Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Sound of My Heart Breaking

So it turns out that there is a dark side to the otherwise convenient tendency of everything running on time in Japan. I flipped on the TV after supper tonight, hoping against hope to find a baseball game to watch while Lyani studied. Jackpot! The Yomiuri Giants were playing the Yakult Swallows, in Tokyo, and the game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth, no outs, no-one on. I watched the Giants bat (they stranded a runner on second), then Lyani and I ran downstairs to the Lawson Station (convenience store) for some emergency supplies: ice cream for Lyani, popcorn and a can of Kirin Ichiban for me. We got back just in time for the first batter of the bottom of the ninth (I subscribe to the Ted Glover school of watching baseball, which dictates that you only really need to watch your team bat, with the exception, of course, of Red Sox-Yankees games).

The pitcher, a four-eyed chap named Yoshikawa who seemed to need a new prescription, walked the first batter on four successive pitches (and not on purpose; this guy could not find the strike zone even if he was issued a map). The next batter bunted, as expected--that is part of Japanese baseball, you get a runner on with one out or less, you almost always bunt--moving the runner over to second. This brought up none other than Etoh, who has 374 homers in his career, and looked like he wanted 375 pretty badly. Yoshikawa missed the strike zone with the first two pitches, then he finally gave Etoh something hittable. Which, of course, was a mistake. Etoh blasted it out towards the left field wall, prompting me to shout, "it's gone!", prompting Lyani in turn to shoot me The Look (I am supposed to be less exhuberent when watching sports). Tragically for me, and for Giants fans everywhere, the ball did not quite carry over the wall, and the left fielder gloved it for the second out. The next batter grounded out, meaning we were headed for extra innings.

"All right!" I told Lyani, "Extra innings! Now I can watch a little more baseball!" I poured a little more beer in my glass in preparation while the TV showed the Major League Baseball hightlights, which in Japan consist of reports on Ichiro, Matsui (too bad the poor guy picked such a crappy team to join), and Iguchi. And for some reason, this time they showed a couple of highlights from the Red Sox-Devil Rays game, namely Big Dave Ortiz smacking a pair of homers out of the park, and Manny Ram and Trotsky hitting one apiece! "Mmm-mmm, baseball!" I thought to myself.

After the MLB update, there was a brief commercial break, then the action returned to Tokyo, where the Swallows decided to bring in a new pitcher, a left-handed white guy. He threw a few warm-up pitches before being pre-empted by another commercial break. I took this opportunity to flip through the channels, looking for something interesting to watch after the game. But upon flipping back, something terrible happened: the news came on. "Must be just an overview," I thought, "I'm sure they will be back to the game in a minute."


Because it was 21:00, television coverage of an exciting baseball game which was heading into extra innings, and featuring the most popular team in Japan, just ceased! Because the next show, some ridiculous tabloid piece of junk, was scheduled to start, and it could not be delayed!

If that happened in America, the network that pulled that stunt would be bankrupt the next day.

So I find myself finishing my beer while writing this blog entry, instead of basking in the warm glow of my television, soaking up Japanese culture (because that is how I justify watching baseball instead of studying kanji).


rzoz said...

I've noticed the Nationals almost always sacrifice a bunt when there are no outs and somebody is on first. So far I'm uncertain whether this strategy has helped them win or lose more games.

Sean said...

I believe I can safely vouch for the fact that it hasn't helped our dread hometeam Nats win any additional games, which is unfortunate. I, unlike so few American baseball aficianados, actually enjoy small ball as much or more than "slugging for the fences". I think it becomes much more of a thinking person's sport when played tactically... but that's just me!

Josh Glover said...

The problem is that when you bunt every time you are in this situation, it becomes a bit less tactical.

When I play baseball, my idea of tatics is "hit it where they ain't". Of course, this may be related to the fact that there is no way I am hitting anything over the fence... ;)

Matthew said...

Hey. I think that when Yomiuri slash extra innings on regular TV, they put the coverage on a BS station. You need a newish TV or city cable / sky to get that, however.

BTW, there is a major K-1 card on Fuji TV starting at 9. I`ll be watching and probably drinking `Ebisu`.