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, October 31, 2016

God, er, Robbie Fowler just gave me a thumbs up!

Body, mind & soul: There’s more to Janet Layug-Davis than meets the eye

Body, mind & soul: There’s more to Janet Layug-Davis than meets the eye
by rick olivares

When 27-year old Janet Layug-Davis competes in the bikini division of bodybuilding competitions she just doesn’t want to be known for her stunning and sexy physique. She wants everyone to know that there are more layers to her than the skimpy wear she has on her.

“Well, first I went to the University of Florida and am a registered nurse,” she says with those intoxicating round hazelnut eyes of hers demanding attention. “I took up swimming and running before I settled into body building. And I do modelling on the side.”

Born to a Filipino father and a Polish mother (Nadine Podgurski) who both served with the US Navy, Janet grew up in a household that emphasized values and studies in a strict Catholic upbringing. She worked at the intensive care unit of Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center in Florida after graduation before she was introduced into the sport of bodybuilding.

“When you think of body building the first thought is, a body with so much muscle,” shared Janet over dinner at Mom & Tina’s in Quezon City. Layug-Davis is in town along with internationally renowned body builder Shawn Roden for the Shawn Roden Classic Philippines that was held last Saturday, October 29. “I thought, ‘Can I look like that -- have a beautiful physique without looking too overly muscular?’”

“You can get a nicely toned body working out vigorously in other sports, but I felt that body building was going to help me with my confidence.”

With a beautiful face, she engaged in modeling. “That wasn’t easy at all,” she described of posing in front of cameras. “It took a while to feel comfortable with all that.”

As to lifting all those weights for that aptly toned body?

“I used to think, ‘can I lift that weight?’ Being able to do so does wonders for my confidence. That translates into so any other things.”

“At first, my parents were concerned,” admitted Janet who is the fourth of five siblings and is the youngest sister. “I was and am always going to be daddy’s little baby. But when they saw that it wasn’t all that bad, they became more relaxed.”

“For me, it’s all about making choices,” interjected the father who has coming along for her daughter’s first visit to his homeland. The elder Layug is only making his second visit to the country in 10 years after moving to Florida after his Navy days were over. “I was concerned for her that people will look at her differently. But my children have always been responsible. I want them to make good choices and to be comfortable with them. When they are, so are we as parents.”

Working at Hooters where she won Ms. Hooters International in 2014 also prepared her life in front of the camera as well as for the challenge in body building as she chose to compete in the bikini division. Since that time, the five-foot-eight Layug-Davis has done quite well winning a bunch of competitions.

I wondered if she has ever encountered people who would only ogle her for her body. “Thank Heavens, no,” she divulged with a laugh. “I sure hope I won’t. I think it is also how you carry yourself. If you act like you can’t be respected, then you won’t be respected. If you conduct yourself in a respectable manner, then you will be respected.”

“Getting into body building also helped me with my time management. I had to get up earlier than usual to train before my shift at the hospital. I also learned to eat better and live life better so there have been many good things that the sport has taught me,” shared Janet. “Body building has been good for me. But I also know this isn’t going to last. I am always thinking about my next move. “

“Everything revolves around my family,” revealed Janet. For one, there’s the budding tennis career of her eight-year old daughter Briley. “She’s good. She’s got game,” beamed the proud mother. “I can’t wait to see her career flourish.” Two, she still lives in the area where she grew up. Family, after all is important to her. She shares her ideas with her parents and siblings to see what they think of them.

She knows her career as a nurse is still not yet over. Bodybuilding isn’t forever. She could return to her original profession; maybe not. There are businesses to ponder as well. She hopes though that her current career will fuel the next stage of her life.

“I want people to think that ‘ah, she’s got a good head above her shoulders.’”

After all, Janet Layug-Davis is used to lifting the weights of those challenges.

The hurt, silence of the undrafted; Jaycee Asuncion sucks it in and plans for next

Post-undraft. Mario Asuncion with son, Jaycee. Planning on their next moves.
This appears on

The hurt, silence of the undrafted; Jaycee Asuncion sucks it in and plans for next
by rick olivares

After Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner Chito Narvasa closed the 2016 Gatorade PBA Rookie Draft at the atrium of Robinson’s Malate, there was a flurry of activity.

Sports writers quickly darted to and from looking to interview the newly-drafted, veteran players, coaches, and the league commissioner himself. Athlete managers came over to shake hands with their wards and pose for photographs. Some people stood up to leave.

Some 18 young men on the left side of the stage stayed glued to their seats. They wore masks on their faces. Or at least they tried to. Ashen. Hurt. Some fiddled with their cellphones. One of them was trying to text someone but he kept fumbling with his type pad. It was taking all his inner strength and resolve not to burst out into tears.

A few of their girlfriends or parents quickly came over to console, put a hand around their arms. Whisper words of encouragement. A few didn’t say much. Sometimes, no words need to be said. After all, they didn’t hear their names called out.

Former Jose Rizal University Heavy Bomber Jaycee Asuncion was one of those hopefuls whose hopes were dashed with every late pick called and every “pass” that the commissioner mentioned.

“I did my best,” said Asuncion who held out his hands to accentuate his efforts. “I thought I did better than some of them during the draft combine. The others didn’t do too well…”

His voice trailed off and was left with his thoughts.

There are thoughts… disjointed. Is it because I didn’t go to a big school and program? Is it because I don’t have a big time backer? Maybe I need to do more.

His father, Mario, soon came over and offered words of advice, “Hindi pa tapos ito, anak,” he softly offered. “Meron pang chance. Mas mahirap nga lang. So kailangan natin magtrabaho.”

It was hard too for the father to say that. He managed a pained smile but he too was clearly hurting. What words will soothe the hurt when a lifelong dream has been snuffed? What will assuage the rejection?

What followed were minutes of awkward silence.

Years ago, the draftees were all kept in a holding room away from the atrium to spare them the embarrassment of not being drafted. A couple of years ago, they were relocated back to the main area.

It’s a funny set up. On one side are tables for all 12 teams with their coaches and players who wined and dined. On the other side were all the applicants who only sat in chairs and didn’t eat at all. Who didn’t dream of being on that other side?

Some 10 minutes after the draft was over, some of the undrafted found their legs and quietly made their way out. The Asuncions stayed for a few more.

The 25-year old cager said he’d try to seek more tryouts with teams. “Kahit practice player man lang,” he wished. “At least meron chance.” 

If that doesn’t work, Jaycee’ll go back to the D-League and work his butt off in hopes he’d get noticed. Yet he knows that even there the clock is ticking.
From several tables away, Commissioner Narvasa sat. One of his first thoughts went out to those who were not drafted. “I wish all the applicants can find a team. But it isn’t like that. Hopefully, we can continue to improve the quality of the league so that we don’t rely on a few teams for fans. When the league grows, we will find more teams and jobs for our players.”

Over at the Asuncions’ side, father and some embraced, then stood up to leave.

The area of the draft applicants was now empty.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Change Philippine sports from top to bottom

Change Philippine sports from top to bottom
by rick olivares

There’s clamor for change at the top of the Philippine Olympic Committee.

Great. But why stop there?

If there is going to be bloodletting, then all national sports agencies should be evaluated as well. It’s also at that level where there are a multitude of problems. All these NSAs should be reviewed for – and not in particular order -- their performance, short and long term grassroots and national programs, transparency, leadership, and accountability.

How many of them have long serving officers who seem to have perpetuated themselves in power? Are they providing the kind of leadership that is necessary for the sport? What have they accomplished? How is their organization structured? Do they even have a database of their athletes? What failsafe programs are in place for change and that their efforts aren’t some feeder program for certain padrinos they have?

In cleaning up a corrupt body or agency, it isn’t only changing the one on top but those below. The micro-level? That is where it all starts too.

In order to prevent “old boy networks” or “utang ng loob”, all NSAs should be evaluated by an independent body that has no affiliation whatsoever with the people in local sports. Now that’s tough since everyone has to belong to something, knows this person and that, is an alma mater of this school, or what have you. But I am sure you will be able to find people who will be objective and who only have the best of intentions.

Our reports in the Business Mirror and posts on my blog, Bleachers Brew, about the problems football greatly helped take down the former president of the Philippine Football Federation. We’ve also gone to battle against some collegiate leagues for improprieties. While we’ve won a lot of battles, I must say that it is never fun exposing corruption and people doing the wrong thing. But the results? They have been good. And that is why they call it “the good fight.”

Now for the NSA’s, the criteria for evaluation must be clear and measurable. Reports shouldn’t only be on paper but with tangible proof that such programs, events, number of athletes participating are on hand. It is good to have checks and balances in place that should put them on their toes at all times.

In an interview with PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, he bared that all NSAs are being checked from their SEC papers to other concerns. “I know one NSA had its SEC papers revoked. In fact, we are having it checked as all others are,” said the Cebu-based commissioner. “We will soon identify the well run NSA’s, the athletes with potential, the sporting activities and grassroots programs that need support.”

“The erring ones? Magbago na sila or bumaba na sila while there’s time,” warned the man who was known as “El Presidente” during his basketball playing days. “We are serious about cleaning up sports.”

While interference in the national Olympic Committee and any other NSA is frowned upon by the International Olympic Committee and could lead to wholescale suspension, if it is necessary to cure the sickness that has inflicted Philippine sports for decades, then it’s not such a bad recourse. For too long have we as a people wondered what went wrong after a major tournament and in spite of the learnings, nothing has really changed.

There are other options for national athletes to participate but these paths must be navigated with diplomacy and skill. But no compromise in my opinion. At most, we can only speculate about any possible repercussions.

It is most unfortunate that such things have to be put in motion or even called for. But it is a must. Let those who have harmed their respective sports be outed and felled by the wayside. They have had their day in the sun.