Japan obviously has bigger problems than when to start the baseball season, but the Central and Pacific Leagues of the NPB met today to discuss when they should begin the 2011 baseball season in the wake of the tsunami and the mounting nuclear crisis.
The NPB blog Yakyubaka reports that no decision has been made and that, in fact, there’s some dispute between the Pacific league and the Central League regarding when to start. The latter is intent on beginning on the original start date of March 25th and the former wants a delay. Notably, more Pacific League teams are closer to the areas that were most devastated in the disaster. Though given the scope of it all, this is an event of national significance, not merely local.
One’s gut instinct is to say that baseball should simply stop for the time being. But as we’ve seen throughout our own history, the interplay between sports and national crisis is more complicated than that. As FDR famously wrote at the outset of World War II when it was suggested that the game be suspended: “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” That notion has been echoed many times over the years. There have been delays in sporting events, but they have tended to be short and then, once they resumed, used as rallying points or, at the very least, a sign that normal life can once again resume.
I don’t know of these examples are transferable from the American experience to the current Japanese crisis. National psychology is kind of a pseudoscience, but it’s not an illusory notion. I couldn’t hope to guess what makes more sense for the NPB to do with its schedule right now. All I hope is that the Japanese crisis is sufficiently stabilized and that the Japanese people feel normal enough to play baseball games sometime soon.