Besuboru, Beisbol, Baseball

However you pronounce it, you’re saying, ‘national pastime.’ The question is, what nation?

Italy has a baseball league. This year, Bologna’s Fortitudo B.C. seems strong. War or no, Israel looks ready to launch a league. Their tryouts are scheduled for later this month in the Berkshires. Cuba’s league offers fertile terrain for study. Even Antarctica fields a few games.

Despite exotic settings, similarities run deep. Boston Red Sox fans had the Curse of the Bambino. The Hanshin Tigers of Japan have The Curse of Colonel Sanders. A good mascot must be hard to find. South Korea has Twins. Tigers can be found in Venezuela, South Korea, and Japan.

Still international leagues offer many novel mascot viewing opportunities. Take the Ham Fighters of Hakaido, the northern island of Japan. The Fighters tried to re-brand themselves with mixed results after moving from Tokyo a few years ago. For one Moscow team, the mascot offers chance for a nostalgic look back to Soviet-era militarism.

There are other ways international baseball differs the American version. The Hyundai Unicorns conveniently offer betting right on their own site. Japanese baseball includes a few unique rules including, gasp, a tie ball game. But to truly understand the divide between baseball culture in America and Japan, check this out.

Fandom takes a little different flavor, particularly in Asian leagues. Korean fans apparently love noisemakers. While in Japan, cheering squads, known as ‘oendan’ raise trumpets, clappers, and unified voice in organized cheers. The Hanshin Tigers’ fight song is a long way, in a good way, from ‘Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks’:

Powerful hits and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times
Trained with every discipline here at Koshien
Crowned with constant victory glorious, matchless feat
Always proud, invincible “Hanshin Tigers”
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers
Hooray, Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!

Even as Major League Baseball moves to grab fans abroad by launching the World Baseball Classic and stocking teams with international talent, baseball hardly approaches soccer for global dominance. The sport’s elaborate rules, pacing, and general gestalt seem to mystify many, including some supposed Turk. Germany looks content to forgo the game’s beauty for the endless highjinks generated by a ball, a bat and a videocamera. Bob Saget, call your lawyers.


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