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, August 31, 2014

Pro-wrestling stuff: The Fives Moves of Doom: Aug. 25-30

The Destroyer Bobby Lashley stands triumphant over a fallen Tommy Dreamer.
This appears on

The Five Moves of Doom: The Week of Aug 25-30.
A weekly look at pro wrestling.
by rick olivares

TNA Impact Wrestling
I’ve always liked the X-Division of TNA with all their high-flyers and the frenetic pace of the matches. I thought that the wrestlers and the matches here set them apart from the WWE.

In this week’s ep of TNA Impact Wrestling, for a while I thought that the six-man tag team battle between Low-Ki, Tigre Uno & Crazzy Steve against Manik, Homicide & Zema Ion was going to be its saving grace.

No way was Tommy Dreamer going to beat Bobby Lashley in the week’s opening segment. Not with Kenny King and MVP outside the ring.

And the Knockouts match between Madison Rayne and Taryn Terrell was… well.. You know that it’s not much when the crowd chants, “We want puppies! We want puppies!”

Now I am thinking… this is getting to be disappointing. I have to apologize right here but I was the previous week’s main match that was a tables match between Team 3D and the Hardys was far below any of their previous encounters.

Then came the furious Six-Man Tag Team match where the Brooklyn-born Low-Ki took center stage. He not only delivered what I thought was one of the moves of the week – a double foot stomp on Manik after he reversed an octopus-style submission move --- but he also delivered a piledriver on Manik to earn the pinfall.

It was all over in five minutes! But what action! While Low-Ki is impressive and this gets him line for a match against Samoa Joe, I am still not sure if he has the power to handle the force of nature that is the Samoan Submission Machine.

I loved the welcome that US Army veteran Chris Melendez got in the TNA. The Afghanistan War veteran who had his left leg amputated due to an IED saw his dream of serving the country finished. But just as one dream died another opened up and that was his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. First through Mr. Anderson and then through Team 3D, Melendez learned the ropes.

And now, this Army war vet has been signed to TNA. Of course, the company saw his potential and talent despite his disability!

The chants of “USA! USA!” had to get your hair standing up.

But as rousing as that welcome was, the Main of Event that pitted Team 3D against the Hardys and the TNA Tag Team champions, The Wolves was worth the price of admission.

This time, the Main Event did not disappoint. The reunion of the Hardys sparked off the debate and led to these series of matches to determine which is the best Tag Team in the business.

For my money, my three best Tag Teams in order are: The Road Warriors/Legion of Doom, Team 3D, and the Hart Foundation! I am a fan of the Hardys but they have to win quite a lot more to move up the ladder of greatness.

From the get-go it was pedal-to-the-metal action with the Wolves (Davey and Eddie) double teaming Bully Ray. What I love about Team 3D is they are more than just brawlers. They might not be the paragon of technical ability like the Hardys (or even Edge and Christian) but they work well together and know quite a move or two.

The Hardys upped the ante when Jeff went flying in the air and onto the Wolves who were out if the ring. Matt followed that up with a moonsault from the top rope that had the Wolves crashing to the floor once more.

But in the end, it Devon and Bully teamed up for a 3D on Eddie for the win and the stipulation (as to what kind of match they will determine for the next round). I’d say – tables, ladders, and chairs!

Not crazy about the feud between Nikki and Brie Bella. Their center stage tete-a-tete was terrible. I know that all tag teams and partnerships have come to an end when it comes to storylines but this one was painfully obvious in its coming.

So far the AJ Lee vs. Paige feud in the Divas category is far more compelling (although I think that Paige needs to out-weird Lee as well). Never liked AJ as a face. As an anti-hero with that unstable character suits her just fine.

But the Bella-rift? End it. Now. Fast!

I like Roman Reigns but I think that he the push for both Raw and Smackdown is a little to much. Easy guys. While I think that Reigns is a more athletic and superhuman version of the Big Bossman, I think he’s got a lack of mike skills that makes guys like John Cena, CM Punk, Stone Cold Steve Austin or the Rock top billing.

Love the feud with Seth Rollins. Big match especially after Dean Ambrose got stomped by Corporate Kane and Rollins the previous week.

I guess the WWE doesn’t know what to make of the Wyatt Family now. I love them! Would love to be one of them fireflies but the past week – to see them manhandled by the Big Show and Mark Henry and now Cena all in the space of five days – is it over now for these Hillbilly Horrors?

Have always been a John Cena fan and I wish I could collect all his shirts (I have about three). Having said that, I am looking forward to another epic battle with Brock Lesnar. This better be legendary!


Make or break for Liverpool

This appears in the Monday, September 1, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

Make or break for Liverpool
by rick olivares

Going into the 2014-15 English Premier League season, there were several questions surrounding Liverpool Football Club.

Who will they tab to replace Luis Suarez up front?

Will they finally be able to lift the Premier League trophy?

Are teams onto their style of play?

How will they fare in Europe?

The problem with pre-season prognostications is more often than not, no room is made for new signings especially the last minute additions. I’ve done lots of pre-season previews across most major sports but I have always subscribed to how esteemed American publication Sports Illustrated does its previews for the NBA…. right when the season starts.

That way, it’s all in.

Who will they tab to replace Luis Suarez up front?
The answer to the Luis Suarez question for was hoping that Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling can hold the fort until the addition of a world-class striker. More so after two matches – one win against Southampton and one loss against Man City – it is not the start Liverpool wants.

So enter Mario Balotelli who has tantalized and frustrated his three previous clubs in Internazionale, Man City, and Milan. He scored 66 goals in 156 matches. That’s a goal for roughly every 2.3 matches. It is no secret that for all his talent, he has been a distraction with his on and off field actions. And with his streak of honors ended in his last stop at Milan, Balotelli knows that the game is almost up for him. If he does not get his act together his next destination could be in the Middle East, Asia or the United States; far from the top tier clubs and competition.

For sure Balotelli is a huge talent and is much better than the addition of Fabio Borini or Lazar Markovic. I’m liking the addition of Rickie Lambert but… have yet to see something to make me ecstatic. It would be interesting to see his impact when Liverpool plays Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

And further to Balotelli, the onus is on him to make a case for Italian players in the club. For no Italian (that’s Andrea Dossena, Daniele Padelli, Alberto Aquilani, and Fabio Borini) has been a star in Anfield.

Will the Reds finally be able to lift the Premier League trophy?
Historically, LFC has followed up fantastic title pursuits with big time flops. Whether it was inadequate additions or being crushed under the weight of expectations, the succeeding campaigns greatly disappointed and the teams once more fell into mediocrity. So you will pardon me if I am guarded in my optimism that Liverpool can finally get over the hump.

Second place finishes of Liverpool in the Premier League:
LFC record
LFC record next season
18-10-10 (fifth)
18-9-11 (seventh)

In the 2002-03 season, then manager Gerard Houllier added El Hadji Diouf, Bruno Cheyrou, Alou Diarra, and Patrice Luzi none who made an impact with the club.

After the tantalizing 2008-09 season, former manager Rafa Benitez brought in Alberto Aquilani, Glen Johnson, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, and Maxi Rodriguez. Save for Aquilani, the other three were able to get some meaningful minutes but it is only Johnson who has since become a first team regular.

On paper this year, they brought in an even better bunch of players in Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Deja Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Javier Manquillo, and Balotelli. 

It is difficult to properly gauge a team two weeks into the season. In a few weeks’ time we can properly say what is working and what is not. After all, if you look at Man City’s huge 3-1 win over the Reds last week, they followed that up with an equally stunning 1-nil loss to Stoke City.

If Balotelli can be imperious up front, he will give the team a lot of confidence and that will galvanize this make or break season (while Manchester United is vulnerable and not up to its usual standards).

How manager Brendan Rodgers skillfully manages his players since they will be playing in Europe as well will also greatly tell on the club’s fortunes. They were fortunate they were healthy for the most part of the previous year as they concentrated on the Premiership. That is not the case this year. Rodgers will have to do his best managing.

And yes, they have the pieces to win it.

Are teams on to their style of play?
Let’s establish this first – the possession-based game and the build-up from the back where they make use of the entire field in picking apart foes with a dynamic attack.

I’d say yes. The more you play a team the better an opponent knows their tendencies and their strategies. Now it’s up to additions like Balotelli, Lovren, Manquillo, Lambert and Lallana to add a new dimension to their game with speed, smarts, and support for the defense and forwards.

And lastly, how will they fare in Europe?
Liverpool is group with Spanish side Real Madrid, Swiss Super League champions Basel, and Bulgarian A Group titlists Ludogorets Razgrad. Now way can Rodgers’ side underestimate any of the lesser known squads more so since they have not won anything.

In the last 20 years of Champions League competition, the one time unheralded clubs competed and won the title was in 2004 when a Jose Mourinho-managed Porto side defeated AS Monaco for the title of Europe’s best. Almost every time since and before it has been big clubs with world-class players.

This Liverpool team probably has only one world-class player in Balotelli. I was hoping the club would snatch Marco Reus from Borussia Dortmund that would have made it two. If that ever happens it will be in the next off-season.

The Reds will really have to play as a team if they want to reprise their storied 2004-05 run.

It’s an interesting season for Liverpool. Unfortunately, failure to win any bit of silverware will be a massive disappointment.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Transitions: Looking back and forward with the Adamson Falcons' Kenneth Duremdes and Jansen Rios

Part Five of Six on the Gatorade Brand Ambassadors and Legends.

This appears on


Looking back and forward with the Adamson Falcons’ Kenneth Duremdes and Jansen Rios.
by rick olivares

The Adamson Falcons were in the midst of an intense practice. First year head coach Kenneth Duremdes wanted it that way. After all, their next foe was La Salle. Already a tough match up, what made it seem more daunting is that the Green Archers were coming off a huge loss to FEU that knocked them off the UAAP’s top spot. “Baka kami mapagbuntungan ng galit,” thought Duremdes.

Point guard Ryan Monteclaro received the ball atop the three-point arc where he was wide open. As the defense scrambled to cover him, he whipped a pass to his right to a suddenly open teammate. Except his teammate had gone inside in anticipation of an offensive rebound. Turnover.

Duremdes who was two feet away from the midcourt line bowed his head for a moment in frustration then quickly changed gears. “C’mon, boys. Let’s run it without any turnovers! Kaya natin ‘to!”

As practice wrapped up, Duremdes, the former Falcons star and one of the PBA’s Greatest 25 players, pulled a few of his players to offer more advice. Later, he reflected, “You cannot get down on these kids. It’s a tough situation. We lost 11 players from our team from the previous season. Our remaining players didn’t get much playing time. You have to remain positive and give them positive things to think about.”

Transitioning is something that Duremdes is used to. Growing up in Koronodal, South Cotobato, he had dreams of glory on the baseball diamond. “I love the game,” gushed Duremdes about the sport. “I don’t have too much time to watch the regular season, but when the World Series is on, I always watch.”

Even during his time in the PBA, Duremdes would make it a point to catch up on Major League Baseball especially his favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were playing. In fact, when he was in the Philippine Centennial Team that competed in the 1998 William Jones Cup, Duremdes and then national head coach Tim Cone, would spend time in the lobby watching MLB games and the historic single-season home run chase that saw the St. Louis Cardinals’ Mark McGwire and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa battle it out neck and neck for the record.

As a youngster, Kenneth was his elementary and high school team’s pitcher and second baseman. The perspective from the second base helped him read the game properly. And sizing up the game is something that served him well especially when he transitioned to basketball.

Basketball. At first, he played center for his high school team (hence, his ability to post up him man). However, when he got to college to join Adamson, he had to adjust to the two and three-spots because the Falcons featured their Twin Towers combination of seven-foot EJ Feihl and 6’9” Marlou Aquino. “I was known to be a slasher back then but when I got to the PBA I had to work on my jumpshot. Kasi mas matatangkad na yung mga kalaban mo so hindi na pwede drive ng drive.”

And what a drive it was. Duremdes’ PBA resume is a chock full of achievements. Having won what he could in the pros and in the national team, he has taken the next step… coaching.

“Definitely not easy,” succinctly put the man on the hot spot.

Duremdes is no stranger to difficulty and challenges. This year, he has taken the Falcons’ fifth year forward Jansen Rios under his wing. Rios was promoted to the starting five last season but his inability to get going saw him demoted to the bench where he fared much better by mid-second round. The coach can understand the disadvantage his team is in. The best they can do now is salvage what has been a difficult season.

It is easy for Duremdes to identify with Rios. Both play the same position (small forward), are close to height “6’3” to 6’2”), and are both from the province.

“That is another aspect na kailangan i-address ng bawat player na nanggagaling sa probinsya,” noted Duremdes. “Kung lalambot lambot ka sa Manila walang mangyayari sa ‘yo. You have to show everyone you belong.”

When Duremdes became a UAAP and PBA star, he helped put his hometown of Koronodal on the map. Rios now has that same opportunity.

Jansen hails from Romblon and he is the first of its native sons to play UAAP basketball so much that when he left for Manila, his townsfolk sent him off with banners and song.

“Romblon is football country,” he recalled of life back home. “Hindi ko alam kung ano yung UAAP. Saka na lang nung fourth year na ako. Sa Romblon kasi, football yung buhay namin.”

Like his coach, basketball wasn’t his first sport. Jansen played center forward for his elementary and high school teams. And growing up, he rooted for Liverpool FC where aside from Reds’ talisman Steven Gerrard, he keenly observed the techniques of former stratospheric striker, the 6’8” Peter Crouch.

Watching Crouch closely, Rios, standing at 6’2” used his height advantage in winner headers and corners to score goals.

However, by mid-high school, Rios underwent a growth spurt and basketball eventually beckoned.

“Yung football…” noted Rios. “Ay nakatulong sa paglaro ko sa basketball sa lateral movement and sa quickness. Pero yung height ko, kailangan pang maraming gawin sa basketball court.”

In his most productive season, Rios is averaging through 10 matches, 12.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. With four matches remaining, Duremdes has asked his senior forward to raise the level of his game and lead the downtrodden Falcons to victory.

The Falcons have their own legacy. From Hector Calma to Louie Alas to Nandy Garcia and Romulo Orillosa and to Aquino, Feihl, and Duremdes himself (and later to players like Ken Bono and Alex Nuyles).

The Falcons don’t win too often (the 1978 UAAP title and the 1994 National Intercollegiate Championships are perhaps their two biggest cage prizes) but they’ve always had a proud and winning tradition.

This year however, the soaring Falcons have been grounded at 0-10. From all prognostications, they could end up winless, their first since the inglorious 2000-01 seasons where they went a combined 0-28.

While conventional wisdom will say that the Falcons can realistically win only one game, Duremdes steadfastly refuses to let his players think that way. “So we think we can only win one and we think we will lose the other three?”

“No,” emphasized Duremdes. “You have to go on the court believing you can win all four. Losing attitude yung thinking one game lang.”

“How Jansen and the other veterans play (in particular, fellow fifth-year swingman Don Trollano) will determine how far they want to go in this world,” noted the coach.

“When I was playing, the games were hardly televised and there were no distractions,” said Duremdes. “So focused kami. Now for Jansen, in this day and age, it is harder given the high level of competition and the increase of Fil-Ams and foreigners in the local game. He has the tools. But the question is – how bad does he want to succeed?”

“Changes,” summed up the coach, “are always part of the game. How you adapt will determine how far you will go.”