Pacific Rims (yes, I took a break from football)

I recently finished (re)reading Rafe Bartholomew’s “Pacific Rims” in time for the August 2012 book discussion of Flips Flipping Pages. Before I get into details about that, let me explain a few things:

1. I actually started reading the book in one of those “I have a couple of hours to kill” lulls, and being the dork that I am, I spent them inside Fully Booked.

2. I loved basketball way, way, way before football. My dad was an ardent LA Lakers fan (Magic Johnson was one of my childhood heroes). I secretly rooted for Alaska in the 90s (because Tim Cone lived in the same village as I did). I live in constant hope and despair with the UP Maroons.

3. I should participate more and regularly in Flips Flipping Pages, but: a) I don’t have enough time to read; or b) I cannot be usually bothered to grab a book that’s not in my general reading range.

That said, I breezed through “Pacific Rims” and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I know some readers (non-basketball fans) had their eyes glazed over some parts of the book, particularly the parts on the inner workings of the sport itself. As for me, it felt like being transported back to my childhood, when the TV just shuffled between NBA and PBA games. I was reading familiar names, ones that I remember watching all those years and ones that I read about as part of annals of history.

The book, essentially, is a recounting of Bartholomew’s year with the Alaska Aces, offering glimpses of the team’s trials and victories, capped by a PBA championship. Bartholomew explores the challenges faced by imports, team dynamics, and the relationship between a team and its fans, among many other sub-topics (including an interesting take on the sport with, uh, unusual players).

However, beyond being “just a basketball book”, what I find most interesting about “Pacific Rims” was that basketball was used as a lens to illustrate Philippine culture. It explored how a country that did not have competitive advantage in the sport embraced it as its own, adding its own flourishes to the sport, creating its own unique brand of play.

Bartholomew is a skilled storyteller, showing the Philippines and its people through the eyes of a foreigner that has somehow assimilated within the three years of his stay in the country. I suppose it also helps that his humor is pretty much in synch with Pinoy humor—and good grief, that “Bakekang” stint!

The biggest treat for fans during the book discussion? The author himself was present via Skype. My only lamentation—the one-hour discussion was not sufficient!

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