Japan Is Still Nutso About Hideki MatsuiS

This is the pregame media scrum around Hideki Matsui, who was called up from Triple-A and will make his Rays debut in St. Petersburg tonight. The spectacle of Japanese fellows swarming their prey with cameras and notebooks is not a new one, and it's something we've come to expect every time a new NPB import comes along, but perhaps it bears some examining.

First off, in what profitable alternate universe does the Japanese media industry exist? When Matsui debuted with Triple-A Durham, 35 reporters were on the full-time Matsui beat. Thirty-five! Here in America, I'm not sure we have 35 newspapers anymore.

But it goes without saying that the Japanese appetite for 24-hour Matsui coverage must exist. Japan, don't you have anything better to do? I'm sure you have your own lives and your own interests and even your own sports, so why does Hideki Matsui dutifully plugging away at a series of one-year contracts entrance you so? I know he's still like this superdupermegastar, but he's not good anymore. He wasn't courted by the A's this winter, and if you know enough to hold the bat by the skinny end, there's a place for you in Oakland's lineup. Shouldn't the media be restaffing the Ryota Igarashi bureau instead?

What does each Japanese outlet hope to provide their viewers/readers that the competition can't, especially when they attend the exact same press conferences as everyone else? Designate a pool reporter and let the other 34 take the day off. The Suncoast is lovely this time of year. You don't see American outlets dispatching even a single reporter to track the movements of expat heroes Stephon Marbury in China or Clint Dempsey at Fulham. If something important happens, it'll trickle through on the wire two days later.

So what's the deal, Japan? I don't understand a lot of the things you do, but this whole "really caring a lot about national heroes" is one of the stranger ones. If you cause a press shitshow for every single Japanese ballplayer, they cease to be special. Take a cue from America. We only devote full-on media feeding frenzies to middling quarterbacks and adulterous golfers.

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