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, March 10, 2014

Bleachers Brew #382 Life's tiny delights (reflecting on the Seaoil MMBL and NBTC tournaments)

Players from the University of Assumption (of San Fernando, Pampanga) celebrate their Seaoil NBTC Division II Championship at the Ynares Center.
This appears in the Monday, March 10 edition of the Business Mirror.

Life’s tiny delights
by rick olivares pics by brosi gonzales

“Most of us miss out on life's big prizes. The Pulitzer. The Nobel. Oscars. Tonys. Emmys. But we're all eligible for life's small pleasures. A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A cracking fire. A great meal. A glorious sunset. Hot soup. Cold beer. Don't fret about copping life's grand awards. Enjoy its tiny delights. There are plenty for all of us.”

I first saw this meaningful quote in an issue Reader’s Digest way back when I was in high school. I dutifully copied the quote from a United Technologies Corporation ad knowing that I’d use it one day.

During the finals of the Seaoil Metro Manila Basketball League (last February 3) and the just concluded Seaoil National Basketball Training Center League (March 9), I thought of that quote and how it is apt for the official grassroots program of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

During the Seaoil MMBL Finals, the sweltering hot San Beda Gym was packed all the way to the top of the bleachers from 7am to 2pm as parents, family members, school officials, and classmates were on hand to cheer for the eight schools that competed on that day.

The beauty of these tournaments is the purity in which the game is played. To put it short, it’s for the sheer love of the game.

There were very few Manila college coaches or scouts on hand for the four Seaoil MMBL championship matches spread across four divisions (unlike during the Seaoil NBTC League and High School All-Star Game that drew the attention of many team officials).

For many of the kids I saw play in these two high school tournaments, this might very well be the pinnacle of their athletic careers. Lord knows how many of them will be able to continue playing the game for a college program in the NCAA and the UAAP that might give them a shot at the D-League and ultimately the PBA. Hence, “missing out on life’s big prizes.”

Yet somehow I don’t think these kids cared. This was the here and now. They pumped their fists when they made huge plays. They dove for loose balls like their lives depended on it. They slumped to the floor in abject dismay and disappointment when they didn’t win. Their parents cheered, hollered, and hugged their kids win or lose.

Man, it was an incredible a sight. These were snapshots that imprinted themselves into my brain the way memories of my children as youngsters have hardwired themselves forever. The innocence of youth has something to do with that.

As for the teams from the provinces just to play in Manila was an experience of a lifetime. The Ynares Center isn’t the Araneta Coliseum or the MOA Arena but it’s close. Darn close. And they sure know some faces in the crowd.

“Ayun yung head coach ng FEU Tamaraws!”

“Nandyan yung mga scouts ng La Salle!”

“Hindi ba taga-Adamson siya?”

Also during final day of the Seaoil MMBL tournament, not all the matches were for the championship. There too were the battles for third place. And it was the same sight with families trooping over to watch and cheer. The same emotions and passions flowed just as freely.

After watching small Jubillee Christian Academy defeat a much-ballyhooed San Beda College-Alabang squad during the Seaoil MMBL Division Four Finals, one fan in the crowd pointed out to Michael Lim who scored a game high 22 points to lead his team to victory. “He’s my classmate! He’s my classmate!” he yelled out to no one in particular. To the rest of the Philippines, Lim might not or never be a household name but to this batch of JCA students, they’ll remember him and this day forever when he drilled three-pointers with impunity and sidestepped his way to dazzling lay-ups.

Clearly, life isn’t only the Ateneos and La Salles of this world.

For me, as someone who has watched a variety of sporting events in dozens of countries around the world, I’ve had a whale of fantastic experiences. But in the space of a little over a month covering the Seaoil MMBL and NBTC tournaments, I am reminded to be thankful for what I have and to not take anything for granted. These kids yearn for windows and doors of opportunity to be opened for them.

And that is why working as media head for these two tournaments for the past three years are some of the events I look forward to a lot when the new year comes.

When I enjoy life’s tiny delights.

With the gentlemen who make the Seaoil NBTC program a reality: Eric Altamirano, Dino Badilla (of Seaoil), and Alex Compton (Ato Badolato is missing here). It's always a blast working with them. Am on my third year with them and I love every moment of it. I used to watch Coach E and Alex and now I am working with them. Cool beans!
Already in BLUE! With Arvin Tolentino and Thirdy Ravena, 2014 Seaoil NBTC High School All-Star Game MVP.

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