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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

UAAP Women’s Volleyball Preview: Ateneo and UST

UAAP Women’s Volleyball Preview: Ateneo and UST
by rick olivares

This coming UAAP Women’s Volleyball season might be one of the most competitive ever.

There are a number of squads that looked remarkable in the pre-season who will challenge defending champion La Salle for this year’s crown. For sure, the first round will be crucial as there will be hardly any gimmes.

Let’s take a look at two of the squads competing on opening day.

Ateneo Lady Eagles
This might be the best and deepest team that Ateneo will field ever and no one should underestimate them even without the graduated Alyssa Valdez.

This is still a veteran-laden team with championship experience in both the UAAP and the V-League and that counts for a lot.

Consider their depth – Michelle Morente who was sorely missed last season, middle blockers Bea De Leon and Maddie Madayag, open spiker Jhoana Maraguinot, setter Gia Morado, libero Gizelle Tan, and utility Kim Gequillana. And there too are some other returnees in Ana Gopico who was part of the title team three years ago but got injured early that campaign. Katrina Tolentino was supposed to suit up last season but infamously got injured prior to the start of their V-League stint. They also have Ponggay Gaston Deanna Wong, Jennelle Lo, Jamie Lavitoria, and rookie Jules Samonte who played well during Ateneo’s V-League stint.

There’s depth in every position but the question is who will deliver consistently especially when they need points? Their biggest problem last season was defense – receiving and digging as well as blocking and that is something they worked on.

Last season, they lost Tolentino who never played a minute. Madayag was gone after she went down with a knee injury and that affected their defense. Morente’s firepower was sorely missed while others battled the usual assortment of niggling injuries.

So plus points are they are deep (rotating his players will be a good problem), healthy and have this upbeat attitude about the season. Especially the latter point. You cannot discount that positive attitude. How huge is that?

More to the consistency and baptism of fire as go-to players in the absence of Valdez, head coach Anusorn Bundit will have to do his best coaching. When he arrived more than three years ago, he lit a fire under the team and gave local coaching a massive upgrade. That other coaches have adjusted, the onus is on Bundit to show he’s still one of the best if not the best.

He’ll have his hands full against this next team that serves as their opening day opponent on February 4.

UST Golden Tigresses
A return to greatness? This team caught everyone’s attention in the pre-season with solid team play with others stepping up. And this team is as deep as any in the league.

They’ve got the exciting and always energetic Cherry Rondina. In addition to her spectacular offense, she plays good defense. Now she’s got another exciting counterpart on the wings with sophomore Carla Sandoval who really picked up her game. When she got injured, the team suffered in production from the opposite. Carla’s got hops, plays good defense, and provides leadership on the court in addition to the veterans.

When Sandoval went down with a hand injury during the last V-League conference, EJ Laure came up huge. If she can replicate that kind of play – consistency, power, and confident play, that will rub off on her teammates.

And speaking of veterans, Pam Lastimosa returns and she’ll be in fine form in her final season. Other vets who will be counted on include Chloe Cortez and Marivic Meneses. This team will have Alex Cabanos and Alina Bicar alternating at the setter slot.

There are their role players in Rica Rivera who was used as a libero during the V-League to help out Patricia Rasmo. She didn’t look comfortable at all but it was all she could do to get playing time in what is a deep line-up by Emilio “Kungfu” Reyes.

And there’s Tin Francisco, Caitlin Viray, Shannen Palec, and Mary Pacres who will all contribute in spot duty.

This is a team that needs some huge wins under their belt. If they play great defense and play to their potential, they will be frightening. And when they accomplish that, watch out. Anything less than a Final Four stint will be massively disappointing for this team.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Looking at the Gilas newcomers

This appears on

Looking at the Gilas newcomers
by rick olivares

After national coach Chot Reyes announced the line-up of the new Gilas Pilipinas team, my first thought was, “not bad.” I’m intrigued definitely. It’s a mix of veterans and newcomers with potential.

The veterans include Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Japeth Aguilar, Paul Lee, and to a certain extent, Raymond Almazan. Nice to see these guys back as they add continuity and they’ll be familiar with the system that Reyes wants to run.

We all know what the veterans can do (experience and scoring sock) so let’s look instead at the newcomers.

Arthur dela Cruz (BlackWater)
Stands 6’4” and plays the three-spot. Plays both ends of the court, can bring down the ball. Can shoot from the outside, post up, and find open teammate. Talks on defense which is important.

Jonathan Grey (Meralco)
I have to admit he is a surprise. For all his showing this past Philippine Cup, I still think he needs more seasoning. But make no mistake, this kid can shoot though. Doesn’t need screens to get his shot off. Can manufacture them. Not sure he is defensively though.

Bradwyn Guinto (NLEX)
This 6’6” Fil-Australian has a nose for the ball. Knows how to position himself. Isn’t afraid of battling inside the paint. If he can hit that medium range shot more consistently, he’ll be a huge help.

LA Revilla (Mahindra)
Crafty and smart. Makes teammates better. Shifty. Can shoot and break down his man. Can play a half-court offense or even run. Whatever the coach wants. But if you ask me, what makes him very good is his very good attitude towards the team and the game. He will learn a lot playing behind Jayson Castro.

Norbert Torres (Phoenix)
If he can drive to the basket better, he’d be the second coming of Ranidel De Ocampo. I thought that he grew into that big man role much later. In La Salle, I felt he wasn’t comfortable as he seemed like a three or four player (at 6’6”). Unfortunately, in this country, most coaches will shunt you to the four or the five. But he has done much better in the pros. His draft combine performance was awesome.

I like this team’s ability to stretch the floor with their over-all range. The newcomers add some height and passing savvy. They’re all smart and canny players. Not sure if they can run like the previous one.

But you gotta trust the system and the coaching staff. The Seaba tournament will be a good place for these players and this team to get their feet wet.

And it is good to know that Andray Blatche will be back. The man is talented and is a game changer.

Unboxing this Paris St. Germain gift

Angel Di Maria, baby!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Goodbye, Arthur.

Goodbye, Arthur.
by rick olivares

The success of a sporting program will always be attributed to the coaches and players as well as the organization. In the case of scholastic sports, athletics officials as well.

However, there too are sometimes, individuals who aren’t exactly patrons in the sense of business moguls or tycoons who have backed many a sports program.

Although my friend Arthur Lim represented Rebisco which was a corporate sponsor of the Ateneo Lady Eagles volleyball team, the man in life, was more than just the person who helped ensure some spending money for the team. He was a father figure to the girls who dispensed advice, was the go-between with the tough coach, and who helped them with their on-the-job-training. He was also a huge part of head coach Anusorn Bundit's assimilation into the Philippines. 

Arthur, or Thor, as he was nicknamed, was a silent operator behind the scenes. He served as a liaison between the Ateneo University Athletics Office and the fans, especially the non-Ateneans fans who religiously watched the matches. He ensured that they got their match tickets and even provided some food and freebies. Furthermore, Thor always took the time to acknowledge them before and after the game.

As for the recruits, he too was the middle man between the athletics office and the players.

He wasn’t any secret agent or Jerry Maguire-type but he was close to one. Except that it was pretty hard to miss him and his huge frame.

Last Saturday, January 14, he called me around noontime and expressed surprise that I had left San Juan and gone back to the old homestead in Marikina. We spoke for a spell about Ateneo volleyball, the (then) upcoming Liverpool-Manchester United match, Rebisco forming a team that would compete in the V-League, and others.

Surprisingly, towards the end, he said that he “was going to miss those nights in San Juan where we had coffee at UCC and meals at Tung Lo Wan or Mann Hann. Those rides to and back from the Ateneo basketball and volleyball games (we lived a few streets apart from one another in San Juan)”.

I found them such strange things to say and said, “Thor, I am only a phone call away. Katipunan isn’t too far from Greenhills”.

And he left me with one bit of advice, “I am always guided by what is good for our alma mater and what is her policy”.

He asked me if I wanted to join him for lunch with some friends – Coach Tai Bundit and MG Ebro -- the following day in San Juan but I declined because I was headed for Olongapo on some National Basketball Training Center business.

The following day as I got home, I received a message from a common friend that something had happened to Arthur. I rang his phone and was surprised that it was his wife, Mylene, who answered. “Rick, our Arthur is gone.”

I sat down, dumfounded and taken aback. The man was a friend, confidant, and a brother from another mother. He took great interested in my career and has been a huge help in every endeavor. And we just spoke. In fact, we made plans to meet up that week. Wednesday, in fact.

We did meet. Only it was at a funeral parlor.

My friend passed away due to a brain aneurysm. He left behind a wife and four young children all of wo are still in school.

Less than 24 hours after he passed away, there appeared in Facebook that feature, today is 7th anniversary of your friendship with Arthur on Facebook (although we were friends far longer than that).

In one of the Masses that celebrated his life prior to his cremation last Saturday, the priest said that death was one more journey. However, in the mystery of one’s passing, we must look to the examples he set for us.

So when I think of Thor, he was a problem solver. He’d listen to the problem then rather than more or whine, he’d look for a solution. And all that time, he’d be smiling. He was that kind of man – one who never let problems get to him. He’d always listen and lend those massive shoulders of his for one to lean on. As he would always tell me, “There is always a solution”.

He’s gone now. And there’s that space between. I have no clue who will fill that void for his family, the volleyball team, or even amongst his close friends. He left clues though. Examples of how we deal with things. How we face life with dignity and the clarity of being in the right.

And I guess that’s as good as any place to continue.

Thanks, Arthur Lim. Until the next adventure.