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, January 25, 2014

Calvin Abueva: Scientific progress goes bling

This appears in the PBA website.

Scientific progress goes bling
by rick olivares

That’s the title of a Calvin and Hobbes book that I purposely paraphrased and lifted for this column on none other than Calvin Abueva.

The man after all is like a huge kid let loose in a playground that is the Philippine Basketball Association.

And the “scientific progress”? That would be the Alaska Aces. The Aces of Fred Uytengsu and the necktie brigade that Tim Cone previously introduced where ethics, class, and uniformity is the rule of the day.

“Bling” is the pursuit of another championship.

So is this the taming of Abueva, that hellion who during his college run with San Sebastian literally gave the NCAA the feel of a WWE or a MMA event. Of course, that depends on what school team you rooted for.

Having known Calvin since his days under Ato Agustin (yes, I was allowed inside the team’s locker room during games) up to today where he plays for Alaska and is my Brand Ambassador for Gatorade, I feel that going to the Aces is probably the best thing to happen to him.

While the team is undergoing a makeover from a finesse club to one that is a little rough and tumble on the side (more so since you have Gabby Espinas and Ping Exciminiano on board), the team had not ceded controlled aggression to chaos.

First and foremost, there are classy veterans who have been through numerous PBA wars to bring him along and pull him back when he is going Rodman. Dondon Hontiveros is a great locker room influence and Abueva listens to the man. Although he still occasionally does things to hurt the team, he is getting it.

During that masterful win over Barangay Ginebra where the Aces survived their third straight knockout game, Abueva made great decisions and was in the flow of the team. His beating Greg Slaughter during the jump ball only shows what kind of heart he has. And if you know him, he is all for challenges. Imagine that, at 6’3” he out jumps taller players and beats them to rebounds and to swat shots.

Going back to his third game with the Aces, I remember Luigi Trillo explaining the offense before the team went out for their warm-ups and Abueva, who sat next to JVee Casio, asked his teammate to expound further. It was a five-minute discussion on the finer points of the triple post offense. It was fascinating to watch as Abueva was pointing to spots on the white board about movements and spots. I never saw that at San Sebastian. Now I wasn’t there for all those Baste moments, but I think fair enough, the Stags didn’t play a structured offense or something as systematic as the triangle offense. This represented a new Abueva. By Jove! It isn’t a case of a diamond in the rough but the rough is turning into a diamond!

Sometime after they had won their first title with Abueva in tow, the Aces held practice at the Gatorade Hoops Center along Shaw Boulevard. Abueva was bouncing around that practice. There’s a joy and bounce to one’s step after you win a title after all. But no… he would bump into playfully bump into teammates like a pinball en route to a lay-up. It was more like trying to maintain composure so one can actually finish a play. And in one instance he asked Tony dela Cruz to bump him around while he was attempting a lay-up. Tony dela Cruz! That’s one gentleman of a player who takes his basketball seriously. Dela Cruz did just that and Calvin missed the shot. “Isa pa!” he gamely challenged Alaska’s captain. Tony looked at me and smiled, “I’ll tell you one thing, he’s sure brought some spice to our practices.”

After three tries, Abueva finally made the shot. He turned to Dela Cruz and said, “Ikaw naman.” Tony gave it a try.

All for one. One for all.

Second in relation to not ceding to the chaos theory, I know that assistant coach Dickie Bachmann has made it his personal mission to not only know what makes Abueva tick but to also provide that steadying influence on this raging fury from Pampanga. I think it’s novel but I wonder who is being schooled here.

Let me relate a story during his second season with the Stags where Baste was up against nemesis San Beda. About an hour before the game, a juniors match was being played and Abueva was chatting with Red Lions point guard Borgie Hermida outside the tunnel that leads to the Big Dome’s locker rooms. Someone remarked aloud to Calvin, “Ngayon kinakausap mo siya (Hermida), mamaya titirahin mo siya.”

Abueba quickly replied, “Si Hermida hindi dahil class siya. Yan dalawang yan (points to two other Red Lions) oo kasi pisikal sila maglaro.”

It’s ironic he says that when he is the avatar of old school basketball (the type of game that Sonny Jaworski, Rudy Distrito, or even Yoyoy Villamin played). But there’s a method to the madness. When his Baste teams played Ateneo, there was never any of that roughhousing. I found him helping up players like Kiefer Ravena or even Justin Chua and giving them a pat of the head. He traded hugs with them too. I raised my eyebrows in shock and fascination.

I guess it’s like that with Alaska now. The element of chaos or even a refined version of it if there is such a thing in the finely tuned triangle offense.

So far, scientific progress has gone bling.

Now they are going for another one.

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