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.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Post-FIBA Asia Championship: The Morning After

This appears in the Monday, October 5, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

The morning after
by rick olivares pics from the fiba site

I woke up feeling a lot less emotional but there’s still pain. It’s all right to lose as long as you gave it your best and it was a clean fight. I still believe that we can defeat China. In another country and with better and less partial officiating, that is.

How does officiating affect a game or a team’s psyche?

Having watched competitive basketball closely for over 30 years, the most simple way to do that is to make early calls that affect the rotation and of course, performance. If you’re whistled for two early fouls then you’re hesitant to challenge shots or even lane incursions (if you play the center position). It can be irritating to a player when the officiating is inconsistent and fouls or non-calls not called both ways.

It is sad that our team went into the finals with concerns about the officiating. It’s like walking home late at night and you keep looking over your shoulder. It is even more sad that China has to resort to all sorts of tactics to get ahead. 

I had this sense of foreboding hours before the match following an interview over DZMM with Sen. Freddie Webb, Boyet Sison, coach Jude Roque, and Benjie Paras. 

Paras, who was a part of the first all-professional Filipino line-up in FIBA competition related an incident during the 1990 Asian Games that was played in China.

All the matches of the group stages right up to the semifinals were played in one venue, including the infamous 65-point thrashing to the host team, 125-60. The Filipinos rebounded from that loss to book a finals seat against the Chinese. However, in the finals, there was a sudden change of venue. More than that, the heater was turned off. In the cold autumn weather of Beijing, related Benjie: “Hindi pawis ang tumutulo sa amin… sipon yung tumutulo.” Talking to Chito Loyzaga who was on that team, he concurred with Paras’ story. “It was exactly like that, partner,” he  said. The Filipinos made a closer game of it but the game went the Chinese’s way, 90-74.

Twenty-five years later, it was more of the same.

If you saw national team patron Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Tweets prior to the 2015 FIBA Asia Gold Medal Match where he lamented about the delay in picking up the team from its hotel, to the unavailability of tickets for some of its coaches, to the “repairs” of the teams basket during warm-ups, and God-knows-what-else, it was obvious they were done to mess with the Filipinos’ focus.

You can be that sure distracts from the game at hand. I wasn’t on ground during the tournament so I cannot ascertain the coaching staff and the players’ thoughts and mindset but for an athlete, routine counts for a lot. And so we lost 78-67. 

The road to Rio — the qualifiers — looks just as daunting. There’s France that is stocked with all-world and top-caliber players like Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Evan Fournier to name a few.

And there are the teams that the Philippines played in last year’s FIBA World Cup. 

There’s Greece (we lost 82-70), that that is led by NBA stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kosta Kouos, and Kostas Papanikolaou. There’s the JJ Barea-led Puerto Rico (we lost in a close match 77-73). And there’s the Gorgui Dieng-led Senegal team.

There’s Italy, Czech Republic, Canada, Mexico, Angola, Tunisia, New Zealand, and those old FIBA Asia foes, Iran and Japan.

It is definitely a hard road. But the nationals, Gilas Pilipinas, will fight the good fight. We’ve got a very good coaching staff and a good team with promise. We might have seen the last of some of those old warhorses in Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros and God bless them for their contributions. Watching Asi bang inside and score underneath, the man is a warrior. And Dondon — as a friend, Jojo dela Rama said on his Facebook post — old shooters never die; they just continue to shoot the lights out.

Following the 1990 Asian Games losses to China, I remember attending the first few games of the PBA. The crowds were sparse; there was a feeling that our best was outclassed.

These past several years, since the current Gilas program of the SBP has been in place, it is no coincidence that the league and the game is more popular than ever.

In 2013, I remember former national head coach Chot Reyes saying that the silver medal was as good as gold. And it was.

This year’s silver medal, however we look at the championship game, isn’t that bad. No one expected us to get that far anyway and given the hand that head coach Tab Baldwin was dealt, you have to really appreciate it. For that we have to tip our hat to the national team and MVP and offer our gratitude. And it’s good to know that the program in place by the SBP is bearing great fruit and who knows what could be harvested in the future? 

Unlike the 1990 loss, I think when the PBA opens in a few weeks’ time, the atmosphere is going to be electric.


Check out this piece I put together on the questionable officiating. Click on this link.

Thanks, Coach Tab!


  1. Rick, Gilas' silver medal finish is an achievement already given the "circumstances" ! We must admit though that China played well despite the "psychological inconveniences" the host nation gave us before and during the game (that's the reality in China!) Isn't it obvious to you what China can do: South Cina Sea bullying tactics , fake goods , buying out Govts/people for their ends etc? There is nothing straight nor ethical about how the Chinese nation conduct their affairs ( with reference only to the nation and their "powers that be") . So why should we be surprised ? Call that muscle-flexing in Asia! After all , isn't China a SUPER POWER?

  2. Instead of blaming the refs, let's admit we got outplayed. As early as midway through the first quarter we were already putting up bad shots, and topped it off by isolating Andre Blatche out by the 3 point line. We missed a ton of free throws too. We had very little chance to begin with, and we squandered it even more by playing selfish albeit Filipino basketball.

    Though it's much easier to point out what others did wrong we need to accept that they were the better team and that we need to improve. Journalists saying it's the refs fault just makes us look like we're sore losers.

    All the hoopla around the bus and rim is all media too. If you've prepared all your life for games like this, pre game warm ups shouldn't be a big deal.

    Winning has no shortcuts. You put in the work from the ground up. If there's anyone to blame it's the shitty basketball officials who can't run a proper youth system to develop homegrown players.