Sunday, May 14, 2006

Feeding the Monster

I didn't see the series finale against the A's, as I was fast asleep on my futon. I didn't catch the results until I woke up for work and saw that Randy Johnson was very hittable again, and Danny Haren was not. A 6-1 loss isn't a nice thing to wake up to, but we've been playing very well lately so I can't complain. Since, I don't know much more about the play by play, I thought I'd bring you an update on Hideki Matsui, as provided by the morning news programs here in Japan.

The angle that the Japanese news media has taken on Matsui's injury is somewhat predictable, but I think something interesting has also emerged. The predictable part of the coverage has been the focus on his broken streak and the marvel that it was. The focus on his broken wrist, and the various close ups and replays of the hideous accident, have also been popular. Stories about the outpouring of sympathy for Matsui from the general public have been endearing, and multiple replays of the Yankee player interviews from the lockerroom on the day of the injury are memorable. They love to show Torre saying, "It's a big blow to the team. He's so important to what we're trying to do." They also love to show Jeter remarking, "You can't replace him. He's the best at what he does....in terms of contributing to a win." I still don't understand Jeter's "talk a lot, but say nothing" quote, but apparently it sounds good in Japanese.

A poll was also taken about what impressed the public about Matsui's reaction to the injury. The media wanted to know whether it would have been okay for him to have collapsed, cried, or generally succumbed to the pain and trauma of the event. More than 75% of respondents indicated that they admired Matsui for having "taken it like a man". "Otoko-rashii" (Oh-TOH-koh rah-SHEE), roughly means "manly" and that's how the Japanese people see their fallen hero after calmly leaving Yankee Stadium on foot, his arm in a sling. "Otoko-rashii".

The interesting part of the coverage has been the focus on fan reaction. Sales of Matsui jerseys has gone way up as people show support for the fallen warrior, and as a result his name and number are far more visible on the backs of Americans entering the Stadium and watching the game. The Japanese media are impressed by that show of solidarity, and it appears that U.S.-Japanese relations are stronger, on some level, for the great fan reaction to the injury.

Two notes: The most loved and legendary player in Japanese history, Shigeo Nagashima, is Matsui's mentor and first pro manager. He was the first player to homer in front of the emperor generations ago, and is kind of a samurai figure for his contemporaries. He's like a walking slice of history to younger generations and everything he does is revered. As Matsui's mentor, he's called and supported Godzilla throughout his career, including his move to the Majors. He is reported to have called Matsui in his hospital room to encourage him.

Matsui's father is also said to be flying to New York to be with his son, and he's not coming alone. Godzilla comes from a fishing community, and the local fisherman have sent loads of fresh fish with Matsui, Sr. to cheer his son and bring him better fortune. I guess it's better than flowers.....on some level.....

We also wish Matsui a swift and complete recovery, and hope he's back in time to lead the charge in the post-season. We'll be waiting for you Godzilla. Get well soon. Save some fish for us.