Or, how I learned to get my head around the sport of
Barry is an English teacher and part-time funk dancer
Before I came to this mysterious land,
my appreciation of baseball was governed by the accuracy
of the Hollywood sporting film. Therefore I assumed, correctly
in part, that baseball, or the American pastime,
was played by ghosts in Iowa corn fields and usually featured
Kevin Costner tossing out the first pitch. Games were either
lopsided shutouts (whatever that means), or white-knuckle-edge-of-the-seat
thrillcoasters, depending on what part of the movie it was.
The last 20 minutes featured the hero either hitting a home
run out of the ground or helping his best friend slide dramatically
into home plate, just beating the throw from the deep. And
all in glorious slow motion. I cant believe
it, the GIANTS win the pennant! I dont know
what this means either.
I also have an image of Wesley Snipes running in his pajamas,
but Im not sure where this comes from.
I am happy to say that these foolish misapprehensions have
been rectified during my one-year tenure as a bitter and
twisted English teacher escaping my dubious past in a country
that asks few questions.
Now that I have learned the complexities and vagaries of
the game, it has become clear that there is something ultimately
satisfying about drinking beer and watching sports on a
long summer evening. Whod of thought? I have become
fluent in the art of discussing RBIs and
I also know when to nod and smile when people talk about
preseason trades and the Japanese domination of the MLB.
Ive also been practicing, in Japanese, how to say,
Hasnt interleague play been a shot in the arm
for the game!
I have to confirm your suspicions. Yes, I am Australian.
Now you may say, Stone the crows, this guys
got a few jumbucks loose in his top paddock. What would
an Aussie know about a sport that ranks below chicken sexing
as a national pastime? A while ago I may have agreed
with you, but in researching this article I found some staggering
For example: Australia has been one of the most consistently
successful baseball nations in the past ten years! Weve
medaled in the past three Olympics, beating Japan twice
in Athens, not to mention waltzing away with the 1999 World
Cup. Therefore, its safe to say that Australia is
the best baseball nation in the world.
Japan has embraced baseball with open arms in the last 60
years, following the trends of the US product and creating
many of their own. Who can forget the glorious Bring
your own Melon days of the early 80s? Anyone
foreigner who has been to a baseball game in Japan will
tell you its an interesting and intriguing experience,
one of those things you simply must do, like climbing Mt
Fuji, eating wasabi or urinating in an onsen.
However, there is something missing from the game. Just
like fast food without the jumbo sizes, or 24-hour convenience
without the ethnic minorities, Japan has taken a foreign
product and sanitized it. There is something unsettling
about the perfectly ordered behavior witnessed around the
grounds on game day. Let me explain what is expected of
you as a supporter.
The fans cheers in packs, but unlike English football, these
packs wont set fire to the stands if they lose. The
cheers themselves are like nothing youve ever heard,
unless you have been to another game of baseball. All teams
seem to have the same chants, which makes it easy to change
allegiances, even mid-game. These chants usually go like
Lets go lets go [players name]. Lets
go lets go [players name]. Clap clap. Lets
go lets go, clap clap, lets go lets go...
Not so difficult is it?
After your batters strike out, you and all your fellow supporters
sit down quietly and patiently listen to the chants of the
opposition, which are identical to your own. This is the
major difference between Japanese supporters and the rest
of the world: There is a total lack of abuse hurled at the
opposing fans, players and management. It just sickens me.
Just once it would be nice to go to a game and hear the
cries of SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINJOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
echo around the stadium. Is that too much to ask?
But the most appalling act of all is the staggering absence
of drunkenness. With such easy access to a bunch of 12-year-olds
carrying Ghostbuster beer dispensers, the average fan back
home would be involved, statistically, in 1.2 scuffles,
7.6 counts of offensive language and 13.5 occasions of accidentally
spilling beer on the 6-year-old kid sitting in front of
him. Its all part of the game!
After the Seibu Lions won the Japan series last year, I
was personally shocked and stunned by the reaction. In Tokorozawa,
not one car was overturned, nor were any stores looted.
My American friends looked on in dismay at the sight of
thousands of supporters applauding politely and singing
the team song quietly (it was 10pm, after all). I received
a text message from my friend trapped in the center of the
calm. This place has gone crazy in a very organized
I guess that is the Japanese manner: from order comes more