Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Love Nomi

Just a little while ago, a tweet from Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker pointed out a report published in Japan that analyzed a recent blurb in the Hardball Talk section of the NBC Sports website. While his contribution was under 40 of them, Craig Calcaterra had written "Harsh Words for the Darvish Museum" - at least according to Sanspo. In defense of Calcaterra, he does his homework. I like reading his stuff. He certainly doesn't strike me as a latent racist of the old school with years of gin-fueled transgressions hidden behind a paywall. Yes, he was being sarcastic with the name drops of Tuffy Rhodes and Warren Cromartie, but I didn't sense it was an attack on the legitimacy of Yu Darvish, or the impact of his brilliant career in NPB. It was just an easy way to get a rise from fans with a little bit of knowledge, and a starting place for others to learn about notable gaijin players from their friendly neighborhood search engine. In a follow-up, he clearly states that no offense was intended.

Calcaterra mentioned the Ichiro Suzuki museum, but didn't note that Ichiro was essentially the same age as Yu Darvish when a growing collection of mementos and milestones was first made public by his proud parents. As he developed into a popular star, the museum dedicated to Hideki Matsui was founded by his family because baseball fans kept pestering them at home. Calcaterra also didn't mention that Kenji Johjima was a year younger than Darvish when a museum opened in his hometown of Sasebo. The article could have pointed out museums dedicated to many Japanese players that were founded during the golden years of their careers. Current talents also have museums. It's a baseball tradition. To be fair, it would have been difficult to cram all that information into a quick blurb and maintain the sardonic mood. Especially a blurb that was a reaction to an article with a quoted snippet. After all, this lengthy paragraph is part of a response to a tweet referring to a report about a blurb that was a reaction to an article with a quoted snippet. Obviously, the joke didn't work across the Pacific. The snark wasn't funny on this coast either. Cue the horns of failure.

Sarcasm is not easy to translate. The uproar over "I Hate Nomi" last season was a textbook example. Matt Murton reportedly said those three little words on June 9, 2012. He was not having a great spring with the Hanshin Tigers. In a 6-1 loss to the Orix Buffaloes, he made a bad throw to the plate during the fourth inning that stood out from the rest of his frustrated moments. A brief fit of pique in a post-game interview was enough to turn the tide of the media against him. All the press did was take his flip remark at face value and reduce it to three words without context. No doubt, there was hope that this tweet would have put it to rest. The humor was even more obvious when closer Kyuji Fujikawa jokingly said that he hated Nomi too. Within 48 hours, a frustrated Atsushi Nomi was quoted in Sanspo as saying, "The newspapers are being evil."

Veteran sportswriter Jim Allen sat down for an exclusive Japan Baseball Weekly interview with Matt Murton at the Q on June 17th. The star outfielder was candid and explained his side of the story in detail. It was a pretty ugly scene for Murton, a fellow who was treated like a fan favorite for most if not all of his NPB career. After all, the "Family Murton Katsu rice ball and the Family Murton Katsu lunch box" were named after him and available in the local konbini. To have all this hit the fan for weeks wasn't fair and it wasn't fun. It made a pretty miserable season even worse. It will be great to have a fresh start in 2013. I wish Matt the very best.

With all that said, I sincerely hope that my occasional bent toward sarcasm does not leave anyone offended or upset. Please let me know if there is a misunderstanding, or an error on my part. I am truly honored to have readers like you from all over the world, but translation technology is not always up to the task. As a Tigers fan it ought to be obvious, but just so it's on the record for the future:

I love Nomi.

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