Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Play Baaaallll!

Well the last, and most important, event has arrived in my brother's stay. Being the die-hard NY Yankees fan that he is, the only shrine he had left to take in, was the old home of GODZILLA!!! And if you think I'm talking about the monster, you definitely need to start tuning into Sportscenter a lil more. Godzilla would be the one-and-only Hideki Matsui. The Yankees DH, (who just happened to hit a solo home run last night to win a game for them! Go Yanks!)

Anyhow, the beauty of this passion of his, is that it guided us to one of the most legendary sports complexes in Japan. The Tokyo Dome! And it did not disappoint, I promise you that.

Even better, the Yomiuri Giants just happened to be playing their arch rivals, The Hanshin Tigers. A team who's raucaus fans have a reputation for being the wildest in all of Japanese sport. Everyone we spoke to prior equated this to Red Sox vs. Yankees back home. Both my brother and I rolled our eyes at such a notion. "How little these people know about baseball to be making such a claim." Man, did we ever get our bubble's burst!

We arrived at the dome midway through the 1st inning. Both of us pretty amazed by the layout of the place. Bub's a bit deeper into his baseball, so hearing him say 'it was impressive' added a lil extra belief on my behalf. (Isn't that how it goes with little brother's?)

There were all types of cultural nuances, that presented themselves throughout the night. Some of which amused us, others which made us say, "Damn, they should do that back home." (Yes, 'home' is still America people!) Between innings, they had cheerleaders that would come out in foul territory and... do what cheerleaders do. (I don't know, How do you describe that?) The concession stands were rather intriguing. You could buy edimame, octopus, and I think squid, but don't quote me on that one. Aaand, the aisle vendors, get this! Every single one of them was a girl. And I'd say, maybe 4 out of the 57 were ugly! These people are not fools!

But what was cool about the aisle vending, was how easy it was to order from them. They walk by and raise their hands while scanning your section, you just raise your hand and they'd jog up to you. There's no need for the psychological game of "I will attract this man's attention," we play back home.

And surprisingly the prices of everything remained reasonable. Japanese are extremely kind in most cases, in terms of the usual inflated price scale that accompanies American "This is the only place you can get what you need" situations. From train station snacks to temple shops, the prices remain the same (for the most part) across the board.

Oooooh, how could I forget?!? The craziest part was, when we entered the stadium. My brother, had not finished his Vokka by the time we entered (Wuss!) But we figured, we'd ride that 'dumb tourist' role out as far as possible. You can imagine our amazement, as we entered THE STADIUM, with drink intact. All they asked, was that we step aside and pour it in a cup. We looked at each other and said..."DAAAAAAAMN!" As the realization set in that we could've came much better prepared had we known!

The game itself was a gem. Both pitchers, were having their way with batters throughout. But I'll come back to that.

What was more captivating, was the SPIRIT of these fans. I have never seen anything like this. Some of you may have read the piece I wrote after the Brazilian soccer game I attended between Butafogo and Flamengo a few years back. But even this, surpassed their passion and thoroughness of fanfare.(yes, I just said 'thoroughness of fanfare!') No Joke, there was not a single at-bat that passed without the fans STANDING and CHEERING.

The way it works is, all the Giants fans had seats from right field to center. And the Tigers fans from left to center. And they were evenly split. When your team gets up to bat, you stand and you cheer. And Cheer and Cheer. And they kept going from the 1st pitch to the last. What was crazy about it, was how polite the fans are. In true Japanese form, they were very orderly in their approach. When your team hits you go..HARD. When they field, you allow the other teams fan's the space to cheer. I just couldn't imagine such a thing in America. Especially seeing as how we allow about 9 fans in from the opposing team in some cases. But here, it worked, and worked to a T. We had a crew behind us that had 2 Giants fans' and 2 Tigers fans' in it. They taught us the songs/chants for both sides and we sang along when we could!

But back on the field, the score was 1-0 Giants off of an early home run. The Tigers were down to their last 2 outs in the 9th, when the passion of their fans seemed to carry over to the team and literally seize the energy in the Dome. Crack! Home Run, next batter, Crack! Homerun, a few later, Craaack!! HOME RUN!! It was unbelievable. 5-1 Tigers on 3 9th inning homeruns. That place went absolutely bananas!!

The Giants got up and were quickly retired to end the game. Or so it seemed... Although play was undoubtedly over, we lingered for at least a good 10 minutes before heading towards the exit. Both my brother and I were utterly amazed to see that EVERY SINGLE Tigers fan was still in their seats. Well, AT their seats. Still singing, still chanting, yet now moreso in a rejoiceful state as they had captured victory. I'd never seen anything like it. I'm telling you not a soul wearing (Tigers) yellow left. When I looked at the exits, there was no flow of people, no movement at all. Unbelievable. I don't know how long they stayed, but we agreed, we'd never seen fans like this in ANY situation.

Simply put, Baseball in Japan is Serious Business! It was a delight to see it 1st hand.

And don't you know, just for good measures, I ran into my man Takaku from the Rising Suns as we were leaving the stadium. Moments like that make me think of the odds. There were 55,ooo people in that stadium. What were the chances that we would cross paths?? Gotta love this life!

FOOTNOTE: This was the end of my brother's stay. I talked a lot of trash about "My liver will be glad when you're gone." But I'll tell ya, it was sad to see him go. We had an absolute blast. But hopefully, that won't be his last visit to Tokyo!


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