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, August 9, 2014

For college freshmen athletes: Dear Rookie

This appears in the Monday, August 11, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

Dear Rookie
by rick olivares

Dear Rookie,

Is the college basketball season turning out the way you expected it to be? Is it all cut out the way you envisioned it – the crowds, the passion, and the excitement? And college life sure is something, right?

College is cool but what minutes, you say?

Oh, you’re glued on the bench and you’re burning a hole where you sit. Now you say your confidence is shot. That you’re disappointed. That you’re trying hard to smile even if you’re team is winning. You’re upset because the doofus ahead of you in the rotation can’t score a bucket even if the basket was as wide as a door nor he can he grab a rebound even if his life dependent on it. You feel even more awkward that there’s polite applause as you’re fielded in during garbage time.

You pray for that one chance and yet when you do get in because you’re all jazzed up you commit a turnover or worse muff what should have been a sure two points. You cuss and kick yourself for that missed opportunity because you wonder when you’ll get that chance again.

You were pried away from the province and led to believe that you’re an integral part of the coach’s plans. Back in high school, you were the man. The scouts raved about you. The crowds cheered your name. It seemed that you couldn’t do any wrong. At the end of your high school career, you were labeled as a blue chip recruit.

And it sure felt good to be wanted, yes? But here you are all dressed up and nowhere to go.

You’re angry. You’re hurt. And your folks feel that their ticket to the big leagues is slowly being devalued.

Suddenly you’re having thoughts about having gone to your current school. You’re thinking of transferring. You want to go back home to the province. These guys from the other school are now whispering things in your ear, “We told you to go to us but you didn’t listen.”

Before you make any rash decisions or go to social media and blurt out your frustrations I want you to listen up and listen good.

Learn the lesson of Doug Kramer
Prior to his debut in UAAP Season 65 for Ateneo, Kramer, one of the touted rookies that year, cut an interstitial for Studio 23 where he said, “Let’s get it on.” Alas, the Baguio City native hardly got off the bench in a deep Blue Eagles team that went on to win the title. The next year, freed from the shackles of the bench, in fits of gigil and/or raw talent, he tried to dunk the ball every time he got within sniffing distance of that basket. He later became a starter and a vital cog for the Blue Eagles and when he was drafted in the PBA, much to the surprise of a lot of people, has become a dependable role player who is now going into his eighth season.

This all means, you’ll get your chance. Obviously, there are veterans ahead of you. Not every can be like Benjie Paras who starts immediately and wins a championship. So relax. Watch. Learn. And continue to work hard.

Oh, if when the time comes when you think about playing out your final year or not, play. Suit up and play. Unless you’re so far off the end of the bench after all these years then there is no point in prolonging the misery. You’ll definitely miss the college game.

Let’s not harp about playing time
Mark Tallo was one of the most highly sought after rookies heading into Season 75. Frustrated at being benched by Norman Black while playing for Ateneo during the summer of 2012, he left right before the school year started and enrolled in La Salle where he promptly sat on the bench as well. After one disappointing season, he moved back to Cebu where he is now playing for Southwestern University.

Has he waited or been patient, he could have won a title either with Ateneo or La Salle. While he is somewhat doing well in SWU, he is mostly playing far beyond the spotlight of Manila.

Playing time is earned. It’s not demanded or given because you were a star in high school.

You have to be ready when your number is called
In this NCAA Season 90, the focus on the current University of Perpetual Help Altas is on their Fab Four of Justine Alano, Harold Arboleda, Juneric Baloria, and Earl Thompson. In a tough game where the Altas were reeling from a furious endgame rally by the San Sebastian Stags, Altas rookie Ric Gallardo was sent into the fray. Not only did he record a massive block on veteran Stags forward Bobby Baculanag but he also scored crucial points including a conventional three-point play to ice a win for Perpetual Help.

Prior to that game, Gallardo didn’t do too well and mostly sat (and that includes the summer matches). Since that game, he hasn’t had too many good performances. And because of his inconsistency, the coaching staff has benched him. However, Gallardo has an upside. Maturity and if he is willing to put in more work will help him get better. But it sure pays to be ready.

Enjoy playing college ball
While college ball isn’t as pure as it once was given the crass commercialism and the big time recruitment, the esprit de corps remains second to none. Not even the pro loop. I find it funny how some former college players forget their team and light up the scoreboards to hike their stats and draft value. When they get to the pros, they realize that it’s a business and they’re not as effective as they hoped. So now they’re very visible in their former school’s college games.

Don’t forget your studies
The average playing career of a PBA player is five years. FIVE. I am sure you learned to count in school. Don’t think that just because there are two more expansion teams in the PBA that means that there are more job openings for basketball players. Sure there are but it also prolongs the careers of those who are middling about. It would behoove you to take your studies seriously. It would sure suck if you rode the bench in your rookie year and for you to find out by school year's end, you're in the freezer longer because of your grades.

And know that not every college basketball star makes it to the PBA. They are drafted then not even signed. The D-League is available to one only up to a certain age then he has to get a real job. While no one athlete is recruited to study (let’s get real here now), you should take advantage of the scholarship to actually learn something. It would be a tragedy if the only thing you can understand is a stat sheet.

Look, rookie. No one ever said it was easy.

As soon as you understand that and that other truism of life – that life is unfair – then you’ll go far in this world because that means you’ll bust your butt to make things happen.

But for now, be patient, watch, learn, listen, and work hard. And pray too.

If you do all of that, then good things do come to those who wait.



  1. Hi Rick, Nice article. I noticed though that you have removed the Ateneo Blue Eagles from the teams that you root for, and you haven't been writing about their season as you have previously. What gives?

  2. Hi Sir Rick, I have been missing your analyses for the Ateneo games. I have been following your blog since high school and now, I'm in law school already. If you may, can you please share why you have stopped writing for the Blue Eagles. And also, I was shocked you are not rooting for the Blue Eagles anymore. We're hoping for your answer, Sir. -Kapwa Atenista

    1. Had a falling out with the school over something. Moved on like everyone else.

  3. We your followers hope that you are able to resolve these differences soon. Ateneo is still the place where we belong, win or lose...