Welcome to the Fukudome
Take a second and pretend. Take your shoes off for a moment and walk around in someone else’s footwear. Look in the mirror and see your face shift to another form. The things you know, the experiences you’ve had are all different.
- Your parents: different
- Your friends: different
- The schools you went to, the books you’ve read: all different
- The language(s) you speak: different
Your name is Kosuke Fukudome. You are Japanese.
- You eat mostly raw fish
- You would never enter somebody’s home without taking your shoes off
- When you consume even small amounts of alcohol your face turns flush red
- When you see a Toyota or a Honda you don’t classify it as a Japanese car, it’s just a car
- You live on very densely populated island
- On this island there is no zero crime
- Everyone has hi-tech mobile phone that makes the iPhone look like a walkie-talkie
- Everybody above the age of 18 wears a suit and not to be flashy or to impress but to be formal and fit in
- There are virtually no fat people on your island and those select few that push the body mass index in the other direction do so intentionally by eating a special fish slurry five times a day, then put on diapers and attempt to shove a similarly proportioned foe out of a dirt ring. These people are revered.
- You and everybody else on your island care a lot about what your ancestors think about you
- All of this is normal to you. These are your people, you understand them, they understand you.
You are well known on your island. You are an exceptional baseball player. You won an MVP trophy, you represented your country and helped win the first World Baseball classic. You are well respected and get paid a lot of money, but you want to test your talents. You seek the ultimate baseball challenge- to play for the Chicago Cubs.
Your season starts off well, you are pleased but not boastful. After every game there are dozens of reporters from your island asking you inane questions that you respectfully deflect. You are playing well so it doesn’t bother you.
A month into the season and you are still going strong, but you are not comfortable in the club house. You cannot talk directly to any of your teammates; everything must go through your interpreter. Your interpreter is a jerk. You have given it a month and are certain that if he had any going away parties thrown for him when he left Japan the real celebration occurred after he had departed.
June rolls around and midway through you start to struggle at the plate, but you make the All-Star Game and are confident you can get things back on track.
But you continue to struggle. The flock of reporters are starting to unnerve you. They are not your friends.
August is also not your friend. Your swing is desperate, your wife is not adjusting well to this strange land. This becomes your problem. There is no peace at home. The sessions with reporters are truly painful, but you are stoic and shoulder the burden.
While you continue to struggle, your interpreter continues being an unrelenting jerk. Because of him your jokes are not funny, you’re pretty sure he changes the meaning of what you say causing you unknown embarrassment and you are positive that if you asked him to pick you up your favorite porn mag he would tell the reporters and then your wife would find out so even though you are a multi-millionaire you have to take a cab downtown to the one place that stocks your favorite magazine and it starts to become a real hassle.
September comes knocking and your bat completely disappears. Your swing is awful, comical even. Not Casey at the bat, more like Bugs Bunny at the bat.
Baseball has become a chore, the locker room is uncomfortable, the daily roundup with the reporters makes you want to vomit, when your wife isn’t crying she is complaining, and getting your porn fix is inconvenient. Lucky for you Chicago Cubs October baseball will not last long.
Ok, step out of Fuk’s shoes, re-transformed your face.
There are two possible reasons for Fuk’s late season swoon.
1. Having trouble adjusting to being away from Japan
2. The ozone size holes in his swing that MLB pitchers have found
I am really hoping that the problem is confined to reason #1 and more than willing to go through untold mental gymnastics in order to convince myself of this. Because #1 has a solution, #2 does not.
The solution: The reporters shouldn’t be a problem this season, the wife stays in Japan, the porn mag comes in the mail, the translator gets replaced. Done and done, but lets not stop there. Fuk doesn’t just need a new translator he needs a posse, an entourage. Trying to put So Taguchi on the roster is a start, but I want 4-5 guys Kosuke grew up with to shelter him in a uniquely Japanese bubble of support and approval. His breakfast will be prepared for him, his car driven for him, his picture book novels carefully selected and placed in his locker, his dinner reservations be made for him, his late night geisha arranged for. Fuk’s jokes are going to be funny this year!