You Gotta Have Waby Published 24 Mar 1990
|You Gotta Have Wa.pdf|
Offers an intriguing and often humorous look at the differences and similarities between the national obsession over baseball in Japan and in the United States and a detailed account of the game of besoboru..
"You Gotta Have Wa" Reviews
Robert Whiting - image from The Japan Times
You Gotta Have Wa is a wonderful baseball book. It has mucho information about the history and practice of besuboru in Japan. Some of the differences to the Western approach are stark. Interesting bits on MLB players trying to survive in a very different sports culture. A must-read for anyone seriously interested in baseball. Whiting has written six other books on Japanese baseball.
Are you interested in Japan? Do cultural differences fascinate you? Do you know anything about baseball? If you answered 'yes' to two out of three of those questions, you gotta get You Gotta Have Wa; a collection of anecdotes detailing the history of Japanese Baseball.
Robert Whiting, the book's author, is a skilled writer, capable of injecting his own clever or expository comments while also getting out of the way and becoming a reporter when necessary. And there is a lot to 'get out of the way' of in You Gotta Have Wa. From the adulation of the foreign players to the scrutiny they endure if they don't perform; from the american players who loved japan to those that hated it (typically both at once) from the reverential home run king Sadaharu Oh to the rebellious act pitcher 'dirty' Egawa, from the passion of the fans to support their teams to the pressure on the players to practice to exhaustion and beyond.
You Gotta Have Wa is entertainment that goes into extra innings. Its got character, personality and authenticity to spare. And when you're done reading, you will feel like you understand another culture a little bit better. Its a home run.
I feel like I have been very conflicted about many of the books I have read recently, but here we are again, I am VERY conflicted about this book. I like baseball and I like the way they talk about baseball in this book. I like way they talk about the culture clash of American vs Japanese baseball in this book. I find it all very interesting and as a life long Mets fan I very much appreciate the long section at the end that's all about Bobby V.
What I do not appreciate is the blatant misogyny displayed by the author almost every time he talks about women. It would be one thing if this only occurred in quotations. People say sexist things, and you can quote that, that's not necessarily the author's opinion. I get that. (Though I could argue that there were many times in the book where the author seemed not to notice that any of the quotes were horribly sexist or racist but thats another story). But there are moments where the text is directly from the author that were so sexist that I had to put down the book. When talking about High School baseball, you don't need half a page on how disgusting men (though he never says they're disgusting) take pictures up young girls' skirts and sell them. Also, when talking about pre teen girls who are fans of a certain player, you don't need to describe their cheers as "orgasmic". They are 12 year old girls, they are not screaming in orgasm, you are unnecessarily sexualizing them. Also, what in the world does it mean to say that Japanese women have a softer kind of femininity than American women? That's a ridiculous statement that just seems like you are playing into the racist stereotype that Asian women are somehow submissive. On a less serious, but still incredibly annoying note, when talking about a general baseball fan, why do you always assume its a man? How hard is it to say they instead of he? Not hard at all.
So I loved learning about Japanese baseball. I really did. I just couldn't get past the rest of it. I am a life long female sports fan so I have experienced much of the sexism that goes with it, but seeing it so blatantly in print was too much to handle.
I wanted a book about baseball in Japan and that is what I got.
Whiting conveys a fascinating story of national identity through baseball. Perhaps the most interesting societal idea is to see how besuboru lives as an invented national sense of identity more than a complete reflection of true Japanese society. Of course what a society chooses to project can be as important as how it actually lives, because it hints at where it would like to go. In some ways the same type of struggle can be seen in the outsized patriotism of today’s NFL.
But beyond the larger social constructs the book is simply a fun look at a crazy world of baseball crossed with ultra-marathons. Though I also admit the focus on practice reminds me of my college rowing career which consisted of an extreme ratio of practice time to race time. While we would consider it insane not to think the former served the latter, the shaping of one’s approach to life may be similar.
Additionally the book provides an entertaining time capsule of 1980’s baseball that was just before my time. It was amusing to read stories of men I think of as wrinkly old managers depicted as home run smashing barbarian gaijin, particularly Charlie Manuel who apparently went by Chuck in those days. It seems like the stories that lead to Americans going ballistic are the funniest, because the sense of losing your mind bashing your head against some of the silly rules is so wonderfully told - and brings to mind 1984 mashed up with Ball Four.
On a side note, I would love to see an afterword on how Japan has dealt with the Sabermetric revolution.