Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Is there anyone who cares at all about the Red Sox and ISN'T talking about Matsuzaka?
The insanity involved in this is pure, utter Bostonishness. There are other cities that are obsessed with baseball, of course, but the Bostonian brand of obsession is a distinct and particular one. It's an obsession that does not keep baseball in its own little niche, but spills it out into all walks of life, as if Boston Baseball is some kind of molasses that you're trying to hold in your hands.
It's not just the baseball that's interesting, but everything surrounding the baseball. What does Matsuzaka look like? What does he sound like? What kind of smile does he have? What kind of glove is he using? How does he wear his hat? How well does he seem on a completely superficial level to be interacting with Varitek? Is he getting along with Okajima? What happens when he meets Manny and Ortiz? Will it be easier for him to stand Schilling for long periods of time because he won't always know what he's being lectured about?
What does the media covering this dude look like? There are teams of photographers whose job seems to be to shoot the Japanese photographers, who are there to shoot Matsuzaka. That's how freakin' meta we've gotten.
And it's not just one slightly creepy and obsessive web entity (exhibit A) chronicling his every move. It's EVERYONE, from the newspapers to the TV stations to the radio shows to the bloggers to the AP photographers. And of course that's not even getting into the constant critical inspection he's undergoing at practice every day from his coaches and teammates. This level of scrunity is not unlike that under which the President of the United States operates. It should be enough to drive most people, even "celebrities", batshit insane.
Here's the thing with Matsuzaka, though. He's from Japan. He's been a huge pitcher in Japan for a long time now, ever since he was in high school. And if there's one international baseball media market that could compare to Boston for sheer relentless obsession, it's Japan.
In a way, Matsuzaka is perfectly primed for Boston, and Boston is perfectly suited to him. He should be used to the kind of insanity that we can dish up, because he was followed so closely even before this*. And I think the language barrier may actually work in his favor a little bit; he's not going to be getting himself upset listening to the wacknuts on WEEI after a bad game. He's accustomed to the scrutiny and simultaneously more able to readily ignore it than, say, ARod (or, to be fair, Schilling).
The Japanese media, who will be probably be entrenched for the season and the long run, get a city that is less bemused by their persistence and more understanding. Boston as a collective whole doesn't really have to wonder when we see a vast horde of Japanese media sorts tailing hopefully behind Matsuzaka as he goes about his day; we can recognize a little bit of ourselves in that horde.
*Of course this assumes that Matsuzaka had learned to handle the media gracefully back home and is past the point where such intense regard could ruffle his feathers. I think he has, or he probably wouldn't have been as good a pitcher as he is, but if he hasn't, eh, you can disregard this post.
Labels: baseball, Daisuke Matsuzaka, frenzy, Japan, media, MLB, obsession, Red Sox