I’ve never been a fan of Stephen A. Smith. After his most recent comments about Shohei Ohtani, I thought they didn’t improve his standing amongst his haters.
Here’s part of what he said via Yahoo:
“The fact that you got a foreign player that doesn’t speak English, believe it or not, I think contributes to harming the game to some degree, when that’s your box office appeal,” Smith said during the July 10 episode of First Take.
So one hears that and is like, “Wow, bold take Mr. Smith…”
I grew up with the likes of SF LeBron James, 1B/DH Jim Thome and now someone like QB Baker Mayfield. I started to think about what it would have been like growing up with these players that I completely idolized and if they didn’t speak the English language…
Certainly, Ohtani playing here in America represents a person trying to capture The American Dream despite speaking only Japanese. I love and admire that about him, especially cause he is absolutely amazing at the game. Now, I am not an Angels fan as I love my Indians here in Cleveland. Thus, Ohtani and how he talks isn’t important. However, if it were say the aforementioned Jim Thome on the Tribe when I was a little kid, it certainly would’ve been hard to deal with as a die-hard fan in admiration of the home run hitter.
I would’ve wanted to listen to the players I love talking in a language I understand in the primary country of America. Is that so bad? Essentially, this is what I believe Stephen A. Smith was trying to project to the ESPN fan base.
I don’t think his point is invalid.
Additionally, these players are marketing tools for the teams, the owners and the league itself. Not being able to speak the language makes marketing extremely difficult. They’re paying Ohtani 8.5 million dollars over the course of two years to well, perform and market. That’s a lot of money.
Now, should Stephen A have said what he said? Of course not. Here in 2021, everything has to be politically correct. He should’ve known better than having to deal with the people that are offended by everything as such a big name himself.
Ohtani is currently batting .279 with 33 home runs and 70 runs batted in. Now, while also pitching Ohtani is 4-1 with 67 IP and that comes in 13 total starts.
Thus, a kid growing up is going to see this young man (age 27) hitting and pitching for the Angels. Not just doing it, but doing it extremely well. Kids would want to understand what this man was saying when asked, right? Is that such a bad thing to point out? It’s not to disrespect this idea that Ohtani is a representation of the American Dream. Just that it isn’t easy for fans to love this player, yet not be able to understand him.
Thinking back to my childhood and the aforementioned players in this article. The memories I gained from them speaking the same language as I were of an abundance. Think about if Jim Thome only spoke Chinese or LeBron James spoke French. That would make the entire experience completely different for the fans.
That is what Stephen A Smith was trying to point out. A language barrier makes it difficult. You can be a PC fan of ESPN and the MLB, but the truth is not being able to speak the same language has a huge impact.
Now, should the MLB demand Ohtani learn English? Of course not. That wouldn’t be right either. He should want to learn how to speak it for his own benefit as time goes on.
Image via: ESPN