JT’s Philip Brasor analyzes J media claims of bias towards Ichiro’s and Hakuho’s sports records


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Hi Blog.  Here’s a very interesting and nuanced article about differing treatment of sports figures in the media:  Ichiro in the US vs. Hakuho in Japan.  Excerpt follows.  Worth a read during the holidays.  Debito back in Sapporo

The Japan Times Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
MEDIA MIX by Philip Brasor
Media racism: How unsportsmanlike


Local favoritism is built into organized sports. At the macro level you have whole countries rooting for national teams at the Olympics or the World Cup. At the micro level you have fans cheering a hometown boy who plays for a team far away. By the same token, nationalistic fans denigrate opposing countries’ players in international tournaments, while athletes from outside a locality may not receive the same level of local enthusiasm as those who grew up there.

In its Sept. 30 issue, Shukan Shincho attempted to build a story on two recent events: Hakuho’s breaking of Chiyonofuji’s record for consecutive sumo victories, and Ichiro Suzuki’s milestone 3,500th hit as a professional baseball player. That these events occurred within 24 hours of each other was irresistible, and Shincho wanted to connect them in a way that was guaranteed to attract attention. The headline of the article was, “Ichiro’s and Hakuho’s racism problem.”

Both athletes are strangers in foreign lands; or, at least, they started that way. Ichiro has been an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners in the United States since he entered the Major Leagues in 2001 after nine years playing in Japan’s Pacific League, and he has consistently been one of the game’s best hitters in both countries. Hakuho was born and raised in Mongolia, and is now the sole yokozuna (grand champion) in what is an ancient and traditional Japanese sport. Shincho’s point is that because both are “foreigners,” they do not receive the same attention and respect from the media and the public in their respective countries as native athletes, despite the enormity of their achievements.

Shincho claims that Ichiro’s 3,500th hit, a landmark that very few players in the history of the major leagues have reached, was virtually ignored by the American press. The reason, according to the magazine, is that Ichiro compiled this record in two countries, and Americans don’t take Japanese baseball seriously. To support this theory, the reporter quotes Japanese sports writers and baseball players who make the case that Ichiro’s talent is superior to that of the vast majority of currently active American baseball players.

As proof that Americans don’t evaluate Japanese players equally, the opinion of retired major leaguer Pete Rose is cited…

Rest at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fd20101003pb.html

6 comments on “JT’s Philip Brasor analyzes J media claims of bias towards Ichiro’s and Hakuho’s sports records

  • That’s a good piece.

    I’m assuming that Brasor didn’t write the headline, because his article doesn’t even touch on racism except to debunk Shukan Shincho’s allegations that it is an issue. Japan Times, if you’re listening: please get better editors!

    I was living near Miami when the Marlins won the World Series by surprise in 1997, and got to go to Game 7 (nosebleed seats in the outfield were $20, a happy byproduct of the team being relatively unpopular and playing in a football stadium). There was a LOT of local complaining right after the victory because so many of the Marlins (including MVP Livan Hernandez) either couldn’t or wouldn’t speak English in public, and many non-Spanish-speaking locals felt that this was an awful way to represent the city. Of course, everyone got traded away in the fire sale about two weeks after the victory, so it quickly became a non-issue.

  • Eh, I don’t see the point of giving this Shincho piece any more attention than it’s worth. US sports writers fall over themselves to praise Ichiro’s talent at the plate, although as noted his 10 straight 200-hit seasons are more spectacular to them than his NPB+MLB hit totals. (For more on Pete Rose and his shifting views of Ichiro’s lifetime total, see this very interesting piece.)

    As noted in this article, “No, it is not as if Ichiro is ignored, unsung. He’s not only been an MVP, he’s made the All-Star team every season, and he holds the major-league record with nine straight 200-hit seasons. But then, Ichiro is on a losing team in Seattle, he hasn’t appeared in the postseason in nine years, and he plays out there, or up there, in what most of the media considers . . . Baja Yukon.”

  • Detective John Kimble says:

    Ichiro is a singles hitter on a last place team that plays in a small market. This year has seen countless no hitters and a couple perfect games (and one near perfect game. Sorry Tigers fans). Those stories have grabbed the headlines, and rightfully so. Baseball has never seen a year of the pitcher like this one.

    While we’re at it, let’s start counting all hits in the minors as “professional hits.” Technically, A to AAA baseball is professional baseball. Then Dan Johnson might have a shot at the HOF.

    — We’re getting off topic.

  • Ichiro has been treated more than fairly in the American press. The fact that Ichiro has had 10 consecutive seasons of
    at least 200 hits is one of the biggest accomplishments in Major League Baseball history. That being said, his statistics
    that he compiled in Japan aren’t going to be recognized, because they don’t need to be. I am not a fan of Ichiro, but I
    think that his statistics in MLB speak themselves.

    Though I have been in Japan a long time and am a big baseball fan, I don’t watch Japanese professional baseball because
    if my memory serves me right, they have a limit on the number of foreigners who can play on a given team. Furthermore,
    the treatment of Rhodes, Bass, and Cabrera in respect to their pursuit of Oh’s record was very childish. I think that the
    Japanese are bigger and better people than that. Only time will tell.


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