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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Notes on the Liverpool-Thailand match

Read my match report here.

Notes on the Liverpool-Thailand match
Notes & pics by rick olivares

Steven Gerrard led LFC onto the pitch to massive cheers. The Reds got cheered a lot but the loudest ovations were for the Liverpool captain, Luis Suarez and Thai striker Teerasil Dangda.

The crowd cheered for both the home team and the visitors. But it was the colors of the English club that most wore.

LFC was successful as first because of the double pivot that they employed in the middle. Joe Allen to Philippine Coutinho. It was a diamond formation in the middle that maximized the short passing that when successful led to cuts inside the box or the wings by the wingers. At first it forced Thailand into packing the defense closer to the middle but when they did, the ball was sent wide.

Iago Aspas looked unable to latch on to the passes or even get a good grip on the ball. You'll have to credit the Thai keeper for making good reads on these crosses.

The creativity and industriousness of Coutinho paid dividends when he dribbled about 12 yards while dancing around four defenders. Ditching their with his sleight of foot before slotting the ball to his left while sending the keeper right. It was an exquisite finish and one wonders how he will partner with another of those deft of foot, Luis Suarez. That is he will be in Liverpool.

But that goal didn't break the backs of Thailand.  They packed the middle, marked Coutinho, and closed down the passing angles. The War Elephants also attacked forcing Liverpool to play deeper into their own territory. They should that two can play that game when Teerasil Dangda dribbled past Daniel Agger and Kolo Toure then fired. The keeper read it right and parried the ball out of bounds.

The Thais continued the pressure and the impressive attacks off designed build-ups while the Reds needed a great block from Toure to keep the goal advantage. They countered on occasion but had difficulty getting that ball into the final third.

That all changed three minutes into the resumption of the match when Coutinho's through ball was played well by Aspas. That greatly changed the tide of the game. It was as if the air was sucked out of the Thai team that gamely battled the visitors.

However, it was the War Elephants that threatened first. They took the first shot on goal for the match. They got off three shots from that area. Two were saved while one went wide left.

LFC supporters wave to the Liverpool team bus as it arrives at the Rajamangala Stadium.

At one point, several English Liverpool fans began to taunt the supporters of the War Elephants. The Thais responded by cheering, “Everton!” One even yelled, “Man U” but that backfired real quickly as the Thai LFC fans booed him.

The cheering from the Thai supporters was impressive. Not only was it non-stop but it was infectious. Those guys up there have my respect and admiration.

I am in this picture from the Bangkok Post. That's me atop the larger than life LFC replica jersey. In red beside all these guys in black ushering the jersey along.

Liverpool sweeps Asian Tour with 3-nil win over Thailand

Liverpool sweeps Asian Tour with 3-nil win over Thailand
by rick olivares pic from the bangkok post

BANGKOK, THAILAND – Four pre-season games played. Four pre-season games won.

Liverpool Football Club closed out its Asian summer tour on a high note, a 3-nil thrashing of the Thai National Team at a jampacked Rajamangala Stadium despite rainy weather.

The familiar sea of red (some 50,000 paying patrons flocked to the match), the singing of the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem, even the jerseys of Thailand – with a huge “Chang” in front of their jerseys (that prompted LFC’s veteran internationalist Glen Johnson to exclaim, “They look just like a Far East version of Everton!”) reminded the visiting team of some of the finer comforts of home. Except they were in Bangkok, Thailand.

Last season, the Reds drew twice with Everton in their Premier League derbies, 2-2 and a scoreless draw.

This new season, they dispatched their Chang-bedecked opponents albeit after a difficult first half where the War Elephants threatened on several occasions with striker Teerasil Dangda getting two magnificent opportunities to score.

In the Muangthong United forward’s first attempt, he faked off Liverpool defenders Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique to the right before bringing the ball back to the left where he fired just wide left. In his second attempt, he fired at Mignolet who punched away the ball that menacingly dipped to his left.

However, it wasn’t only Dangda who dazzled with his dribbling. Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho created, inspired, scored, and assisted on two goals while talismanic captain Steven Gerrard scored on a delightful chip of a layback by new Spanish striker Iago Aspas.

Aspas had the first opportunity to score when he latched on to a loose ball just outside the Thailand box but his thundercracker was deflected for a corner. Coutinho, whose arrival last January clearly helped Liverpool in the second half of the season attempted an acrobatic scissors kick but the shot hardly threatened.

A Johnson pass inside the box found Fabio Borini whose one touch shot went straight to Thai keeper Kosin Hathairattanakool.

Then came the goal of the match in the 17th minute when Coutinho dribbled some 12 yards, first ditching midfielder Adul Lasoh not once but twice then had defenders Pirot Sokam and Artit Daosawang going to the wrong way before side footing with his right for opening goal.

Instead of falling apart, Thailand regrouped and pressed high forcing Liverpool into a number of errors and poor clearances. Marking Coutinho and Joe Allen, the Reds saw Steven Gerrard go all the way to the back to help bring up the ball.

Upon the resumption of the half, Coutinho once more threatened with a forward pass to Aspas. He finally slipped the perfect through ball to Aspas three minutes into the second half. The Spaniard’s quick turn allowed him to beat the offside trap and all he had to do was pick his spot. Aspas slotted the ball to the left as the keeper dived right. Two-nil, Liverpool.

That broke the War Elephants’ backs.

To complete the rout and the magical spell for all those who went to the Rajamangala, Gerrard's delicate chip off a lay back by Aspas bended just over a defender who even flailed his arms to try and parry the shot. But it was no. Gerrard scored and it was 3-nil, LFC.

Luis Suarez began to warm up to massive cheers. When he entered the match with 27 minutes to spare, the venue erupted. The enigmatic Uruguayan, LFC's most dangerous threat up front since Fernando Torres flashed his old deadly form, nearly scored on a header but the ball rattled the crossbar.

Gerrard too nearly had another goal but his second effort like wise struck the crossbar.

With the 3-0 win, LFC finished their Asian tour with three wins, no losses, and no goals conceded (they previously defeated Preston North End, 4-0, last July 13 with Aspas also finding the back of the net. Brought in from Celta Vigo as insurance should Suarez depart for Arsenal or some other big moneyed club, it is hoped that the Spaniard will be like lightning in a bottle twice for Liverpool (referring to the acquisition of Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid).

The Reds return home to play Greek side Olympiakos (on August 3) then travel twice more at Valerenga (at Oslo, Norway’s Ullevaal Stadium on August 7), and at Celtic (at Aviva Stadium, Dublin on August 10) before the August 17 EPL opener against Stoke City in Anfield.

Despite the four-game pre-season streak, there’s guarded optimism over at Liverpool Football Club despite finishing their Asian Tour with a spotless record. The Reds did well in the pre-season of the previous year (2-2-0), their first under manager Brendan Rodgers but they crumbled in the first half of the Premiership before their late second half surge.

For my notes on the match, read this.



Johnson     Toure     Agger     Enrique


Aspas     Gerrard     Allen

Borini     Coutinho


Wongsa     Kraisom     Songkrasin     Anan      Lasoh   

Wannasri    Daosawang   Sokam   Butmathan



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Off to Bangkok to watch Liverpool FC

Third Asian tour by Liverpool FC in the last several years. So far, I've caught them in these tours in Singapore, Malaysia and now Thailand. Also caught them in the United States many years ago. Hopefully, I can fulfill those Anfield dreams either this year or the next.

The Reds will be playing the Thai national team today Sunday at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

If you're from Ateneo, here are six reasons to feel good about the win over UST.

If you're from Ateneo, here are six reasons to feel good about the win over UST.
by rick olivares

This one was a total team effort.
This 61-57 win is only the second in 26 games played this UAAP season where a team had all the players it fielded contribute to the effort.

All 10 players fielded by Bo Perasol scored. All 10 not only scored but they also had at least one rebound as well. And six Blue Eagles also got an assist, steal, or a block. Seven of them went to the free throw line as well. What this all adds up to is a total team effort.

The only other team to have all its fielded players score is FEU during their 87-83 win over NU.

Even Gwyne Capacio hit some big shots! If there is one Blue Eagle that I have been waited to show his wares it is Capacio. He’s had steady performances now. Here’s to building on that.

This is the first game where the team practically led from start to finish.
Okay, it was the Growling Tigers who drew first blood courtesy of Kevin Ferrer. But Frank Golla scored inside and over Karim Abdul off a nifty bounce pass by Ryan Buenafe to equalize 23 seconds later. Thirty-two seconds after that, Juami Tiongson scored on a lay-up after they harassed Brian So into a turnover.

The Blue Eagles answered every run, every big shot by the Growling Tigers with one of their own.

After taking a 19-6 first quarter lead, UST went on a mini 9-4 run to make it 23-15 after an Aljon Mariano short stab. Chris Newsome deposited two free throws to restore a double-digit lead. Then Juami Tiongson added two of his own after another Mariano bucket.

During the third quarter, after Kevin Ferrer put back a brick to cut the lead down to 34-28, Juami Tiongson raced to the left corner where Kiefer Ravena gave him the rock for an uncontested three-ball, 37-28. Then Ryan added to free throws off a Kim Lo foul.

In the pay-off period, Ed Daquioag, playing a resplendent second half, drove in for a basket to make it 56-53, Ateneo.

Ravena answered with a drive of his own, 58-53, with time down to 1:54 seconds left.

Then the Phenom blocked a Daquioag trey attempt.

In the endgame, it got interesting when Ateneo began to miss free throws giving UST a shot a sending the match into overtime.

Fortunately for the blue and white, Kevin Ferrer missed a couple of open looks.

Ateneo won the battle of the third period and for the second consecutive game, won all four periods.
Let’s tackle first that third period. UST had whittled Ateneo’s lead down to six, 27-21, in a low scoring affair.

But the Blue Eagles took the third period 20-18 (points scored), won the battle of the boards 13-10, and had more assists 6-3. This was the period where Capacio scored five points while Von Pessumal made his only bucket – a three – of the game.

Why is that third period important? It’s because, they are able to answer the opposing team’s halftime adjustments. And it serves as a springboard for a good fourth period.

In the first three games of Season 76 – all loses – Ateneo conceded that third period. They won their next ones – Adamson, UE, UP, and UST.

But we lost to UE you say.

True. After Ateneo’s third quarter rampage, the score was knotted at 54-all. It was those end game miscues that cost us the W.

And that leads me to the fourth periods.

What this all means is the team is finally putting it together. Derailed by unexpected and untimely injuries, they are starting to put it all together.

Here is the season flow thus far:

Get blown out in the opener – lose by a hairline in the next – rack up a lead and get some gruesome fouls called against the bigs and the team prompting a loss – win the next with that big third quarter – lose another close one – then lastly win the final two matches by taking all four periods.

Furthermore, after averaging 16.2 turnovers in their first five matches, Ateneo turned the ball over only 9.5 times in their past two games. Both for wins.

Yes, the team is getting better physically and mentally (as is Kiefer Ravena who admitted to being 70% back).

Ateneo’s bigs stayed in the game.
For the second consecutive game, Frank Golla and JP Erram played 25 and 15 minutes respectively. They combined for 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 shot blocks. Versus one turnover. Although they had three fouls with attempts (meaning the opposing player trooped to the free throw line). Vince Tolentino also played 10 minutes where he chipped in 2 points and 2 rebounds.

There’s a little bit of déjà vu.
Third period. The score is 30-21 with Ateneo on offense. The play nearly goes awry but Chris Newsome saves the ball from going out of bounds by tossing it near the elbow of the free throw line. Ryan Buenafe hauls down the loose ball before Clark Bautista could get to it. As he lands, he draws Aljon Mariano and Kim Lo. Newsome runs back into play and Buenafe finds him with a snap pass. Newsome skies and slams it home with Karim Abdul trying to swat the shot. Forget that dunk, Kobe Paras. That was during a lay-up line. This is/was the real deal!

When I saw that, I said to myself, jeez, we just go the dunk of the season. No way are we going to lose this game.

I said the same thing when Juami Tiongson poked the ball away from Jeric Fortuna in last year’s second round match up. Kiefer Ravena streaked forward with Abdul hot in pursuit. The Phenom took off with Karim trying to return to sender. Jam! That made it 33-28 with about 40 seconds left in the second period.

Nearly identical scores and both flushes in a win against UST. Déjà vu.  

That was a great coaching job by Bo Perasol.
You have to give credit to the coach. He was in control of this match.

First and foremost, Ateneo came out with a lot of energy. They had UST on their heels for most of the game.

Karim Abdul was defended well. The double teams worked as the Cameroonian averages 15.0 points per game. He ended up with 6. Abdul was guarded by either Frank Golla or JP Erram with held coming from Ryan Buenafe or others players within the vicinity.

Chris Newsome on the other hand took on Kevin Ferrer. The third year forward for the Tigers averaged 13.8 points per contest heading into their final match up of the first round. He finished with 9 points.

Aljon Mariano had a monster first half but in eight minutes in the fourth period, he had zero points. Ditto for Ferrer.

They played great defense as they scored 14 points off turnovers (to the 5 of UST). The blue and whites also had 4 steals to the 2 of UST. Both teams were even at 4 blocks each.

Coach Bo’s use of his time outs was judicious if not timely. He shuffled his players making sure each one got adequate rest. And every bunot worked from Vince Tolentino to Gwyne Capacio.

Plus, I love how they attacked the interiors. Ateneo scored 28 points in the paint (to the 22 of UST). That shows a willingness to mix it up inside.

So the team is at 3-4 to close out the first round. Save for the NU match, every one of the other losses were winnable.

In those loses, they stayed close only to crumble in the endgame. Now, they are learning to close them out again. Plus, Coach Bo is getting a better grasp of the team not to mention amateur ball all over again.

It’s a good win. Along with the break that they will use to get healthier (and for Ryan Buenafe to shed a few more pounds), they’re poised for a run in the second round.

The drive is still alive.

No interviews. No autographs. No photographs. What are you complaining about? Just be glad you were a witness.

This appears on

No interviews. No autographs. No photographs.
What are you complaining about?
Just be glad you were a witness.
by rick olivares

It’s been four days since LeBron James set foot in Manila for a one-day event that was organized by Nike.

It wasn’t my first time to see James up front close. It was my second.

The first was after his rookie NBA season at the NBA Store in Manhattan. He was a star already but not as big as he is today. It was advertised that he was making a promotional appearance at the store with several other NBA players.

I left work early that day and decided to hang out at the store so getting in wouldn’t be a hassle later in the day.

He shot a few hoops, signed autographs, and gamely posed for pictures. The youthful kid who smiled in the face of pressure in that first ever Nike ad (where he faced Mike Bibby and the Sacramento Kings) is no longer there. Stung by withering criticism, he had to prove everyone wrong after repeated failures on the court. It is now a chiseled veteran of many wars who I saw at the Makati Shangri-La. I was willing to suspend my dismay because it must have been an exhausting flight for him.

He didn’t smile much and he sounded like he trotted out the prefabricated answers and words. That changed somewhat when he got to the Mall of Asia Arena and on the court where he was in his element. He smiled and joked. Seemed more loose.

I saw some of the college and pro basketball players follow him hoping for a photograph with him; a souvenir of what was otherwise a magical day. After all, how many can say that they were on the same court as LeBron James?

He only had one photo and that was with one photographer during a lull in the activities on the court. But other than that he was whisked away and said, ‘No photographs or autographs.”

I can understand the need for privacy or that one may be tired but this was a promotional appearance. I remember one of our more famous boxers telling me over dinner that he gets the feeling that people only want to talk to him because they want his money. And yes, I think of Allen Iverson’s quote about signing stuff and having photos taken. To paraphrase Iverson: you can sign all afternoon but when you’re done there’s one more and you decline, you get a ‘you suck’.

True. On all counts. But not for all occasions and every person.

Others will counter that in the case of James and those other foreign athletes who are worshiped as demi-gods, ‘you are in the Philippines. It isn’t everyday that you are here. Chances are this is a once in a lifetime event.’

No interviews. No autographs. No photographs.

I have no idea if that is the policy of the NBA, Nike, James, or maybe all three of them. But then you see these people (NBA and Nike) have their pictures with him. So it becomes it’s just us and the rest of you are here to watch. Well, they are right. It was the “Witness History” tour, right? We’re here to witness and not ask questions or ask for photos. Ooo-kay.

“Hey, I am here to fulfill my duties as an endorser of so and so. They didn’t say that I had to flash a Magic Johnson smile while I go through the motions.”

It was the same when Ken Griffey came over. They kept everyone at a distance except for the US Embassy folks who could get their pictures taken with a smiling Griffey any time. You should have not announced it and just kept it for yourselves so that way you didn’t offend the local media.

Of all the recent pro athletes to come over to these shores, the only ones who have shown gregariousness or genuine excitement in being here have been Kobe Bryant (and he’s been here a lot), Dominic Wilkins, Gary Payton, Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber, Landon Donovan, and Luc Longley (to name a few). The others ranged from okay to the surly to the oblivious. Heck, even Tracy McGrady didn’t even remember going here.

I recall even when the WWE was here, wrestlers Edge and Lita were openly hostile in a meet and greet that was a complete disaster (people waited for hours for nothing except one humungous photo with about 50 people and two wrestlers who were sulking).

And then you see them on television saying, “It’s all about the fans.” And the NBA does a great job of selling that. “It’s about the fans.”


Several years ago, FC Barcelona went on a tour of Korea where they put on a cold war act that made the locals very unhappy and downright angry. They paid a lot of money for nothing.

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because we’re Asian and not white.

But I notice that this is more frequent with the global stars while those from fledging sports are more accommodating. Yeah, interview me now before I become a swellhead.

Am I upset? Nah. If there’s anything I’ve learned from covering sports for quite a long time, is don’t expect much because you’ll end up disappointed. Just take it for what it is. Just write the story and don’t come away affected by whether this athlete is an ass or not.

So there’s the selfie photos, the transcript of someone else’s interview, some dunks during the layup line and a scrimmage. And someone dunking on you.

These are the images we’re left behind with.

Oh, to be a witness.

Derrick Rose's adidas World Tour

It is good to see Derrick Rose finally feeling better. The youngest ever player to win a NBA MVP Award began his summer with a tour of Europe by visiting Zagreb, Croatia; Belgrade, Serbia, London, England; and Paris, France.

In Croatia, adidas held a press conference at the Drazen Petrović Memorial Center where he received a special jersey from the late NBA player’s mother, Biserka Petrović, and toured the museum. Later, Derrick met fans who won a special contest through Facebook at an adidas Store, and then dedicated the newly refurbished Tuškanac “D Rose” basketball court with Croatian-born former NBA player Gordan Giriček and Croatian women’s national basketball team Olympic silver medalist Antonija Mišura.

Rose also met fans in Serbia at an exclusive basketball event, where he judged a slam dunk contest, faced off with the winner of a three-point shooting contest and held a press conference with former Serbian-born NBA player Žarko Paspalj.

His London visit allowed over 100 fans to get their very own pair of D Rose’s signature shoe, the D Rose 3.5 by participating in the event “Jump with Derrick Rose” at the “D Rose Jump Store”. Fans had the opportunity to literally grab their own pair that was placed on a rack 9 feet high from the ground.

The D Rose tour continued in Paris, France, where he met over 800 fans through various activities like a one-on-one tournament, a special party with attendees like hip-hop artist Big Sean, Nic Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers and other French athletes and celebrities, and a special appearance at the adidas store at Champs Elysees.

The European leg of the D Rose tour will continue in Madrid, Spain before he heads off to Asia on September 4, starting with Japan, China, and with Manila, Philippines on September 14-16 as his last stop before heading back to his hometown in Chicago.

The 3-day D Rose Tour in Manila kicks off with an Originals party, followed by a variety of activities such as the 3on3 grand finals with high school players from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, and a Media day where Derrick Rose will be answering questions and interacting with the media.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

James Harden believes Pinoys have talent to make it to the NBA

This appears in the Friday, July 25, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

James Harden believes Pinoys have talent to make it to the NBA
by rick olivares

“You’ll have to forgive me. I’m more at ease on the basketball court.”

Houston Rockets guard James Harden eased into a seat at the ballroom of the Hotel Sofitel Manila after the press conference for the NBA 3X Philippines,

Harden is in Manila along with Eric Gordon of the New Orleans Pelicans for the three-on-three competition sponsored by Sprite. It is Harden’s second trip to Manila following his participation in an exhibition match that featured other NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Chris Paul among others during the league lockout two years ago.

“I don’t do crowds well,” admitted Harden who after three years of playing the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Sixth Man, blossomed into the Main Man over at Houston. “I’m more at ease with smaller groups of interviews. But I’ll do my talking on October when we play Indiana.”

“But the weather is great. I’m here a little longer. Maybe I can catch some local basketball,” said Harden who admitted to being a hoops junkie. “I hear the national team will be playing tomorrow.” The player known as ‘The Beard’ was referring to the exhibition match between Gilas Pilipinas and Kazakhstan tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum before the upcoming FIBA Asia Championship that tips off on August 1.

The Rockets, will be playing the Indiana Pacers in the first NBA Pre-season game to be played in the Philippines this coming October 10.

Harden, who has four NBA seasons to his credit is rapidly carving out a name for himself as one of the league’s best hoopsters. He’s adjudged the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year 2012. He was an All-Star this past season in addition to being named to the All-NBA third team. And he also has an Olympic Gold Medal as part of the US National Team that defending their crown in London two years ago.

“The gold medal (from the London Olympics) is nice to have,” revealed the six-foot-five native Californian. “If I can win an NBA championship then it will be a nice way to cap my basketball career. It’s good to see the Rockets organization put the parts together for a title run.”

He also observed that with all the flurry of NBA activity of late – from the recent arrival of Muggsy Bogues and LeBron James to the upcoming visits of Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose – in the Philippines, “you guys are on the road map of basketball. I was impressed last time with the talent here. I’d say that if you work hard and who knows you might get a lucky break, we’re going to see a Filipino in the NBA. More and more the game has become global and we’re really seeing the best players around the world in the NBA.” Harden has Turk Omer Asik as a teammate in Houston while he also had Congolese-Spaniard Serge Ibaka as a colleague with the OKC Thunder.

“So maybe soon you’ll be seeing one of your own. And maybe we’ll see him tomorrow in the NBA 3X.’

The NBA 3X will be held at the Music Hall of the SM Mall of Asia from July 26-28.