Is it a dynasty if no one’s watching?SEO SEUNG-WOOK
The author is Tokyo bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The 2019 Japanese professional baseball draft conference was held at a hotel in Tokyo last month and broadcast live across Japan. Twelve teams competed to pick the top rookie players. Four teams were vying for Roki Sasaki, the “monster pitcher of Reiwa” who can thrown a ball at 99 miles an hour. In the end, Lotte won the drawing and was able to negotiate with Sasaki. Yomiuri and Hanshin competed for the right to negotiate with pitcher Yasunobu Okugawa, who was considered one of the Big Two draft picks along with Sasaki. He signed to Yakult.
The draft was a major spectacle for baseball players and fans. The whole country watched while each team named its first pick. The stories of many of the players and their families were shared in the media, including a player who wanted to keep a promise to his late younger brother and the parents who support their son during many hardships. Two weeks after the draft, the coaches of professional teams are shown on TV visiting the players at school to persuade them to sign.
The country goes crazy over the draft because amateur baseball is just as popular as professional baseball in Japan.
As amateur baseball has solid support, the popularity of professional baseball is also rising. This season, professional Japanese baseball had 26.5 million spectators, the largest in history. Each game had an average of 30,929 fans per game, surpassing 30,000 for the first time.
That stands in stark comparison to the KBO, which had 7.28 million spectators this season, 10 percent less than last year and 1.1 million less than 8.4 million from two years ago. The slump is due to the poor performances of popular regional teams and a lack of star players.
The amateur national team has been defeated by China twice. And now, Korea is worried about its performance in the upcoming Olympics. But there is no serious contemplation or agony over the crisis in baseball now.
After the Doosan Bears won the Korean Series this year, I saw many articles asking whether the team can be considered a dynasty or not. When fans no longer watch the sport, what is the meaning of a dynasty? In Japan, Softbank won the Japan series for three consecutive years, but it is hard to hear the expression “dynasty.” The word loses its worth if it is used too much.