This past weekend I finally decided to take myself out to the ballpark to see Tokushima’s very own independent baseball team, the Indigo Socks take the field versus their island rivals to the north, the Kagawa Olive Guyners. The Tokushima Indigo Socks were established in 2005 along with three other teams, all representing prefectures located on Shikoku Island. The 4-team league once established as the Shikoku Island League was changed in 2007 to the Shikoku Island League Plus to accommodate teams from outside the island and a vision to expand, however, it appears little expansion momentum has been made to date. The Independent Baseball League of Japan or IBLJ, Inc. operates the league through its headquarters in Takamatsu. The league was founded by commentator and former professional baseball player Hiromichi Ishige, who initially held all the rights to the teams, leadership, and players, but in 2006 established separate corporations for each of the teams. Although I’m uncertain of the exact vision of the league as it moves forward, I can only assume it is positioning itself for inclusion in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, which currently does not have a team represented from Shikoku Island. As for the quality of the product on the field, it met my expectations as far as the fundamentals of baseball are concerned and exceeded my expectations as I was witness to a rare long ball by a member of the Olive Guyners. Despite visible public relations and marketing efforts across the prefecture, the stadium was nearly empty as it appears a loyal fan base has yet to be established. Although Tokushima won dramatically 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, and moved within half a game of first place in the league, there were only a small number of fans attending to bare witness. As for my final take, whether you are a fan of baseball or not, take it from me, attending any sporting event with great seats makes the experience much more enjoyable and can bring the beauty of any game to life. And, if you’re interested in watching the Tokushima Indigo Socks, trust me when I say the beauty will be in 3-D, because the best seats in the house will surely be open.. Go show ’em some love if you’re in town!
For more information in Japanese 日本 visit the league’s official website: http://www.iblj.co.jp/
The Tokushima Vortis is the local Japanese professional soccer team representing the prefecture of Tokushima, Japan. The team is owned by the Otsuka Pharmaceutical company and primarily sponsored by Ostuka’s popular sports drink brand, Pocari Sweat. The team name Vortis is comprised from the Italian word, ‘vortices,’ which means ‘whirlpools’ – a symbol of tourist attraction visible in the Naruto Straits within the prefecture. Although the history of the team can be dated back to 1955 as the Ostuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. Soccer Club, it wasn’t until 2005 Tokushima Vortis was officially adopted as its team name entering into its first year in Japan’s second-tier professional league (J-2). The Japanese professional soccer league, known as the J-League is comprised of two divisions, J-1 and J-2, with 18 and 22 teams included respectively. Each year in the league, the top three teams in J-2 replace the 3 worst teams in J-1 as a promotion for a successful season, a crowning achievement Tokushima Vortis celebrated for the first time last year in 2013. However, this promotion to the big boys’ league has come with big boy lumps as Tokushima finds itself without a win and in last place in J-1 League standings to date. Today I went to see last place Tokushima Vortis in action vs. 4th place Kawasaki Frontale, a team based south of Tokyo in Kanagawa prefecture. With over 8000 people in attendance, Tokushima Vortis was dominated 4-0. Despite the loss and the winless season to date, Tokushima supporters showed a lot of pride and dedication by cheering until the very end. A look around the stadium, I couldn’t see even one person making a break to beat the traffic, all of whom stayed until the customary team visit to acknowledge the fan support. The final cheers seemed rather supportive and encouraging for players having to dreadfully confront their fans after a butt-kicking loss, except for one bit of raw emotion I witnessed as an angry kid, screamed “booooooooo!” with thumbs down! Despite this 0-6 start, the J-League season has just started and will last well into December, so only time will tell if Tokushima Vortis belongs with the big boys..
Super Bowl XLVIII (48) was the American football championship game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos and National Football Conference (NFC) champion Seattle Seahawks to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2013 season. On February 2nd, 2014, Seattle defeated Denver 43–8, the third largest point differential (35) in Super Bowl history! This is the first ever Super Bowl championship for the Seattle Seahawks and the first championship for the city in 35 years, the last being an NBA championship by its Seattle SuperSonics in the 1978-79 season. As a long time 12th Man member and season ticket holder for the Seahawk’s new stadium inauguration season in 2002, this victory was one for the ages for Seahawks fans all around the world and for the city of Seattle!
For the first time since Super Bowl XLIV (2010), and just the second time in twenty seasons, the number one seeds from each conference met in the league championship. The game featured the league’s top offense (Denver) against the top defense (Seattle), the first time this has occurred since Super Bowl XXXVII (2003). The game began with Seattle’s defense scoring two points on a safety, the quickest score in Super Bowl history. Five-time NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Peyton Manning of the Broncos threw two interceptions in the first half, the second returned by Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith for a 69-yard touchdown. The Broncos trailed 22–0 at halftime and 36–0 towards the end of the third quarter. Seattle did not allow a score until the final play that quarter, and they held Denver to almost 30 points below their scoring average. The final margin of victory was the largest since Super Bowl XXVII (1993), which was also 35 points. Smith, who also recovered a fumble and made nine tackles, was named Super Bowl MVP.
What more could I highlight about this historic victory for the city of Seattle, A LOT, but with this Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory being the most-watched U.S. television event of all time, averaging a whopping 111.5 million viewers, I’m sure most everyone already knows we won.. So I guess there’s only two more things left to do, KEEP REPEATING IT and say it in other languages! haha! Super Bowl Photos > # SB48 Seattle Victory Parade Photos > #Celebrate48
For more information in Japanese 日本 visit: www.nfljapan.com
For as long as I have lived in Japan, I have always wanted to attend a Japanese baseball game, but the lack of conveniences for foreigners wishing to purchase tickets can be discouraging. In Japan, online ticket sales are handled exclusively through resellers, who either mail them to you, or have you pick them up at convenience stores. It all seems convenient enough, if only the process of purchasing tickets online could be navigated in English. Nonetheless, I’ve been in Japan for a long time, so I decided to test my abilities.. which I did by simply asking a Japanese friend for help – in English.. Long over due, I set off to see the greatest storied Japanese baseball rivalry, the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka vs the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo. This rivalry has been often compared to Major League Baseball’s rivalry between the Boston Redsox and the New York Yankees, respectively. Both teams are two of the oldest teams in Japanese baseball history, with the Hanshin Tigers history dating back to 1935. Much like that of the Boston Redsox, the Hanshin Tigers have had their fair share of “Hanshin Hard-Luck,” a nick-name bestowed upon them after their one and only 1985 Japan Series Championship.
Much like that of the once Boston Redsox’s ‘Curse of the Bambino,’ a similar curse is believed to lurk over the Tigers. According to The Curse of the Colonel, after their 1985 win, fans celebrated by having people who looked like Tigers players jump into the Dotonbori Canal. According to legend, because none of the fans resembled first baseman Randy Bass, fans grabbed a life-sized statue of Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel Sanders and threw it into the river (like Bass, the Colonel had a beard and was not Japanese). After many years without another championship, the Tigers were said to be doomed never to win again until the Colonel was rescued from the river. In 2003, when the Tigers returned to the Japan Series after 18 years, many KFC outlets in Kobe and Osaka moved their Colonel Sanders statues inside until the series was over to protect them from Tigers fans. Unfortunately, the curse lives on as the Tigers lost the series in 2003. The search for the Hanshin Tigers second elusive championship and all the Colonel’s missing limbs from his 1985 drowning continue to this day.
The Hanshin Tigers play in Koshien Stadium, the oldest ballpark in Japan; built-in 1924, the stadium was once visited by American baseball legend Babe Ruth on a tour of Major League stars in 1934. There is a monument commemorating this visit at the front gates of the park. In closing, I’ll add that being in Koshien Stadium feels like little advancements have been made to modernize the stadium. Like in many parts of Japan, there are certain shops and streets in towns across the country where it feels like time has just stopped, and I can honestly say this about Koshien Stadium. From the food vendors to the old corridors surrounding the stadium, it feels old school in every way to say the least, but I’m sure many would say – that’s the beauty of it. By the way, I actually didn’t get to see the game, because the damn game was rained out! To be continued maybe…
Long before my trip home, I bought 4 tickets online to the Mariners vs. the Yankees for July 24th.. never would I have imagined, the day before this game Ichiro Suzuki would be traded to the New York Yankees! It’s one thing to trade the face of your team for nearly a decade, but it’s another to do it while the team you are trading him to is the visiting team for 3-days in town. Unlike anything I have seen in sports, Ichiro was in the Yankee lineup vs. the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on the same day the trade was announced! Talk about not wasting any time! Lucky for me and my friends, our tickets had a lot more extra significance as we saw Ichiro as a Yankee, the day after he was traded.. I have to assume the timing of this trade was orchestrated by the Mariners to give Ichiro a hometown send off, but it all seemed odd to me… As for Ichiro’s future, let me venture to guess… Ichiro at the point of this trade is 38 years old needing slightly over 400 more hits to reach 3000 for his Major League career. As for Ichiro’s career hits, including those he earned in Japan, he is far beyond 3000 hits already. But unfortunately his professional hits from Japan have little significance for sports writers in the United States that vote in players into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If they did, Ichiro would be chasing Pete Rose for the most career hits of all time, and not just 3000 hits to put it in perspective. If Ichiro reaches 3000 hits for his career, he will have also surpassed Pete Rose (4256 career hits) by 22 hits, giving him the unofficial title as Hits King.. which by all accounts is still amazing! For those of you unaware, 3000 hits is a major milestone in Major League Baseball, with only 28 players in the history of the sport having reached this standard of batting excellence. Of these 28 players, only 3 have not made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame (R. Palmeiro, P. Rose, and C. Biggio ~ D. Jeter – active). I’m assuming Ichiro is well aware of this, and will stretch his career in order to achieve his 3000th hit. I think Ichiro will need to have 2 more great seasons to reach 3000 hits, but most likely it will take him 3 more seasons to achieve the milestone. Moreover, I doubt the Yankees will re-sign Ichiro after his contract expires after this season, therefore he will be a free agent looking for a 2-year deal, at which point I hope the Mariners will pick him up at the age of 41 for his 3rd and final year in Major League Baseball for this incredible milestone! Wishful thinking, but the most fitting ending for someone who in all likelihood will be enshrined in Cooperstown as a Seattle Mariner, with or without achieving this final career milestone!
Note: A link to all my pictures at the game Ichiro Traded 2012 Album
My hometown team, the Seattle Mariners are in Japan to play two exhibition games vs two professional Japanese baseball teams and open the 2012 Major League Baseball season vs the Oakland Athletics. The Mariners and A’s will play two regular-season games in the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday and Thursday, and Seattle’s three Japanese players — Ichiro, infielder Munenori Kawasaki and pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma — figure to be the main attractions. This is the first time Ichiro Suzuki has played with the Seattle Mariners in Japan, and although off the field the welcome home was as expected; on the field – his fellow countrymen have been less than hospitable. The Seattle Mariners lost both exhibition games to Japan’s two most popular professional teams, the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants. Although most baseball fans understand the minimal signficance of an exhibition game, these games welcoming Ichiro back to Japan were played with the fanfare of a World Series matchup, which I’m sure stung the Mariners having lost. The Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants are two of Japan’s oldest professional baseball teams, both maintain a rivalry that is often compared to the Boston Redsox and the New York Yankees. The Hanshin Tigers represent Japan’s second largest city of Osaka, and the Yomiuri Giants play for the masses in Tokyo. Similar to the Redsox, Yankee rivalry both teams compete in the same division which provides several opportunities to see the two most popular Japanese teams play regularly. Despite the Mariners’ two exhibition losses, Ichiro came out swinging against the A’s in the MLB season opener going 4 for 5 in the team’s 4-1 win! In closing, a small note to my friends and family reading this blog, I’ll be in Seattle from July 20th to the 29th! I’ve also purchased 4 field level tickets to the Mariners vs the Yankees on July 24th! I’m sure I’ll be taking a lot of pictures and writing a blog about that experience in the near future, so check back for that!
Seventeen grueling weeks of Fantasy Football trash-talking has ended only to find one last man standing with a megaphone in hand, and that would be my team, THEPOINT5 ALL-STARS! I will remember this season most for my patience in waiting to take injury-prone Matthew Stafford who I drafted in the 5th Round as the 9th QB taken overall in our very competitive head-to-head 12-team league! As I predicted from Week 1, Stafford would have a breakout season, and he did just that! Stafford finished the regular season with 5,038 yards passing and 41 touchdowns, both Detroit Lions single season records! His 5000 plus yards passing, places him 5th in NFL history for most passing yards behind only Drew Brees who broke the record this year and has topped 5000 twice in his career; retired Hall of Famer Dan Marino; and 3-time Superbowl Champion and 2-time MVP Tom Brady ~ not bad company for a third year pro! In terms of Fantasy Football, he was clutch in my 3 playoff games, compiling for 1284 yards passing, 12 touchdowns, and 121.36 Fantasy Football points in Week 15, 16, and 17! And despite having drafted RB Chris Johnson with my first round draft pick, most experts’ Fantasy Football bust of the year, I still won my league even with the 6th playoff seed! Shout-out to the ‘Beers Smokes Liquor League’ ~ until next year fellas!
In recent years, the Japanese women’s national teams have had an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion against the United States women when the lights are shining the brightest. This 2011 World Cup victory versus the United States was not the first time when an unlikely Japanese women’s team defeated the American women for all the glory. As recently as in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a similar story played out as well. The Japanese women’s softball team faced an American team that had won 4-straight gold medals and entered the finals with a 22-game winning streak spanning years. As the heavy underdogs on this Olympic stage, the Japanese women defeated the Americans for the gold medal. And in this year’s World Cup, the Japanese women have done it again. Entering into this year’s final versus the United States, the Japanese women had lost to the Americans 25 straight times in soccer, which allowed them to once again play the role as underdogs. With respect to sports in general, I understand playing the role as the underdog has its advantageous, but being the favorite also has its benefits as well – a point not often made. Most teams favored or expected to win have an aura around them, which creates a level of intimidation, an advantage the Americans weren’t able to tap into versus the Japanese this time. Whether they took their eyes off the prize a little with respect to the Japanese and their homeland crisis, we will never know, but clearly being the favorite again did not help them as the Japanese were never intimidated and appeared more focussed despite the natural disasters that have recently ravaged their country. I think it might have been possible when gloves touched for the first time before this fight, civility took precedent when a stare down may have been more appropriate if you catch my drift… nevertheless, the victory for the Japanese team was earned and well deserved. However, the defeat wasn’t as heartbreaking as one might imagine for most Americans, because as most Americans do, we are a culture that roots for the underdog, and despite this sporting defeat in “soccer” – I think most Americans appreciate the broader significance this win will have for the Japanese people. The American women fought hard, and had their chances, but it appeared Japan was more destined to win this one for their country and all those who have suffered at the hands of the earthquake and tsunami – reminiscent of the 2009 New Orleans Saints Superbowl victory in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Congratulations Japan!
The United States and Japan have reached the final of the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany! An improbable journey for both countries, as both teams were dealt with enormous challenges to make it to the final two of the most prestigious tournament in women’s soccer. In the case of the United States, the team appeared finished when entering into an extra time period trailing Brazil by a point, only to score in the closing minutes to even the match and eventually win in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. As for Japan, no one expected this team to have reached it this far, and having already beaten the host country and favorite, Germany in the quarters to advance, one could say they’ve already won their Superbowl. However, Japan, nor the United States were content with their quarter-final success. Both teams have shown an incredible grit and will to win that continued through the semi-finals as the United States defeated France, while Japan upended Sweden’s dreams setting up this weekend’s final. As an American, I will be rooting for Team USA to win, but living in Japan, I understand first hand what this country has endured in recent months and realize how a win on this stage may be the spiritual lift this country desperately needs. Despite who wins, it’s been an amazing ride for both teams who have provided some very exciting soccer, even to someone like myself that had to Google ‘penalty shoot-out’ just to make sure I referred to it correctly! Regardless of your level of soccer enthusiasm – if you live in the United States or Japan, it’s time to get your fish and chips ready, break out a sports towel, even it says Seattle Sounders or Seahawks on it, wave them around in the air like you just don’t care, and ask yourself and all your rowdy friends, “Are you ready for some fooooooty?!!”
This past Sunday, I ran in the Japanese Self-Defense Force Marathon in Matsushige, Tokushima. The J.S.D.F. is the military force in Japan established after the end of the post-World War II American occupation of Japan. For most of the post-war period, the defense force was confined to the islands of Japan and not permitted to be deployed abroad. In recent years, they have been engaged in international peacekeeping operations, including a controversial humanitarian tour of duty in Iraq. The J.S.D.F. Marathon falls far short of a full marathon of 42.195 km or 26 miles; however, these local “fun-run” events in Japan are widely referred to as “marathons,” not to mention it sounds professional to us novice runners… Although I don’t enjoy running for exercise, these runs are great for conditioning… As I do every year following the beginning of Spring, I make a strong push to get in shape for Tibetan basketball tournaments I play in annually back home. This summer my team will be gunning for our 7th North American Tibetan basketball championship in Madison, Wisconsin (U.S.A.). More on that after I return from my trip home in July! Back to the J.S.D.F. Marathon… this event was a 10 km run on the Matsushige base with approximately 300 hundred runners… The competition was stiff this year, but through perseverance and a lot of determination I was able to win first place!!.. barely edging out two wonder sisters who gave me a real run for my money… See the award ceremony picture below! More pictures in my Tokushima Sports album!