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 4, 2014

FIBA World Cup: Stand proud, Philippines.

This appears on the PBA website.

Stand proud, Philippines.
by rick olivares pic borrowed from fiba

I wanted to wait until the FIBA World Cup campaign (at least for the Philippines) was over before saying something. On a per game basis, there are certain things to dissect but when later on do trends emerge.

Truthfully, I didn’t think that we would win a game. But this was my belief,
“Hope for the best, expect the worst.
Life is a play, we’re unrehearsed.”

That was once said by comedian Mel Brooks in the comedy, The Twelve Chairs. Let’s not lose the point now, I am not finding the Philippines’ ouster from the World Cup funny. The quote just seems so apt (as there as 12 players on the Philippines’ roster).

Now why didn’t I think we were going to win (hopefully, we’ll get one against Senegal)?

Because, we’re new at this stage. Losing in Southeast Asia is unpardonable as basketball is not even the top sport in this football-mad corner of the world. We just showed that we can win in Asia. But the world?

It would have been a nice Cinderella story for the Philippines to advance to the second round. But we’re newbies at this stage.

It’s like that Jamaican bobsled team that first competed in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. They earned the respect of all competing nations and have since qualified for five more Olympiads.

We’re like Colombia in the last FIFA World Cup making a celebrated return to football’s biggest stage and taking down foes while the traditional powers fell by the wayside.

While the World Cup was eventually decided by Germany and Argentina, two of football’s biggest winners, the tournament served as a coming out party for many other countries from Mexico to Costa Rica to Belgium.

Now in FIBA’s version, the Philippines has been dazzling foes and observers that they have to put out all the stops to eke out a win against us. The word here is “eke”.

In a masochistic and moral victory way, this was one of the best 0-4 starts I have seen. The platitudes heaped are way are not lip service. THEY ARE EARNED.

Who knew we could compete at this stage?

If we were routinely blown out by foes, people would say, “Asa pa.” Now within a basket or a play of winning, the courtside generals are pointing fingers at players and the coach.

At the risk of sounding like an apologist for the team, of which I am not despite having written a book about them, there are many things that have been learned.

During the FIBA Asia, it was how to play well every third game (the loss to Chinese Taipei, the close brush with a second loss against upset-minded Hong Kong, and the gold medal defeat to Iran).

In the FIBA World Cup, the biggest learning was closing out a game. And that brings to mind a common coaching and sports axiom, “You can’t win unless you know how to lose.”

While it hurts to lose at this world stage, this is nothing compared to those constant losses to South Korea in Asian competition. Can you imagine if they defeated us in the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Cup at home? That would have been utterly devastating and that would still be an understatement.

Do I see mistakes? Sure there are.

As someone who has played and covered sports for a long long time, the one thing I have learned is there are reasons for things.

The coaching staff went to a smaller rotation this time around. Some have called out the benching of certain players. No coach in the world plays every single player on his roster for every game. Do I agree with that? Sometimes. Not all the time for sure. 

Not being with the team this time around, I have no idea about their individual confidence level, fitness, frame of mind etc. What I do know is more often than not coaches go with the guys who got them there.

In Wuhan four years ago, Rajko Toroman pulled out Jimmy Alapag who hit some huge shots down the stretch in favor of JVee Casio. In the vernacular, “Manok ni Rajko si Casio.” Well, we lost. But ganyan talaga.

It’s like Phil Jackson starting Michael Jordan late in the 1995 season even if he spent a year and a half playing baseball. It worked for the most part but it came crashing down against the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It’s why even if Allan Caidic was 0-10, you know that ball was going to be worked for him for that last shot.

You just go with your main man/men and roll the dice.

Did Andray Blatche commit costly turnovers? Sure he did. But without Blatche on the floor, I don’t think we’d come even close to winning.

I’d chalk that up to his relative newness with the team. A few practices and games isn’t enough to fully integrate him into the system.

It’s like current GlobalPort player Terrence Romeo’s rookie year with Far Eastern University in the UAAP where he committed costly errors in successive games that cost his team a chance at winning. As talented as he was, back then he was a rookie.

I recall Kobe Bryant’s rookie year with the Los Angeles Lakers’, he airballed a potential game winner. As a dejected Bryant walked off the court, the late Lakers’ color man, Chick Hearn said (and I remember it very clearly as if it were only yesterday), “Don’t worry, young man. You will be making many more of those in years to come.” And what do you know? Hearn was and is right.

That is why for all the talent on this current American team in the FIBA World Cup, I’d say that Spain has an edge for one reason – chemistry and veteran smarts.

Now that we know we can compete, there are things that must be done.

Maybe the PBA can finally adjust its calendar once and for all to accommodate the international calendar.

Maybe now PBA teams can release their best players with no restrictions.

Maybe now we can bring in Andray Blatche for more tournaments so he can work more cohesively with his teammates.

And I am sure there’s a lot more in the notebooks of the coaching staff that we aren’t privy too.

Right now, the task would be to prepare for the Asian Games, topple Iran in FIBA Asia, and plot a return to the FIBA World Cup.

Yes, the losses are painful but remember, “we’re unrehearsed.” But you know what, no Filipino can walk out of those Spanish arenas or just about anywhere in the world with bowed heads.

That’s probably the best thing the Philippine team earned for us in these days of September in Spain. That and those Gabe Norwood dunks against Luis Scola and Argentina that we will endlessly replay in our minds.


  1. Wiping out the tears with a smile on my face. Gilas Pilipinas makes me proud. You, Mr. Olivares, makes me prouder. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang Filipino Athlete!

  2. Rick when the Azkals made waves in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, foreign leagues started scouting for Filipino players. I remember Jason de Jong got signed by an Indonesian club immediately after the Suzuki Cup.

    Any chance that will happen in basketball? Maybe not the NBA or the NBA DLeague but at in the stronger leagues in Europe like Greece, Russia and Spain or maybe even... in China?

    1. If you follow rumors, Paul Lee was being considered by a team in the CBA.

  3. Up until two weeks ago, people were going, "basta malapit lang ang score, ok na ako". Now people are going "#$#$#$#$#$$##$ bakit hindi ito iyung ginawa ni coach o ni player?" The crabs won't admit it, but even they have become more confident about the team's chances.

  4. I like Andray Blatche. I hope he likes being a Filipino. I wish people would stop saying that we had an "All Filipino" line up during the last 2 minutes of the game against Senegal. Blatche is a Filipino. He's earned it, hasn't he? Like what Mr. Olivares said, he made some mistakes but he played his "heart" out every game. Heart. Isn't "puso" our battlecry ever since the Gilas campaign started? Can we just accept him and make him feel that he belongs with us?