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 16, 2016


This appears in the Monday, October 17, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
by rick olivares

The other day, a good friend of mine, Rafa Dinglasan tagged me in a photo that showed where four of the Mythical Five from this year’s NCAA are Africans. He wondered if there was a way to honor both foreign and local players separately. Talking about it, Rafa sees nothing with foreign players. Like me as well.

Let me present my case.

For years, foreign players have been allowed to suit up. As early as when all the collegiate leagues were founded last century, they were allowed. In the not too distant past, there was FEU winning with Anthony Williams and UST winning football titles with Spanish striker Joaquin Valdez not to mention Africans and Middle Eastern players in the 1980s. We’ve seen Americans from Faith Academy suit up for various schools – Kirk Long, Vince Burke, and Moriah Gingerich to name some. UP had a Brazilian player in Rob Bornancin. In the early years of the new millennium, UE had a seven-foot African in Omar Ali but they never won anything.

Now that schools have weaponized them there’s a call for a clamp down.

It wasn’t too long ago when La Salle stared bringing in Fil-Ams en masse did the UAAP react. If there isn’t an uproar about foreign players then it’s about Fil-Ams. Yes, even to this day, many homegrown players complain about their influx. Even in the PBA, people complain about too many Fil-Ams. No, this isn’t speculation or I heard from so and so. I hear it straight up.

I think this insular type of thinking is wrong. And it’s reactionary. Let’s get the facts straight. 

During NCAA Season 91, three of the Mythical Five were local boys – Scottie Thompson, Jio Jalalon, and Arthur dela Cruz. In Season 90, Thompson was MVP and the only foreign player in the Mythical Five was San Beda’s Ola Adeogun.

The knock on the Red Lions is that they only win because of their foreign players. People forget that in Sudan Daniel’s last year, the Red Lions defeated Calvin Abueva’s San Sebastian team with an all-Filipino crew. And there were the Letran Knights of two years ago.

Let’s jump over to the UAAP.

Last season NU’s Alfred Aroga was the only foreign player in the UAAP to be included in that honor. In Season 75-77, there was UST’s Karim Abdul. In Season 71, National University’s Jean Mbe was a part of the Mythical Five.

Despite having Africans in the league since season Season 71, it was only in Season 77 and 78 where teams with one of them won. In Season 78, Aroga was Finals MVP and last year it was FEU’s Mac Belo. Even when NU won it, they did so not solely because of Aroga but because of heady veterans like Troy Rosario, Glenn Khobuntin, and Gelo Alolino.

Let’s look in other collegiate leagues.

In the just concluded NAASCU where St. Clare College unseated Centro Escolar University with a crew that had an African who didn’t even star for their team. The league’s Most Valuable Player was a reed thin forward named Aris Dionisio of St. Clare who was a regular double-double producer. The Saints defeated the Our Lady of Fatima University Phoenix squad with an African who was a major part but not the Man or even second option for them. Their Mythical Five? All Filipino.

Last season, CEU’s Rod Ebondo was NAASCU MVP but all the other Mythical Players were Filipino. CEU was good because they had a good coach, a sound program, and players who gained a lot of exposure playing in the D-League and the Filoil summer tourney where they played elite competition. That is why they were champions for several years.

Over at CESAFI, the University of San Carlos ended a 57-year title drought last season by defeating perennial champion University of Visayas. Sure they had MVP Shooster Olago of Cameroon. But he didn’t get the job done alone. Power forward Charles Pepito joined him in the Mythical Five along with SWU’s Mark Tallo, USJR’s Jude Dionalan, and UV’s Leonard Santillan.

From 2013-14, Tallo was league MVP despite the presence of African Landry Sanjo. The 2014 Mythical team featured Tallo, Sanjo, USC’s Victor Rabat, USJR’s Kevin Villafranca, and UV’s John Abad. Okay, granted that it was only last season where they allowed a foreign player to win an award.

In case you want to know, when SWU had Ben Mbala, they didn’t win the title.

So let’s examine this. The foreign standouts have been more prevalent in the NCAA as opposed to the other leagues. And is it only now that you’ve had four of five Mythical Five awardees. Sign of things to come? That’s speculation at this point.

If there is concern that these foreign players are stat stuffers then just have a Best Foreign Player Award, limit the height or even the number to one player per team. But banning them? Even FIBA, FIFA and other international sports bodies allow naturalization. Many many other countries allow foreign students to compete in their leagues. If that’s the case, let’s not naturalize any American… go all-Filipino in international basketball competition.

What’s this are feeling? Afrexit? Yeah, we have our own Brexit going locally, don’t we?

It’s funny reading comments like “I heard they have no legitimate papers” or “there are undiscovered local players”. It’s all speculation, your honor. If we go by that line of thinking, I heard (in fact, I know so) that most of these student-athletes regardless of ethnicity DO NOT GO TO CLASS. Maybe that is an even bigger issue. So much for schools looking to educate kids.

Maybe foreign players are a problem. Maybe they aren’t. But knee jerk reactions like banning players aren’t right. With what the president is saying about severing relations with the US, European Union, the United Nations… I guess, that kind of thinking reflects too on Philippine college sports.

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