Playing with the Big Boys: Basketball, American Imperialism, and Subaltern Discourse in the Philippines

Playing with the Big Boys: Basketball, American Imperialism, and Subaltern Discourse in the Philippines

Playing with the Big Boys: Basketball, American Imperialism, and Subaltern Discourse in the Philippines

Playing with the Big Boys: Basketball, American Imperialism, and Subaltern Discourse in the Philippines

Synopsis

Basketball has a lock on the Filipino soul. From big arenas in Manila to makeshift hoops in small villages, basketball is played by Filipinos of all walks of life and is used to mark everything from summer breaks for students to religious festivals and many other occasions. Playing with the Big Boys traces the social history of basketball in the Philippines from an educational and “civilizing” tool in the early twentieth century to its status as national pastime since the country gained independence after World War II.

While the phrase “playing with the big boys” describes the challenge of playing basketball against outsized opponents, it also describes the struggle for recognition that the Philippines, as a subaltern society, has had to contend with in its larger transnational relationships as a former U.S. colony.

Lou Antolihao goes beyond the empire-colony dichotomy by covering Filipino basketball in a wider range of comparisons, such as that involving the growing influence of Asia in its region, particularly China and Japan. In this context, Antolihao shows how Philippines basketball has moved from a vehicle for Americanization to a force for globalization in which the United States, while still a key player, is challenged by other basketball-playing countries.

Excerpt

Tatangkad din ako! (I will grow taller!) was the trademark catchphrase in a series of television advertisements promoting Growee, a popular children’s multivitamin in the Philippines. As the product’s name suggests, the ads enticed consumers by touting the brand’s unique formula, which the company promised would enhance the physical growth of young kids. For the tv commercial’s debut in 2006, basketball was the subject of the ad’s upbeat video montage. Designed as an MTV-style hip-hop music video, the television spot showed five youngsters sporting nba jerseys and other basketball-inspired fashion accessories doing a songand-dance performance. the kids were shown performing different basketball tricks and even exhibiting a rare skill among Filipino basketball players: dunking the ball. By creatively stitching together different elements of contemporary youth culture (MTV, hip-hop, and basketball), the commercial became one of the most popular in the country; the ad’s jingle evolved into a trendy children’s song and in a short time the advertising slogan itself became an everyday adage.

The evolution of Tatangkad din ako! from a marketing catchphrase to a familiar saying reflects some of the most interesting aspects of Philippine society. For one, it highlights the Filipinos’ obsession with “getting tall,” as shown by the popularity of growthenhancement formulas that, aside from their use in supplements . . .

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