Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Japan X Bowl

We were given tickets to today's Japan X Bowl, which is the championship game in the X League -  Japan's American football league. I had no idea they even played football here, but I figured what the heck, let's check it out.
The game was held at the Tokyo Dome, an indoor stadium which houses the Yomiuri Giants (baseball team) and hosts concerts, boxing matches, etc.

It's a pretty nice dome - not large by US standards, but clean and comfortable. The football field is at a weird angle to the main rows of seats.
It was open seating, so we found a spot close to the field at around the 30-40 yard line. It felt like being at a college football game.
 More after the jump.

Plenty of people bought their dinner at stadium kiosks, Standard restaurant fare - fried noodles and such.

Ah, there's the junk food you expect at a stadium!
OK, so besides the fried noodles, there were a lot of differences between seeing a football game in Japan and in the US. Nobody walked up and down the aisles shouting "Beer! Get yer beer!" But there was indeed plenty of booze, sours, and other drinks to be had. The vendors were all young women in cutsy outfits wearing flowers in their hair!
Didn't Neil Young sing about her?

During the national anthem, the crowd rose and proceeded to freeze in place. Never seen anything like it.

This was different. Above the numbers on the jerseys is the name of the team, not the player. Unless by remarkable coincidence every player is named Impulse...

Onto the cheerleaders. This was a HUGE part of the game, because they almost never stopped! Between every play, they were at it again, and you couldn't ignore them since they had a mic which took over the PA system. Not really a complaint - it was all in good fun.

Oh that reminds me - this is a funny bit. So we got in and sat down, happy as can be. Pretty soon we discovered that entire side of the stadium was for fans of the Panasonic Impulse team, and the other side (which was much more roudy) was for the other team (the Obic Seagulls ).

So our cheer commandant was on the field chanting "Defense!" and coordinating thunder stick activity. At the same time, the other side was directed by their own squad. So the stadium would be quiet and then you'd hear a thunderous chorus of boos from everyone on the other side. No booing at all from us - mostly thunder stick action - pretty much because we weren't directed to boo. The crowd activity was completely coordinated, and we were marionettes waiting for Gepetto's orders. Well, it wasn't that bad, but I wish we had been directed to boo! ^_^

The head cheerleader and her Mic of Power!

Mascot dude.

Same surname...

We were given thunder sticks, of course!

 By the time the game got underway, a pretty good crowd had formed.
OK, now I have to talk about the game action. Hmm....how can I say this politely? It wasn't football of the highest caliber. Running plays at 3rd and 15...missed passes that few high school QBs would botch...no concept of a two-minute offense at the end of the half.

Get this, the team was on its own 40, with a healthy 3 minutes on the clock. They kept calling running plays and only used one of their three time outs! They just stood there on the field as time wound down, with TWO time outs remaining, and made zero effort to run a hurry-up offense. Time expired, and they walked off the field. It was bizarre, like they were so worried about committing a turnover (there were ZERO TOs in the 3 quarters we stayed for) that they took a page out of the "do nothing, but at least stay safe!" playbook.

A few game shots:

Another interesting feature of the game: men in business suits. The stadium was full of people who had just gotten off work, presumably. Not quite what I'm used to seeing at sporting events, but eh, at least nobody was rowdy - until we were told to be louder and get to poundin' them thunder sticks!
The half-time show. Cheerleaders from around the league showed up to do a dance number.

There was some pyramid building, which the crowd loved..
Next, the guest singer came out for a few songs. Sorry I'm not up on my J-pop, but I take it she's popular.

This was funny, They had one of these inflatable things at each corner of the field, but they took them away at halftime and then ran back to set them up again before the 2nd half.

The jumbotron.
This is my last bit of ranting. The jumbotron was a beautiful, state of the art screen, but the stats (1st...2nd down, yards to go, etc) were always 20-30 seconds behind game time. So the team would be at the line of scrimmage about to snap the ball, but the screen still showed the stats from the previous possession! It got so bad I just gave up on the screen and watched the line refs and down markers.
So, that was the Japan X Bowl. All in all, it was a good time just for the experience, but the quality of play (and play calling) was so iffy that we left at the end of the third. (I just looked at the news - the Obic Seagulls won. Rats!)

That reminds me - the teams are named after their corporate sponsors, so there's a squad called IBM Big Blue. That may be the coolest thing about the X League.

(Rant aside, I'd love to check out a couple of baseball games in Japan - not to mention soccer matches and sumo tournaments. That's the good stuff!)


krakit said...

I chuckled when I read about
the decision to run on 3rd down
and 15 to go, the angle of the
field to the seats, every player
named Impulse, using only 1 of
3 time outs. What an interesting
experience that must have been.

I was hoping for the Atlanta
Falcons to do well in the play-
offs, but Green Bay crushed us.

andy b said...

LOL glad you got a kick out of it. Sometimes being here is like walking through a house of mirrors. (Case in point: The X-Bowl) After a while everything is so wavy that it starts to look normal. :p

Sorry to hear about your team. :(

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