Debito here. Another quick post to pass around the fever:
HOKKAIDO NIPPON HAM FIGHTERS ON VERGE OF FIRST NATIONAL VICTORY
WATCH THE GAME TONIGHT FROM 6PM
By Arudou Debito
October 26, 2005
Now, I am in no way a sports writer (I mostly consider sports to be a diversion, rather than anything worth statistical or scientific analysis), but here goes:
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, my home team, look poised to take the national championship tonight. They are playing best of seven, and have won 3 games and lost 1. One more win and sayonara Chunichi Dragons!
It is their last home game, played to yet another capacity crowd of more than 40,000. The Fighters have won around 80% of their home games, so it looks likely they’ll win tonight. Tune in at 6PM and see.
Why this all matters:
1) It will be the first national win for the Fighters in 44 years, and the first ever since they moved to Hokkaido three years ago. Naturally, it will be the first win for Hokkaido ever, and results like these so soon after the transplant are wonderful.
2) This matters to Hokkaido, because Hokkaido is not a place where people have their spirits uplifted like this. As I wrote in a (now rather dated) essay more than a decade ago (see http://www.debito.org/hokkaidodependency.html), about how Hokkaido, is a resource colony of the rest of Japan :
We have an economy based on agriculture and tourism, low incomes (and dropping–back then 40% less than Tokyo’s!) making us the poorest economy in Japan (we were a decade ago behind only Okinawa), a local workforce with little tendency towards entrepreneurialism or foreign trade, a bureaucracy in thrall to Tokyo (and financially dependent on Kaihatsukyoku tax handouts), and many of the homegrown businesses worth a damn (including our best college graduates and even Sapporo Beer) sucked down south (while feckless corporate drones got exiled up here to mark time in their careers). Back then, despite being the #5 city in Japan, we didn’t have so much as a baseball team to our name (while every other major city did), and we were stuck supporting the arrogant Tokyo Giants (who were diffident towards Dosanko at best).
Now we do have our own team, and it’s a real winner, crowding out the Tokyo Giants merchandise from the stores! We have dedicated fans filling the Sapporo Dome (originally seen as a boondoggle from the World Cup 2002 days, it is now rightly appraised as one of the nicest stadiums in the world) camping out overnight for tickets (even in chilly temperatures; camping has since been banned for safety reasons, but people have been taping their tarps to the grounds outside to hold their places overnight). The effect on the local community is something out of a movie.
More on the fever from an independent source at
(Japan Times Oct 24, 2006)
3) The press estimated that economic boon to Hokkaido (last month, as the Fighters were taking the league pennant) at 100 or so million US dollars. I bet it’s a lot more than that now that the bandwagon just keeps on rolling…
4) Trey Hillman has created a great team (it shows in the records), and may more teams emulate his humanistic style. The team has wonderful personalities and star players, a great sense of fan service (In baseball games I attended years ago, the crowd had to give even foul balls back to the team! Now, Shinjo throws nice catches to the audience for souvenirs.) , great ticketing and merchandising schemes, and a relaxed atmosphere that contrasts the often overbearing military bearing you see in Japanese baseball (more in Whiting’s YOU’VE GOTTA HAVE WA). You can indeed be a nice guy and smile when you make a mistake if you’re a Hokkaido baseball team (just look at how well Komadai Tomakomai did in the high school leagues for the past three years–two victories, second place this year), and still finish first.
5) This would be the second year in a row that an imported coach will have taken his team to the top of the heap (see Lotte’s Bobby Valentine last year). Here’s hoping that Japanese sport will stop seeing everyone, coaches, players, umpires etc. as “foreigners” worthy of comment or ridicule. Essay on nasty anti-gaijin comments made towards Valentine and Hillman even last month when they made some decisive decisions at:
Anyway, enough gush. I’m thrilled that our team is doing so well by behaving so nicely. Here’s hoping we don’t lose Trey Hillman to the Texas Rangers next year…
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Truly excited for once in his life by a sporting event
October 26, 2006