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, December 30, 2019

The Last Dance

The Last Dance
by rick olivares

Recently, there was this trailer for a 10-part documentary series titled, The Last Dance. It is about the sixth championship season of the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98. That documentary is supposed to premier sometime in 2020.

I have noticed in the last couple of years all this renewed love for Michael Jordan while this Greatest Player of All Time debate with LeBron James on the opposite side rages on. And true enough, we will see a lot of new interviews with key figures during that era. 

I have previously written about that GOAT debate and do not see the need to discuss that again because my arguments have not changed. 

I will say this though… in about 10 years or so…. LeBron James will get a lot of praise. He will not overtake Michael Jordan as the GOAT. There is this video on YouTube that specifically zeroes in on Michael Jordan’s two-year stint with the Washington Wizards and while that club never made the play-offs, MJ’s stats were even better than many of today’s stars. And how old was Michael during that time? How long was his lay-off from competitive basketball? The results are astounding.

As for LeBron… even as a fan of the King, I think that not only does he need to win more titles to even be in that same sentence as Jordan. However, I am sure that in a decade or so, James will be celebrated. 

Back to The Last Dance. I have DVDs and books about the Bulls from their pre-title days to that fateful season. I have all the books and magazines too. Yet, I do know that for that entire NBA season, a camera crew followed the Chicago Bulls everywhere and recorded a lot of footage with a lot that many will not be able to see. I am even sure that lot of that footage will end up in the cutting room for this 10-part series. That doesn’t change the fact that I am excited for this. It revisits a totally different era when hand checking was allowed and the least of your worries.

Speaking of cutting table. How come in that trailer, Toni Kukoc was nowhere to be seen? Ditto with players like Luc Longley?

I remember Bulls forward Jud Buechler saying in one of those interviews from that season that 25 years from that title run, everyone will know where each one is. And maybe so. That was a special team. Coaches included. And they had some colorful coaches during their ride from Phil Jackson himself to Johnny Bach to Tex Winter. And hopefully, they do show where each and everyone one of those Bulls is now.

Lest someone say that I am living in yesterday, let me just say that I do enjoy today’s NBA or even international basketball. While in the last two seasons, I gravitated back to my childhood team of the Philadelphia 76ers, I still follow the Chicago Bulls. They do have an interesting line-up as well.

Furthermore, there have been a lot of interesting storylines that sprung up in the wake of The Last Dance. The Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron in Cleveland. The Decision. The Miami Heat. The rise of the Golden State Warriors. The San Antonio Spurs’ success. And there’s more.

But in terms of drama factor and controversy, it is the Kobe Bryant Lakers and LeBron James that will make for interesting documentaries 20 years from now. But that’s for later… The Last Dance is on deck. And that’s some of the best sports news in this old year of 2019. 

When my column returns in the new year, we will hand out our traditional Brewskies Awards.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League 2019-20

The Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League. We are playing Atletico Madrid.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Iloilo United Royals: A love for the game and the region

The Iloilo United Royals: A love for the game and the region
by rick olivares

The streaking Iloilo United Royals are gunning for their sixth consecutive win when they take on the Rizal Xentro Mall Golden Coolers on the 16th of December at the Imus City Sports Complex. The Royals, at 14-8, are just as flush with confidence as they are with the Holiday cheer.

Why not? They are the hottest expansion team in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.

Although an Iloilo team is always a possibility, how this current team was put together is a story onto itself.

The germ of the idea for the Royals was hatched on the golf course with current team owner JJ Javelosa and current team assistant coach Nash Racela. The plan proceeded when Racela’s longtime coaching assistant Eric Gonzales was invited to join them at the golf clubhouse a week later. 

Racela and Gonzales had a pool from which to tap players (Far Eastern University) while Javelosa would bring in his son, Jay Javelosa who played for Ateneo. Basketball was in the elder Javelosa’s blood. His father was a teammate of Moro Lorenzo in the post-World War II Ateneo Blue Eagles squads. Jay won a juniors title with Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal and later played for Ateneo Team B in college. 

JJ was disappointed that his son was unable to suit up for the UAAP team. The Iloilo MPBL team would give his son a chance to showcase his wares (Jay also played for the youth national teams). 

The idea was broached to Manny Pacquiao who greenlit the plan. Except that it hit a snag when the initial sponsor backed out. Luckily for Javelosa, he was able to secure some other help to make the Iloilo team a reality.

“The reason why we added ‘United’ to our team name is because we want all Illongos to get behind the Royals,” explained JJ who is from Jaro.  In fact, the majority of the Royals hail from Iloilo making each game more personal. 

The word “Royals” was a reference to the city’s being known as the former ‘queen city of the south” before it was accorded to Cebu.

Filipino-American Jasper Parker’s parents hail from the area. John Mahari’s mother is also from Iloilo. Ditto with Boy Sinco, Aaron Jeruta, Andrei Pantin, Jesery Pedrosa, Jason Li, Gerry Abadiano, and Leo Guion. 

The team has been a hit with the Illongos which says something as football is the local sport. 

Furthermore, the team runs on the tightest of budgets yet makes everything work from payments to operations. They aren’t the most moneyed team, but the Iloilo United Royals play like it has something to prove and a people to represent.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Winners, Sleepers & Questions from the 2019 PBA Draft

Winners, Sleepers & Questions from the 2019 PBA Draft
by rick olivares

Another cast of hopefuls has come and gone. And truthfully, there aren’t enough teams in the PBA. The talent pool is just too much. I’d say it is just right to have an 18-team league. That is for an article for another day. 

In the meantime, here is how we look at the just-concluded PBA Draft.

The Big Winners are… Columbian Dyip and Ateneo de Manila
Columbian Dyip added two quality players in Isaac Go and Roosevelt Adams to an exciting roster that just needs to mature. The excitement levels just went off the charts when you think of how CJ Perez will team up with Adams. Go on the other hand provides smarts, shooting, and rebounding. They already have some keepers in Rashawn McCarthy and Jackson Corpuz. All this team needs now is to mature.

All six Blue Eagles in the draft pool were selected by a team  - Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Adrian Wong, Aaron Black, and Vince Tolentino. Had Thirdy Ravena been available, that would have been seven. 

They are the most successful college program since 1999. Since that time, they have sent more than 50 players to the pros. Only one was not drafted since 1999. 

Big picks up but how do they fit in? 
Barangay Ginebra selected Arvin Tolentino and Jerrick Balanza in the first and second round respectively. They have a stacked and loaded line-up. How the two fit in remains to be seen.  Unfortunately, both need the ball to be effective. 

Tolentino is in the same mold as former Ginebra player Kevin Ferrer. If they couldn’t fit Ferrer (who is a better defender than Tolentino), I don’t know how this former FEU Tam will manage.

Balanza is such an incredible story after his comeback from a near-career-ending illness.  He can be like CJ Perez; a person who can create and wreak Havoc WITH HIS Athleticism. 

Methinks they will be good.
Sean Manganti (NorthPort) and Aris Dionisio (Magnolia) will be better than advertised. Manganti will be like the second coming of Arwind Santos. A tall and talented athletic player who can create his own shot and for others, can post up, and defend. He has thrived in an offense where other players were the first or second options. 

Dionisio will be the linchpin of Magnolia’s defense and become a huge part of their offense. This kid is a winner. He has won everywhere he has played. I am surprised he fell this far. But that is Magnolia’s gain.

I like Alaska’s selection of Lyceum’s Jaycee Marcelino. They have a player who is Jason Castro fast and Jason Castro-pest. I just wonder if their system is a right fit for him.

A huge step for Philippine men’s volleyball

A huge step for Philippine men’s volleyball
by rick olivares pic by arvin lim

There is no denying that despite the power game that characterizes men’s volleyball, it has taken a far backseat to women’s volleyball. Maybe because you’ve got dozens of pretty lasses playing the game and the long rallies make for roller coaster excitement. The men’s league – Spiker’s Turf is played to almost no fanfare and believe it or not – save for the finals – in non-air-conditioned setting (there isn’t much of a crowd to begin with).

But that could all change after that huge semi-finals win over defending Southeast Asian Games champion, Thailand, in five nerve wracking sets (17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15).

That win sent the Philippines in a finals encounter against Indonesia that defeated them in the group stage. Now the Filipinos have a chance for payback. If not, the lowest they can get is a silver medal. And this will make the best finish ever.

In the Philippines’ best ever showing in the biennial regional competition (3-1 thus far), there are already a lot of heroes and great stories. Then men’s volleyball team just crowded that storyline and list of heroes.

That tandem of Bryan Bagunas and Marck Espejo has really caused opponents problems with terrific contributions by Ave Joshua Retamar and Kim Malabunga. The rest of the roster is no slouch as head coach Dante Alinsunurin getting good performances out of Rex Intal, Ran Abdilla, and Ricky Marcos. 

The core of this team has won the last five UAAP men’s volleyball titles with players coming from National University and Ateneo de Manila University. They have two of the biggest names in the game in Bagunas and Espejo who has also played abroad (in Japan). 

The fact that Espejo and female wunderkind Alyssa Valdez (who has also played abroad in Thailand) and Jaja Santiago are breaking new ground says something about the local game. That it is getting better and we are starting to export players.

Imagine. In the Asean Basketball League (ABL), Filipino players are imports as well. And now, following football, we are seeing Filipinos go abroad to ply their trade. And that is good. This will inspire the young to know that there is a future in the sport.

And to think that the Philippine Men’s Volleyball Team isn’t done. There is a gold medal game to play. Who knows what will follow?

I can only look laterally. When the Azkals booked that historic semi-finals seat of the 2010 Suzuki Cup, one of the biggest beneficiaries of that was the old United Football League. 

Hopefully, after this, Spiker’s Turf attracts new crowds, attention, and media scrutiny. And maybe then, they can start playing in air-conditioned gyms.