Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Major League Baseball Season Started Here in Japan Last Night!

Hometown hero Daisuke "Dice-K" Matsuzaka made his first start of the season as the Boston Red Sox (enjoying a massive surge of popularity here in Nihon thanks to Dice-K's place in the starting rotation and their World Series victory last year) outlasted the Oakland A's 6-5 in a ten inning thriller. The opening game of the American baseball season played itself out in Tokyo in some kind of crazy trans-Pacific publicity stunt. Turns out jet lag and hardball mix pretty well with sushi and brass bands.

Actually, here in Japan Dice-K would be called Matsuzaka Daisuke. Family names come first. Or, more politely, Matsuzaka-san. Calling somone by his or her given name isn't really done except in certain situations and in certain relationships. Unless you're in an English conversation class where it's expected.

I didn't get to watch the game. For one thing, it started at 7pm and I work until 9. And for another, it wasn't televised on any channel I get. I did see some highlights from the earlier innings on some broadcast network. While the actual game itself was in the 10th inning.

Yesterday, I saw an amazing sight. Something you'd never see in the States where baseball is supposedly our "national pasttime" (which is actually stuffing our faces daily with enough food to feed six people). As I was riding my bike past an electronics store downtown, I saw a group of boys about 11 or 12 years old, crowded outside the window. They were watching Japan League baseball on a widescreen display TV.

And cheering as the shortstop turned a hard grounder into a bang-bang out at first.

You'd never see that at home. The only things kids cheer there is when Vin Diesel and the Rock shoot hell-demons in some nihilistic video game film adaptation, Paris Hilton flashes a nipple or when footage of bums hitting each other over the head with vodka bottles appears on an online video site. Whereas at least some young people here in Japan have their priorities exactly right.

Even if it is spring break and they're supposed to be doing homework. The sakura are blooming in white and the horsehide is flying over artificial turf. Spring is here.

No comments: