Preamble: I tried this before but I was too tired to put my thoughts into words. We'll see how I do this time.
It's been nearly a month since the Great Tohoku Earthquake. There are many hardships ahead for the people of the affected regions, but things are progressing. The content at the news outlets I keep an eye on has shifted from coverage of the shocking devastation, to grievance, to stories of survival and recovery, albeit tempered by persistent radiation fears. I must admit that it has been difficult watching the situation unfold from across the ocean.
Baseball is getting back to normal as well. After a couple rounds of negotiations, the NPB players and owners agreed to open their season on April 12th, with the power-saving provisions of not holding night games in the Tokyo area until May, and not playing extra innings at all this year. There was pressure from some quarters (ahem, Yomiuri, I'm looking in your direction) to start the season as previously scheduled and to hold energy-consuming night games, but the more sensitive ideas prevailed. Hanshin third baseman and Players Association chief representative Takahiro Arai deserves a healthy chunk of the credit for pushing the scheduling issue to resolution.
In contrast, there was no such controversy over the schedule of the annual Koshien Senbatsu high school tournament, which went on as scheduled and wrapped up over the weekend. I didn't pay much attention to the tournament at all this year (I left that to Ken), but the significance of the Tohoku High School players as the first post-quake inspirational figures on Japan's athletic landscape was not lost on me.
It's not really fair to compare NPB with Koshien here - the Senbatsu is a short tournament played in the Osaka area, which was not affected by the earthquake - but I think both groups arrived at the appropriate outcomes. NPB is a business run by adults, and it took responsible, mature leadership to determine an acceptable response the circumstances. Beyond the business though, baseball is a game for children, and I'm glad the kids got the chance to play. Looking past the inspirational and unity stuff, Koshien is the biggest stage most of the players involved will ever see. And at the end of the day, the burden of recovery is really on the adults.