Light It Up: My Favorite Baseball Team Making Roads In Japan

December 17, 2009

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: the Japanese love Major League Baseball, but only when Japanese players are involved. A car down the street from me has a Seattle blanket proudly displayed on the back window. Students routinely tell me how much they love the Boston Red Sox. It seems like every junior high staff room I work in could double as an official Yankees merchandise distributor. I mean, I see dudes on the train wearing Tampa Bay hats…I’m pretty sure some people in Florida still don’t know the Rays exist. Japan loves supporting its native sons…except the guy on the Cubs, he gets a raw deal over here.

This national-pride-first mindset means my team of choice, the Los Angeles Angels, never gets any attention. I can understand my teachers still calling them the Anaheim Angles…they still sort of are…but nearly none of my students recognize the signature “A.” They see red and transform into a bad Bill Simmons baseball column. The only time they get on TV is when they lose to a team with a Japanese player (grrrrrr Yankees) or Ichiro does something big and they need some stock footage. The Angels aren’t on the mind of the average Japanese baseball fan, though I’m sure they would love the Rally Monkey.

Well, until now. The Angels signed World Series MVP Hideki Matsui this week, and Japan’s jumped on the Halo bandwagon. Newspapers have pictures of Matsui donning the red and white. The nightly news put this story first, in front of events of actual importance like the global warming conference. They show as much footage of Matsui trotting around Angel Stadium as they can, while also going over the team’s latest season and their history. The Angles have gone from barely present to all over the place in the span of the day. I’m just waiting to see business men on the train wearing the cap.

I don’t expect to see Yankees mugs lining the trashcans of Nabari anytime soon, but it’s kind of nice to see my favorite baseball team spring up a lot more in my current home. Now, if only the Clippers could sign the dude from Buzzer Beat.

(Japanese Fun Fact #34: This one’s for my Journalism peeps out there. You know that terribly depressing photo of a Sudanese child crawling on the ground while a vulture stares at the kid from nearby? This one? At some point in journalism school, this comes up as part of an “ethical debate” – would you pull a Kevin Carter and take the photo, or would you help the child out? I recall debating the situation way too often in college.

This week in one of my English classes, the lesson revolved around this photo. Kids got to learn fun new words like “die” and “crawling” and “Pulitzer Prize.” I got to read a passage about the plight of Sudan to the kids. The kicker? The teacher made worksheets up where they had to pick a side and defend it. They had five options: take the photo, help the kid, throw a rock at the vulture [the comedy option], run away or other [fill in your idea]. So it felt like I was back in journalism school! Except I was surrounded by 14 year olds who could spell better than me.

And for the record, I chose the “other” option, telling the class I’d take the picture in order to show the world the horrors of Sudan and then move the child. Blew their minds.)

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