Also, those of you trying to figure out why the title to this post is a bunch of squares or other gibberish will want to download the Japanese language pack for your operating system of choice.
So I've been down in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area, known in these parts as the Valley of the Sun, for the past five days. Two of those days were spent working on a story about a team of Japanese minor league baseball players, while much of the rest of the time was spent around a pool, attempting a) to enjoy the sun without turning into a smoldering lump of charcoal, and b) seeing if I could strain every muscle in my back while using one of those foam 'pool noodle' things. I'm pleased to say I scored on both counts.
Five days in the 95-105 degree heat (would someone please explain to me whose idea it was to build a city in the Arizona desert?) left me relatively unscathed, sunburn-wise. Accomplishing this feat required sunscreen with progressively higher SPF levels -- starting with my standard SPF 15, moving on to my 11-month old's "Water Babies" SPF 45, borrowing a friend's SPF 70, and then finally graduating to the "towel over the shoulders" method of sun protection.
The back straining business was easier to accomplish, involving as it did, said pool noodle, something called a "noodle hammock", a large red inflatable ball (retail value: 93 cents), and an improvised game which could best be called "Smack the Ball Willy-Nilly Around the Pool Until Someone Has to Get Out of the Pool (again) and Retrieve the Ball from the Bushes". All was going well, and I was just getting to the point where I was plotting my effort to make the game an Olympic sport, when I lunged for the ball and... didn't notice anything. Until like 9 hours later when my back shrieked me awake at 3:30 am and, in effect, called me an idiot. It also asked: "Was Willy Nilly a real person? You should really stay up for the next 2 hours, puzzling that over."
As noted, covering the Japanese minor league team took up much of the other two days. There were noteworthy figures from the world of Japanese baseball and the world of American baseball on hand, so it would serve to figure that the first person I'd interview on the story was... Pat Sajak.
Seriously, I got to the Samurai Bears' opening night about an hour and a half before game time, dutifully trudged up to the press box, where the first guy I ran into had me thinking, "Gee, he looks a whole lot like Pat Sajak." He turned around, away from me. I thought, "Hey, the back of his baseball uniform says 'Sajak'. I bet that is Pat Sajak." So, using the standard "Hey, How Often is Pat Sajak Just Standing There?" reporting technique, I snared the Wheel of Fortune host for an interview. It turns out that the former host of the ill-fated "Pat Sajak Show" on CBS is an investor in the Golden Baseball League, and was on hand to throw out the opening pitch and coach first base for an inning.
The interview was chipper enough. I actually chatted with Sajak more in one interview than I did with Alex Trebek in the three "Jeopardy!" shows I was on in 1999. (Plus, Sajak didn't remind me to phrase everything in the form of a question, which I guess I was doing anyway, so never mind.) The highlight came at the end of the interview, in which the one-time desk clerk at a Washington, DC, hotel was talking about the trained falcon that would deliver the baseball for the opening pitch. It went like this:
Sajak: ...so I'm a little concerned that I might become the first game show host ever torn to shreds while throwing out the first pitch at a ballgame.
Me: Yeah, like, "How do you spell 'carrion'?" could be the next Wheel puzzle.
Sajak: Ha ha! That's pretty good -- that's like an NPR-style joke!
Whoo-hoo! Quite the knee-slapper. We agreed I'd be on the call-back list if Vanna ever retires.
Anyway, the Samurai Bears story is tops on the agenda in the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters this week, as it's scheduled to run on Saturday on NPR's Only A Game. If you just can't wait, you can check out another story on the team, from Japan's Fuji News Network, a story that is entertaining even for those of us who don't speak Japanese. Hopefully, my story will be equally entertaining for those of us who don't speak English. Though I wonder, how do you say, "I'd like to buy a vowel" in Japanese...*?
(* - see the title of this post)