Friday, April 20, 2007

Guess who's coming to town?

Yankees versus Red Sox at Fenway Park - the greatest rivalry in sports is renewed this evening at 7:05pm, when Curt Schilling takes the mound against Andy Pettite. The coverage of this series will go national as the weekend progresses, with Saturday's matchup on Fox Sports and Sunday's debut of Daisuke against the boys in pinstripes - including fellow countryman Hideki Matsui - the main event on ESPN Sunday evening.

Major League Baseball has gotten itself rather heavily involved in promoting the Sox-Yanks rivalry this year as part of a multi-million dollar advertising initiative in Japan, a lucrative sports entertainment market that MLB would desperately like to tap. The Boston Globe had a fascinating piece about this initiative in last Sunday's paper. It seems the major obstacle to MLB's penetration into the Japanese consciousness is the fact that many baseball fans in Japan don't have the same kind of team loyalty that we take for granted here in the States - if a star player leaves one club for another, his fans tend to go with him as well, whereas in American baseball a fan is practically married to his or her team for better or for worse (and will actively ridicule a fan who changes those loyalties at some point in their life, even if he or she moves!).

Right now the Japanese are buying up both Yankees and Red Sox merchandise in record amounts, plunking down millions of yen for baseball pilgrimages to Yawkey Way and the Bronx, and participating in "the rivalry" as cheerfully as possible. Will they remain Boston and New York fans when Matsuzaka and Matsui head on for greener pastures? Probably not. But who knows... in the meantime, let's all sit back and watch the fireworks!

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