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The return of baseball to Japan is not being met with unequivocal joy

Apr 11, 2011, 5:05 PM EDT

This photo taken on March 14, 2011 shows

Baseball is resuming in Japan, delayed a few weeks by the earthquake and tsunami. Everyone in a position of authority is noting how baseball coming back will restore a sense of normalcy to life.  But as Robert Whiting — the author of the fabulous book about baseball in Japan, You Gotta Have Wa — notes, practically speaking, it’s not that simple:

There is not enough electric power to enable the normal schedule of night games to proceed, and given the power outages, many people, especially those in the affected areas, won’t be able to watch the games on TV, assuming they still have a functioning TV set.

“Watching baseball is not the first thing on anyone’s mind in Tokyo either,” said Kozo Abe, a sports reporter with the Fuji-Sankei media group. “The Japanese feeling at the moment is that they are not ready to root for the revival of Japanese baseball from the bottom of their heart.”

But they’re doing it anyway.  And some in the game — notably, Yomuri Giants’ President Takuo Takihana — are sniffing at the many game time and duration restrictions designed to conserve electricity.  Others, while noting the need for the restrictions and doubting whether the country is emotionally prepared for the normalcy being imposed by NPB, acknowledge that it will be difficult to achieve it given the absence of the usual trappings of Japanese baseball such as bright lights, loud music, and “cute girls in miniskirts selling draft beer and octopus snacks.”

Play ball?

  1. sportsdrenched - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    That’s a hard call. I can only think of two examples where tragedy/natural disaster put me in the mood to not watch sports. 1. When (my, at the time) parents house hit by a tornado. 2. 9/11

    During the tornado only a small part of society was affected. After the clean-up, but before we had power I was looking for a ball game, and welcomed the distraction.

    During 9/11 everything was suspended for a week, and then everyting resumed. Again I welcomed the distraction.

    However, the people who facilitate the game have to be ready to go back to work. I think if we were still having trouble keeping the lights on, and earthquakes were still occuring I don’t think I’d be in the mood for sports.

  2. boxchain - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    As a New Orleanian, I can tell you that I didn’t give two craps about football or baseball for about a month after our disaster. I did find the playoffs and World Series a welcome distraction, however, mostly because I was out of town semi permanently and working 12 hour days; had I been back home, I probably wouldn’t have cared. And it was hard to take the Saints seriously that year, a team with 4 different “home” fields.

    The next season, when the Superdome reopened, was an incredible moment for us all, even though people groused at the cost and the mismatch in priorities, the fan base cemented as never before.

    I don’t mean to compare disasters or situations, just saying how I felt about my somewhat similar situation. How many teams are in the affected area and how badly is the electricity needed for disaster operations? If they can play ball without hindering disaster relief (which includes semi-temporary housing and cleanup) it might not be a bad idea.

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