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, May 16, 2016

The PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals: The end of heartache or a continued drought

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The PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals: The end of heartache or a continued drought 
by rick olivares

For the life of me, I cannot remember which athlete (local or foreign) once stated that they want a championship more because they have lost so much.

The Alaska Aces won for themselves another day in the Commissioner’s Cup. Down 3-0, they have fought back to make it 3-2 and if they win the next, they’ll forge a Game Seven. Now this is getting ahead but for sure, booking a seventh and final match will also give them a chance to reverse the ignominy of their Philippine Cup failure where they led 3-0 before losing the next four to San Miguel.

After the galling loss in the Philippine Cup, I wondered if it would take a huge toll on the Aces’ collective morale and confidence. It wasn’t only because they were in the history books for the wrong reason but they had lost their last three finals appearances in the span of two seasons. Was there a mental burden that was weighing down the team? Was it time to reload? 

While speaking to Aces head coach Alex Compton and assistant Louie Alas a week after their Philippine Cup debacle, they told me that the first few practices were lackluster and so they had to give the squad a few more days off. They banked on the fact that the next conference was going to start within a few weeks so there was going to be something new that everyone would have to focus on. The idle team made the players dwell on the loss and collective losses as much as they didn’t want to think of it. 

Yet the coaches also felt that their team was fine. They were banking on chemistry, familiarity, hunger, and the proper import, to get them over the hump. The one bit of concern they had was another finals heartache. But that has yet to be written.

If you look at Alaska's history, this won’t be the first time that their team strung up three finals losses in the space of two seasons.

They lost twice during the 1987 season — the All-Filipino and the Reinforced — as Hills Bros. They followed that with another defeat in the next season’s PBA-IBA Invitational (and had two third place finishes in between).

By 1989, the team reloaded with as Paul Alvarez was drafted and Tim Cone replaced Bogs Adornado as head coach. Sean Chambers who played on the PBA-IBA champion team was taken in by Alaska. That team underwent a transformation with subsequent acquisitions that eventually comprised their Grand Slam team. So in essence, that Hills Bros. team under Turo Valenzona and Adornado was revamped.

Cone’s Air Force, as the team was nicknamed, booked 14 finals appearances winning 10 championships. During that span, they also lost two consecutive finals but they were a championship team that wasn’t even in its prime. They made it back and  won a Grand Slam.

These current Aces — well, most of them — tasted a championship during the 2012-13 Commissioner’s Cup. So they know what winning is all about. That is why I believe that despite their recent spate of finals losses, there is no need to break up its core as some might have postulated after their defeats. They will bounce back. 

However, if you look at Alaska’s Commissioner’s Cup finals foe, Rain or Shine, they won their first title in the Governors’ Cup of 2011-12 with this core of Beau Belga, JR Quinahan, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Paul Lee, and Jireh Ibanes. A year later, they added Chris Tiu who has been a part of this cade of Yeng Guiao players that made the finals four more times only to come away each time as a first runner-up.

So Alaska isn’t the only one to currently corner the market share in championship heartbreak. What we can also say is both these current incarnations of Alaska Aces and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters are resilient. 

One thing is for sure, one team will end its drought and celebrate while another will sadly continue its string of misfortune. 

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