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, September 28, 2013

How teams with the Read Option Offense have fared so far this NFL Season

How teams with the Read Option Offense have fared so far this NFL Season
by rick olivares

Heading into this NFL season, it was a safe bet to say that defenses weren’t going to allow teams that ran the read-option offense to run amuck in the same manner they did the previous year.

During the 2012-13 NFL season, four teams ran the read-option offense – the Washington Redskins that were buoyed by the arrival of Robert Griffin III, the San Francisco 49ers that installed Colin Kaepernick as their first choice QB over Alex Smith who missed two starts because of a concussion, the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks.

The four teams combined for a 39-24-1 record. The Washington Redskins won the NFC East with a 10-6 record while the 49ers topped the NFC West with a 11-4-1 slate.

San Francisco won the NFC Conference and lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the last play, 34-31.

While most offenses in the NFL prefer pocket passers like the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning or the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees, you have the athletic QBs like the Philadelphia Eagles’ Michael Vick who are progenitors of the Read Option Offense.

The Read Option Offense basically is a deceptive play wherein the offensive line blocks in one way while QB makes decisions on whether to hand the ball to a tail back or to keep the ball and pass to a suddenly open receiver who has become unmarked due to the defense reacts. For this to run smoothly, everyone has to play their role to perfection as the QB makes a quick read on the play.

American Football analysts say the Read Option Offense is a fad but I don’t think so as variations of it have been run through the years. You have the no huddle offense or the silent count offense that has confounded defenders.

Offensive schemes have adapted throughout history from the time to prevent marauding linebackers and blitzes. I like the Read Offense because now you play 11-on-11 as opposed to pocket passers where you have 10 men trying to protect the QB from 11 defenders. The downside here is that you expose the QB to injury.

It should be noted that the Baltimore Ravens lost to the Washington Redskins in the regular season and had time to study the offense. But they nearly lost to the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

This past off-season, teams studied the Read Option and how to defend it.

Are they doing a good job?

Let’s take a look at the standings of the Redskins, 49ers, Panthers, and Seahawks after Week Three.

Washington is 0-3 in the NFC East
Carolina is 1-2 in the NFC South
Seattle is 3-0 while San Francisco is 2-2 in the NFC West.

The Redskins lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 33-27; the Green Bay Green Bay 38-20; and the Detroit Lions 27-20.

The Redskins are lost with an ineffective RGIII (well their special teams haven’t shown up too). Are people pressing the panic button? I know that since 1978, of the 161 teams that started the season 0-3, only five teams have made the post-season. Consider this though – Washington started last season 1-2 and was 3-6 after Week Nine. Then they went on a nine-game win streak to top their division.

The Carolina Panthers have had to deal with a lot of injuries. After their 24-23 loss to Buffalo in the final play that dropped them to 0-2 they came back with a 38-0 thrashing of the awful New York Giants.

The Seahawks are playing terrific on both ends of the field with the defense forcing a lot of turnovers and surrendering the fewest yards 241.7 per game (with 146.7 coming from passing). So far they have had five interceptions and five fumble recoveries.

On offense, Seattle is eighth so far.

The 49ers went into Week Four in a must-win situation after falling to 1-2 for the first time under coach Jim Harbaugh. Colin Kaepernick responded to the challenge with an effective 15-23 and two TDs in a 35-11 manhandling of the St. Louis Rams. He was composed in leading SF to a huge win (even against a terrible opponent. Remember they are struggling with injuries to starters Ian Williams, Patrick Willis and Nnamdi Asomugha while all-pro linebacker Aldon Smith checked into rehab this week.

However, running back Frank Gore tabbed his first 100-yard rushing game of the season for 153 yards on 20 carries and a TD.

I think by mid-season, a better assessment can be made of these team’s fortunes and their offense.

Having said that, those four teams aren’t the only ones running the Read Option.

The Buffalo Bills with rookie former Florida State Seminole EJ Manuel at QB and with new head coach Doug Marone also run the Read Option and are 1-2 in the AFC East.

But it should be noted that the loses by the Bills have been close: 23-21 to the New England Patriots and 27-20 to the New York Jets.

Since 2009 152.8 rushing yards allowed. But this season it’s 155 average yard per game, the third worst in the NFL.

Fad or wave of the future?

We’ll find out by season’s end and the next if teams still run it. But I like it. It’s not a gimmick offense or flavor of the month ala the “Wildcat”. Coaches who run it will tinker with it to how opposing defenses have played it so far.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Some celebrity Tweets about Mariano Rivera's final game at Yankee Stadium

Mariano Rivera, the great Yankee closer, reminds us that there is crying in baseball.

Mariano Rivera says goodbye and yes, the great Yankee closer reminds us that there is crying in baseball.
by rick olivares

I want to believe Tom Hanks.

In that beautiful, timeless, funny, and loveable baseball film, Penny Marshall’s “A League of Their Own” that has been deemed by the US Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, there’s that seminal line from Hanks.

“There’s no crying in baseball!” was rated as 54th by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest film quotes of all time.

I love that line too as spoken by Hanks’ “A League of Their Own” character, Jimmy Dugan.

Unfortunately, the New York Yankees are some of the biggest sobbers in baseball. Here are some of those tearjerker moments in the Bronx Bombers’ history.

There was Lou Gehrig and his “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech after he was diagnosed with the disease that would not only be named after him but would soon claim his life.

There was Babe Ruth, stricken by throat cancer, and like Gehrig before him,  giving a short speech that was barely audible.

There was Mickey Mantle Day on June 8, 1969 when the voice of the Yankees, the late Mel Allen said, “Ladies and gentlemen, a magnificent Yankee, the great number seven… Mickey Mantle.” And what followed was a 10-minute standing ovation. Imagine that!

The first three I only saw much later when I was older. What I did catch as a youngster was the game after Yankee captain Thurman Munson died that I caught on television. That was the third time I cried after watching something on television (the first was after watching ‘Brian’s Song’ the film – starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams -- about the late Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo who died of cancer while the second was the last game played by football great Pele on October 1, 1977 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey where the Brazilian played one half for the New York Cosmos and the other for Santos; yes it was televised locally).

That night was special. The Yankees buried their captain then flew back to New York where they played the Baltimore Orioles. They famously came from behind to win largely because of Munson’s best friend, the late Bobby Murcer who knocked in all five runs in 5-4 win including the last two in the ninth inning.

There was the 1996 World Series where New York lost the first two games before blitzing the Atlanta Braves in the next four. It was an emotional season where first year skipper Joe Torre was lambasted early on by the media as “Clueless Joe”. David Cone was diagnosed with an aneurysm in his arm. Dwight Gooden was a reclamation project. And Torre’s older brother Frank underwent heart transplant surgery on the day of Game 5 of the World Series.

There was the highly emotional post-season of 2001 after the September 11 attacks. There was the Paul O’Neill chant in Game 5 of that 2001 World Series. In his final game at Yankee Stadium, the home team was losing, 2-0, to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Thinking they might get another chance to thank him, the fans began chanting his name the entire top of the ninth inning. Hearing the chant of “Paul O-Neill! Paul O-Neill!” gave me goosebumps. Who didn’t shed a tear during that chant and when Paulie acknowledged the crowd? Even members of the Diamondbacks found it such a classy move.

After the third out, O’Neill trotted over to the dugout and doffed his cap to the fans. The Yankees rallied to tie the game and win it in 12 innings.

And now, there’s Mariano Rivera’s last home game. After retiring four batters, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi sent Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to take Rivera out of the game. Rivera recognized the uniqueness of the moment when he saw his two old teammates come to get him out. When he hugged Pettitte and let flow a dam of emotions that had everyone and myself reaching for the Kleenex box.

The final result of this game, a 4-0 loss by New York to Tampa Bay that remained a game ahead of the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers for one of the wild cards berths, will be forgotten as it has been a bittersweet season filled with highs and lows. It will, however, be remembered as the last home game by one of baseball’s all-time greats.

It was an emotional moment made even classier by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays team who all lined up outside their dugout and applauded. Even Joe Girardi’s eyes were red! Watching the whole thing unfold, I too got misty-eyed.

So forgive us, Tom Hanks. There is crying in baseball.

Why all the outpouring of love and appreciation for Rivera? Because he played the game the right way – respectful of the game, its traditions, and opposing teams. Off the field, he was a terrific family man and a God-fearing one. He helped the poor and his native Panama with his earnings from the Yankees.

On field, Rivera was very dependable and durable for the Yankees. From the moment he took over John Wetteland’s spot after the 1996 World Series, he was a picture of consistency. Plus, he’s the game’s greatest closer and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

I count myself fortunate to have watched Rivera and the Yankees live for several seasons. Saw some great games and teeth gnashing defeats. But all in all, it has been a great career.

He will be going out this season with another of the Yankees’ Core Four (that includes Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter) when Andy Pettitte retires for a second time. He’s finally scratched the last of his baseball itches.

The four, along with Bernie Williams were homegrown stars who led New York to an era of greatness unseen since the great Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970s. If Williams were around for the 2009 title, they would have been called the ‘Core Five’ but he had retired by then.

And now that core is down to one… the captain… Derek Jeter. And for sure, that’s going to be another emotional send-off.


There are two moments in a Yankee game where I would get goosebumps. The first was when Paul O’Neill would leave the on deck circle to go to the batter’s box with The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” blaring in the background. And there’s Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” that would play when Rivera jogged out from the bullpen onto the pitcher’s mound.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The NBA to allow nicknames on jerseys? What's in a nickname?

What’s in a nickname?
by rick olivares

The NBA will allow teams to wear nicknames on the backs of their jerseys this season?

Reports released today have it that at least for one game this season, players will be allowed to wear their nicknames on the back of their playing jerseys.

While I think it is cool it is also another money making venture after the Latin Jerseys Night when teams wear “Los Suns” or “Los Bulls” and Retro Nights where players get their throwbacks on.

Nevertheless, this is playground stuff that’s going to bring a smile to many people’s lips including players, friends, and fans alike.

Think about it. If Edson Arantes do Nascimento can wear “Pele” or Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite can use “Kaka” then surely the same can be applied to NBA basketball.

New York Knicks:
Amar’e Stoudemire – Stat
Carmelo Anthony – Melo

Miami Heat:
Dwyane Wade – D-Wade
Ray Allen – Jesus, Sugar, Ray Ray or Shuttlesworth
LeBron James – King James
Chris Bosh – CB4

Los Angeles Lakers:
Kobe Bryant – Black Mamba
Pau Gasol – Picasso

Brooklyn Nets:
Kevin Garnett – KG
Paul Pierce – The Truth
Deron Williams – D-Will

Los Angeles Clippers:
Chris Paul – CP3

Oklahoma City Thunder:
Kevin Durant – K-Smoove

Dallas Mavericks:
Shawn Marion – The Matrix

On the other hand, not everyone has a cool handle that you’d like to wear:
Carlos Boozer – Booze
Andrew Bogut – The Bogey Man
Chris Anderson – The Birdman
Brian Cardinal – The Janitor
Derek Fisher – Fish
Eric Gordon – The Hobbit
Anderson Varejao – Sideshow Bob

I am not too sure that James Harden wants “The Beard” on his back. And I don’t think Chris Kaman wants “Captain Caveman” on his jersey either. And will Tony Parker wear “Mr. Longoria” on his shirt?

Methinks no.

But does everyone have a nickname or nom de guerre as bestowed upon them by sportscasters? If not, I don’t think only a few teammates will have their nicknames on the back.

But it is an interesting concept.

Would Ervin Johnson wear “Magic”?

Would Rafel Alston worn “Skip to My Lou”?

I know Julius Erving once wore “Dr. J” so why not? But let’s check it out:

Will Brian Scalabrine ever wear “White Mamba”?

What if Michael Jordan were around for this, would he wear “Air” or “G.O.A.T.”?

And will players like Bill Russell take affront to that?

I am very much interested to see where this progresses. It sounds like a gimmick and maybe it is. But admit it, for a moment there, this takes you back – if you did ball – to those playground days.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A conversation with Pops: My field of dreams with my grandfather

A conversation with Pops
by rick olivares

Saturday, September 27, 2003
“Rick. Rick.”

“Huh? Whozat? Lolo? Is that you?” I rubbed at my eyes.

“Have you forgotten? You have to wake up. We’re going to be late for the game.”

I fought off the last vestiges of sleep and sat up on my bed. Directly across me was my Lolo Ramon. “Where am I?” I said stifling a yawn.

“You’re in Clinton Avenue, New Jersey. Where else?” he said putting down the paper. “Big game today. The Baltimore Orioles are in town. Roger Clemens is pitching.”

“I’m dreaming.”

“What you are is late. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon.” I got home early Saturday morning after watching a concert in the Bowery. Today was an afternoon game that was scheduled to be played at 4:05pm.

“Okay, pops.”

I bounded out of bed and headed for the shower. I thought the cold water would jar me back to reality. But pops was right there outside reading the sports pages. The stench from his tabacalera cigars as always assaulted my olfactory senses. But that wasn’t my concern. I felt hot tears stream down my cheeks (that the water washed away).

When I was done, I dried myself up and put on my replica Yankee jersey of Derek Jeter and looked at the mirror.”

“Like Mickey Mantle!” my gramps pronounced of his favorite Yankee. He put down the paper. It was time to go.

“I’m excited,” I beamed suddenly reverting to that young shy kid who came alive on the baseball diamond. “Thanks, pops.”

“Love you too, kid. Now let’s go. We have a game to catch.”

We took the 99S bus along JFK Boulevard to Port Authority. It was 10:15am and all in all it would take us about a little over an hour to get to the Bronx. Sitting next to him on the bus, I looked at pops. “Pops, how are you?” I said biting my lip as I tried to fight back the tears. I knew he had cancer.

“I’m okay,” he said in that reassuring tone I knew so well. “The pain is gone.”

He paused for a second then changed gears. “You think Clemens still has it?”

I was grateful for the diversion but there was so much I wanted to ask him. We talked about the game and the state of the Yankees post-Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and Scott Brosius. Just when it looked like the dynasty had come to an end with the loss in the 2001 World Series to Arizona, the Bronx Bombers looked good this year. There was talk of another World Series title. I told him that I saved quite a lot of money to buy a lot of Yankee paraphernalia. We were going to witness history.

Gramps cautioned me about my spending ways: “You don’t have to spend all your money, son. The stadium isn’t going away. Spend only what you need. You have to send money back home.”

We took the D train from 42nd and 6th Avenue. A lot of the straphangers were in Yankee attire.

When the train emerged from beneath the subway into the hot afternoon sun, several of the fans let out a yell of delight and gleeful anticipation. Pops ruffled my hair.

We had arrived in pinstriped heaven. There were thousands and thousands of people milling about 161st and River Streets. There were stores that sold Yankee gear and memorabilia. There were carts that sold sausages, hotdogs, pretzels, and kebabs. There were a few tailgate parties being held.

“We’re finally here!” I said as I was suddenly seven years old again. I was flush with excitement as it was my first time. "I can't believe it but we're here!"

“Let’s walk around the stadium; we’re early anyway,” said a smiling Pops. It was his first time here as well. We had photos taken around the area. Talked to some other fans including a Filipino family from also lived in New Jersey.

Around 12:30pm, we made our way inside. Our tickets were in the Upper Tier meaning the highest level of the stadium. On a hot summer afternoon in New York, we brought some caps and sunglasses. We bought a couple of hotdogs with everything on it. You simply had to do everything to absorb the ultimate stadium experience.

We sang along to the Village People’s “YMCA” while the grounds crew groomed the infield after the fifth inning.

We sang along to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.

We waited for Jason Giambi to hit a home run but playing DH that day, he went hitless in two at bats. Instead, we saw Juan Rivera (playing first base for Giambi that day) crush the fourth pitch thrown to him by Jason Johnson in the bottom of the fourth inning scoring Hideki Matsui and Aaron Boone to break a 2-2 tie.

Four innings later, Rivera clubbed a solo jack for a 6-2 lead that would eventually be the final score.

Cuban defector Jose Contreras took the mound from Clemens in the seventh and pitched two scoreless innings before handing it off to Felix Heredia for the ninth.

We got to see Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Hideki Matsui play. We hoped for Mariano Rivera to close it out but better for the Yanks to bash the Orioles than keep a close game. That game was special too because the Yankees won their 100th game of the season.

We exchanged high fives with other delirious Yankee fans in the stands. Pinstriped heaven indeed.

When the match ended and the PA system was blaring Frank Sinatra’s “New York New York”, Pops and I stayed until the song was over. It was about seven in the evening.

“C’mon. Let’s get some dinner,” urged Pops.

We took the 4 train to Union Square where we bought food from the street vendors. We sat by the park and watched the world go by us.

“How do you like living here,” Pops asked while taking a bite out of sandwich.

This was it. This was where gramps was going to set me straight. To tell me to grow up and take life seriously.

“I like it. It tough. Definitely no cakewalk but I like it. There are days when I get lonely. There are days when I feel like I am on top of the world.”

“This will be good for you,” he said in a sage-like manner. He then lit up that tabacalera he brought along. “Victory cigar,” he interjected referring to the Yankees’ win. “Going back… this whole experience will toughen you up.”

We talked some more until Pops checked his wristwatch. "It’s late. If we don’t get back to Port Authority we’ll have to go downstairs where the busses run on later schedules.”

It was past 11pm when we got back to New Jersey. We got off at the corner of Clinton Avenue and made the short walk to the house. I kept looking around mindful of a mugging a few days ago.

“We’ll be okay,” promised Pops. “I’m here.”

Pops put his arm around me and muzzled my hair.

At the house, I fished for my key and opened the door. “I had fun today, Pops. Real fun. It was the best.”

“Me too, kid. Me too.”

“Pops, are you okay?”

“Never better.” Then he looked me in the eye: “Remember what I told you earlier about this place toughening you up?”

I nodded.

“You’ll be just fine. You’re made of stern stuff.”

I gave him a hug.

“Goodnight, Rick.”

“Goodnight, Pops. Thanks. This was truly a great day.”

He broke the embrace. “See you soon.”

I went inside and closed the door. Like an idiot who forgot something, I quickly opened it and peered out but Pops was gone.

“I love you, Pops.” I said aloud. “Wherever you are.”

I went to bed and cried myself to sleep. You see, my grandfather passed away in 1991. More than a decade after his death, I missed him terribly. But he was always with me. And he still is to this day.


In all my life, I don’t recall telling my grandfather that I loved him. Maybe I did. But I don’t remember. The quote from 18th century American author Harriet Beecher Stowe (who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin) has been a painful reminder: “The bitterest tears shed over a grave are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

As a kid, I spent my summer and vacations with my grandparents in Tarlac where my mom hails from. I always looked forward to going there because I enjoyed being with my Lolo Ramon or “Pops” as I called him. He was a strong person who meant a lot to me. One time, during a typhoon, his old Chevrolet Malibu stalled in a flood. He got down along with my uncle to push the car. He stepped on a nail that punctured his shoe. He went back home. Got it cleaned out then put back his boots and went to work. That made a strong impression on me which is why to this day even if I am not feeling well, I go to work. It was what Pops would do.

Being in Tarlac meant I’d go to Clark Air Base where I could buy comic books that weren’t available in Manila. We could go to Dau and I’d buy vinyl albums of my favorite bands. It also meant that I could play baseball all day long.

In Ateneo, football is the first sport you take up. At least during my time. As much as I loved the game, I took to baseball. I’d spend afternoons watching these American kids play baseball at Clark or sometimes Subic (I could get in because my grandfather once worked for the US Army). When I had no one to play with, my grandfather would play catch with me and those remain a wonderful memory.

He introduced my to the New York Yankees and we’d listen to radio broadcasts on the US Armed Forces radio.

It wasn’t only in sports where we bonded. My grandfather was an excellent writer and a voracious reader. He passed on to my priceless issues of Time, Life, Newsweek, and Reader’s Digest that I still have today. It was he and my uncle who introduced me to comic books as well.

“Pops” passed away in 1991. His passing left a gaping hole in my heart.

Pops or Lolo Ramon walking me when I was a year old along the dike  of Mabini Street in Tarlac