Ever wondered why our country with an average height of five foot something is in love with a sport for 6 foot giants?[firstpara] It’s exactly the question author Rafe Bartholomew aimed to answer in his book Pacific Rims, launched last Tuesday, August 24.
A Fulbright scholar from New York, Bartholomew got a grant to come to the Philippines in 2005 to study our love affair with basketball.
While you may be sceptical on how much a foreigner can really explain this phenomenon, you better cancel your plans and allocate some reading time.
Bartholomew’s research is impeccable, aside from consulting with numerous sportscaster/historians like Sev Sarmenta and Bill Velasco, he also spent some time reading dusty old pamphlets and magazines at the Ateneo Library to further give you a picture of the sport’s glory years.
Aside from what you’d consider academic, he also personified his research through immersion in extremes: He played in real kanto games and with current and ex-pros.
At one point, he even experienced being an import in Boracay beach league. His anecdotes along his journey make for an interesting read. He’s drunk ice-tubig and RC cola, and even got jobbed by local refs.
You can expect to learn more about Philippine basketball history, too. Bartholomew dedicates a chapter on the story of Billy Ray Bates, aka the “The Black Superman.” It answers a lot of questions that have been lingering about the once super import. Another chapter tackles the iconic Baranggay Ginebra.
While mostly about hoops, Bartholomew learns more about the Philippine culture through the game. From the good, the bad, to the traits only a true Pinoy will understand, he compares this to the western culture he grew up in and ends up having a deeper sense of knowledge more that most westerners.
From the outside looking in, the book’s tone eventually changes into someone who shares the same passion for Philippine Basketball. More than reading about hoops and the PBA back stories he’s encountered following the Alaska Aces throughout their 2007 title run, you’ll also read about Bartholomew’s own journey from being a foreigner to becoming an honorary local.
You may agree or disagree on what Bartholomew thinks about some aspects of our culture and how we play the game but one thing emanates from it all—a sense of respect. The book is a sportswriting gem that allows you to see basketball beyond the x and o’s.
WORDS BY: WAYNE JOSEPH TULIO