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Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  761 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Welcome to the Philippines, where the men are five foot five, the everyman's Air Jordans are a pair of flip-flops, and the rhythm of life is punctuated by the bouncing of a basketball.

Rafe Bartholomew arrived in Manila with little more than a Fulbright scholarship and an urban legend that Filipinos loved basketball more than anyone else on the planet. He'd heard that the l
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by New American Library (first published May 26th 2010)
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Average rating 4.30  · 
Rating details
 ·  761 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Start your review of Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
I couldn’t help but admire the author’s dedication to delve into the psyche of nation’s almost absurd love for basketball. He really dove into his subject and he probably would have gone native after experiencing what the Philippines had to offer. He ate the food, inhaled the smog in his daily commute and played hoops with ballers who wore flip-flops. Along the way, he moonlighted as an actor for an episode of a tele-novela, became a contestant for a noon time show and witnessed during a small t ...more
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I first learned of Pacific Rims when I stumbled upon a youtube video of the author promoting his book in Filipino. Rafe Bartholomew spoke my mother tongue in a way that would put some of my schoolmates to shame. I had to replay the video to confirm that not only was he speaking Filipino with a barely there American accent, but his grammar was also nearly flawless. I know firsthand that it’s not an easy feat to learn a foreign language, much less master it in a way that would earn the locals’ res ...more
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly written tome about the Philippines' infatuation with basketball. Fulbright scholar and hoops junkie Rafe Bartholomew delves deep into his topic, seemingly leaving no stone unturned as he tries to get to the heart of a nation's obsession. From playing pick-up games with the locals to following a PBA team on its quest for a championship, Bartholomew's story of living three years in the Philippines had me longing for a return trip back to my motherland.

I loved how he detailed the man
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
How must you you live your life?

You can try having a lifelong passion for something you can never excel in. Filipinos are short and basketball is a tall man’s game but the number one sport in the Philippines is basketball. The American author stayed in the Philippines to do research for this book and try to figure our this mystery yet could only come up with a conclusion that should have been obvious right from the start: that the Filipinos’s love for basketball is no different from his own. Yet
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Such a fantastically rich subject, and so squandered in the hands of an egregiously and sometimes willfully ignorant author. This could - and should - have been a very different book, if the author had even a passing knowledge of Philippine history, or any investment in the subject beyond (a) being a frustrated wannabe pro baller with idiotic hopes of 'stepping in' to a PBA game; (b) apparently liking to date Filipino-American girls, which he basically offers up ~80% of the way into the proceedi ...more
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Part travel writing and part history, Pacific Rims is the culmination of the author’s journey to the Philippines in search of why basketball is popular in a country where men’s average height is 5’7.” Maybe shorter. Rafe Bartholomew learns how the game was introduced to the country and that the Philippines was once a basketball powerhouse. He travels the countryside and discovers courts made from scraps such as a discarded car’s hood. Basketball, he finds, is everywhere and is popular across the ...more
Benito Jr.
Jun 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
When I was growing up in the Philippines, every guy in my neighborhood played basketball. As a writer one is trained not to use absolute terms like “every” or “all,” but this is surely a statement of empirical fact. Maybe those guys were too busy now, or their knees, like mine, had given way in middle age, but at some point in their lives, they had picked up a ball and chucked it through a hoop. And in every neighborhood, there was one. Even I can still remember the makeshift basketball court ne ...more
Lyden Orbase
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Philippine basketball fans, Gatas Republic, Gin Kings fans
Philippines + Basketball = ♥

I had never heard of Rafe Bartholomew until I came across this book called Pacific Rims. Curious, how did a New Yorker find out how crazy Filipinos are about basketball? Who is this Rafe Bartholomew? I had to find out what he's saying about my country's favorite game.

Rafe Bartholomew wrote precisely what Philippine basketball is all about. He researched well, not forgetting even the tiny details. There are facts about PBA and the players that I didn't know until I rea
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
This book starts with the author's Fulbright Scholarship thesis: Why is an island nation in the Pacific crazy about basketball? The author mentioned he was partially inspired by Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure by Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff. Rafe Bartholemew goes into the history of the game in the Philippines, its fan culture, and even tags along with a professional PBA team, the Alaska Aces, sponsored by a dairy company. The best team name may be the Ginebra Gin Kin ...more
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I took a class once in college titled "Baseball and American Life." My professor, a 19th and early 20th century US history expert, used the lens of baseball's evolution to teach us critical themes in American development. I thought it an exceptional class, primarily, i think, because I bought wholeheartedly the "baseball as history" argument.

"Pacific Rims" is the Philippines' equivalent of some of the works I read for that college class. It tells the story of the author's immersion in Filipino
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
This book was all I hoped it to be. It gives a thorough insight into Phillipines' basketball culture from the professional league to the most rural areas with kids playing on a homemade hoop. The author is a very passionate hoops junkie who received a Fulbright scholarship to spend 3 years living in Manila. His enthusiasm for basketball and the likewise enthusiasm he enlightens us from the Philipines is contagious. Several times I had to put down the book to go shoot hoops myself to fix the itch ...more
May 04, 2012 rated it liked it
I really wanted to give this book 4 or even 5 stars because I enjoyed reading it that much. I'm taking 1 star away for each of the following reasons.
First, I think I may have a bias. Part of the joy of reading this book was I was familiar with the settings and people [I have lived in the Philippines for the last 12 years]. I have watched many PBA games and played ball on courts ranging from the well-lit, covered courts with breakaway rims to the home-made backboards nailed to trees. I have been
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Beemen Ballin' in Flip-Flops was a deep dive into an obsessive basketball culture. It explored the history of this love affair, and also told the story of the author's time in the country researching, living, and balling with the locals. It dragged a little when it focused on the history, though those sections did provide a nice context for the modern madness of the infatuation. It hummed when the author told about his own experiences, like being a hired gun for a fixed local basketball tourname ...more
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, travel, sports
Great book on the current history and state of Philippine Basketball and their love of the game. The author never really seems to get to the heart but he does a pretty good job of trying to get there. Anyone who loves the game or wants to get a peak at the love affair Pinoys have for the game this is the book for you.
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
How interesting to see my world through a foreigner's eyes. He accomplished the almost impossible - made me want to watch basketball again. I admired how the author was able to pin down Pinoy things with clarity and clever insights. ...more
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really liked the first and last third of the book. The middle third got a little long-winded for me with the author devoting too many pages to some topics.
But overall entertaining. Insightful, descriptive and humorous too.
Peter Overzet
Sep 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Rafe's immersion in Phillipine basketball culture has yielded a phenomenal book. ...more
Matt Lieberman
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 bes ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
This is a book for people who love basketball and love reading about other people who love basketball. This book was for my teenage self who would wake up every Saturday, bike to the high school court and spend hours dribbling, shooting, and daydreaming. Perhaps I also had a special love for this book because, having spent 4 formative months in Manila I had a clear picture of everything Rafe describes. This is a book about Filipino culture through the lens of Filipino's favorite sport.

Rafe Bart
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The lengthy, breathless descriptions of basketball maneuverings could get pretty tedious to someone who isn't an aficionado of the sport already. And I'm always sketched out when someone who isn't actually an anthropologist just goes into another country and just starts making broad generalizations--even if they were there for three years. It's weird to be a first-gen and have some American go and describe your entire social class as "basking in the fruits of corruption" just because we're not a ...more
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
"But why? Why are we so engrossed with basketball? Why are there courts in almost every corner of the barangay? Why do we see faces of basketball stars painted on jeepneys? Why are Tatay and Kuya so emotionally invested in this Finals, arguing every play and scolding anyone who dares change the channel?" Continue reading our post here.

Please note: We don't use ratings but for this purpose, we tag books with three stars by default.
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Brian Wadman
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bartholomew does a pretty good job getting into the story of the Alaska Aces in some year (2004?) in the Philippines. I just wish he wasn't such a tool when I watched his CNN stuff afterwards. Totally distorted my vision of him and prevented me from buying his book about his father's bar. Sorry Rafe :) ...more
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
More than just a basketball book, Rafe's insight into Filipino customs and culture paint a picture of life in the Philippines.

Interesting to read about the interactions and relationships of foreign born players with Philippine born players and fans.
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Most interesting when it touches on aspects of culture and race. For example, what defines a Fil-Am? Someone born in the Philippines to Filipino parents and raised in the US who doesn't speak Tagalog? Or someone born in Manila to non-Filipino parents and raised in Manila? How Fil-Ams who acted Filipino were no longer "Fil-Am." But it felt a touch long. ...more
Manny Munson-Regala
What a read

As a first generation Filipino-American whose a long-suffering Timberwolves fan, this dissection (and it’s more fun than that may sound) of Filipino culture, politics, economy and above all its love of hoops, hoops, hoops was a great, great read.

Be sure to also read the footnotes.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: basketball fans
Shelves: basketball
loved it for personal reasons, namely:
* Alaska Milkmen
* basketball
* Philippines
* basketball in the Philippines

and the fact that i can relate too much to all of the above.
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at the Filipinos' love for basketball. One has to admire Rafe's dedication to see his research through to the end. ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it

I laughed out loud and giggled uncontrollably more times than I can remember ever from reading a book. I love the author's glib style, tongue in cheek quips and unique insight take into this Philippine basketball culture, all of which are sprinkled across a massively interesting historical and narrative look at the sport.

I should say, I'm no a fan of basketball. But with it being inextricably entwined with our culture, I am familiar with and have experienced most of what is described in the boo
Rai Keyri
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rai by: National Bookstore SM City Dasmariñas
The last time I played basketball was before I graduated college in 2012.: Free throwing and driving to the net, half-court. I sold my undeflated Spalding ball with its shoulder bag wayback 2016 through

I'd rather practice Arnis-Kali-Eskrima (which is now Philippine's national sport and becoming popular in western world) or kenjutsu these days early in the morning than play basketball but I can still practice ball shooting in the arcade station in the mall.

I wish the author didn't focus
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can understand if this book does not become a best-seller because it's about the relatively lesser-known professional basketball league PBA (compared to other foreign leagues). The strength of this book though lies from the diverse stories as told by an American who was fascinated by the love and reverence of the Filipinos to this sport.

Similar stories can be read in the sports column of local newspapers. However, while these columns are rich in details, Rafe's stories captures the behind-the-
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43 likes · 18 comments
“Philippine culture was clearly different. It wasn't the fan's duty to remain aloof in the presence of stars; it was the player's responsibility to show gratitude to the average Filipino.” 5 likes
“Watching Castro, whose tiny hands looked like marshmallows, hoist the ball from his waist and through the hoop seemed like the human equivalent of an ant lifting fifty times its body weight.” 2 likes
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