Athletic Underdogs and Nation States

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In the same way that I flocked to the Beatles because my brown hair naturally formed a rounded Beatles cut as an elementary school student, I found myself avidly watching the 1970s Japanese TV anime Ace wo Nerae! a few years ago when I lived in my former residence with cable TV, due almost solely to the fact that the female protagonist Oka Hiromi’s short curly hair resembles my post-pubescent wave. The animated series concerns young Hiromi — a first-year student at a Kanagawa-ken high school — who gets up the gumption to join her school’s tennis team in adoration of her idol — third-year campus big-shot Ryuzaki Reika aka O-Chofujin (which should be translated as something like “Mlle Butterfly”). Without any prior tennis experience, Hiromi is mysteriously thrust into the upper ranks of her team by her tough and mysterious coach Munakata. But with lots of hard work and perseverance, Hiromi finally reaches a close level to her hero O-Chofujin. Spoiler alert: the Coach totally dies.

Ace wo Nerae! is so beloved that the original manga has been made into two separate anime serials, and recently, into a cheesy live-action TV drama.

This classic story, however, is not merely about high-school girls playing tennis. The whole narrative acts as an allegory about Japan’s place in the world in the 1970s. The setting for the story resembles Yokohama — the trendy urban city where West most visibly runs up on East. Oka Hiromi represents Japan. She is physically small (a small island country), young (just “discovered” modernity in the 19th century), and inexperienced (yet to know the proper protocols of Western culture). Some may protest this patronizing view of Japan, but this was the way the Japan saw itself coming out of the 1960s. And if the geopolitical scene of the 1970s was a tennis game with specific rules and scoring, Japan was a rookie player with a lot of promise.

With her blond and luscious flowing hair, Ryuzaki Reika perfectly embodies the United States in its idealized form: the central locus of Japanese aspiration during this era. (Ironically, this particular context rewrites “Mme Butterfly” as the beautiful Western object of desire pursued by her Japanese admirers rather than the weak Oriental ready to be colonized.) Reika is tall, talented, rich, and beloved by her classmates. Although the narrative could end with this rich, blond girl getting her comeuppance from the scrappy yet determined protagonist, O-Chofujin never really pans out as a villain. In fact, she is extremely encouraging to Hiromi — a big sister if you will. There is a pleasant sororal bond, but it is inherently hierarchal.

Through very hard work and dedication, Hiromi (Japan) is able to massively improve her standing on the tennis court. While she does not necessarily get to the point of easily beating her idol, she makes massive improvement and can play with the best. And with a clear distinction in social rank and age, there is no implied failure in the younger party being #2. There is competition between the two girls, but the goal is not domination over the other. The players are working together for their school’s victory rather than their own personal glory.

Underdogism

Japanese sports anime and manga are full of “diminutive underdogs” — visually small heroes battling it out against mythically large rivals and ending up as unlikely victors. Some of this is determined by the needs of the main viewers: Children want to imagine themselves fighting the evil forces of the world and identify directly with a tiny protagonist. However, I believe a big reason for the small and young Japanese protagonist comes from a national sympathy with the underdog.

Americans, however, also love the underdog. The “ragtag group of scrappy youth works hard to defeat powerhouse team” is the plot of every single American sports movie: Hoosiers, Bad News Bears, The Karate Kid, etc, etc. We Americans love underdogs so much that we even made a superhero called Underdog.

Japan and the United States may both root for the underdogs, but I think there is a big difference in how each culture approaches and justifies its own identification with the underdog. As a nation, the U.S. came into existence as the impossible rebellious underdog who defeated the world-encompassing British Empire. We still see references to this creation myth in the fact that the non-masked bureaucrats in Star Wars‘ Galactic Empire talk as if they won their Half Blue at Cambridge in the 18th century. Harrison Solo, on the other hand, might as well be using his script from American Graffiti to speak with his Rebel brothers.

Since WWII, however, the U.S. has clearly become the dominant power on the world stage, and now to be an “underdog nation,” American culture must emphasize the triumph of the little guy in society and not the exploits of the nation itself to make a legitimate underdog message. For example, the Iraq War is a whole lot of bullying on the U.S.’s part, but look at the guy who got us into it. I can imagine that Bush II was pretty much exactly like James Spader in Pretty in Pink during high school.

On the other hand, Japan finds its underdog cred at the nation state level. For a country with a long history of military and Confucian hierarchy, autocratic rule, government-condoned cartels, and zero successful popular revolutions, the scrappy little guy with crazy ideas has never really been a source of inspiration. As a nation, however, post-war Japan is the little engine that could. In his book A Genealogy of Japanese Self-Images, Oguma Eiji argues that Japan reinvented its own back story as a “peaceful agrarian island nation” after the War in order to shirk from the bigger questions of imperial aggression. Once this re-branding occurred and 1945 became Year Zero, Japan became the impossible underdog on the world stage, who out of nowhere grew to be the second-largest economy in the free world by 1968. In the 1980s, that little underdog looked like it was going to surpass its big brother the U.S.

Within this specific historical narrative, Japan’s underdog identity resonates most clearly at a nation-state level, but this is not far from a Confucian philosophical underpinning. The sympathetic underdog must be a symbol or representative of the nation-state/society itself rather than an individual actor who “deserves” the justice of victory against the system.

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Although a game created mostly for the American market, the classic NES title Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! well illustrates the Japanese nation-based underdog concept. There may have been programming issues that necessitated a tiny protagonist, but the ethnically-generic Little Mac is a itsy-bitsy boxer whom the player pilots through three circuits of enormous and scary villains. I should not have to remind you that all of the other boxers represent a single nation-state. I’ve never been to Hippo Island, but I can imagine that King Hippo also follows the pattern of the boxer embodying the stereotypes of his respective home. The French are weak, the Germans are WWI revivalists (born in 1945!), and Pacific Islanders are grotesquely obese. Indians practice some kind of special magic called “Hindu” that involves twinkling red crystals and teleportation.

Our protagonist may not be explicitly Japanese — the official Japanese guy even threatens to give Little Mac a “TKO from Tokyo (TYO)” — but he fits the Oka Hiromi pattern of going against all odds to make his way up the hierarchy. Not through inherent talent or strength — but through hard work and a good coach. You don’t see Soda Popinski strenuously biking near the Statue of Liberty at dawn, and maybe that’s why the giant pink Russian gets beat so easily by a pipsqueak in street clothes.

Whether with tennis or boxing, the Japanese have a history of creating the underdog within a direct or implied nation-state contexts. Only if the competition is between larger macro units of humanity — society, nation, family — should the underdog win. Compare this with the American narrative of Prefontaine — an athlete who abandons his own “unique” style of front-running to please the “common knowledge” of his coach only to lose the Gold Medal in 1972. The Pre is a tragic underdog in the United States context — he is the individual suppressed by the norm.

These examples basically tell us what we already know about how each society expects its members to relate to society. Japan: the individual pursues betterment of society through hard work and total dedication vs. United States: the individual pursues betterment of society by fighting for justice and innovation at the cost of social harmony. Underdogs may be universally loved, but they are not always the same breed of canine.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
March 29, 2007

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

38 Responses

  1. Carl Says:

    A body could do a decent paper on the many Japanese teen movies where an ensemble of unlikely weirdos band together to do a decent job of mastering some neglected art (synchronized swimming, swing jazz, haiku, The Bluehearts cover songs…) and impress their peers. That’s almost like my favorite genre now.

  2. marxy Says:

    Yeah – that is a fun convention. You can add curling in there.

  3. moji Says:

    Your analysis of Ace o nerae is convincing. I think the example of another legendary anime Kyojin no hoshi represents 1970s psyche more eloquently because it concerns the sport invented by USA. In fact, Yakyu is the best metaphor of postwar US-Japan relation. The “supokon” genre of 1970s has the similar plot. But, I think that the recent sport mangas seem more “individualistic” though probably with the japanese accent. How about Slam Dunk? It relates to another USA-born sport. It reminds me of Nomo-like “individualism”.

  4. der Says:

    I think you should somehow work into your thesis the fact that the author of Ace wo Nerae has become the leader of a cult. “Narcisstic turn”, or something like that.

  5. Aceface Says:

    “Japan’s underdog identity resonates most clearly at a nation-state level, but this is not far from a Confucian philosophical underpinning. The sympathetic underdog must be a symbol or representative of the nation-state/society itself rather than an individual actor who “deserves” the justice of victory against the system. ”

    Nah,There is a word called houganbiiki判官びいきand it is from Kabuki based on the real life of Minamoto no Yositsune源義経http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamoto_no_Yoshitsune
    Brother of the shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo and man of valor during Genji-Heike war in 12th century.He was killed by the order of his brother,Shogun for he was more popular figure at the time and feared for the possible insurgency.
    Usual did-you-read-this-caz-I-did thing.
    There is a book on Japanese underdog cult by Ivan Morris,the Columbia Univ.Prof in the 60’s called
    “The nobility of Failure,Tragic heroes in the history of Japan”.From the legendary god,Susanoo in the Kojiki to the students volunteered to be the Kamikaze pilot in WW2,the individual-actor-who-“deserves”-the-justice- of-victory-against-the-system cult is a long running and die hard tradition in this society,Marxy.

  6. Aceface Says:

    I dropped the important part.
    Hougan-biiki means “in favor of the underdog”.

  7. marxy Says:

    “the individual-actor-who-“deserves”-the-justice- of-victory-against-the-system cult is a long running and die hard tradition in this society,Marxy.”

    Maybe so. I guess you could cast the Chushingura boys as underdogs of a sort as well.

    If I am totally off kilter with my analysis, then does this similarity between cultures say about human universals rather than differences?

  8. marxy Says:

    I hope you Tokyo people are out enjoying the cherry blossoms and not here reading this blog. But regardless…

    Two things, Aceface, if that IS your real name!

    1) You talk about the “tragic underdog” in Japanese culture, but what about the “triumphant underdog”? In the US, I think it’s fair to say that “underdog story” means “triumphant underdog.”

    Even with Oka Hiromi, she is only semi-triumphant.

    2) Forget “Confucian” as an attempt to link present culture with the past. Is there any change to the underdog presentation and identification in Japan post-Meiji – especially when the idea of state loyalty gets codified? What about the Post-War?

  9. Mulboyne Says:

    Marxy wrote: “You talk about the ‘tragic underdog’ in Japanese culture, but what about the ‘triumphant underdog’? In the US, I think it’s fair to say that ‘underdog story’ means ‘triumphant underdog.'”

    Perhaps that is less to do with a view on underdogs and more to do with the fact that America seems to prefer to hear about winners rather than losers in general. British people like to think that we support the underdog and the concept of fair play but that doesn’t mean we the underdog has to win. A plucky loser or heroic failure makes for a good story too.

  10. tomojiro Says:

    “You talk about the “tragic underdog” in Japanese culture, but what about the “triumphant underdog”? In the US, I think it’s fair to say that “underdog story” means “triumphant underdog.””

    Although there are exeption, I think in general Japanese prefers stories about underdogs who do their utmost best but fails in the end.

    Even in sports, it is quite common that the underdog loser becomes more popular. Curiously,I feel that in the last decade, that somewhat these underdog culture is maybe changing, and that currently people prefers winners than before. I may be wrong.

    There is another side of the coin. In Japanese popular culture there is a preference for the lonley outsider, who is not recognized enough. Sometimes this concept of “outsider” and “underdog” can be coined and then you have the Yakuza movies from Ken Takakura or Tora-san.

    Although this I feel is also outdated in the last decade.

  11. Chuckles Says:

    So is Echizen Ryōma an underdog? How could he be when he clearly surpasses many of his opponents in talent?

  12. scotthoward Says:

    Nice essay Marxy, and surprising to see you writing about anime.

    You may be interested to learn of a series called Battle Athletes Victory, made at some point in the 1990s, and featuring a sort of all female future Olympics. (There’s a tv show and ova, I’m talking about the tv version.)

    What’s interesting is it somewhat plays out the same dynamics with an actual American and Japanese character. In Battle Athletes, at the beginning of the show, the two top competitors are the blond American and the silver haired Russian. the Russian and the American are intense rivals for the number 1 and number 2 place. The Russian’s country is taken over, so she has to drop out, and the tall, blond American eventually quits after being surpassed by the initially shy, unconfident, underdoggish Japanese girl. (I think the American comes back in the final storyline, for a team competition against space aliens, so they ultimately become friends. The Russian girl falls in love and gets pregnant so she can’t return)

    What I don’t know what to make of the Battle Athletes allegory is the underdog Japanese girl, pathetic though she may be, is actually the daughter of the greatest Olympic athlete over, and has the genes of a champion.

    The American girl is actually kind of jealous, especially in the beginning, when the Japanese girl loses all the time due to her babyish personality and refuses to make use of her awesome potential.

    Some theme about the Japanese being the master race?

  13. Aceface Says:

    “this similarity between cultures say about human universals rather than differences?”
    I say this is universal thing among humans.That is why many myth and classical plays around the world are filled with tragedy and most religion speak about salvation.

    However America has been a democratic nation thorough out her 200 years of history unlike Japan or UK with long history of feudarism and civil war which had created many underdogs.So there is no underdog to sympathize in nation level but one exception.
    I don’t need to tell a Southerner like you that there exist the Confedrate States of America,Edmund Wilson wrote “Patriotic Gore”and many pages were devoted to how the defeat and destruction of the society in the south had affected American literary imagination and southerner writer like Faulkner had wrote many tales about the theme.So “tragic underdog”theme does capture minds of some in American society.I think.(and perhaps you could inlude native american tales in this genre like “The Last of the Mohicans”and African American’s blues lyrics)

    Marxy says:
    1) You talk about the “tragic underdog” in Japanese culture, but what about the “triumphant underdog”? In the US, I think it’s fair to say that “underdog story” means “triumphant underdog.”

    When I think about American “triumphant underdog “story I think about Sly Stallone’s “Rocky”saga.Japan has it’s own answer to underdog from the bottom of the barrel become boxing champion.A manga called “あしたのジョ-Tomorrow’s Joe”that is.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomorrow%27s_Joe
    In the end of the manga Joe fights the Mexican world champion Jose Mendosa for the title match.Joe was winning in the battle, but lost by the judge decision.and he dies by the ringside,burnt down like ashes.So it is semi-triumphant.
    “Tommorow’s Joe” was said to be the bible of the Zenkyouoto;radical left students of the late 60’s.Zenkyouoto saw it like this.Underdog becoming triumphant is as the revolutionary gains power and become stalinist authoritarian,therefore Joe must die at the height of his glory.One underlying theme.Victory means Power and Power means Corruption.
    For neither victory nor access to power are opening door to anybody in Japan,because of hierarchy in the society,”triumphant underdog” automatically lose sympathy from the ordinary.

    While Rocky,the protagonist fights for beloving Adrian and his own future.In America,winning means Success,which is the crucial part of the American dream.An ides of which the whole movie is based on.In america everyone has equal opportunity(or so everyone seem to believe).There is little dilenma of being successful compare to the Old world.and to some in Japan,”Rocky”is moving but the plot is rather petit bourgeois to be replanted in Japanese life and perhaps can be more enjoyable to be seen it as exotic tale from exotic land.
    Of course “Joe” was the product of the revolutionary late 60’s and “Rocky”was post-Vietnam 70’s.So this may not be the matter of national/cultural difference but rather the shift of the taste of the mass,and Stallone was intending to make something more positive americana after gloom and doom 70’s American New Cinema.

    Marxy’s second question:
    2) Forget “Confucian” as an attempt to link present culture with the past. Is there any change to the underdog presentation and identification in Japan post-Meiji – especially when the idea of state loyalty gets codified? What about the Post-War?

    The liberal party and dissident used folk songs and plays to criticize the regime during Meiji era,especially during freedom and people’s right’s movement started from 1881.The basis of the underdog presentation in art form at that time were combination of traditional Japanese folk drama(such like Kabuki which was started by the burakumin,whom were in a way the underdog of the society)and newly imported western ideas.In Taisho and Showa until 1934,socialist proletariat art had bloomed mainly from the German and Russian influence.Famous film director like Kenji Mizoguchi and Akira Kurosawa made some movies based on these trend.
    But they never were “Triumph underdog”kind for simple two reasons.1)censorship2)The arrival of fascism.

    Now I could go on and on with what happened in post war.but duty calls.later.

  14. alin Says:

    Aceface, would you say that Nakata (hide)’s real tragedy at the last world cup was that he (and only he) actually REALLY believed the japan team can win something?

    i don’t watch sports but just about every time i end up watching japanese sports people (and i guess i’m not talking about judo and other stuff where they’re expected to win) i’m positively blown away by their unorthodox relation to the idea of winning. say this girl at the torino olympics in a four people snowboard race who wins the race because the other three bump into each other and knock each other off , or something like that, and seems to be just laughing at the whole thing not quite coming to terms with the idea that she’s the winner or that winning should basically be her reason for being there. it’s a fascinating kind of thing to see in the otherwise rather one-dimensional world of sports.

  15. Aceface Says:

    alin:
    You are asking this question to the guy who wasn’t even in the country in 2002 world cup and has almost zero interst in the field of sports.

    Nakata in 2006 world cup was obviously not satisfied with everything about Samurai Blue.
    Either that was Zico’s advice or moral of his team mates, we may never know what made him so pissed off.But Nakata for being a such a narcissistic chap he probably couldn’t stand his last game ended like that.

    “it’s a fascinating kind of thing to see in the otherwise rather one-dimensional world of sports”
    About these amateurism of the Japanese athletes in the olympic games.Certain games like Curling or four people snow boards that you’ve mentioned do not have strong domestic interest group,such like “National Association of blah blah”or business contract with sporting goods company or belonging to corporation atheletic teams or something.So they can play for the love of the game,since nobody would have any beef if you do bad,I think.

    There was a marathon runner named Tsubutaya during Tokyo Olympic games in’64.The whole nation was hoping him to get the medal and he had potential to do so.But the luck wasn’t with him and he ended up as a bronze.The whole nation was depressed and Tsuburaya was depressed and eventually he commited suicide leaving a letter apologizing everyone.The letter was obviously written by a man under strong mental stress and suffering nervous breakdown.
    Things went pretty rough,for Tsuburaya was an officer of the Ground Self Defence Force.And media found out his superior officer was giving him heavy pressure that you-are-running-not-just-for-yourself-but-for-whole-nation kind lecture every single day of his life in the force.Hearing this everyone instantly thought Japan had been through this win-or-die thing before.Media and pundits criticized that the whole nation pushed Tsuburaya to the edge and killed him and that lead to the nation divide debate.
    So “sweat and blood for victory”like athletic jingoism stepped back to the praise for the simple joy of the sports and amateurism after this scandal.Not that made nationalism on sports had dissapeared,but nonetheless made Japan more cautious about attitudes toward athletes and that effect the way of playing the game.

  16. marxy Says:

    “There was a marathon runner named Tsubutaya during Tokyo Olympic games in’64.”

    Damn you, Abebe!

    “i’m positively blown away by their unorthodox relation to the idea of winning.”

    So you are saying that the idea of “winning at sports” is an inherently Western idea?

    “Victory means Power and Power means Corruption.
    For neither victory nor access to power are opening door to anybody in Japan,because of hierarchy in the society,”triumphant underdog” automatically lose sympathy from the ordinary.”

    I was going to mention Ashita no Joe in the essay, but it would have bogged it down even more. (Cause , dude, I gotta mentioned the Punch-Out.) But I blame that cartoon for making student activism a nihilistic and destructive venture that won exactly 0 inches in their struggle against the establishment. They just discredited Leftism for the next 25 years if not forever.

  17. alin Says:

    > So you are saying that the idea of “winning at sports” is an inherently Western idea?

    he he he !

  18. alin Says:

    actually I recently re-read kawabata’s ‘master of Go’ and he seems to be suggesting that.

    personally i prefer dada in sport to medals – like when the romanian soccer team after a couple of minor victories at the wc 2002 decide to all bleach their hair and screw the game rather then focus on more winning.

  19. marxy Says:

    I know you prefer dada in sports and maybe I also think it’s a swell idea, but can we really attribute this trait to an entire national culture?

  20. Aceface Says:

    Look I spend hours,HOURS to write reply for what you guys are asking for and you are starting this highschool kid like fuss again?
    I’m goin’ out to see Sakura.
    See ya all Monday.

  21. alin Says:

    You americans are hopeless at dada, romanians and japanese are great at it. Even fluxus was started by a bunch of mostly japanese first generation immigrants. (evil sakura smile)

  22. marxy Says:

    Tristan Tzara was really “Larry Sullivan” from Dover, DE. He just played the European role really well.

    Everyone enjoy the cherry blossoms and DO NOT take Aceface for granted or otherwise we will just argue not LEARN anything.

    (Aceface, where do I send your check again?)

  23. Mulboyne Says:

    The case of Tsubutaya might have caused a rethink but, as Alin said originally, every judoka is expected to win. Arguably, the marathon runners are still expected to deliver.

    In fact, the Japanese media does seem to create unrealistic expectations for their sports stars in the international arena. Someone placing in the top ten in a world event is always given a build-up as an Olympic medal shot no matter how distant their performance is from a real chance. There’s also rarely an analysis of the form of the top overseas teams or contenders.

    I imagine most people hope for the best for their country in a sporting contest and some athletes can rise to the occasion but the media in Japan often expects this outperformance which seems to create immense disappointment and lots of zannens when an individual comes up short.

    The last time I can recall people expecting their guy to lose was the Kameda/Landaeta rematch although the circumstances surrounding that fight created an environment in which some people wanted Kameda to get beaten.

    N.B. Kunihiko Suzuki’s soundtrack for Ashita no Joe contains a blatant and uncredited rip-off of the theme from “Shaft”.

  24. marxy Says:

    “The last time I can recall people expecting their guy to lose was the Kameda/Landaeta rematch although the circumstances surrounding that fight created an environment in which some people wanted Kameda to get beaten.”

    The justice in this situation, however, was the victory of Landaeta. There was neither glory in Kameda’s original victory of his potential defeat.

  25. mike Says:

    james spader’s character in pretty in pink is the only realistic charcter in the whole film, all the other men are just weak or rubbish. molly ringwald should dump that weak assed boyfriend and tell ducky just to come out of the closet, then go off with spader. By now she’d be first lady.

    not sure if i should be analysing a john hughes film but i came to the conclusion they are all shit apart form the breakfast club. anyway.

    bush in his early days was a combination of james spader in pretty in pink and john belushi in national lampoons animal house.

    i think every country has the whole underdog thing, it just depends on how the underdog eventually triumphs, do they win like in karate kid and most other eighties american flicks? or do they learn a valuable lesson just by having made the effort? i rather like the more traditional one where the underdog goes the distance then dies horribly, like jet li in any film he’s been in since once upon a time in china.
    (he survived in that film he did with morgan freeman but that was so shit i prefer not to think of it)

    films alwasy relate to the legacy of the culture at the time, in britain we used o ahve until about 1970 all those boys own adventures and plucky underdogs of the empire/world war two.tjhe idea of anyone british triumphing in any way would jsut be laughed at, we prefer our heroes to look as if they are about to win and then fuck it up mightily, see any sportign event with british competitors for the full, slightly embarressing details.

  26. Chris_B Says:

    Aceface,

    Dont loose heart, I for one am always enriched by your contributions.

    Not sure if I mentioned this before, but it seems relevant here: A few years back when Japan & South Korea co hosted the World Cup, I had the occasion to watch some games in Shin Okubo and was informed of the incredible difference of how the Koreans and Japanese cheered for their respective teams. Koreans, like Americans, shouted encouragement or things like “win! win!” but Japanese seemed to shout “dont loose”. A rather striking contrast in my opinion anyway. Make of it what you will.

  27. alin Says:

    that’s interesting Chris. What’s also interesting here is the contrast between Marxy’s post-nation idealism(?) and the accumulating signs of ‘national psychology’.

    >>the Japanese media does seem to create unrealistic expectations for their sports stars in the international arena

    this is rather poignant because it touches the crux of the beloved idea of media manipulation and sheep-like japanese believers or consumers.
    (Compare this to most european countries – say german soccer where both the media and the public literally stage hangings of underperforming soccer players)

    I know it’s a bit of a jump but what this basically shows is that the link between media and public is actually much ‘softer’ than it’s made to be and a lot of other factors are involved even in what might look like crass media manipulation. (hello natto;-)

  28. alin Says:

    i deeply believe that more can be gained from a study of the gaps (say the gap between the media and the public, here) then by excessively focusing on the thing itself. – a bit oriental come to think of it.

  29. marxy Says:

    Like 間 Bell, he’s got the ill communication.

  30. Duffy Says:

    His brain is roamin’ and he don’t know where it’s goin’…

  31. dzima Says:

    Chris, your 2002 world cup experience is very much at odds with mine because not only I don’t recall anyone ever saying “don’t lose” but in general the Japanese were quite positive, supportive and encouraging of their team (the Koreans were just a bit more fanatic, that’s all).

    After one of Japan’s matches, I clearly remember two (non-inebriated) strangers happily chatting to each other on the train, commenting about how people in Tokyo were never this warm hearted or excited in public and that it took the climate of a world cup post-match victory for that behaviour to change. They seemed to be very glad about it.

  32. Chris_B Says:

    I just call em as I see em. Your Milage May Vary.

  33. Aceface Says:

    ”The case of Tsubutaya might have caused a rethink but, as Alin said originally, every judoka is expected to win. Arguably, the marathon runners are still expected to deliver.”
    OK,It was my mistake.It is TSUBURAYA.with R.
    and Yes.The athletes are expected to win for Judo and Marathon for both have “strong domestic interest group,such like “National Association of blah blah”or business contract with sporting goods company or belonging to corporation atheletic teams” as I’ve mentioned.

    “In fact, the Japanese media does seem to create unrealistic expectations for their sports stars in the international arena. ”
    And this has got to do with viewing rates of TV’s live coverage program.And Kameda was probably “the Great Yellow Hope”for both Japanese Boxing world and TBS,for Japan was lacking crowd pleasing ranking boxers for decades with the exception of Tokuyama Masamori who is also Hong Chang Su,in real life as a third generation Zainichi Korean and known to be an avid supporter of Pyongyang and Kim Jong Il.Tokuyama became rather inappropriate to get worshipped as “Japanese”champion after Sept 17,2002.
    So Kameda was needed for Japanese Boxing world for TV people are more interested in PRIDE and K-1s and perception of Boxing=Has been had to be changed through would-be Kameda sensation.

    “Damn you, Abebe!”
    Any of you saw “Japan’s most favorite greatest historic figure of all time Top100″on Friday?
    Abebe Bikila was in along with Albert Einstein and Chinghis khan as 94th and Tsuburaya was out of top 100.

    I’ll get back at you Chris B,On World cup KoreaVSJapan thing.Duty calls.

  34. marxy Says:

    I watched 1964 Olympics documentary recently, and the movie just bubbles over with the glory of the Abebe victory. I didn’t pick up on the pathos behind the defeat of the Japanese runner.

  35. Aceface Says:

    Did you saw the 2004 re-edited version of Tokyo Olympiad?I’ve only seen the ’65 version of Ichikawa Kon’s documentary.

    Abebe was a sort of “triumphant underdog”in his own way.
    In Rome Olympic held in 1960,he also got Gold Medal in Marathon by running barefeet.The whole world made coverage on the man ,for Italy was the agressor to Ethiopia in the 30’s.
    Also 1960 was”The Year Of Africa”the year many African nation gaining independence from European colonial overlord and whole world’s eyes were on the continent,Becaouse his victory was taken as very symbolic at the time.So Abebe was already gaining sympathy vote among the Japanese when he showed up in Tokyo in ’64.
    Ethiopia and Japan shared something in common at the time for Ethiopia was under the imperial reign of Haile Selassie and Abebe had been repeating his loyality to emperor and respect to the house of the chrysantemum.(we,afterall have no blond with blue eyes,you know.)That too made the national shame more acceptable.

    Korea VS Japan on World Cup:
    I’m not going to go into the cultural stereotype comparison as Japan=culture of shame to others and Korea=culture of flame to others.
    But undeniably the game was more important for Korea than Japan,for world cup was mainly the event of the soccer lovers in Japan(it didn’t even have any game in Tokyo)while for Korea it was more of an event of the nation.So you can say Japanese nationalism was pretty much in the back ground in 2002 games.

    The alarming legacy is that Korean dailies started their Japanese version on the web around this time and many of the article got linked to Yahoo Japan.Somehow they wanted to spread Korean wave in the field of journalism,but so far the result is wide spread anti-Koreanism,which I think is first time in the history of our country.
    (the well spoken discrimination of Korean is after all a “discrimination”.Not hostility toward Korean,although Koreans do have other idea on this issue.)
    Japanese youth who had little interest in Korea started to find out the huge perception gap between the two countries,on the meaning of the co-host of the world cup,while one side talks friendship,cooperation and future while the other talks nationalism,competition and past history.
    Korea,both north and south are now considered as somekind of a stalker in the form of country by quite a good number of the Japanese bloggers.So there could be more of “win-win”chant you may hear from Japanese fan in the future,if not now.

    We also have beef with Chinese soccer team and it came up on the surface in 2004 Asia cup.The Chinese fan almost went amok after Japan’s victory against China.Here again history was used as the excuse for misbehaves.These could be an omen for the Olympic games held in Beijing,next summer of which Tokyo(along with Beijing)is very reluctant to participate.

  36. Aceface Says:

    There are lots of grammatical mistakes on above post.I apologize in advance.

    The whole world press made huge coverage on the man for
    a) Italy was the agressor to Ethiopia in the 30’s.
    b)1960 was”The Year Of Africa”the year many African nation gaining independence from European colonial overlord and whole world’s eyes were on the continent.
    Because of these,Abebe’s victory was taken as very symbolic at the time.
    So Abebe was already gaining sympathy vote among the Japanese when he showed up in Tokyo in ’64.

  37. sa.iss Says:

    Yeah – that is a fun convention. You can add curling in there.

    Hice Cool! A wierd web drama with the d-boys. It was about a group of friends starting a curling team!

  38. Ryan Cousineau Says:

    Argh! I’m coming in way down-thread and barely on-topic, but anyone who trashes, however inadvertently, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” just doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    I had the chance to watch it rather freshly of late, and it’s brilliant. A movie which I feared would seem very stupid now that I’m old enough to know better was still funny, and surprisingly smart. Maybe even smarter than I remember.

    The key thing to remember about Rocky is that his magic power as a boxer was not so much his fearsome punching as his world-class ability to endure punishment. The theme of all of his victorious fights is of a sort of deranged rope-a-dope: other boxers inflict punishment on Rocky far beyond the ability of other boxers to endure it (I think this was also the theme of a Simpsons episode where Homer temporarily became a boxer…).

    But I digress. I think you’re overthinking the very general, universal love of underdogs. Have we all forgotten the Miracle of Castel di Sangro? Lance Armstrong’s first Tour de France win? Greg LeMond’s last Tour de France win? The Amazing Mets?

    Also, I’m rather sad that Japan has probably produced a better curling movie than Canada, and ours starred Leslie Nielsen.