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Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball Hardcover – June 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"Wonderfully written and conceived: a white man walks the earth with a basketball and discovers a society so colorful it almost sounds make-believe. This book is more than a front row seat to a body-twisting, triple-clutching, no-look passing basketball world in flip-flops. It humanizes a nation and reclaims the innocence of a sport that has been swallowed whole by stereotypes and clever marketing schemes."
-James McBride, author, Miracle at St. Anna, The Color of Water, and Song Yet Sung

"This is the kind of book that makes you proud to be a sportswriter, for at its best, sportswriting informs, entertains and educates, like all great writing. Rafe Bartholomew, the young, 6-3 'giant American' in the land of the Lilliputian-but-basketball-mad, turns the Philippines into a hoops carnival, teaching us as much about this complex nation as any history book. I learned, I laughed (I mean, out-loud, splatter-the-page hilarity), I loved it all. Pacific Rims is nothing but a joy."
-Rick Telander, Senior Sports Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times, author, Heaven Is a Playground

"Rafe Bartholomew's Pacific Rims is a rollicking good time, a kind of gonzo basketball journey filled with laughs and pathos. Who would've thought the Philippines was so hoops obsessed. What a cast of eccentric characters. Just hearing the tales of players like Billy Ray Bates - an American import known in his day as the Black Superman - makes this a ride worth taking."
-Alex Kotlowitz, author, There Are No Children Here and The Other Side of the River

"Rafe Bartholomew traveled to the Philippines to better understand a country that loved basketball as much as he did. What's resulted is a book as varied and unique as the hoops tradition he found there, a dizzying mish-mash of social history, personal narrative, and rock-solid sports journalism. As raw with emotion as it is informative, Pacific Rims can make you both laugh out loud and tear up-sometimes in the span of a single sentence."
-Bethlehem Shoals, author, FreeDarko Presents: The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Rafe Bartholomew is an assistant editor at Harper's magazine. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Seattle Weekly, Detroit Free Press, and The Best American Sports Writing 2007. He currently lives in New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: NAL (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451229991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451229991
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Vic I. on June 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a basketball fan, an avid reader of sports journalism, and a Filipino. So I had high expectations for this book, and was not disappointed. It manages to be both scholarly and sidesplittingly funny at the same time.

Just like Jack McCallum's "Seven Seconds or Less", the author spends an entire season as an embedded journalist with a local professional ball club. However he alternates his fly-on-the-wall reportage of practices and player hijinks with well-researched chapters on past Pinoy sports heroes, defunct leagues, and the country's culture in general.

I noow realize that it takes an outsider's point of view to really put the bizarre yet wonderful world of Pinoy ball into perspective.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nate C-K on January 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Overtly, this book is two stories spun into a single narrative:

- A general overview of the culture of basketball in the Philippines.
- The story of a single season ("conference") where the author follows a pro basketball team, the Alaska Aces, through their successes and struggles on and off the court.

However, perhaps the most important story in the book is that of a young man experiencing a new culture that he knew very little about before he arrived. The author arrives looking for something familiar, basketball, and through it discovers and attempts to explain much that is unfamiliar. The reader is taken along on this journey as well, and it's a lot of fun.

I myself have been to the Philippines several times, and I picked this book up at an airport bookstore in Manila. Even though I already knew a great deal about the country, I was pleased to learn tons of things that I didn't know before. Filipinos will probably also learn plenty, and even if they don't they will enjoy the author's perspective their culture.

You could undoubtedly write a much more comprehensive book about basketball in the Philippines than this one. The author makes a good effort to research the history of the sport there, but the brevity of his experience limits how much of an insider perspective he could really gain. Furthermore, his account of the present-day league lacks objectivity because he has become very close to the particular team that he covered. However, this does not negatively affect the book at all: it never pretends to give an objective appraisal of the league from a neutral point of view, but rather gives itself wholeheartedly to conveying a fan's sense of love for the game. This love rubs off on you as you read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Churma on June 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written. A very good read. This book should have been written long ago. It brought back memories of living, working and playing a whole lot of ball in the Philippines long ago.

The author captures the Filipinos' passion for the National Sport from barrio to big city and provides insight into this often misunderstood country as a Westerner immersed in the culture. Language and cuisine are important.

An Index (Personal Names, at the least) and a Bibliography would have been useful, but that just may be the librarian bias in me.

Thomas Churma
Kalamansi Books
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By whirled traveler on June 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Glad to find an entertaining and timely book on the Philippines! If you're interested in the Philippines or basketball, then this is definitely a book for you. Well resarched and detailed study of hoops past and present in the basketball-crazed country of the Philippines, with some (very) extended play-by-play action following a pro team's season, (in the manner of Halberstam's Breaks of the Game). The added stories and asides of the author's life as an American expat in the Philippines is what really brings the story to life. Good book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Liebo on July 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
Having read and enjoyed Jim Yardley's Brave Dragons, which covered Chinese professional basketball, earlier this year I was eager to further explore the genre of "books about Asian basketball written in English," assuming such a thing was possible. Thankfully after some cursory research I learned about Rafe Bartholomew's Pacific Rims, which focuses on the Philippines' notable and somewhat-curious obsession with hoops. I finally got around to reading the book and believe that it is one of the best basketball books I have ever read. Bartholomew, currently a senior editor at Grantland, provides an incredibly entertaining look at the country's fascination with the sport with a book that is equal parts fly-on-the-wall season chronicle, deep examination of Filipino culture (athletic and otherwise), and travelogue, all of it worthwhile.

Unless Bartholomew is lying to the reader, Filipinos are remarkably into basketball and the sport has found its way into virtually every aspect of life in the country. Soccer never really caught on, and basketball is unquestionably the nation's most popular sport. Courts can be found even in the most remote areas and are viewed as centers of social life, the country's ubiquitous jeepneys are often adorned with a random assortment of NBA team logos or just Jerry West's silhouette, and players in the very popular Philippines' Basketball Association (and some Americans like Clyde Drexler, who is revered by Filipinos for some reason) are cultural icons that hawk a plethora of products to consumers.

The fact that basketball is so huge in the Philippines is enough to make for an interesting book.
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