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.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why I feel bad but don’t really feel bad after the Ateneo Blue Eagles were eliminated from making it to the Final Four.

An abbreviated version of this appears in the Monday, September 23, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

Why I feel bad but don’t really feel bad after the Ateneo Blue Eagles were eliminated from making it to the Final Four.
by rick olivares

When the final seconds ticked away on the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ season and dreams of a six-peat, I felt bad but I didn’t feel bad.

That sounds weird. Allow me to explain.

I felt bad because of the coaches and the players who worked so hard in this most difficult season. They bear an incredible burden. Save for the coaches who are older and more experienced (but it stings no less), the players are young lads on whom we place so much expectations. Imagine what it must be like for them to go to school following a devastating loss.

You cannot say that it is just a game. There is an insane amount of preparation and money put into a season. People make huge sacrifices. Unfortunately, college hoops for better or worse has become a high stakes game. When you say “a game is only a game” kindly adjust your definition to ‘pick up games for weekend warriors’.

I didn’t feel bad because you could see the end of the dynasty coming.


Chicago Sun Times writer Rick Telander put it best about the Michael Jordan-Chicago Bulls in his post-1998 season column:

“The word ‘dynasty’ probably should be only used when talking about centuries-long Chinese empires.

But as the Chicago Bulls began 1997-98 season, ‘dynasty’ was the only word that came to mind. With five NBA championships in the 90s, the Bulls posed the question, ‘Why shouldn’t this amazing club win another before the new millennium? Why shouldn’t the incomparable Michael Jordan lead his team to an epic height to a place where only emperors go?’

It was ‘The Last Dance,’ said Coach Jackson, ‘a farewell tour for the dynasty’.

There was never an empty seat to see the Bulls. Everywhere this group went. The lights came on and people came out. But through it all they never flinched.

They looked tired at times. And sometimes they looked almost mortal.

But at the end they showed just what they were.

‘Dynasty’ was the right word.”

Doesn't that prose resonate with you? It does with me. And I honestly felt that Season 75 was our ‘Last Dance’. That year too was the farewell tour for the dynasty.

There was simply too much lost after that glorious year: Norman Black, Jamike Jarin, Greg Slaughter, Nico Salva, Justin Chua, Oping Sumalinog, and Tonino Gonzaga. We gave away a lot of ceiling and experience.

Now it wasn’t only them. There’s Art dela Cruz and Jeric Estrada. Between the two who have been lost to academics over the past few years, Art would be a significant contributor on this Blue Eagle team. His rebounding, defense, post-scoring, and passing would have help the team immensely. Alas, he is back where he started… in Mendiola.

And when this season got started, we had a new coach installing his new system, there were far too many injuries that hurt the team’s rhythm. They never really got on a roll. Even in the midst of that five-match win streak, I felt that there were too many chinks in the armor – the (in)consistency of the bigs, Kiefer Ravena struggling, and a thin bench.

I didn’t feel bad because after having watched too many sporting events to mention over the past 40 years, you learn to take losses in stride. You simply cannot win everything all the time although you’d love to win everything all the time. Reality bites.

Throughout the season, I kept thinking, “Lord, let the team get to the Final Four because once they get there, their championship form will see them through”. But as the season wore on, it was apparent that the team struggled mightily for consistency. The blowout of FEU in the second round was the aberration; the glimpse of what was once a trademark and what they could be given a complete, healthy, and mentally prepared squad.

Now I felt bad in 2006 because we should have won that finals series.

This year, I can accept the loss. Even seeing the streak of five and 14 broken. After all, the signs were there.

Adamson breaking its more than a decade long losing streak two years ago. La Salle and NU cracking that aura of invincibility (I believe that the Season 76 champion will be either one of these squads because to be a champion you have to take it from the champion) this year. It would have been nice to keep it going but I am cool at not being defeated in the finals. Eight championships in 11 finals appearances is an awesome statistic. No one has that kind of Finals success and no one else has five straight.

It’s not a lack of faith but merely being realistic. No dominant big. Not much of a chance. Besides, nothing lasts forever.

The other teams clearly learned what we did when we had Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Greg Slaughter – pound that rock into the post.

What about Season 73 when we were without a dominant center?

Ah, but we had a deep deep team. That we do not have -- this year.

As I held on to the belief and dream that we’d make it back to the finals for an even more incredible and improbable six-peat, I thought of the 1986-87 Boston Celtics.

They were the defending NBA champions that year but their foes were coming really close. They barely fended off Detroit in the playoffs. Once they got to the finals, with Robert Parish and Kevin McHale less than 100% and Bill Walton a shade of his 1986 self, they were easy pickings for the Los Angeles Lakers who eventually won two straight.

Having said that, we didn’t see the best of JP Erram who everyone figured to have that breakout year. I saw JP in the pre and post-UAAP tournaments and he was ready to dominate. He was even dunking in traffic. Something only Greg, JC Intal, Japeth Aguilar, Paolo Bugia, Rich Alvarez, and Enrico Villanueva would do. After that injury, he wasn’t anywhere near optimum strength. Without a strong and confident Erram patrolling that lane, it was going to be like a lay-up line. That final stats of the season attest to that; we had the crap pounded out of us inside the post. That final game against UST, we had no solution to Karim Abdul.

Furthermore, this year, it seems as if we used up all our good karma in the past five years.

I don’t recall us getting embroiled in a very turbulent season like this – there was the pullout from the Filoil tournament that didn’t do us any public relations favors (we shouldn’t join next year if we don’t intend to finish it), the Jerie Pingoy Rule, the post-La Salle second round match fracas, Coach Bo being in the venue for the UE game despite being suspended, and the UAAP board problem.

I know that the players were asked not to think about these ‘distractions’ but several of them told me that they were thinking of the possible forfeiture of the UE win heading into the match versus NU.

When the game against UST ended, the Ateneo crowd saluted the team and its graduating players. Some of those on the floor and in the stands were in tears.

I felt bad for them. But you know, we have always made it a point of giving it that One Big Fight. We could have folded in that first half, but the boys came our firing in the third. When it seemed like UST was going to run away with a win in the fourth as they recovered their composure while our offense vanished for the nth time, the Blue Eagles had one more run in them and nearly even upended UST were it not for missed free throws.

Even in defeat, I don’t think it will diminish what they have accomplished in the past few years. Many of them have given us something to cheer and be proud about for the rest of our lives.

But you know why I don’t feel bad?

Because I know that the school, team management, the coaches, and the players will learn from this. It is an entirely different ball game as to when the first of five was won.

The college game has become the playground of the rich tycoons. Most teams have upgraded and re-tooled. In fact, we have even joined the African sweepstakes.

Unlike during my time when we used to see our teams, purely homegrown with a few recruits, beaten soundly by teams that recruited wholesale.

It took a while to play that game but when we did the titles came. Whether that is good or bad or even both is for another time. Suffice to say, that the team will get better.

Six years ago, the Ateneo Blue Eaglets lost in the Juniors Finals. Kiefer Ravena was a high school frosh then; the first frosh to make it to the juniors varsity team. As the final seconds ticked away during that loss, I remember watching him beside his dad from the baseline. There was that pained look.

I remember his dad telling me that his son would get better after that. And that even minutes after his rookie year was over, the young Ravena couldn’t wait for the next season to start. We all know what happened then – a three-peat in high school and a double in college. There was that look in his eyes again following that loss to UST.

Thanks for the great season, Ateneo Blue Eagles. We may have not gotten to where we wanted but what matters is you gave it that One Big Fight.

Animo Ateneo.


Thanks to Coach Bo Perasol, Ryan Buenafe, JP Erram, Frank Golla, and Juami Tiongson.


  1. I have always been proud of the Blue Eagles even during the dark ages of the 1990's. The team came up short in winning the game against UST, but they surely showed the mighty heart of champions that fights 'til the very end. You're right on sir. This would only make the team better. Thank you Blue Eagles! Bawi tayo next year!

  2. Why isn't Bo returning next season?

    1. maybe that guy misinterpreted your final line thanking all the departing seniors together with BO, so he probably thought BO was also departing

  3. Sir Rick just a question. Wasn't gian chu the first frosh to play for the blue eaglets? And 8 championships in 11 finals appearances? Wasn't it 6 in 9?

  4. What Rick means are the following championships and finals appearances: 1987-1988 (2) + 2002 (1) + 2008-2012 (5) = 8; 1987-1988 (2) + 2001-2003 (3) + 2006 (1) + 2008-2012 (5) = 11. That's our UAAP record since joining the league in 1978.

  5. Biggest loss? Three letters. M V P.

  6. Actually, it's not true that Ateneo is the only school with five straight titles in UAAP Men's Basketball. UE won seven straight, from 1965 to 1971. But that was well before the league instituted the rule that college players could only play for five years max. Thus, back in the 60s and 70s, it wasn't unusual for college players to play for their school for six, seven or even eight years. You CAN say that Ateneo holds the record for most consecutive titles, with this qualification: "since the five-year rule was implemented."

    1. Actually, Ateneo is the only team to WIN 5 straight championships. UE did not win 7 straight, but they were awarded 7 straight. UE won back to back, then they were declared co-champions with UST. Then they got a 4-peat.

  7. Sir Rick, any news on new recruits for next season? :)

  8. Why did we lose?

    In my humble opinion: RIP

    R for recruitment; Team A and Team B and Team C must be loaded; we must have coaches too who must want to be CHAMPIONS...

    I for injuries; R may be partly a solution too; who knows what will happen to the knees of our superstars..

    P for Providence; a 6 pest is too much to ask from God; maybe another 5 peat... LOL

  9. Another formula for success is the visibility of your patron. This year MVP had been seen in the gallery less and less, and the Sys and Cojuangcos more and more (and in one patron, on the bench). Laking kahihiuyan kung matalo ka ng nandoon ang Patron mo. In the pre-season, napahiya at nagalit si DC sa coach when they couldn't even stopped Kiefer and a 9-man team. Ergo, sibak. So the pressure to perform is too great. Taga mo sa bato, if NU doen't win it this year, don't expect Eric to come back next year. This is their 3rd try since their huge build-up, and in fact the tailend of their 2-man team. Ust? Wala naman delikadeza yong coach noon. Last year pa dapat nag-resign yon noong matalo sa Admu. What? They're the first to get a super import. And right now, even UE (did they even win against it?) and NU seemed to have overtaken them. Even an African import-less Dlsu. Take a cue from Leo. Honorable exit.

    1. Tigas nga ng mukha. nakaupo sa court. glares at refs. threatening stare. So much for sportsmanship.

  10. nice article. i don't feel bad at all however. thankfully, its just basketball, and yes you do learn more in losing than winning. I played for an ateneo juniors team that lost in the finals. it hurt at the time but i think i'm better for it now. We never said that the refs beat us, we didn't make excuses. We took it, because at the end of the day its JUST basketball. Even though we poured our life into it, when it was all over we had just lost a game. nothing else.

  11. A year late tho. So is Dlsu. Last year pa nila gusto tanggalin ang Ateneo sa eksena pero sorry ha. Yong 4-peats nyo wala na. At syempre, masakit pa rin sa Dlsu yong hininto ng Ateneo ang dapat sana 5-peat nila noong 2002. Pero sila di nahinto ang Ateneo last year. Tsaka ang sama naman kung gagradweyt na si J'c Teng ng wala man lang singsing. Si J'n Teng din wala pang singsing. Si Kiefer may 2 na. Yong Kfer ng kabila, wala pa. Ni hs ata wala. Sige kung sino man mag champion sa inyo...kung, bunuin nyo ang apat pa ha.