Thursday, April 05, 2007

Down With Dice-K

I hate Dice-K.

No, not the baseball player. I actually am quite smitten with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who in his short tenure with the Red Sox has not only shown the ability to be a dominant major league pitcher, but also to bring some good manners and joy back to Boston baseball (case in point: after making a nice play on a bunt in the fifth inning of today’s game, the camera caught him saying something to the umpire, then walking off the field with a huge grin on his face. I have a personal policy to like any player who appears to realize how lucky he is to have that job).

No, I just hate the nickname.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: modern nicknames could use some work. Sure, there are still some great ones floating around out there – El Guapo is one of my top ten ever – but all too often we ignore the opportunity to bestow a truly great nickname upon someone in favor of something easier. (I’m looking at you, whoever was responsible for A-Rod, T-Mac and Man-Ram.)

When Matsuzaka signed with the Sox, I took the opportunity to toss out a few potential nicknames that might roll off the tongue easier than the six syllables of “Daisuke Matsuzaka”. NESN and were making bland suggestions such as Dice-K and D-Mat, both of which are easy to say, but I thought he deserved something better. So I threw out five names that seemed relevant and interesting: Esu (I think that’s the Japanese word for ace, but still can’t guarantee that it’s true), Andrew (Andrew “Dice-K” – get it?), Daisy (but only if he sucks), The Oxygen Destroyer (my personal favorite) and Kaibutsu (his nickname in Japan, it means “The Monster”).

Needless to say, none of these has caught on, although there is still hope: today featured a column by Gaku Tashiro of Sankei Sports, a Japanese writer who is very familiar with Matsuzaka and his past exploits. In the article, there is no mention of Dice-K or D-Mat (or even The Oxygen Destroyer. Pity), but Tashiro very clearly explains the origins of the Kaibutsu (kah-ee-boo-tsoo) nickname.

What it comes down to is this: in America, a player is most likely to be called “Monster” due to an overwhelming physical presence. (See Dick Radatz.) In Japan, however, such a name refers more to the spirit of the player:

“But in Japan, when an athlete is called Kaibutsu, it has a connotation of special respect and admiration. Such a name is given only to those who are considered superhuman, and whose talents surpass the normal limits of what a player can do.”

If Tashiro is to be believed, Kaibutsu is more than a nickname for Matsuzaka: it is a word that exemplifies his way of life. It is the reason he throws over a hundred pitches in a single bullpen session, or always heads to the mound with the intention of finishing what he started, or single-handedly wins the Koshien tournament for his high school team (the Kaibutsu name dates to the 1998 Koshien).

It’s obvious that in Japan, Matsuzaka IS Kaibutsu; none of this Dice-K crap. I’d like to see him receive that same respect in America, especially if he continues to achieve the same results as his major league debut yielded: seven innings, six hits, one earned run, one walk, and ten strikeouts.

So what do we say, Red Sox fans? For once, let’s not be mindless purveyors of the “Red Sox Nation”, “Manny Being Manny”, “Dice-K” drivel with which we are assailed on a daily basis. Let’s turn back the clock, dare to be original (well, sort of) and give this player the respect he has already earned.

(Note: on the NESN post-game show, Jason Varitek just said, “Sometimes in the heat of the moment, my Japanese isn’t so good.” Thought it sounded funny – like his day-to-day Japanese is great, but if he gets flustered, forget about it.)


Sooze said...

Fuck Yeah! I'm with you, man. That whole Dice-K thing is nonsense. Learn how to spell, people. Even Fergie knows how to spell.

Lori said...

I couldn't agree more -- hate the "Dice-K" name,
and the stupid dice even more!

You will be amused to know that a few months back MLB offered "Kaibutsu" t-shirts on the website. I ordered a few, and was delivered the stupid "Dice-K" shirts instead. I called them up, they promised to send me the right shirts and a return label. A week later, more "Dice-K" shirts arrived. And no return label.

It looks like they no longer offer the Kaibutsu shirts, but someone should make them!