Who read’s Webster’s today? There’s Wikipedia.

The bubbly never tasted this good, LeBron? And the Larry O’Brien trophy looks great next to your Olympic Gold. Welcome to the winners club, LeBron James and it’s good to be the king.

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