Spring is a time of two things: hope and . . . baseball. And — unless you are a Chicago Cubs fan — those two often go together.
Perhaps no place is baseball hope quite so high as in Japan, where the sport enjoys more than just a seasonal flowering. Here baseball stays in bloom even in coldest winter, kept alive and fresh by a media that seemingly has nothing else to cover.
Crummy weather, political infighting and sports — that’s Japanese news in a nutshell.
Yet spring is when the nation’s most important sport gets added fuel. A new pro baseball season is here and everyone is eager for the pennant race to commence.
The engines are revving and the teams will soon zoom into action, some certainly to crash. But at this point no one is yet a loser, and so hope rides high.
As can be seen by the team slogans.
Some American teams have slogans and some don’t, but all teams here do, as business-minded Japanese know a catchy slogan can really set the tone.
The question is, what tone?
So here is a peek at some of the slogans for Japanese professional baseball in 2014, as gleaned from various sites on the Web.
First up, the Hiroshima Carp, whose battle cry for the year is:
“Fire Up The Red Road. Red All The Way. Red. Hot. Straight.”
First, understand I am taking a translator’s liberty with this and all other slogans to follow.
How much liberty? Picture wild sailors home from the sea.
But the Carp also have the Japanese obsession with English, a marketing tactic that can only be described as fishy. The “Red All The Way” part is their own.
But yeah, this connects: red uniforms and red carp! And, if the fish flounder, maybe red ink in attendance figures. Yet, who cares? If the team goes down in flames, the slogan will work even better.
“We Will Do It.”
This is the slogan of the SoftBank Hawks. With the “it” probably meaning “win.”
The “it” is a problem due to the Japanese propensity to drop pronouns. A more direct translation would simply be “We Will Do.” It is up to the individual to provide the missing “it.”
Which I suppose can then be interpreted anyway one wishes. Like “Sell Tons Of Cellphones,” “Bunt Like Maniacs,” “Raise The Titanic.” It’s a slogan full of potential.
This is the slogan of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. For, as the old baseball song goes, “All you really need is heart.”
Although Yokohama could also use some pitching. Not to mention some coherent managing.
In November of last year, BayStars manager Kiyoshi Nakahata viewed one of his players in the public bath, apparently not bothering to cover himself with a towel. He related this to the press, stating that he hoped such personal confidence would extend to the field.
More recently, Nakahata spied Dominican slugger Tony Blanco in the lavatory and joked with reporters that he had seen an “anaconda.”
Let us thus be thankful that the BayStars chose “Heart” as their slogan and not some other organ.
Nakahata is known for his humor. With his biggest joke being his winning percentage — .401.
“Show the Spirit — Dream.”
This slogan is from the Tokyo Giants, with “Dream” being my attempt at what others might translate as “Aspire” or “Strive.” The rest is in English.
All of this masking what should be the truer Giants slogan: “Money Talks.”
The Giants win games on the field . . . with star players bought with the deepest pockets in Japanese sports. Even Nakahata could manage this team. The bigger news is if they don’t win.
Next from the Yakult Swallows:
“Claw To The Top SPIRIT OF CHALLENGE.”
First, the lack of punctuation shows how the season will probably progress for the Swallows. No commas, no exclamation points, no chance.
And how can you inspire anyone by saying, “Claw to the Top SPIRIT OF CHALLENGE”? Rather than swing for the fences, it makes me want to sit down and twitch.
Half of the slogan is the team’s very own English. Which half?
Hint: the half that makes least sense.
“Smart & Spirit 2014 HEAT UP!!”
This is the slogan for the Rakuten Eagles, last season’s champs. Some may think it is an improvement over last year’s try — “Smart & Spirit 2013 HEAT!” — but that additional “up” will surely take the team down. Mound ace Masahiro Tanaka’s jump to the States might have some teensy effect as well.
In fact, without Tanaka, a muddled slogan like this — all in Rakuten’s own English, mind you — might well lead the Eagles to the baseball basement.
Their only hope? Maybe no one will understand.
There are more teams and more slogans, of course, all more or less equally awkward.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs’ 2014 slogan is a repeat of last year: “Committed.”
And, yes, perhaps we Cubs fans should be committed.
Yet, we also have something deeper than any slogan. We have a philosophy. One that matches any and every season and always overflows with hope:
“Wait Till Next Year!”
Ah, it’s spring! Let the games begin!