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, February 20, 2017

Spice and Ice: Let Durant and Westbrook have this feud.

Spice and ice
by rick olivares pic borrowed from the sporting news

I love this “feud” between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. While people are buzzing over the alley-oop pass from Durant to his former Oklahoma teammate during the All-Star Game, Russell dismissed it in the post-game interview.

The atmosphere in the Western Conference All-Stars locker room was described to be quiet and stifling as a result of the space between the two superstars. And that’s fine. The only thing I enjoy about the association’s mid-season classic is the dunk contest and the three-point shoot-out. At least that have been somewhat entertaining again. The USA versus the World game is more interesting in my opinion because there’s a modicum of tension. The USA is top dog when it comes to basketball and any nick they can take even in an All-Star Game is something others can crow about.

This “feud” is the sort of thing that this popcorn league needs. I can dig the association’s making this a family-oriented game but it looks too prefab.

In a game of characters, the league lacking some character.

The lack of physicality, players teaming up on the national team, and real rivalries has made the seasons long and at times – dare I say it – boring.

Just to be clear, we do not want a league of punks with fights breaking out every night. Not at all.

We know the league has moved on from the 1970s/80s/90s and that’s fine. That exists in a special place we call history and memories.

Having said that, it would be nice for rivalries to develop organically rather than mooching off a “legacy” or because this team is a “traditional rival”.

There have been attempts – there was the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings but the latter couldn’t get over the hump. Both Cleveland and Miami almost had something going a few years ago except that it was too one-sided and that is a sure-fire way to kill any rivalry.  The Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors had a nice one going for a while until the latter’s dominance ended it.

I enjoyed it when Kobe Bryant was the anti-hero because teams just wanted to beat him but he became the league’s senior statesman and he received a nice send-off.

I prefer the association with some spice. Sugar? Mind your blood sugar, dude.

Spice and ice.

And I love the post-game ice. I dig that Westbrook played the artful dodger post-game. “He threw a lob and that’s all that happened. That’s basketball.”

On any high fives?

“Did you see it?”

Hopefully, I’ll see some serious rivalries so the regular season will have greater meaning rather just being focused come the second season.

Four things to take away from UAAP Sunday women’s volleyball

Four things to take away from UAAP Sunday women’s volleyball
by rick olivares

The February 19 Sunday UAAP Women’s Volleyball matches didn’t involve any of the two teams at the bottom of the standings (University of the East and Adamson University) making for competitive matches. Or were they?

Here are four things we can glean from the matches that saw the University of the Philippines win their fourth match against underachieving 1-3 University of Santo Tomas in four sets (25-22, 25-22, 29-31, 25-19) and the La Salle Lady Spikers crush previously undefeated National University in three relatively easy sets (29-27, 25-16, 25-21).

UP has jumped from a contender to a bonafide favorite to win it all.
The sole remaining undefeated squad in the tournament. They have lost only one set all tournament long and are getting better with every match. Theirs is a fortuitous schedule. They played two easy matches against Adamson and UE that was good in getting the early wins and their confidence then they took down defending champion La Salle in three sets before sending UST to its third loss in four matches.

Coach Jerry Yee has gone with a small rotation but has begun to introduce more players into the mix and take note – not at garbage time but even at crucial moments. Case in point – former starting setter Mae Basarte and Aiesha Gannaban especially the latter who scored seven big points in her four-set stint on the floor.

They have three other contenders to go through in succession – Ateneo, FEU, and lastly, NU.

UST has to more than regroup if they want to stay in the hunt.
On the strength of their showing in the last V-League, people, yours truly included, raved about them. How much more if they were complete, observers postulated. At that time, Tin Francisco and Carla Sandoval played major minutes for the UST Golden Tigresses. They played with so much confidence and exuded a freshness and a sense of fun (quite a contrast from UP that looked tired). Once the UAAP started, they were on the bench (and UP looks good now). At this point, maybe Kungfu Reyes should try playing the two more. After all, the regulars haven’t done very well for themselves.

There’s talent and depth here. Then as in now, I said that what would keep them from going forward and deep into the season (Final Four) is their mental strength. These four games showed that it isn’t there. Bumibitaw in the vernacular.

Kungfu has wondered about leadership. We hear that during the huddle. I agree but that’s also mental strength.

They somewhat get a reprieve when they play Adamson next followed by NU and FEU. They need to win all those games or by the time the first round is done, the season could be all over for them.

Don’t cross out La Salle by any shot just yet.
How do you come back from a terrible loss? How about taking down a contender to your crown and in three sets no less?


You have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff and the Lady Spikers for not showing any effects from the previous loss to UP. They looked to get buried under by NU in the first set but showed tenacity and resiliency. Once they took the first set, they were more relaxed.

You can see some players finally putting it together from middle hitter Aduke Ogunsanya and opposite hitter Tin Tiamzon. And the Michelle Cobb cameo was pretty good.

An early season loss can be good or bad. If one learns from it, then it is a reminder that a lot of work needs to be done. And they sure worked on NU that couldn’t get into a rhythm. When this team gets rolling they will be even more frightening. More on that in the next.

I thought that NU looked intimidated.
Bad game? Maybe. Everyone has bad days. But they didn’t get up for this game especially with La Salle supposedly on thin ice after their previous loss to UP? This was a good chance to knock the Lady Spikers for a loop and stay in step with UP. But no.

In my opinion, the Lady Bulldogs looked scared of La Salle. They sure did. That’s because of DLSU’s championship pedigree. Kim Dy and Desiree Cheng danced. Who wouldn’t have gotten pissed at this brash display of celebration? And well, did the Lady Bulldogs respond? No. They fell flat on their faces. Whether setter Jasmine Nabor wasn’t 100% but this team collectively flopped in a huge game.

Some pundits opined that during their shaky performance against UE on Opening Day, and looking rocky late in the game against Ateneo, that NU doesn’t have the steel verve that will bag them a UAAP championship. That theory just gained momentum.

Next for NU is FEU on Saturday, February 25.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

On the UE Lady Red Warriors: Seeing Red

Seeing Red
by rick olivares

If you’re a volleyball fan, you can’t help but feel for the Adamson Lady Falcons and the University of the East Red Warriors. While the former historically has put up competitive teams, the latter has a history of underachieving.

Sadly for UE, underachieving has become an understatement. Ever since Ateneo, NU, and UP got serious with their programs years ago, the Lady Red Warriors have recited nothing but a litany of futility. Adamson has hit the skids as well. I’d chalk up their woes to some veterans opting not to play, the politics of this program, and their rebuilding phase.

And to borrow the jokes of pundits, the two teams are on a collision course to determine who “wins the championship” – or staying out of the cellar.

It is always painful to watch young teams learn how to win. Having said that, I think the television coveror should be a little more circumspect with their showing the huddles with both squads constantly getting scolded or told off by their coaches. We hear that once and that’s enough.

The Lady Red Warriors cannot be viewed in the same light as UE despite their underachievement. They are certainly better in terms of play this year. I think in years past, I called them the escalera sisters – to marry that mahjong term with the reference to goofiness of Tito, Vic, and Joey in Iskul Bukol -- because they were dead last in all categories from win-losses, sets won, scoring, spiking, blocking, serving, digging, setting, and receiving. Those are nine categories.

This year, despite toting a 0-4 record, UE has won two sets (while Adamson has yet to win one set). They have scored more points than four other teams although they have surrendered the most number of points (only because they have played more sets than Adamson).

The Lady Red Warriors are third in blocking, fourth in serving, fifth in digging, and second in receiving. A week ago, they were ranked higher in spiking and setting but have since tumbled to last place in both categories.

Team captain Shaya Adorador is tied for fifth in scoring while Seth Marione Rodriguez is the third best blocker. Sel Baliton, though lumbering at setter and somewhat reverted to middle hitter at one point during the match against UST is moving better and contributing.
The one Lady Red Warrior who has really raised the level of her game is libero Kathleen Arado who is tops in digging and receiving. Without her, UE would have not been as competitive.

Save for their opening day first set win over NU, UE has mostly started out poorly and have this gargantuan task of trying to overhaul leads. At times, they’ve had the lead in certain sets but have been unable to close them out.

Though there is slight improvement, the results are equally encouraging and disappointing. Disappointing because this is a veteran crew they have and the relative maturity that comes with age should somewhat help them get over the hump. Of course that isn’t a given.

At this point, aside from the obvious recruiting better players and with all due respect to the coaching staff of Francis Vicente, what the UE Lady Red Warriors need to do is work on their mental toughness and riding themselves of that losing mentality. Take note that when things do not go their way they fall apart very quickly.

Case in point, the season opener versus National University. Had they taken that third set, who knows where UE would be now? That third set was theirs but they folded. And it was the same versus FEU. They took the third set but ran out of steam in the fourth as the Lady Tamaraws cruised to their second win in four matches.

I believe that while coaches and players talk about focus, following the game plan, and working hard, mental toughness is something that isn’t worked on. Is skills training and practice enough?

Definitely not. Let’s look at how some former losing programs arrested their long skids.

When one coach took over this school varsity team in 2009, they were mired in a forever losing streak where opposing teams chalked up an automatic W even before the match was played. This coach began the off-season with a team meeting in front of a statue of perhaps the school’s most famous alumnus. “We will try to achieve something historic,” he told his team. They changed the culture. The team ate together, watched games and broke down strategies together.

Winning didn’t happen right away. But they began to narrow the gap. Playing five-setters, first losing then winning them.

Another coach took over another team that for quite too long has been synonymous with underachievement. In order to rid the team of its losing mentality, he instituted small deliverable goals. Ones they can achieve and build on. Each and every player was aware of the goals and what they needed to do. And the winning came; the turnaround noticeable in the very first season.

I’d like to suggest that this goes beyond x’s and o’s and they should look at the mental aspect of the game. They need to not only realize this and but they need to do something about it. And cease those battling for those misplaced championships to stay out of the cellar.