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, May 10, 2013

Man in a suitcase: Chris Charles and his basketball odyssey

Man in a Suitcase Part 3
by rick olivares

Caught up with Chris Charles who plays for Thailand Slammers in the Asean Basketball League. I struck up a friendship with Charles during the FIBA Asia Challenge of 2008 and since then we mostly caught up with what each was doing via email, Facebook, and Twitter.

We each ordered a smoothie at Big Chill on the fourth floor of the Galleria. A lot folks stared at the seven-footer. Many recognized him as the player for the Slammers (destroying stereotypes that Filipinos only know their PBAs and UAAPs). A few asked for pictures with the man who goes by the nickname chrisconsin as he is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Charles was in Syria during the Arab Spring and he saw it up close. Luckily he was able to get out. “In all my years playing basketball in the Middle East, it’s been peaceful. You hear and read about the wars in the region and yeah, it’s frightening. But all I’ve known is peace so to see this – fighting, violence – I understand it but it still is a frightening situation.”

He still monitors the situation there as he played a couple of seasons in that country (as well as in Lebanon) where he won a couple of championships. Some of his friends have move to either Jordan or Lebanon. A few stayed in spite of the bloodshed. Now Charles is in Thailand playing in the ABL and he loves every minute of it.

Just another adventure in his roundball profession.

His coach is none other than Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. Former Philadelphia 76er who played with Julius Erving and Darryl Dawkins. Dad of some dude named Kobe. “He tells us stories. Lots of them. And it’s fun. We’re here and we’re learning from a pro.”

He’s trying to help not only a team do well in the ABL but to help popularize the sport in what is known as a football country.

“I walk around their malls and all they have are soccer jerseys,” he says. “Not that it’s bad. But it’s just not my sport. Even on television it’s all soccer. So if I want to watch anything else, I turn to my laptop. God bless whoever invented this. That and the cell phone too. Without your laptop and cell phone you feel so alone and distant.”

But the Villanova alumnus likes it in Asia. “People are more friendly. Plus, the food is good in Thailand,” he adds. “And cheap! So you count your blessings where you find them.”

In a few minutes, he’s meeting up with Slammers point guard Froilan Baguion who once starred for National University. They’re going around to do some window shopping for vitamin supplements and other items.”

Charles raves about Baguion. “Terrific feel for the game. He’s got great vision. He is in a true sense, a point guard. He just makes us go (the Slammers) and that makes it really fun to play with him. He’s our general.”

He’s intrigued by Manila and the Philippines. While going to a hip-hop store at Galleria, he signs on a wooden basketball backboard that hangs on the wall. It’s filled with signatures of local pros and celebrities. A friend tells him to sign on it and he does (taking pictures of it on his iPhone).

He watches a hip-hop video of a Filipino (who’s half British) performing. “The guy’s good,” he notes. Charles asks the name from the store staff. “I should check out the local music scene.”

I hear from Froilan and my Filipino friends about all the nice places in the Philippines. There’s this beach called ‘Bo-ra-???”

“Boracay,” I finish the sentence for him.

“Yeah, that’s the place.”

“But more than that, I hope to play here. The PBA, everyone says good things about it. But it’s tough on American basketball players. Now that would be cool. Playing here.”


The Thailand Slammers play the San Miguel Beermen this May 11 at 4pm at the Ynares Sports Center.

Here's Part One of Man in a Suitcase that I wrote several years ago. And here's Part Two.


  1. ugh, as much as I want to follow the ABL, I have no idea as to what channel it's on, and at what time the games are usually aired.