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America’s Pastime?

March 30, 2012

Baseball

There is one bias that I will never try to mask: Baseball is my runaway pick for the best sport in the world. That being said, I’m probably the first person to tell you that this is a simple matter of preference. I will not sit here and lecture you on why baseball’s vastly superior simply because I can make similar arguments for football, basketball, hockey, soccer, cricket, water polo, etc.

However Major League Baseball in recent years has made Opening Day in to a sort of kickoff bash like the NFL has, by only having a single game played on a Sunday (days before the rest of the league play their first games). Unless this is a game where I have attachment to either team playing, I don’t treat this as the real opening day.

This year’s season opener was no different for me. Japan played host to the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics for the opener. As a quick reminder, this is not the first time this has happened. The first time Japan hosted a season opener was in 2000 (played between the Mets and the Cubs), and it was a pretty big deal for the Japanese to see two MLB teams play in the Tokyo Dome. Baseball is actually one of the most popular professional sports in Japan (despite its deep American roots), and to see teams from America play the same game they’ve come to love just as much as our country (assumingly) must have been an absolutely thrilling spectacle, and the attendance numbers (which were around 50,000) in the Tokyo dome all but confirm my assumption.

A view from the Tokyo Dome stands during the 2000 season opener between the Mets and Cubs

As an American fan, since I have no kind of fanatical attachment to either team, this was no different than watching any other season opener (outside of the fact that I had to be awake at 5 in the morning to actually watch it). I can’t speak for Mariners fans or Athletics fans on this, but the uproar about “America’s Pastime” being played overseas is utter nonsense. The championship game in the Major Leagues is called the “World Series”, yet the league isn’t supposed to actually play games in other countries? Peculiar, indeed!

I suppose I could see the merits of the argument if Japan didn’t care about the game, but they sold out one of the biggest stadiums in their country. To contrast, the Athletics were dead last in attendance last season. They averaged a mere 18,232 tickets sold per game, and that doesn’t count the people who simply just didn’t show up to the games. If you don’t like your team opening their season in a market FULL of interested followers, actually head out to the Coliseum and prove to your owner that he can make just as much money playing here as they can in Tokyo, instead of showing up in numbers like these:

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