July 23, 2010

Book Review: Pacific Rims by Rafe Bartholomew

Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball
With the NBA season in hibernation mode, I've had more time to read books. (Yeah, I read the paper version ones).

One title that really got me excited was this oddly titled book: Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the  Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball. For convenience, I'll call this book Pacific Rims.

The reason it piqued my interest is that it's a book about the Philippines' obsession with basketball seen from the eyes of a non-Filipino. I've been a hoops fans since I was in grade school and this is the first time I've seen a full-length book about how and why basketball became big to the point that every town has a basketball court.

The author (Rafe Bartholomew) was puzzled by one major question: How on earth does a country where the population's average height  is 5'2" (1.58m) and fall in love with a game that needs height the most? Bartholomew gets a grant and lives in the Philippines for three years.

The book is a stitching of the author's experience in the Philippines in general, his time with a local pro team, and his research about basketball in the Philippines. The first two contain more of reflections, and the last part more investigative work. Fixtures and icons of the Philippines basketball culture are given attention: the Philippine Basketball Association, Crispa-Toyota, Ginebra, Ateneo-La Salle, Bill Ray Bates, and Robert Jaworski.

The result is a great read-- it's very interesting, really. But the author made the mistake of not following the Ginebra Gin Kings, but instead worked with Alaska Aces. In my opinion, that places the book two notches below how more enjoyable it could have been. There has been critiques that Bartholomew was a little too harsh in dishing out his opinions, to the point that some folks mentioned in the book are taking exception.

If you ask me, every thinking hoops fan will get to appreciate Pacific Rims and will find the story of Philippines' love for the game an equally fascinating story.

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