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, December 9, 2012

Mulling Ateneo’s PCCL loss, the introduction of Bo Perasol, and tomorrow

Mulling Ateneo’s PCCL loss, the introduction of Bo Perasol, and tomorrow
by rick olivares

When I watched the Ateneo to the University of Santo Tomas in Game Three of the Philippine Collegiate Champions League, I thought back to 1989 where the Blue Eagles were defeated by San Sebastian in the National Seniors Championship on a Eugene Quilban shot to take the title.

That was Danny Francisco’s last game as he was outworked by SSCR’s Bong Solomon. Jun Reyes hit a huge shot that everyone thought would be the game winner but Baste broke our hearts with his game winner.

We didn’t know it at that time that we were going to lose Francisco not just for the next season but also for the rest of his college career. A few players had trouble with their academics and Ateneo came undone the next season. There were still some great victories but once the season tipped off, sans four key players who did not suit up (not because of eligibility concerns), there was a feeling of finality.

I watched in the stands that NSC title game and was crestfallen after the loss.

Ironically, with no place for me as a sportswriter to stay on court, I went up to the bleachers of the Ynares Center and watched Ateneo struggle with their game. They also had difficulty coping with the spotty officiating. 

When Melo Afuang took out Nico Elorde, I thought that was the turning point in UST’s favor. Afuang should have been thrown out because he did not go after the ball but Elorde (Kevin Ferrer also did the same to Juami Tiongson in Game Two and Magic was playing far from 100% in Game Three that affected his jump shot and lateral movement). I sometimes wish we had those old enforcers to go after cheap shot artists like Afuang and floppers and divers like Ferrer. I know the games are more civilized nowadays but I don’t mind an occasional donnybrook just so that some teams know that they cannot pull that shit on us. But this is a PG game nowadays save for some fans and assistant coaches who like to flip the bird.

But what terrific shooting from Jeric Teng and Jeric Fortuna! Any time teams shoot like that, we are going to have trouble pulling a win out of the bag. You all remember that loss to UE where Gene Belleza waxed hot then previously underachieving Chris Javier knocked in a short stab to take the win? It takes that kind of shooting to beat us.

You can even go all the way back to Season 70 where Jonathan Jahnke and Jonathan Fernandez of NU were nailing treys like it was going out of style for a massive upset that eventually told on the Blue Eagles’ fortunes in the Final Four.

So I watched as UST celebrated feeling a little angry and robbed and thought back to 1989. Unlike then when there was no program to speak of. We only had those moving up from the juniors ranks with the occasional recruit. However, even then we knew that the noises about dethroning Ateneo were coming all the way from Taft just as it is now.

And I, like the other Blue Eagle faithful, watched the final games of Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Oping Sumalinog, and Tonino Gonzaga in an Ateneo uniform. None of them played well in that game. Gonzaga was still in search of his jumpshot that deserted him following Season 74. The lack of practice is not an excuse. We took the court and we lost. We also misfired while UST connected all match long. We were a step slower in everything – to the loose ball, to the rebound, and to the races. And for the first time in Ryan Buenafe’s sparkling career, he lost in a finals series (he wasn’t in uniform for the PCCL loses to La Salle and San Sebastian). He was nearly the hero again in this one but Teng was simply on fire.

Of course, we cannot win everything and losses like this will serve as a reminder that days when we showed up and the opponent knew they were beat are over. Everyone can smell blood.

Yesterday after lunch, I rushed home to watch the final version of The Drive for Five documentary that I worked on with some talented folks. I had seen the penultimate edit where we fixed a few scenes and minor stuff. Seeing the final product and the part where the fifth title was annexed amidst the confetti, I felt my eyes burn with tears. Save for those who went to the Ateneo in the 1950s (the Blue Eagles of that decade played in seven NCAA finals), no one else has seen an Ateneo team play in five straight finals.

Who knows if we will ever see something like this again in our lifetime? We never expected this anyway, right?

In a simple program that saw the official turnover of the coaching reins from Norman Black to Bo Perasol yesterday at the MVP Center in the college, it felt equal parts the end of an era and the start of what looks to be an exciting one. I was sentimental yet filled with optimism despite the caliber of players the team was losing. There was joy and genuine smiles in spite of the previous day’s loss. Bo Perasol stood in the back taking it everything that was going on. He joked about the perks of being a newbie coach who is showered with Ateneo memorabilia.

When Joe Lipa was introduced as the 32nd Ateneo Blue Eagles head coach, I thought it was like we had won another championship. I'm sure it's very much like how Los Angelenos felt when Phil Jackson came to town. You know – you have a winning coach who can transfer his magic to the team. I felt the same when we also got Joel Banal and Norman Black.

Lipa was feted a welcome during the annual Homecoming and I will remember that when he walked on stage in the high school where there were massive cheers. Norman was not even introduced to that kind of fanfare. The Perasol introduction was simple and nothing flashy. A small crowd. A small celebration. And I like that just as I liked how he sat in the back observing everything. Stealth. An outsider no longer. And that too reminded me of another person.

When I stood outside Ynares Center while waiting for my ride back to Katipunan, an elderly lady approached me. She never went to Ateneo yet she almost never misses a game. Her late husband is from La Salle as are all her children (“I am my own person,” she explains but she also did mention that he father and other siblings went to Ateneo). I quickly forgot the PCCL loss and was engrossed in conversation with her. You see, Penny Zosa, at 70 years of age, just suffered a stroke. She was given clearance by her doctors to watch a game. She looked tired after the match but the loss also had to do with that. “But it was great to see the Blue Eagles play again,” she concluded.

I smiled and understood.

Yes, tomorrow is another day. I don’t think we’re going back to those losing years. We will not. But the league is far tougher now with almost every team having a solid program behind it. One thing is for sure, we’re going to give it ye old one big fight.

I thought there would be free coffee at Bo's Coffee at the MVP Center at the campus.

With the peeps behind The Drive for Five DVD: Sonia Araneta and Aaron Palabyab.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rick, just wanted to ask your opinion,
    do you think the talent level of the UAAP has declined in the past decade? Before there were loaded teams that would easily score in the 80's-100's (whilst nowadays we're lucky to even see a team reach the 80 point plateau).
    There were players like the rico vill, rich, larry, LA, macmac, James yap, yeo, Arwind, miranda and so on. Idk if i'm ignorant but, anyway, has the level of talent declined? Our own ryan buenafe can't even compare to the closer that was Larry Fonacier nor can Jeron Teng even come close to matching up with James Yap