Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Death Wish XVIII

I was recently the subject of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I was honored. But there has been some collateral damage. After E-mailing the article (hosted by the excellent NCAA blog Double-A-Zone) to my family and friends, the pleasant replies started bouncing back to me, and almost every one had a little plea for me to be careful.

Some of the hoods and ruffians I've encountered on Nia road. Bravery is my middle name.

Why? Well, the piece makes much of the fact I sometimes play basketball in "fetid slums" full of "drugs, thugs, and prostitutes." There's even a charming paraphrase from some of my advisers and Filipino friends, who've told me I'm "a fool ... to venture into these kinds of places alone, or at all." It's all basically accurate. And I understand the concern. Thinking back to my life in New York, if some Finnish guy who was interested in dice games told me he was playing Seelo in Springfield Gardens or Brownsville, I'd start arranging his funeral.

Diddy just wants to make you dance. I just want to make you dunk.

If anything, playing ball in these supposedly scary neighborhoods has just made me question how dangerous they really are. If you don't go in looking to start trouble, you probably won't find any. I go for a basketball game. We clown around, dunk on a rickety, 9 foot rim supported by children sitting on the bottom part to weigh it down, and that's it. Laugh and go home.

But the article makes me sound like the second coming of Rambo-journalist Robert Young Pelton, and a lot of people were too busy worrying about me to pay much attention to the cool stuff in the article about my research.

I still feel pretty special for being the subject of such a sweet article.


Anonymous Professor/Fan said...

The most important statement in that article was the observation that basketball was analogous to a religion in the culture. The question is easy to ask, why? And what is the deeper significance for Filipino culture? Is the sport a kind of cultural glue? Does it serve as the subject of gossip?
Are there sport talk radio shows?
How pervasive is it? Is it a precursor to what might occur in other third world countries and their respective #1 sports? Lots of topics therein. Good luck, Vanilla Man. There might be a book in there.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Soccer Nut said...

Good luck, Vanilla man.

5:59 AM  

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