When four members of Japan's national basketball team were sent home from the Asian Games last month for patronizing prostitutes, the resulting scandal capped almost a year's worth of bad publicity for sports in Japan. Over this time we've had allegations of "power harassment" raised against the Japan Wrestling Federation, the premeditated dangerous tackle by a member of the Nihon University American football team, accusations of misuse of funds by the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation, and charges of physical abuse and harassment in gymnastics.
As media critic Minako Saito wrote in her Sept. 5 Tokyo Shimbun column, these stories are like something out of a comic book where good and evil are clearly delineated. Real life is never so Manichean, but the media play it out that way, and sometimes it's difficult to get a sense of what's really going on. In a Sept. 1 Tokyo Shimbun column about online media, Junichiro Nakagawa claimed that TV has led the charge against the miscreants in these scandals because they work in amateur sports, which "don't have a deep relationship with television," or, at least, not as deep as professional baseball does. TV reporters can cover the scandals any way they want without worrying about repercussions. It's easy to make Japan Amateur Boxing Federation President Akira Yamane into a villain because of his gangster-like appearance and demeanor. Nakagawa repeatedly uses the term "nōkin," an abbreviation of the phrase "nō miso ga kinniku," which means "the brain is a muscle," an insult commonly directed at people in sports, especially administrators who were once athletes themselves. The feeling is that they run things based on entrenched tradition without ever questioning that tradition, so when a scandal erupts they appear clueless.
The basketball scandal is no different, though the focus on sex makes it more problematic for the mainstream media. The tabloid media has no problem at all, and while that gives them an advantage in terms of ethical guidelines — they aren't expected to follow any — it also highlights their culpability in sustaining the attitudes that give rise to such scandals.