Fun, Good Sportsmanship, and Fair Play — A Primer on Japanese Professional Baseball

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Professional sports are fun!

Are you a Professional Sports fan? Do you have a favorite team that you always cheer for and follow religiously? Lots of people, especially guys, have a favorite team. When I lived in Los Angeles, of course I was a Dodgers fan and a Lakers fan. I reckon most "regular guys" like pro sports.

It’s when you "love" pro-sports is where you should begin to wonder if you might have a "problem." I’ve met guys who were such hard-core fans that if their favorite team lost, they’d actually get mad! I might not like it when my favorite team loses, but I know some guys who will remain in a surly mood for days just because their stupid team lost the big game!

When you stop and think about it, that’s really idiotic. I mean, if your local team wins the championship, what difference does it make to you, really? Will you become a better person? Will you get money? What real benefit will you receive? None. Zero.

The only thing you might receive is a hangover. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need my favorite team to win in order to have my head hurt. See? That’s a contradiction! Your head hurting is painful. Your team winning is not supposed to be painful.

So there are absolutely no beneficial points to having your favorite pro team win a game.

If you live for your team, then I think you’ve got a serious problem that may require counseling.

I used to care about pro-sports when I lived in America. But, after I moved to Japan, I lost interest. I guess the TV really does brainwash you into thinking that the big game really does matter. Well of course they promote it as important to you. The more people that watch it, the more money the TV stations and sponsors can make.

Karl Marx said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." But in our modern world, pro-sports have become a religion of sorts for many people with the TV as the altar of worship.

In America, you have all sorts of pro-sports. You guys have probably never really thought about it, but it’s not that way in most other countries. America is a pro-sports "smorgasbord." You have: Baseball; Football; Basketball; Ice-Hockey; Soccer; pro-boxing. You even have women’s pro sports like the Woman’s NBA! You name it: In America, you’ve got it.

Not in Japan. In Japan, we are hurting for pro-sports. We have Baseball; Sumo; Baseball; Soccer; Baseball; and Baseball. And that’s it.

I think watching Baseball on TV is about as boring as watching Golf or Bowling. I enjoy going to the stadium and drinking beers with my friends, that’s fun. In fact, that’s so fun, I could care less about the sport. I’d enjoy going to the bowling alley and drinking beer as long as I don’t have to bowl.

So, since living in Japan, I have completely and totally lost interest in pro-sports. And I’m glad. Spending hours worrying about whether or not your local team is going to win or not is a big waste of time. You’d be much better off spending that same time trying to make some money.

Let me ask you: Would you rather have more money in your pocket or your local team win the championship? If you answered "local team win the championship" then, give it up. You are hopeless.

Recently many of the best Japanese baseball players are going over to the United States to play the game. So, even though all the best Japanese players are all leaving, interest in Japanese baseball is rising.

Like I said, I’m not really interested in any pro-sports, but I thought I’d fill in all you good folks about the exciting fun that goes on here in Japanese baseball-land!

Quick! Name one Japanese Baseball team! If you said Tokyo Giants, the you were almost right! The team everyone knows as the Tokyo Giants are actually called the Yomiuri Giants. The team is based in Tokyo, but as with all pro-ball teams here in Japan, the proper name of the team is the sponsors’ name along with the team name. Hence the Tokyo Giants are really called the Yomiuri Giants.

The Japanese people all love baseball. There is a saying here that all the old folks have (I’m not making this up): "A true Japanese loves the Sun, Scrambled Eggs, and the Yomiuri Giants!"

Oh me! I always get a chuckle out of that one! But let’s get realistic here for a moment, shall we? Actually, the situation for professional sports here is so pathetic that there are basically only two sports seasons: Baseball "on season" and baseball "off season." Even though it’s officially baseball off-season right now, all the big sports talk in Japan is baseball. The cover of every sports newspaper in Tokyo today and everyday for the last six months has been about baseball.

Baseball this and baseball that. Even the most mundane matters are reported with daily baseball updates for the avid sports fan. And it’s not just any old boring baseball reporting! It’s the in-depth, up-front stuff that the Japanese baseball fan likes! For example, did you know that the Giants actually had batting practice for 45 minutes the other day! You read right! 45 minutes! Incredible!

How do I know this? Well, it was the lead story on the TV evening sports news! Can you believe that they’d actually send a TV camera crew out to some Giants baseball practice and film these guys hitting practice balls? And then, after that, they actually interviewed them about it! Oh please!

God are we hurting for some decent sports in this country.

But I digress. This article is supposed to be fun for you Japanese baseball fans — Especially the Yomiuri (Tokyo) Giants fans!

Yomiuri is one of, if not the biggest and oldest, newspaper companies in Japan. Actually, the situation now in Japan it is not unlike how American baseball was about 100 years ago. Any hard-core American baseball fan could tell you that the "World Series" is not called the "World Series" because the teams and the players in the USA are the best — They are the best, by the way, as players from all over the world go to America to play big league baseball. But the "World Series" got its name from a New York based newspaper called, "The World News." They sponsored the first several championships and called them the "World Series" and after that, the name stuck.

Anyhow, the big team here is the Yomiuri (Tokyo) Giants. They have probably won the Japan championship at least 40 times over the last 60 years! They are everyone’s favorite team! Everyone loves them! Everybody!…. Except me. I hate them with a passion!

But, like I said, I’m not really interested in pro-ball.

Everyone in Japan loves the Giants. The Yomiuri Giants are to Japan what the New York Yankees are to America! The Yankees are America’s team! The Giants are Japan’s team! Rah!

Why are the Giants everybody’s favorite team? They have all the big named stars with the pearly white teeth! They have the biggest and best stadium: The Tokyo Dome (also called: The Big Egg). Their players are on TV all the time! Guests on dumb game shows, talk shows, variety shows. You turn on the TV here in Japan and as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, you will see something to do with the Yomiuri Giants. Their players sponsor everything from cars to convenience stores. Oh! That really makes me sick! If I see just one more Giants player sponsoring just one more product, I will never buy that company’s stuff again!

This is Shigeo Nagashima — "Mr. Giants." He was used in an advertising campaign for a home-security system company here. All fine and good, but after he became the "face" for the security system company, somebody broke into his house and ripped off all his stuff!

Okay, let’s just "cut to the chase," shall we? I hate the Giants! They always win. I really hate that. The number one reason why I hate the Giants is because the Japanese baseball league is nothing but a "fix." It’s a conspiracy! A conspiracy, I tell you! So I hate them. I have dedicated my life to seeing to it that the Yomiuri Giants lose!

I admit it. I despise the Yomiuri Giants. Whenever I’m in the bar and we are all watching the Giants game on the big TV, if the Giants find some way to blow a big lead or if they are losing by ten runs in the fourth inning and all the other customers are getting mad and leaving. I’m just sitting there snickering to myself: "Ha, ha! Giants lose!"

I’ve even considered going to Giants stadium pretty soon just to buy one of those player dolls so I could take it home and make a voodoo doll so that I can hex their players. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? How could anyone take a pro-sports game so seriously? Absurd!

Anyhow, I tried it a few years ago, and it didn’t work. So don’t bother trying it yourself. As the bases were loaded I was choking the Giants voodoo doll I had made and was putting needles in it’s eyes just as the pitcher served up a butter-ball that was driven way over the right field fence for a game winning "Sayonara" home run.

Baseball player voodoo dolls!? Pfft! What a waste of $32.00!

Anyhow, like I said, Japanese baseball is all just a big conspiracy! I guess way back when the Japanese professional baseball league was established they wanted to make a team like the New York Yankees in America. Really! All of the Japanese teams have uniforms that look exactly like an American team. The logos, everything. They match.

There is one more thing about Japanese baseball that I really hate! And this is hard for an American to understand. But people in Japan do not cheer for their local team! That’s right! It doesn’t matter where you go in this country and you will find that at least 80% of the people are Tokyo Giants fans! Yokohama has their own team (add your own "groaning" sound here). Osaka has two teams. Nagoya has a team. Even Fukuoka and Chiba have teams. No matter, no one goes to the games unless that team is playing the Tokyo Giants. Yomiuri Giants, whatever. Everybody is a Giants fan. That’s why I hate them with a passion. I am a "proper" baseball fan. The Yakult Swallows are the local team where I live. And I am a loyal fan. Whether the Swallows lose, or by some miracle, lose even worse. I am there, by their side. Through thick and thicker.

This is the logo for the Yakult Swallows homepage… Lame, isn’t it?

The entire Japanese baseball league was designed, from it’s inception, as a league that has teams that the Giants could beat up on.

Even the president of The Yakult Swallows, the local team around here, is a Giants fan! Yakult makes sports drinks. And they have their own pro-baseball team. But you know when they have a TV commercial for their crappy drinks who do they use as the sports star in the commercial? No, not a Yakult Swallows player! They use a Yomiuri Giants player! Incredible!

How could the president of a team be a fan of another team? The other team is the enemy! They must die! I think all us loyal Yakult Swallows fans (there has to be at least a few dozen of us, come on!) should take the president of Yakult out and give him the "Benito Mussolini" treatment: String him up by the heels! Damn traitor!


“We’ll see how much you cheer
for the Yomiuri Giants now!…
String ‘em up, boys!”

It’s just a stinkin’ conspiracy! Of course the mass media are in on it! One of the other reasons that the Tokyo Giants are the favorite team here is because Nihon TV (Channel 4) has always broadcast all of the Giants baseball games nationwide since who-knows-when. So that’s why you meet kids from all over Japan, even way up north in Hokkaido, they are all Giants fans!

The Yomiuri Giants even have their own comic books in order to brain-wash the little kids!

So the entire country has been brainwashed into believing that the Tokyo Giants are the underdog team who somehow overcomes all obstacles to win the pennant! Never mind that they don’t have rules like "spending caps" on the teams, and that the Giants have twenty times as much money to spend on players than any other team. Hell, last year’s Tokyo Giants 2nd squad were paid more than any other teams starting squad! And those bozos still wound up in second or third place! God! It was wonderful!

It’s kind of like when the New York Yankees don’t win the championship. I love that too! It’s the same here in Japan. I don’t care who wins as long it’s not the Giants.

Even the sports announcers are totally "pro-Giants"! It’s disgusting! The Giants will be down by 4 runs bottom of the ninth with two outs, no-body on, and the announcers will say something like, "If this guy can just get a hit. They might start a rally. Then they could load the bases and a single blast could tie the game!"

I’m not kidding. I’ve heard stuff like that so many times!

It’s the middle of winter here in Japan and at 7:00 PM tonight, you know what’s on? That’s right! It’s time for Yomiuri Giants Baseball News on TV!


Sumo wrestlers!? No, I don’t think so.
How about “Lardo wrestlers?”

I love Japan. But there is a certain "problem" for you if you come here to watch professional sports. Why? Well, there aren’t any. Excepting Sumo and baseball. And I don’t know about you but I don’t really enjoy seeing two sweaty 400 pound fat guys with their hairy derriere’s showing out from under their bun-hugging underwear slapping each other and hugging and stuff. But that’s just me. You might find that, er, "exciting."

In Japan there is no pro-football. No Ice Hockey. Basketball!? Are you kidding? I could play center for most of these semi-pro teams and I’m only 6’2″ tall! Japan is so lacking in sports that if you lived for sports, you’d die on the vine here real quick — that is unless you were a Giants fan!

But that’s okay. Sports are supposed to be fun! After all it’s not important who wins. It’s how you play the game.

Have fun and have a great 2004 baseball season!

And if you are a Giants fan all I can say is: "Grow up! Get a life! Pro-sports don’t really matter! Who cares?"

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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