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Thursday, May 18, 2000

SPORTS SCOPE

'Sports executive' a misnomer in Japan


I don't know if it's just my imagination but in recent weeks the incompetence of Japan's alleged "sports executives" seems to have reached an all-time low.

Four incidents come to mind and they involve four different organizations, which makes me think that it is not a coincidence, but rather a continuing pattern of ignorance that seems to have no end.

Now I will preface this by saying that I have seen my share of miscast "sports executives" on three continents over the years, but there appears to be more per capita in Japan than anywhere else I can remember.

First off we have the case of the manager of Japan's national soccer team Philippe Troussier. The sideshow the Japan Football Association has put the Frenchman through the past several weeks has been a complete and utter disgrace. Talk about leaving a guy hung out to dry, these jerks probably don't even know whether a soccer ball is stuffed or pumped, but here they are procrastinating on making a decision on the present man in the job while at the same time casting about for a new manager in equally bumbling fashion.

To think that Japan is going to cohost the World Cup in two years time with the current crop of JFA brain surgeons in place is mind-boggling. Talk about embarrassing, these guys are a total joke.

I think the only thing more pathetic than the JFA officials who have directed this comedy routine is Mr. Troussier, who has allowed himself to be strung along with hardly more than a whimper. It seems to me that every person reaches the point with any job where they have had enough and can see the handwriting on the wall. Troussier would probably be better off to force the issue, get his severance pay and a one-way ticket out of Japan, so he can get on with his next gig.

Our second example came a couple of weeks ago when the Japan Pro Baseball Commissioner's office didn't throw the book at Chunichi Dragons manager Senichi Hoshino after the involvement of his team in the incident which resulted in a broken rib to Central League umpire Atsushi Kittaka. What better opportunity has there ever been for the commissioner to finally get tough with Hoshino and his thugs?

Instead, Hoshino gets a five-day suspension and a small fine. Unbelievable. It was almost like the commissioner was afraid of Hoshino (more likely the Chunichi ownership). Can you imagine if Bobby Valentine had been involved in such an incident when he was managing the Chiba Lotte Marines?

Valentine wouldn't have gotten a five-day ban, more like five months. Remember the punishment for the 1997 incident involving Hoshino and the Dragons on American umpire Mike DiMuro? I'll bet you can't remember, because there was none. Amazing.

Moving right along, our next stop is the Japan Olympic Committee, where president Yushiro Yagi came up with the harebrained idea of having Seibu Lions pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka carry the national flag at the opening ceremonies for the Sydney Olympics in September. It's bad enough that Matsuzaka would even be considered for the honor -- which is normally reserved for those who have earned medals in previous Olympics -- but then the JOC chief decided to reverse course after the Japanese Baseball Federation said it was worried that the task "might be too tiring" for the 19-year-old hurler - who has to pitch two days after the opening ceremonies are finished. Give me a break.

A 19-year-old athlete in outstanding condition might not be able to handle the stress of carrying the flag in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics? I was hoping it was all a joke, but I'm sorry to say it wasn't. Just another example of a so-called "sports executive" floating a bad idea, gaining support for it, then backing down when someone questions it. These guys don't even have enough backbone to stay the course with something they come up with.

Remember the bid for the 2002 World Cup? Japanese officials said they were going to take it to a vote -- all or nothing -- to see if Japan would earn the right to host the event over South Korea. Then the first chance FIFA gave them to bail out -- and cohost the event -- they took. Talk about running for cover. I guess the principle of having the courage to stand by your convictions is a novel concept to these guys.

Last but not least we have the plight of swimmer Suzu Chiba and the Japan Swimming Federation. After Chiba won the women's 200-meter freestyle in Tokyo at the event that served as the Olympic trials for Japan, the 1996 Olympian thought she had earned her ticket to Sydney.

But when Japan's swimming squad for the Sydney Games was announced shortly thereafter, Chiba found she hadn't made the cut. Chiba wasn't too happy about this and demanded some answers. She was so steamed that she wrote to the JSF and demanded a meeting as to why she hadn't been chosen despite her performance.

The response given to the media on how Chiba's attempt at an appeal of her case would be handled by the JSF said it all. An executive told the media, "We're just going to ignore her." That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

The way I see it, the problem at all of these sports federations and franchises is that the people in positions of authority at these entities too often are simply not qualified to do their jobs. Whether they are executives from the parent company that are rotated in or former athletes who have moved up by seniority, the result of their actions is all too often chaos.

There's an old saying in sports: "Never bet on a loser." That's why you won't see me making any wagers on what any of these "sports executives" might bungle next.



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