Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To Work or WBC, and Fake Swingers

Everyone at work seems totally distracted, and I don't think it's because the two owners (also brothers) had an escalated altercation that broke into fisticuffs last night (true story).

No, I would have to say that it's because about half the people currently in the office are closely huddled in front of the tv by the entrance watching the World Baseball Classic. They told me that yesterday Japan beat the US in the semis, but personally I could care less... I'm more interested in the NCAA tournament, even if my team's already out. If you don't care about either I won't hold it against you. As much as I'd like to ignore it, I guess it really is true that Japanese love their baseball, and even more so than they do soccer.

This brings to mind something only tangentially related but that has always struck me as funny - the fake swing. Whether it be a fake golf swing or a bat swing, you will see people doing practice swings all over the place here, from the office to the train platform. Don't believe me? Well there's even a poster about it. This guy has an umbrella, but you'll see it more often than not totally empty-handed, and in addition to the baseball/golf swing you may see a budding pitcher practicing his curve ball depending on who you watch.

What prompts this you might ask? A trip to any school sports club will provide the answer. I first ran into this back as an exchange student when a friend joined the tennis club - he told me that for beginners they actually have you just swing at air 100 times to practice your form before you're "ready" to step up and hit a ball! Who knows how long it'll take you hitting a ball before you're ready to actually take on an opponent, maybe years.

You may be thinking that this happens in baseball practices all over the world, and indeed my capoeira instructor harps about form when we practice as well. But if you think this and you haven't seen Japanese people practice then you don't know what I'm talking about - they can just practice swinging for hours without playing a real match or scrimmage, which to me is like making a cake and then not eating it. They are obsessed with proper form and will take it to the utmost extreme. I don't know if their desire for perfection before they even get started is admirable or masochistic, but at times I think it's a little from column A and a little from column B. It'd certainly take all the fun out of sports to me. I guess it's better than having them read a book about how to hit a ball, but I still think the best way to practice hitting a ball is to... hit a ball. With someone, preferably in a situation somewhat gamelike. Call me a purist. :P

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