Thursday, December 14, 2006
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The globalization of baseball
Like everyone else in New England, I followed Scott Boras' negotiations with the Red Sox over Daisuke Matsuzaka's contract with great interest. The roller coaster nature of the negotiations caused many who questioned the Red Sox strategy earlier this week to now offer hosannas to Theo Epstein and company now. Indeed, just scroll down the Boston Dirt Dogs site just to get a taste of what this week has been like for New England sports fans.
I write this, however, not to denigrate sports columnists and sports bloggers (hell, I even find Dan Shaughnessy amusing today). Rather, as someone with a passing interest in the international relations of sport, it is interesting to note that as big a story as this has been in New England, it's been an even bigger story in Japan. The AP reports that the Japanese Prime Minister was asked to comment on it:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that he is "so impressed" by Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, after reports that the Boston Red Sox reached a preliminary agreement with the right-hander on a US$52 million, six-year contract.As Bryan Walsh reports for Time.com, this is emblematic of a profound cultural shift among Japanese sports fans:
Most Japanese fans... are celebrating Matsuzaka's signing as further proof that Japan's best players can compete on baseball's premier stage. Japanese players who move to the majors are no longer seen as leaving Japan behind; they are seen as representing their country in the international game. It's a sign that the globalization of sport is finally penetrating this often isolationist country, that many fans here would rather watch an international game with the top players in the world than settle for a lessened domestic product. As one Japanese baseball blog put it: "Finally, all the dream matches will come true in 2007. Matsuzaka vs. Godzilla Matsui, Matsuzaka vs. Genius Ichiro, Matsuzaka vs. Igawa! I wish the MLB 2007 season would start soon." He's not the only one.Of course, there remain some interesting cultural gaps. From Walsh's report:
Japanese fans may be a little fuzzy on Beantown's traditions, though. Toshiyuki Nagao, a lifelong fan, expressed concern that "there are many academic and white-collar people in Boston, who might not appreciate baseball's earthy passion."No, Boston sports fans aren't obsessive about the Red Sox at all.....
UPDATE: For those Sox fans who want to know how to cheer on Matsuzaka and curse the Yankees in Japanese, click here.
For those Sox fans who want to know how the Red Sox can profit from the Matzusaka signing from the Japanese market, click here.posted by Dan on 12.14.06 at 02:25 PM
I think Toshiyuki Nagao needs to go spend a weekend in Boston, for a Yankees/Red Sox series. I think he'll change his opinion. It makes me think this guy isn't a football(European) fan.posted by: Ghost of Tom Joad on 12.14.06 at 02:25 PM [permalink]
It's really amazing how every article gets smacked down on the procrustean bed of the globalization meta-narrative. Let's take a quotes:
"As Japanese national, I feel so happy to see our countrymen do well overseas, like in the Major League," he added.
Normal people would see this as an expression of nationalism, amd indeed in Japanese case ethnonationalism. But somehow to our cosmopolitan reporter this translates into opening up of an 'isolationist' country. Or this:
It seems this young fellow is primarily interested in watching Japanese play in the premiere league of the sport. Now this may be a strange way of expressing nationalism -- but I don't see how it can be seen as other than nationalistic.
Now, if Japan was willing to open its league totally to foreign players (my guess is that they still have such restriction), then the reporter might have a point.posted by: Mitchell Young on 12.14.06 at 02:25 PM [permalink]
How many "blue collar," working class types does Toshiyuki Nagao think can afford Fenway's ticket prices. "Earthly passion" doesn't come cheap on Landsdown St.posted by: Bill N on 12.14.06 at 02:25 PM [permalink]
My understanding was that Japan did allow foreign players, but had some kind of limit on how many a team could have. This was (I've always assumed) out of fear that Japanese players couldn't compete against foreigners. I think this was long the feeling in the U.S., but obviously it has changed.
Given this, Japanese baseball should allow teams to hire as many non-Japanese players as they like.
Perhaps this is an issue fo rthe WTO.posted by: RWB on 12.14.06 at 02:25 PM [permalink]
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