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Big in Japan: Not American Football

Non-football fans here are running the sports bars, there are only a few of them and they are usually focused on Rugby and European footie.

Japanese Olympic coverage was an ominous preview of what may be a sparse and unexciting football viewing season for yours truly. Coverage was limited only to sports in which Japanese athletes excelled (Judo, badminton, women's freestyle wrestling, table tennis, swimming, baseball, softball and a bit of gymnastics). Many of the track and field events and almost all of the basketball, cycling and volleyball were not shown in favor of broadcasting replays of events with Japanese players or TV "celebrity" commentary on Japanese athletic performances.

It also should be noted that almost without exception, all Olympic recap commentators had little to no sporting experience and even less knowledge. One clip that was played over and over again featured a Japanese female wrestler executing the "butt-drag" technique and a brisk dialogue between commentators about the positioning of her fingers while executing said technique, no joke.

I figured I'd still give it a go, after all the first big college game was on this past weekend, and I had the jones for some American-style football.

Tokyo Sports Cafe pitches itself as the pre-eminent sports viewing bar with all the feeds, but it didn't have the Alabama-Clemson game, and when we asked them about it, they told us they did, just to get us into the bar.

The Sports Cafe, and other so-called "real" sports bars in the city are almost all located in Roppongi, or the area of town reserved for foreigners and the debauchery associated with them. Roppongi is the scummy part of Tokyo, an area of town where you can't walk five feet without being verbally accosted by a Nigerian guy trying to trick you into entering an overpriced strip club or a Chinese lady trying to get you to come into the building for a "3000 yen massagie."

Let's just say its a place that you want to stay away from unless you are a fan of 24-hour packed college-type bars blaring bad top 40 and dance music. At any rate, it's not close to my apartment either and it's a pain to get to. Not to mention, if you miss the last train home, you are pretty much stranded out until 5 a.m. (unless you feel like taking a $150 cab ride home). Upon arrival, after many promises of the Clemson-'Bama game, we were treated to weird European videos played over obnoxious techno music.

Alas, I am forced to face the fact that the Bears and NFL and college football, much like all American sports, are an afterthought in this country. There are football fans, and some NFL supporters, but the local cable and satellite channels only carry one or two NFL games a week, and these are usually prime-time match ups (which the Bears will not be a part of this year) and they are shown at about 4 or 5 a.m. Monday morning. As has been the case with American baseball games shown here, the games are often arbitrarily assigned or billed as being shown, but replaced at the last minute with a Japanese game show or some other nonsense.

Less-than-legal Internet feeds are available as well, but from what I have been told, they are unreliable and have terrible reception.

A friend of mine, Toby, works for a company whose mission is to provide Japanese football fans with information about games (in Japanese) on their cell phones. His job is to watch the games in the middle of the night and do the write-ups. According to him, it is possible to subscribe to an online viewing service but the fees are exorbitantly high and it is dodgy unless one has a high-speed hookup and a lot of patience. My search for this service have so far been fruitless.

Unfortunately it seems that my best option will be to listen to streaming radio from 670 The Score, as I did in 2006 from a cabana in the Bahamas when I was on vacation.

I guess in a way it's a good thing because I won't be subjected to watching the puppet show that the Bears will try to pass off as an offense.

But Bears fans should take note: even when the team is mediocre, it's still more frustrating not being able to watch them than watching them in all their miserable glory.


Previously in Big in Japan:
* Not Fukudome
* The Yokohama Cubs
* The Chicago Way
* Not The Olympics
* Charisma Man


Posted on September 2, 2008

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