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.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The 2016 Brewskies: Awarding the funny and dubious moments in sports

The 2016 Brewskies
by rick olivares

It’s the year’s end and you know what that means – it’s time to hand out the Brewskies – awards for the dubious and hilarious and WTF moments in sports for 2016. And let me tell you, the past year was really one for the books.

Curses Foiled Again Award
Heading into the World Series, all the chatter between the two protagonists – the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians was which clubbed was cursed the most in their baseball history and how the loser will feel more cursed. The Cleveland Indians took a 3-1 series lead and only needed one more win to wrap it up.

Shockingly, they lost the last three matches including an 8-7 heartbreaker in 10 innings during Game 7.

Rocky Colavito lives and continues to be cursed in Ohio.

Dubious Achievement Award
The Golden State Warriors join the Seattle Mariners and the New England Patriots as the teams with the all-time season best record only to lose when it matters either in the playoffs or the finals.

The Warriors’ broke the Chicago Bulls’ 20-year record of 72-10 by winning one more game. Yet unlike those Bulls and the 1972 Miami Dolphins who pled the NFL’s only perfect season, they won the championship.

And to paraphrase the 1996 Bulls’ Ron Harper, “73-9 don’t mean a thing without a ring.”

Hit Maker of the Year
This ain’t no Motown chart-topper! Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors takes this home for the cheap shots of the year to Steven Adams (twice), LeBron James, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Michael Beasley, and most recently, Phoenix Suns rookie Marquese Chriss.

Sorry but unnatural me butt. Green is Bruce Bowen dirty.

The Truth is Out There Award
Ryan Lochte and the Brazilian police. The American swimmer came out with a story of how they were held at gunpoint during one night during the Rio Olympics. A succeeding investigation showed that the swimmer and some friends might have not been telling the truth. Lochte was pilloried worldwide as an ugly American adding fuel to the fire of all the problems of the Rio Olympics.

But a succeeding USA Today investigation and a Brazilian witness showed that the Brazilian police also exaggerated their tale of the Americans’ destroying a bathroom in a gas station (it wasn’t destroyed at all) and that they demanded money from Lochte and company.

An unfortunate incident that shouldn’t have happened. As it is, it didn’t do any party any favors at all. Everyone’s reputation took a further hit.

The Mouth That Roared Award
Sam Allardyce and Hope Solo. The former lasted only 67 days as England manager and after he was caught during a sting operation for unsavory practices in football. On the other hand, former US Women’s National Team goalkeeper Hope Solo couldn’t keep her mouth shut once more when she uttered that the Swedish team that bounced them from the Women’s World Cup were a bunch of cowards. USA Soccer suspended her for six months effectively ending her time in a national jersey.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Award
American golf fan David Johnson foreshadowed the United States’ win at the Ryder Cup for this year when he was dared to sink a 10-foot putt by Rory McIlroy after he heckled McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Andy Sullivan, and Justin Rose after all four pro golfers all missed their putts. Rose bet a crisp new $100 bill that Johnson could make it. But the American did. And he did the chicken wing dance after as he got hugs from all the golfers. Plus, signed golf balls and the hundred-dollar bill.

If Looks Could Kill Award
This one goes to Michael Phelps whose death stare was caught as rival South African swimmer Chad Le Clos looked blissfully unaware. It only served to add to Phelps’ legend.

Diver of the Year Award
Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas was on the verge of losing the gold medal to American Allyson Felix during the Olympics’ 400-meter dash when she dove towards the finish line – yes, she extended her arm and threw herself across – to win by .07 of a second! While “diving” is legal in the sport, people frowned over the act of desperation. While she isn’t the first to do it, you can say that people are still used to winning by blazing through standing up.

Protest of the Year
More controversy from the Olympics! After Mongolian wrestler Ganzorigiin Mandakhnaran lost the bronze medal match to Uzbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Navruzov when the judges awarded a penalty point after the finish of the match, the former’s two coaches, Tserenbaatar Tsogtbayar and Byambarenchin Bayaraa threw a challenge flag. When the judges explained the call couldn’t be challenged, they ran out onto the mat stripped down in protest — one removing his shirt, and the other removing both his shirt and pants, leaving on only his underwear.

It sure was a tough loss and I totally sympathize with them (I believe it was an ill-timed and bad call), maybe these coaches could receive a Hanes endorsement for their efforts.

Chant of the Year
“Will Grigg’s Is On Fire” that fan chant “created” by Wigan Athletic fan Sean Kennedy (to the tune of “Freed by Desire” by Gala) for striker Will Griggs became an internet sensation. A top of the cart song, and a massive stadium chant for Wigan and Northern Ireland in the European Championships. The funny thing too was when those loveable and incredible Irish fans were singing it during the Euros, Will Grigg was on the bench!

Jordan Crying Meme
The picture for this internet meme was during basketball great Michael Jordan’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. The meme generated a lot of publicity in use following the Golden State Warriors’ failed 2016 NBA campaign; the loss of Jordan’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina to a Villanova buzzer-beater for the 2016 National Championship; and when US President Barack Obama awarded basketball’s GOAT with the Presidential Medal of Freedom citing that he was “more than just an internet meme”.

The Black Coffee Award
Goes to Conor McGregor after he repeatedly insulted Nate Diaz during a CNBC television interview for UFC 196. McGregor twice told Diaz to “bring me my coffee” during the interview and the latter responded with a few choice expletives. Diaz had the last laugh when he forced McGregor to submit via rear naked choke during the match.

The fighting Irishman got his revenge when he won in UFC 202 via a majority decision.  

Bizarre Call of the Year
Swedish football Adam Lindin Ljungkvist who suits up for Jarna SK was shown a red card for farting during a match against Pershagen SK. According to referee Dany Kako, he cautioned then sent off Ljungkvist for releasing gas. ““I perceived it as deliberate provocation. He did it on purpose and it was inappropriate. Therefore, he received a yellow card.”

Best Music Video of the Year
Former French international footballer Eric Cantona for singing “Will Grigg’s Is On Fire” during his incredible home video of his dissection of the European championships. It is both hilarious and amusing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On that Ateneo Women’s Volleyball manager issue

On that Ateneo Women’s Volleyball manager issue
by rick olivares

The news that the men behind the ascent of the Ateneo Women’s Volleyball program are out. That’s specifically Ricky Palou and Tonyboy Liao.

While I understand that Mr. Palou is of retireable age as the Ateneo University Athletics Director, Mr. Liao, who isn’t a school official has acted in the capacity of team manager for over eight years now. He’s been there for the lean years up to the championship seasons.

The word is the school doesn’t want any team managers (from what I know this was instituted during the time of former Vice President for Planning, Fr. Carmelo Caluag) on their varsity teams anymore. From what I heard from Mr. Laio – he can be a supporter.

Now I guess that is fine if that is how they want it. Each to his own. However, here’s the rub – why didn’t the school officially inform Mr. Liao? Why did he need to find this out in the media? Or is some other corporate entity spending now for the team? Did someone drop the ball on this?

And furthermore, why does the basketball team have a manager? Or is the basketball program still an autonomous republic as it has always been?

Even if the basketball team remains so, the volleyball program has also been a most successful program in terms of impact and high visibility. While other Ateneo programs from football to swimming to judo to name a few have also done well, it hasn’t – and with all due respect -- been as high profile as the volleyball and of course, the basketball programs. The media and fan coverage alone is apples and oranges in terms of comparison.

Whatever the reason for going in this direction, the fallout smacks of bad public relations and a lack of gratitude. Didn’t it occur to someone in the know that it would have happened this way?

Even worse, the timing is terrible. Christmas time and on the eve of the UAAP volleyball tournament. I don’t think this “no managers” thing was conjured in the last few weeks. This in all likelihood began with the new school year.

While this might not affect the players, it could possibly affect the coaching staff. That is the team’s Thai head coach Anusorn Bundit who Mr. Liao brought in.

I witnessed the lean years when all the team tried to do was win the battle for seventh place against the University of the Philippines (National University was always in the cellar). I was there when Ronald Dulay took over and was followed by Roger Gorayeb. Both men recruited and built the foundation for what would be its champion teams in the V-League and in the UAAP. This isn’t meant to take away from Bundit who is a huge part in the team’s elevation to a championship squad but you have to give credit where it is due no matter what.

Unfortunately, everyone who now built that program – save for program director Sherwin Malonzo – is out.  

Hopefully, both parties – Ateneo and the tag team of Messers Palou and Liao -- will find a happy middle ground.

If not, this is the worst possible parting of ways. More so for Mr. Liao, a second time (this also happened in La Salle).

It’s just disappointing because some things could have been avoided.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Drag Abuse into the Light

This appears in the Monday, December 19, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Drag Abuse into the Light
by rick olivares pic is borrowed from world soccer talk

Some five years to the day where the Penn State child abuse sex scandal broke severely tarnishing an image and legacies, a similar one was damningly divulged. Across the oceans in England as retired professional footballer Andy Woodward, who played for Crewe, Bury, and Sheffield United, admitted to being abused as a youth player.

After Woodward’s admission, other former pros – former England and Tottenham midfielder Paul Stewart, and Manchester City striker David White – have also come clean with their own stories of abuse from the youth system.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported last December 15 that Metropolitan Police (of London) have received 106 allegations against 30 clubs, four of which are in the Premier League. Even as investigations are now being undertaken also by 21 other police forces, when the full extent of this crime and complicity is revealed, the fallout and the repercussions will be even bigger.

It isn’t only England that is reeling from these sexual abuse reports. Back in the United States, gymnastics is dealing with its own troubles as close to 400 gymnasts have made allegations about abuse over the past 20 years. This actually spilled over into the most recent Summer Olympics in Rio where this scandal threatened to take the shine away from the American gymnast’s golden feats.

Here at home in the Philippines, a little over a year ago, a coach of a big college program was removed for having sexual relations with his players. Man, you entrust your kids to this person? The fact that the school didn’t file a case or even denounced this means they are complicit. Better to keep quiet because it might hurt our image and our recruiting, they must have surmised in the wake of their silence. 

As a father of a student-athlete, we place great trust in our child’s coaches to take care of them not take advantage of them.

Yet if it isn’t sexual abuse, it is physical or verbal abuse. Sometimes even a combination.

Several years ago, I wrote a blind item how this coach of a UAAP college football team several years ago introduced a form of hazing where seniors would beat up erring rookies. If the seniors refused to put the hurt on the froshes, the coaches would beat them up instead. The players who admitted to me the bullying and abuse refused to go on record for fear of reprisals from their coaches.

I heard that was the system they learned when these coaches – brothers – were at another college in another league. Hopefully, that evil they brought over to their school (they are now out) has been stamped out.

That physical beating used to happen in this high school basketball team that has been a power in recent years with many of its alumni now playing for big programs. After losses, the players would be asked to form a line where they would receive their “punishment” one after the other. Incredible!

Some players transferred schools as a result. A few stopped playing the game because it was no longer fun. Yet for those whose parents who see their kids as meal tickets, they have no choice but to continue. Even more amazingly, the parents also refused to file cases or even publicly air their grievances as they were afraid.

In the case of the college football players, their parents were in the provinces and totally unaware of what was transpiring. The basketball team? The parents knew of it but chose to keep quiet.

The silence allows these people get away with their bullying and abuse. They will hide behind what – institutions? In this day and age of slow and blind justice, social media and the internet can be the great equalizer.

That is why I am glad that slowly these reports are surfacing even if they are coming all the way from England and the United States. No doubt, it isn’t an easy decision. The risk of telling your story in front of a global audience means exposing one’s self to risk. However, at the end of the day, it is the right thing to do. And it always starts with the courage of one for the monsters to be dragged into the light kicking and screaming.

Then we stamp them out.