- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Question: What is a nice place like Japan doing in a game like American football?
Answer: We were wondering about that ourself. We were tapping our feet to the Toyota commercial on our Sony Trinitron, waiting for the rain to stop so we could take a spin on our new Kawasaki, when we got to wondering about that.
We are sitting in Tokyo Olympic Memorial Stadium, watching the only bowl game in the history of American intercollegiate football to be named after an automobile. The event is called the Mirage Bowl, but it is actually a regular-season game between Notre Dame and the University of Miami. The game was originally scheduled for Miami, but the Japanese persuaded the participants to move it 9,000 miles for esthetic reasons—the beauty of a $200,000 guarantee and all expenses paid.
The Mirage is a four-cylinder, four-speed, 37-mpg (city) vehicle manufactured by the Mitsubishi Motor Company, which used to make Zero fighter planes. Zeroes used to shoot down American fighter planes. The Mirage is one of the latest in a line of Japanese motor cars that have been shooting down Detroit.
A mirage is what we think we are seeing.
It is a typical Tokyo November afternoon: raw, drizzly, misty and surreal, like a Munch painting. Nevertheless, 60,000 Japanese and a scattering of Miamians and South Benders are in the stadium. The Japanese have been there since a couple of hours before kickoff, attached to their seats like woodscrews, happily risking pneumonia as they cheer and wave their pompons. Their enthusiasm belies the drift of the competition. Miami is getting clobbered, 40-15—which turned out to be the final score. Every few minutes a brassy, high-pitched fanfare of trumpets erupts from the bowels of the stadium, the musical facsimile of a nervous breakdown. The fanfares make our scalp crawl.
"Ganbate music," we are told by a young man on our left, an American. "Persistence music. They're telling the Miami team not to give up."
"They've chosen sides?" we ask.
"Not really. If Notre Dame were losing, they'd be advising Notre Dame to do the same thing. Not to give up. The trumpeters are from the universities of Keio and Waseda. They were hired for the job."
The young man identifies himself as Jeffrey, a schoolteacher living in Tokyo. He is friendly and warm, and is either growing a beard or has poor shaving habits. Some of Jeffrey's warmth comes from a flask he has packed in for the event. He is full of helpful information.