November 15, 2006

A Strange Night as a Yankees Fan in the Eyes of Japan

Went out with a friend on Tuesday night with the intention of procuring a couple bottles of sarsaparilla and watching some NBA League Pass at a Hell’s Kitchen bar.

The only problem was, apparently no such Hell’s Kitchen bar existed. We tried three of them in a two-block radius, and there was no League Pass to be found. One bartender even had the nerve to reply to the question “Do you have NBA League Pass?” by saying “Wait, what sport is that?”

I kid you not. You would have thought we were trying to watch the NBA in Micronesia or something. It got so discouraging that we were forced to make a rather unfortunate call: We were going to have to go to ESPNZone.

A disappointing turn of events to say the least. I don’t want to exaggerate, but in many ways the ESPNZone in Times Square rather closely resembles the Eighth Chamber of Hell, minus the perenially blazing infernos and gruesome, not-of-this-earth torture devices. Though on a Tuesday night, there was at least hope that it wouldn’t be too miserably crowded.

With that said, this post was originally going to be a rant about the sad state of affairs in the world when it’s so difficult to find an NBA game at a bar that you have to go to a dreaded tourist trap with grossly overpriced beers where there is also for some reason a group of sailors dressed in silly sailor outfits meandering around the place looking like they just got off a boat (which they most likely did).

However, not long after we arrived at ESPNZone and sat down at the bar area in front of the Jazz-Clippers game, things took an unexpected turn.

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw a bright light. And when I turned to my left, I saw that said light was coming from a video camera. Behind the camera stood a woman holding a microphone and man in a pinstriped suit who appeared to be members of the Japanese media. Moments later, they began to interview the man sitting several feet away from us at the bar.

It was at this point that I surmised that they were interviewing people about the Red Sox winning the bidding war to sign star Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

And immediately upon making this realiziation, my mind began to whir as to what I might say, because chances were they were coming in our direction next.

And lo and behold, when they finished interviewing the man down the bar, they walked over with the camera, stood in front of us smiling and asked, “Are you from New York?”

When we answered yes, I realized, much to my horror, that they were going to assume that we were Yankees fans.

But before I could even begin to ponder a strategy as to what to say, I saw that my friend was pointing at me as the man they should interview, and the next thing I knew, the bright light was shining in my face and the camera was rolling.

Holding up a newspaper clipping with Matsuzaka’s picture on it, the female reporter said to me, “As a Yankees fan, how do you feel about the Red Sox winning the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka?”

For a moment, I froze. What would a Yankees fan say in this situation? I was in completely uncharted territory. I had made many Yankees-related comments in my lifetime, but most if not all were of the hateful variety. Never before had I ever stooped so low as to pretend that I actually was a Yankees fan, nor had I tried to empathize with the Yankees fan's mentality. I knew I was supposed to be angry, but I couldn’t really harness the requisite hostility.

So in that split second, I decided to take the high road.

“I think the Red Sox overpaid,” I said flippantly (note: quotes are not word-for-word, but close). “How much did they give him, 51 million?” I half-asked, half-stated. The reporters nodded, smiling back at me and appearing to be impressed. I had no idea where I had come up with this statistic.

I went on, continuing to declare that the Red Sox grossly overpaid, which might have made me seem like the incredibly bitter guy who was unwilling to admit that he was bitter, which, the more I think about it, might have been a realistic reaction for a Yankees fan to have. At one point, as I began to get into my role even more, I pointed out that the Red Sox were not going to have enough money to spend on other players, and added for good measure, “I mean, money’s no object to the Yankees,” which I thought was just the kind of obnoxious remark a real Yankees fan would make to try to piss other people off.

After I finished venting on that topic, they pointed out to me that this upcoming season, Matsuzaka would be facing off against Yankees’ outfielder Hideki Matsui. Who will get the best of that matchup? they wanted to know.

And this was where I completely broke character. After pondering it for a second, but clearly not thinking about it enough, I blurted out: “You know, I think Matsuzaka will be able to handle Matsui.”

Great work, genius. What the hell kind of Yankees fan would say that? If I were playing a real Yankees fan, I would have looked into the camera and screamed out “MATSUI!!!” at the top of my lungs with a crazed look on my face. These people must have thought I was one sorry-ass New Yorker after that comment.

Regardless, they at least seemed legitimately pleased with how things had turned out when they concluded the interview, thanking me and saying "That was great." (Though they probably say that to everyone no matter how quickly they plan to fling the tape into a traffic-filled avenue as soon as they walk outside).

Before they left, my friend asked who they worked for. "This will be on Japanese evening news," the woman said. And with a few more smiles in our direction, they were gone.

Walking out of ESPNZone an hour or so later, I was feeling somewhat critical of my performance, particularly my preposterous comment that Matsuzaka would get the best of Matsui. Considering everything I said, I estimated that there was only about a 10 percent chance I’d actually be on the Japanese evening news.

My friend, however, was more optimistic. Citing my near-flawless pronunciation of Matsuzaka and the fact that I had somehow pulled out the precise number that Boston paid to win his rights, he guessed that there was more like an 80 percent chance I'd make the cut.

With those odds in mind, I’ve dispatched a local scout in Japan to watch Wednesday night’s news to try to figure out if I made it. And anyone who can find a youtube clip with me talking confusedly into a bright light with strange, unrecognizable graphics and a Japanese voiceover track wins a brand new Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka jersey, autographed by the one of the brightest young sports media stars to hit in Japan in the past 24 hours: Me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

as it turns out, it was a long day at the office and i ended up getting home from work just as the evening news was wrapping up. i flipped through the channels furiously, but it was all weather. damnation! tarnation!

so, i'm afraid we will never know if the OCC's amiable mug did indeed grace the pixels of nippon tvs across the peninsula last night. my sincere apologizes to the OCC and his loyal readers - i have failed you. to preserve what is left of my honor, i shall commit ritual suicide by disembowling myself. maybe tomorrow.

anyway, good story.

and yes, matsuzaka will handle godzilla (just my ni yen).


7:07 PM, November 15, 2006  

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