Before stepping back into The Madness, I wanted to get to Part Two of the Foreign Places thread. It doesn’t take a long look at the results of the World Basketball Championships to understand that hoops is global and has been for quite a long time. As fun as it is to watch old clips of Arvydas Sabonis’s passes from the post or admire Tony Parker’s forays down the lane or Lauren Jackson’s overall game, you really connect the game with the global village by getting on the court in foreign places (I’ve played some amazing – and some lousy – pick-up in Warsaw, Sydney and Rio). But if you don’t get the chance to play or watch a game in some far away locale, the next best thing is to hear from someone who has.
Alexander Wolff, former SI college hoops writer and now owner of the Vermont Frost Heaves of the nascent ABA, has had a great book out about playing hoops all over the world: Big Game, Small World. A great read.
This is one account that I’ve always favored because it was written by a former Never Too Late Basketball hooper in NYC, Christine Bader. She sits you right down next to her as she writes about going to a pro game in the Phillipines. (It also appears at the NTL web-site):
A Night of Basketball in Manila by Christine Bader
. . . Vendors are circling the stadium, sucking their teeth instead of shouting to hawk their chips, cookies, hot dogs, ice cream, water, juice, soda. (Um, where’s the beer?) One small Jumbotron is near the ceiling at one end of the stadium; the camera is on and unattended, focused on the legs of the scorer’s table.
The players come out to warm up for the first game. A smattering of applause. Most guys look to be between 5’10” and 6’8″, with a few shorter point guards. This three-month season is the All-Filipino Cup; after the play-offs and a two-week break is the Commissioner’s Cup, which features the same teams, but each is allowed one “import” no taller than 6’8″. No one could explain to me how they determine eligibility. Genealogy checks? Citizenship? Do they ask to meet your parents? In any case, I finally find half-Filipinos who look less Filipino than I do. Three or four are half African-American, products of the former U.S. military presence here, I’m told. Some went to college in the states, ‘though none to hoops powerhouses.
While the players are warming up, one of the vendors stops next to me: “Autograph?” Sorry, I’m not signing any tonight. No, dummy, he’s offering to get you one of the players’ autographs, presumably for a small fee. Oh, no thanks. A minute later a fan goes courtside and asks one of the players to sign his program, which he does. Yet another scam avoided by the foreigner. . .