"Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese."That was Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki speaking, on the occasion of becoming the second-fastest player to notch his 2,000th base hit in big league history (1,402), after Hall of Famer Al Simmons (1,390)—through a translator.
Suzuki is at the tail-end of his ninth big league season, and has resolutely refused to learn English. Were this his first season, using a translator might be justifiable, but even that's a dubious proposition. When you go to live and work in a foreign country, particularly in a job in the public eye, learning the language is a simple matter of respect.
When I left home for West Germany in 1980, I knew no German, but killed myself to learn the language. In fact, after a year there, German students I had just met thought that I had been born elsewhere, but lived there almost my entire life. One year later, new acquaintances took me for a native-born German, albeit one who had been born in a different part of the country. (During visits to Munich during my fifth year, I had the disconcerting experience of having Bavarians ask me if were a Swiss or an Austrian; disconcerting, because the only people that speak worse German than Austrians are the Swiss!)
Granted, many American and other foreign students who had taken years of German classes at home also went there, but they typically could speak only a smattering of German when they arrived, didnâ€™t bother themselves to learn more, and returned home knowing only perhaps a few more phrases than when they had arrived. (They didn't study, but got credits, as if they had.)
In today's America, we have no lack of ugly foreigners, most of them Hispanics, and some "Ugly Americans"players like overpaid Mets underachiever, Oliver Perez, who were born American citizens in Puerto Rico, but who have refused to learn more than pidgin English.
In a different and better time, when more Americans had self-respect, fans would have booed Suzuki and other players refusing to learn English off the field, and/or boycotted them. Today, all we hear about is the fans embracing him and those like him, in spite of their obvious contempt for the nation that makes them rich as Croesus.
Such players are supported in their contempt by the media's idolatry. A breathless Jane Lee, writing for MLB.com, gushes, using Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu as mouthpiece, that Suzuki is the greatest player in the history of the game.
"OAKLAND — Don Wakamatsu has no problem saying Ichiro Suzuki may be the best to ever play the game.Of course, he's the greatest: He's non-white, non-American, and he holds America in contempt. He's a walking hat trick! The only thing better would be if he were "transexual." Right, Jane?
If he's not yet, the Mariners skipper believes he's well on his way.
The non-believers may argue he's too small in stature, but others will say he exudes a larger-than-life presence unique to today's game.
The non-believers may mock his 170-pound body, but others will remind them that the real weight he carries is a much heavier legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.
Nearing age 36, Ichiro still plays the game like a wide-eyed rookie with nothing to lose and everything to gain. He's a Japanese phenom turned American idol, and despite the never-ending list of differences between him and players those non-believers may deem the greatest hitters of all-time, Ichiro will easily squeeze his 170 pounds into that elite classâ€¦."
Lee raves, as well, about â€?the ever-modest Ichiro.â€? But if heâ€™s so modest, he can learn English!