Wes Freeman's Reviews > You Gotta Have Wa

You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting
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's review
Dec 08, 2008

really liked it

A look at the methodical and process-oriented world of Japanese baseball. Like Tokyo Underworld, another of author's books, there's lots of focus on tension between east and west, differences between their game and ours (i.e., they play [or played at the time the book was written] almost nothing but small ball; as a result, their games can last upwards of five hours and still end in a tie), and how western players have found those differences almost impossible to reconcile when they join Japanese leagues looking for easy money and a new lease on their careers. Author does due diligence to the history of the American Pastime in the Land of 10,000 Tears, but the real heat is in his run-down of coaching strategies, practice regimes and baseball's hallowed place in the culture. In America, men can tell you off the top of their head how many bases Willie Mays stole or sit on the edge of their chair, breathless, staring at a baseball game where nothing is apparently happening. Baseball lends itself to a certain fetishization of detail and the Japanese excel at that. Author suggests that their small ball approach to the game descends from notions of face-saving conformity so ingrained in the Japanese consciousness, that to sit and watch teams of young men squeeze out single after single (an experience author admits is roughly as exciting to American eyes as a meeting of automotive executives) for hours at a time can produce in Japanese spectators an inner tension so white-hot that communication with them becomes impossible. A fun read, definitely recommended to baseball fans who miss a sense of team play in their favorite game. "Team play" obviously being an inadequate translation for what goes on between these covers but still probably the closest we could come to it.

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