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, August 11, 2013

Bleachers' Brew #366 We are going to Spain! & Locker Room Scene 1

This appears in the Monday, August 12, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

We are going to Spain.
by rick olivares

“And we’re going to Spain!”

In those final fateful seconds, the win already secure in the Philippines’ hands, I watched the players of Gilas Pilipinas whoop it up on the court even if there were three seconds left in the game. Everyone was going crazy inside the arena. The cheers were deafening. Tears were flowing. Through all the happy crazy madness, I heard game barker Rolly Manlapaz’ distinct stentorian voice proclaim officially: “And we are going to Spain!”

I raced down the media section of the arena getting ready to catch the players in the mixed zone before heading to the media room for the traditional post-game interviews.

It was like Christmas Day or the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve when you greet everyone and look at one another with a huge smile on your face. It’s like saying, ‘Peace be with you’ during Mass to the people next to you. It’s like an unexpected bit of good fortune. It’s like when the girl you’re courting says yes to you. It’s like passing an entrance exam and you floating in the air. It’s like a collective weight on an entire nation’s shoulders was lifted. It’s like Cuba Gooding in Jerry Maguire where he learns that he’s been offered a long-term contract with top dollars and he says, “I love everybody.”

Those were just the emotions. This were the different thoughts running through my brain:

Oh my God, we won it. We finally defeated Korea.
Wow. We won it without Marcus Douthit!
Ang galeng ni Jason Castro!
I have to get a nice spot inside the media room for the post-game interviews.
I have to see the statistics and save myself one for posterity.
Wow. No one wants to leave the floor and Kazakhstan is already on the court. I’ll bet no one will want to leave the stands either.
Track Chot Reyes. Track Chot Reyes. Butch Antonio is hugging him but Chot is finally letting his emotions overcome him.
Where are those haters who questioned Chot Reyes’ decision to play in Group A? Where are those haters who questioned Gary David being in this lineup?
(To the tune of Prince’s ‘1999’) So tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1973!
Keep calm and think about how to write all about this. What’s my angle?
Wow. We’re going to Spain! I’m going to Spain with these guys.

Yes, those were my thoughts.

On the day of the covenant signing one month before the FIBA Asia tipped off, I asked former FIBA Secretary General Moying Martelino if lightning could strike twice since the last time we hosted (1973), we won the FIBA championship (we also won it in 1985).

Mr. Martelino paused, looked me in the eye and said, “You know… it’s going to be very difficult. But if things fall into place, we could. Qualifying for next year’s World Championships is doable. Winning it like in 1973, we could. It’s not going to be easy but we could.”

In our first assignment, we defeated Saudi Arabia, 78-66. Some might say it wasn’t that convincing since they wanted a rout against a weaker team. However, Gilas wasn’t in sync and looked off at times.

Against Jordan, the team came out flat again and the former took a halftime lead. Gilas came out smoking with 24-9 run in the third period that gave them the lead; one they managed until the end.

Emotional Game #1 The first bump on the road where we lost to Chinese Taipei. You cannot dispute the fact that there were a lot of underlying tones for this – the death of a Taiwanese fisherman at the hands of the Philippine Coast Guard, the physical and mental abuse taken by overseas foreign workers in Taiwan, and Gilas Pilipinas being uninvited to defend its Jones Cup championship. But the Taiwanese were razor sharp in dealing the Philippines it first and so far only loss of the tournament. It also brought out the haters and crabs (and just as there are a multitude of fans so there is a multitude of haters and crabs).

That put the Philippines in a precarious position and a possible collision course with China. However, in the second round, the Philippines responded with its best game of the tournament thus far with a 90-71 rout versus Japan.

Big Test #2 (The first was Chinese Taipei) The next game was the big test of the second round – Qatar. Some pundits wondered how the dribble drive offense would work against a team that was tall and athletic. On the other hand, I felt that as physically gifted as Qatar was, they were not great defensively. That was put to the test as both squads were tied after the first 10 minutes, 20-20. But the Philippines dropped another huge bomb, 27-9, in the second period to take this game, 80-70.

The final assignment of the second round was Hong Kong that was 0-5 at that point. Gilas came out flat and Hong Kong, which had never won a period in their five previous outings took the first and second period. Both teams traded baskets until Gabe Norwood’s stellar showing on both ends of the court sparked the Philippines to a 67-55 win.

Big Test #3 Once in the knockout stages, Kazakhstan awaited. But before this game was played, Chinese Taipei ousted blood rival China from contention. As much as that was a relief, it seemed like in this tournament, we were repaying in spades teams that used to give us lots of problems. If the team hurdled Kazakhstan, there was a possibility that the Philippines would face Korea in the semifinals (Korea later in the evening dispatched Qatar).

For years, we’ve had trouble dealing with the taller and physical Kazakhs. Gilas had barely beaten them in a tune up match before the start of the FIBA tournament and many were expecting a close and bruising encounter. After the Kazakhs led, 3-2 early, the Philippines went on a 10-0 run that propelled them to a 30-15 first period lead. This was the second match where the Philippines played well for the entire game and it ended in a most improbable 88-58 rout to set the stage with old foe, Korea.

Emotional Game #2 For years, Korea had tormented the Philippines by snatching away wins in the final minute or even the final play of the game. The Koreans were arguably the best defensive team prior to this match up. In seven games prior to this semis tiff, they were 6-1 (their only loss was to Iran) and they had limited the opposition to a mere 56.7 points per game while scoring 78.4 points of their own.

They held us at bay with super sub Kim Min Goo hitting huge outside shots. But there was a chink in their armor as their guards could not stop the drives from top of the key by Jason Castro. Korea switched from a man zone to a 1-3-1 zone to stop Castro but they struggled mightily as Jimmy Alapag, Marc Pingris, and Japeth Aguilar all hit huge shots.

Korea showed it mettle by making run after run but the crowd, magnificent and a huge advantage all tournament long, gave Gilas a lift even as Marcus Douthit went out with an injury. Korea just did not know whom to stop. Everyone was making shots. Then when Gabe Norwood stuck to Kim Min Goo, that was it for them. When Norwood blocked Kim’s three-point attempt that was it. Bedlam. The Philippines was in championship play and just as important, on to the next round. Years and years of frustration were partially erased. And inside the media room, it took Ranidel De Ocampo and Marc Pingris several minutes before they could compose themselves.

You couldn't access the internet or even text in the arena as over 20,000 people were sending messages or uploading info on social media networks. Fireworks went skyrocketing in the sky outside while inside, the tears flowed freely.

As I made my way home, here were my thoughts:
We did it. We actually did it!
Now, what and how to write this?
And by God, we are going to Spain!


  1. Good Read Sir... Keep it up...

  2. As much as we appreciate the sacrifice of the players, we have to give thanks as well to media people who tirelessly and even selflessly brought in the stories we are searching for.

    Many thanks from the Land Down Under.


  3. Excellent article. Thanks Rick for making me feel like I was there.

  4. You're welcome! Just trying to do my best.

  5. awesome read sir! appreciate the honest thoughts. Continue to inspire!