Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Mike DeJong

Fighting spirit
The cheering gets nasty at a pro baseball game

Mike DeJong is a Canadian journalist and media consultant

SI went to a Japanese baseball game last month. Actually, I went to a fight at a Japanese baseball game.

I took my son to see his favorite team, the Seibu Lions, at Seibu Dome in Saitama. My son is only 5 years old, yet he’s already been to ballparks in Japan and North America. He knows what live baseball is all about. But this time, he learned that baseball games in Japan can be dangerous.
We decided to sit in the bleacher seats, thinking it would be fun to be part of an outfield cheering section. I’d read about the spirited antics of Japanese baseball fans, and how they made games more fun than those in North America. I thought the cheering section would be a new experience for my son. It certainly was.

The problems started shortly after our arrival. The Lions’ bleachers were full, so we sat on the other side with fans of that night’s opposition, the Yokohama BayStars. My son likes the Lions, but he wore no Lions colors as we took our seats. He cheered for his favorite players, but his voice was drowned out by four busy buglers in our section. They would have made Metallica proud.
Soon, the cheering started—actually, it was more like chanting. The fans raised their arms and closed their eyes in a mock messianic trance. I felt like I’d walked onto the set of Attack of the Killer Baseball Zombies.

Shane Busato

The cheering zombies blocked our view for most of the game. But that wasn’t the worst part. A woman in front of us took over an entire row of benches. She had jerseys, newspapers, jackets and sweaters strewn across the seats. My son made the mistake of stepping onto one of her sweaters. The woman responded by slapping him, right in front of me.

Now, when a stranger hits my kid, I get upset. I confronted the woman and my wife joined in. We yelled and argued. My son cried. Other fans stared. The woman called security. Security officers came and, after listening to both sides, told us all to behave. They asked my wife if she wanted to call the police. We declined. In the end, we all went back to watching the game. However, I was still amazed at what this complete stranger had done.

I’ve been to baseball games in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Los Angeles. I have worn opposing team colors into some of the toughest ballparks in North America. But never in my 30 years of watching baseball have I ever gotten into a fight. And never have I seen an adult hit a child.

Japanese cheering sections are, like many things in Japanese society, exclusive clubs. Outsiders are rarely allowed in. That’s my explanation for what happened to us at the baseball game. Sure, we had tickets that entitled us to sit where we wanted. But the Yokohama fans didn’t want us in their section. I guess they felt they owned that part of the ballpark, and we were uninvited guests.

Author Robert Whiting discusses this phenomenon in his classic book on Japanese baseball, You Gotta Have Wa. Whiting suggests that cheering sections are not merely loose-knit groups of fans getting together for a good time. Rather, they are highly regimented organizations where supporters are told how and when to cheer. The applause is not spontaneous, but scripted, organized and rehearsed. The military-like precision of cheering sections is another example of the powerful group dynamic that rules the majority of Japanese life.

Baseball group-think might seem quaint and charming to some people. But I prefer the spontaneous outpourings of support—or derision—based on individual plays and players. In other words, I want to be free to cheer or boo as I see fit.

In the end, my son stopped crying and watched what he could of the game. Some nice Yokohama fans even entertained him with their cute toys. But I had learned a lesson. Next time, I will buy a more expensive ticket and sit in a real seat. I don’t want to be told how to cheer. And I don’t want anyone hitting my kid.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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