I picked up Pacific Rims as a Father’s Day gift since my father is a huge basketball fan. I’ve heard fairly good things about this book and so, as I thought about how long I might have to wait for Pa to finish reading it before I can borrow it, the more I had misgivings about wrapping it and sending it to him as a present. Uncouthness won as I tore the plastic off the book, thinking that I could send it to him as a birthday gift this July anyway. (I also justified this behavior by thinking that I can write him a better dedication since I have already read it myself.)
It turned out to be a breezy read. I was initially apprehensive about stumbling over basketball terms or a roster of names and teams I never heard of—and sure enough, there were those—but it’s not really hard to find yourself engaged by Rafe Bartholomew’s simple and beautiful story: an American basketball-obsessed enough to live in the country and research about Pinoys’ love for the sport.
I am not a huge basketball fan—although who may be crazy enough to actually buy tickets to the games of UAAP basketball cellar-dwellers, UP Maroons, if not a sports fan?—but Pacific Rims did allow me to tap into childhood memories that have long been hidden since I discovered the world of beauty pageants. There were the dinners in front of the TV, cheering for the holy trinity of Purefoods’s Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera and Jojo Lastimosa as they went up against the foul-mannered Robert Jaworski and his Ginebra team.
Upon deeper reflection, I realized that to me, they were my first-ever real-life manifestation of the fight between Team Good and Team Evil. My father hated Jaworski; he’d always point out how dirty he played and my sister and I would nod our little heads in agreement to his assessment, and eventually, learned to hate him as well. If Purefoods wasn’t playing, we rooted for whomever Ginebra was playing against and rejoiced when Team Evil lost. Psychoanalyzing myself, I think this formed my dichotomous sense of judgement I mentioned here (and which I’m trying to undo): that one is either right or wrong; you cannot play for both teams.
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There was also the time when my father proudly took out a piece of paper from his bag and ceremoniously presented it to my sister, who was a bigger Purefoods fan than I was (lol): it had the autographs of the trinity, along with other basketball players. Their handwriting and signatures were nice—too nice in fact—that I later suspected that maybe, it wasn’t the players themselves that signed them but a team staff. (My father didn’t witness the signing himself—a colleague gave it to him.) I never and still don’t have the heart to break this hypothesis to my sister or father.
A few years later, an uncle gave me a basketball with the signatures of Alaska players on it—and this time, they were guaranteed authentic—but by then I’ve lost interest in the PBA (and didn’t care much for a team that wasn’t Purefoods) to give it a place in my room. I have no idea whatever became of it—I may have given it to a cousin, hopefully, not my uncle’s offspring—but for some reason, I distinctly remember how that ball looked like as I write this.
Having undergone my father’s experimentations in what he thought were effective ways of gaining height—primarily, having to wear those foot insoles with cleats and studs—and actually having achieved it as I now stand 6’1 (whether that is by virtue of my genes, nutrition or those insoles, I really don’t know), I am sure that his biggest frustration in life was that I never became a basketball player. (And yes, I considered not being able to give him a grandchild in the traditional manner, :-P) I remember him waxing poetic about the glory of basketball superstardom, as well as the corresponding money involved, back when I was still floundering in college. I think I may have been able to partly waive that frustration off when I finally got my name published in the newspaper—a moment of self-glory, but definitely no money, lol.
So where is the book review? LOL. Pacific Rims was a trip down memory lane for me, and I have to thank the author for allowing me to reflect on parts of my childhood that don’t really resurface as I have pursued and continue to pursue other interests now. And I think that on a larger scale, this was also what Rafe set out to do: to allow Filipinos to pause and think about how the sport has given us an identity as a nation, something which no other book has done before.