Laker's won again last night, in a classic Game 7 series over the Celtics. I got a bunch of Filipinos on my Facebook, so my newsfeed was blowing up with game related banter.
Here's a question: why do I love basketball? And if you're Filipino, why do you love basketball?
I've never found it easy to give a simple answer. It's not like hockey and Canada. Where Canadians love hockey, because they're supposed to love hockey. It's Canada.
But what about if you're Filipino and you're in Canada and you STILL love basketball? Why would it become a short-ass-Filipino kid's one hope in life to become the first Filipino in the NBA? Even if he's useless at most things athletic (we're just talking about me here- chill). Where does this boiling passion come from?
I really started to wonder about it, especially since the World Cup rolled around. It came up at a dinner table conversation with some friends that it would have made more sense for Filipinos to be passionate about Football/Soccer-- yes, it was the (lack of) height thing. But when has anything in The Philippines ever made sense?
An in depth look at The Philippines' love affair with basketball, could serve as an easy path and gateway for western society to understand the complexities of Philippine Culture. O, diba? (oh, right?) But before you go applying for a grant to go back to The Philippines to write a book about basketball in The Philippines, hold up. Somebody's already done it.
American Rafe Bartholomew, a Journalism Graduate from Northwestern University, received a Fulbright Scholarship in 2005 to study basketball in The Philippines for a year. Bartholomew's knowledge of The Philippines was typical of most people in the western world-- he had none. But also typical of most people that know nothing about The Philippines, once they get a taste of that culture, regardless if they don't understand it, they're hooked.
You might say "great, another piece about The Philippines by another white guy." But Bartholomew ended up staying in The Philippines for 3 years. Even picking up Tagalog, better than most of the Filipinos on my Facebook newsfeed (see video below).
The product of that time spent is Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and The Philippines Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball. It seems he was there so long that he even picked up the Filipino tendency towards unnecessary long and explanatory titles.
Pacific Rims follows Bartholomew on his sojourn chasing the passion for basketball around the country. He discovers there isn't a chase at all. Basketball is everywhere. NBA logos and stars painted on to the sides of Jeepneys, nets made of scrap wood and discarded cement-wire on dirt courts, and packed arenas staging professional and college games over a season that never seems to end. A large part of the book he dedicates to following The Alaska Aces- a team in the Philippines Basketball Association named after a milk company- through a championship season.
Bartholomew discovers that basketball has permeated every facet of Filipino life. From it's history, class differences, economics, and politics. His immersion into the game of basketball and, subsequently, into The Philippines grant him insight into a way of life and culture that even Filipinos find puzzling. The book then serves not only as a book about basketball and a quality piece of sports journalism, but an important window from the western world into everything that is The Philippines.
He learned what a lot of people who visit The Philippines for an extended length of time learn. That the world has a lot to learn from the story of that country.
From his website: "Pacific Rims is the story of a nation's passion for hoops and a writer's falling in love with that nation."
Bartholomew recently did a reading of his new book in New York at the Barnes & Noble outside Union Square in Manhattan. According to ABS-CBN "Fans lined up for almost 2 hours just to get an autograph." The writer of this article showed visible signs of jealousy upon learning this (he banged his head on the desk), but claims he won't be hitting the bar.
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