01 July 2010

American Book on Pinoy Basketball

Rafe Bartholomew
The Philippines' basketball fanaticism is truly infectious.

American Fulbright scholar Rafe Bartholomew launched a book on Pinoy basketball last 16 June 2010 at Union Square in New York City. More than 200 people came to the launch and reading of his almost 400-page book entitled, Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball.

His "love letter to the Philippines" tackles the history of basketball in the country, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) games, Ateneo vs. La Salle matches and barangay leagues, among others. It also has anecdotes of his stay like when "people sort of cornered and forced [him] to sign autographs as a PBA player," he told Asia Society.

Though he was granted only a one-year research grant, Bartholomew spent three years in the Philippines, and it looks like his hard work paid off judging by the book’s good reviews. Chicago Sun-Times senior sports columnist Rick Telander described it as “the kind of book that makes you proud to be a sportswriter,” while FreeDarko author Bethlehem Shoals said it is “as raw with emotion as it is informative.” Locally, The Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote, “This isn’t a scholarly text by any definition. Instead, it’s a rollicking good tale.”

Bartholomew, 28, told Asia Society, "That is what I'm most proud of–that the people who know about Philippine basketball and culture are reading it and saying, 'this guy didn’t misrepresent us.'"

He cited the chapter about the Philippines in Big Game, Small World by sports illustrator-writer Alexander Wolff as his inspiration for the book. "It was stuff like kids playing basketball in their flip-flops, or in their bare feet, and people building their own basketball courts out of whatever materials they could get their hands on. It was this sort of passion—that they would play the sport by any means necessary—that made me want to go out there and see it for myself," he told Asia Society.

Working for Harper's Magazine as an assistant editor, Bartholomew currently lives in New York but "schemes constantly on ways to get back [to the Philippines]."

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