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.

Monday, September 9, 2013

After the fall: Inside the UE Red Warriors' locker room after the loss to Ateneo

After the fall
Inside the UE Red Warriors’ locker room after their loss to Ateneo.
by rick olivares

The locker room of the UE Red Warriors was like a morgue. Minutes after being eliminated from Final Four contention by Ateneo, the men in red and white forlornly filed inside where they could let out their emotions.

Ralf Olivares, unable to suit up as he served out the last game of his suspension, was beside himself. He sobbed uncontrollably at being both unable to help his team while regretting his actions that led to his suspension. Rookie Gino Jumao-as sat next to him and patted his back. He didn't have to say anything.

Veterans Jai Flores, Adrian Santos, and JM Noble sat with their eyes wide open. Shock does that. This was their final UAAP campaign. The season that began with so much promise ended with a sickening thud. Now it was all over.

Charles Mammie shook his head and buried his face in a huge towel.

A couple of other players joined Olivares in his mournful cries. Roi Sumang, in a wheelchair and his knee wrapped in a protective brace rested his head on his hand. He took an awkward shot and fell awkwardly. He felt a pop and the first thing he thought of was: “Wag naman sana. Kailangan pa ako ng team.”

During the singing of the school hymn, UE head coach Boycie Zamar bit his lip. His eyes watered a bit but he knew he had to be strong. He knows the bittersweet taste of defeat. He began his UE career with two championships before UP and Ateneo closed out those four consecutive finals appearances with a pair of stinging losses.

“Guys,” he said in a tone that had not changed all season (it was one of encouragement). “Let’s gather around.”

“We gave it our best but it wasn’t enough,” he summed up. “Lumaban tayo at pinakita natin na hindi na tayo basta basta talunan. Hold your head high. Pag labas niyo dito, hold your head up high.”

That was one of the three oft repeated quotes of UE’s season (the others are in bold face below).

When Zamar came in as a mid-Season 75 replacement for former teammate Jerry Codinera, he wanted his players to have fun, play with pride, and to have a change in attitudes. The Red Warriors had tuned out Codinera. The losing wasn’t fun. Basketball wasn’t fun. Some had begun to wonder if they should have gone elsewhere.

Zamar, who ran the one-spot as a player, was essentially the extension of his coaches back then. So it prepared him for life after his playing career was over.

Under Zamar, he has presided on arguably two of the most exciting Red Warriors teams in college basketball history. He first coached that team of Paul Artadi, Ronald Tubid, and James Yap, but that team fell apart in the Final Four.

Now he has this team as led by Sumang, Mammie, and Olivares that helped win six pre and post-UAAP tournaments heading into this Season 76. They all know that this is the one that matters. Zamar embraced the tag of contender after having won the Filoil pre-season tourney. Their coach and his team long to break that long championship drought that has spanned close to three decades. In that time, every school save for Adamson and NU have surpassed the Red Warriors in terms of hardcourt achievements.

“We are losers,” he constantly reminded his team in order not to get cocky. “We only had three wins last year. Remember where we came from and be humble.”

And that was part of the problem. Under their previous coaches, few of the current players got playing time. Save for Lord Casajeros and Noble, most players sat on the bench for much of their current career. Under Zamar, they blossomed but the lack of game experience clearly hurt.

In what was a won game against UST, Adrian Santos foolishly threw away an inbound pass that led to a three-pointer and a quick swing by the Growling Tigers who took the game in two extension periods.

Under the glare of television, increased media exposure and the massive crowds, UE faltered.

“Sawang-sawa na ako matalo,” Roi Sumang oft repeated during the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup and also during the early part of the UAAP season. At one point, he choked back the tears even after a win. After winning the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup, the Red Warriors liked their chances.

But even then I wondered if there was trouble ahead. If they had ambushed teams during the summer, the rest of the league was prepared for them come UAAP time.

For all their newfound confidence there were some potential landmines.

One of the problems with having Africans for centers is it displaces some players. In cases like UST or even San Beda or Perpetual Help, the locals have adjusted well. For Adamson and UE, key local components like Rodney Brondial and Chris Javier have at first been invisible.

Brondial adjusted after a while as it has allowed him to shoot jumpers of which he has always had in his arsenal. While Javier has a medium range shot, his confidence has dipped massively.

The ascension of Ralf Olivares as a second scoring threat for UE has seen Jay-R Sumido fail to summon his old form. He has been mostly an invisible player this campaign.

UE stayed head above water with a 4-3 record in the first round. The second round was another matter as suspensions to Charles Mammie, Lord Casajeros, and Olivares hurt. Missed free throws against La Salle and an inability to close out a game against FEU further hurt the Red Warriors. Since the mid-season break, UE has gone 1-4 with all their losses clearly winnable.

As Sumang sat in silence in that post-Ateneo match meeting inside their dugout, he couldn’t believe it was all over. Like Paul Lee before him, he had become a crowd favorite for his propensity for long bombs and incredible shots. The UAAP crowd appreciated him because he played much bigger than his height. After the loss to the Blue Eagles, every single Atenean and their coaching staff made their way to Sumang who typified UE’s struggle and carried the team on his small shoulders, to offer a sympathetic word and a handshake.

Inside the UE dugout, Zamar reminded his players once more, “Hindi pa tapos ‘to. We have two games to play. We have to still play hard. Wala na si Roi so we need everyone to step up. Let’s win this for ourselves and our community.”

“Taas ulo at noo pag labas natin.”

The team, save for Sumang who sat in the wheelchair, gathered for their traditional huddle cheer, “Sino ka?” asked Santos whose voice betrayed the collective disappointment.”

“Warriors ako.” the team answered.

Then the room fell silent.


Outside the locker room, Roi Sumang's mother slumped against the wall and ran her hand through her hair. She looked troubled and fought back the tears.

After the post-meeting huddle. Ralf Olivares sat beside me and cried some more. Chris Javier came over and gave him a hug. Said Javier, "Pare, marami pa tayo pagsasamahan. Bangon tayo." I found it impressive. Here was a man who hardly played and had seen his confidence take a nosedive but he was there to pick up a grieving teammate.

Assistant coach Nomar Isla went across the room and shook the hand of each and every player. No words were exchanged. The gesture said volumes.


For the men in red and white...................


  1. nice article sir rick - c.aris

  2. Rick,

    Great post as usual. I feel for this team, they really played their best. Quite a poignant scene. Were you crying as well?


  3. Very good and sensitively written article, Rick. Factual question though: did Adi Santos' inbounding error happen during their UST game, or was it during the first overtime period of their FEU game, when it seemed UE had an insurmountable lead in the last 27 seconds?

  4. UE just sent a clarification letter to the UAAP Board regarding the presence of Coach Bo during the Ateneo - UE game. Apparently, CBo was spotted and caught on camera while at the MOA Arena contrary to the rule prohibition.

  5. You made me cry with this article.